Complete Guide To The Boykin Spaniel: Health, Grooming, Exercise and More

Although a relatively new breed, the Boykin Spaniel is becoming popular for its great personalities, hunting ability, and good-natured attitudes. This dog is equally as comfortably patrolling the swamps of South Carolina as it is relaxing at your side. Although small, the Boykin Spaniel needs plenty of room to exercise and does not make a great apartment pet.  

I’ve met a few Boykin Spaniels in recent years in my veterinary practice and many more when I went to school in the South (they hail from South Carolina so there were quite a few in Georgia when I was at school). These dogs are certainly unique in appearance and I really have enjoyed meeting them.

How Big Do Boykin Spaniels Get?

Male15.5″ – 18″ at the shoulder30-40 lbs
Female14″ – 16.5″ at the shoulder25-35 lbs

As a medium-size Spaniel, the Boykin Spaniel is somewhere between a Cocker Spaniel and a Springer Spaniel.

What Do Boykin Spaniels Look Like?

This dog has a soft coat that consists of two layers. The topcoat is usually wavy and soft and comes in solid liver, chocolate, or dark brown colors. The undercoat is dense and short and works to keep the dog warm, especially while the dog retrieves in water. The coat is uniform in length except for some light feathering around the legs, belly, ears, and chest.  

What Is The Personality Of A Boykin Spaniel?

These dogs were originally bred to work as hunters, chasing after waterfowl and turkey through the swampy Carolina landscape. This breed has recently been accepted as a loving family pet, and many people are opening their homes to this adorable dog. They are incredibly loving and affectionate, making them perfect pets. They love being around both people and other pets and are well suited for life with children.  

These dogs are very loyal and have big personalities. They need to be close to their family, or else they are prone to anxiety and depression. These dogs are intelligent and playful, so they must be properly trained and exercised. The Boykin Spaniel likes to have a job to do and is eager to learn new behaviors that keep his mind and body active.  

How Much Grooming Does A Boykin Spaniel Need?

The long and wavy fur on the Boykin Spaniel can be labor-intensive to care for. Make sure to keep your dog brushed about two or three times a week. This process will help to keep the fur clean, removing dirt and loose hair, and will also help to eliminate knots and mats from forming.

Although the dog is bred to adventure through water and swamps, this dog only needs to be bathed occasionally or when you want a clean-smelling dog. Of course, like any dog, it is essential to keep the nails trimmed short if they are not naturally worn short from walking on rough surfaces.

How Much Exercise Does A Boykin Spaniel Need?

The Boykin Spaniel has a medium to high energy level and will need regular exercise, at least once per day, to keep him happy. These dogs thrive on activity and are game for just about any new adventure. People regularly take their Boykin Spaniel running, hiking, swimming, or biking. As long as your Boykin is next to you enjoying an activity, it will be a happy dog.  

This breed of dog also needs to keep his mind active. The dog will respond well to dog athletic competitions such as obedience, agility, rally, field events, and tracking competitions. Not only does this help to keep your dog physically active, but it helps to keep your dog mentally engaged with learning and thinking through new behaviors.  

What Kind Of Dog Food Is Best For Boykin Spaniels?

Before we start with the food lists, just know that grain-free dog foods are a myth. There’s zero science showing that they are helpful. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that it’s causing issues in certain breeds of dogs. Food allergies are the only reason to even consider a grain-free diet but only choose one with the help of your veterinarian.

Best Puppy Food For The Boykin Spaniel:

Best Adult Food For The Boykin Spaniel:

If your particular Boykin Spaniel has a high motor and has a hard time keeping weight on, you might consider keeping them on puppy food until they get to a point where you start seeing them actually maintain a healthy weight. A hunting or highly active Boykin Spaniel will always appear really thin but this is just how they are when heavily exercised.

How Long Do Boykin Spaniels Live?

10-15 years

What Health Problems Do Boykin Spaniels Have?

Boykins are pretty healthy dogs with the exception of hip dysplasia. The breed has a great deal of homogeneity in their ranks and that makes a condition like hip dysplasia hard to weed out of the breed. Homogeneity means that the DNA of most Boykins is incredibly similar so any abnormal genes (like the one that causes hip dysplasia) is spread widely throughout the entire breed.

It used to be so common that the breed was actually the subject of a number of hip dysplasia studies back in the early 2000’s. Thankfully, responsible breeding has reduced the frequency of hip abnormalities in Boykins but it’s still prevalent enough that you need to be aware of it.

When it comes to a Boykin, you’ll want your breeder to not only have “Excellent” grades on the hips of the parent dogs, but also the parent dogs of those parent dogs. One of the sayings I tell my owners is that “hip dysplasia can skip a generation.”

The good thing is that even if your Boykin were to develop hip dysplasia, it’s easier to manage in a 35 lb dog than in a 70 lb one. Keeping your Boykin at an optimal weight, having them stay active by walking or swimming, and using a good joint supplement can control your dog’s discomfort for years before other drugs or treatments may be needed.

Where Can I Learn More About Boykin Spaniels?

Boykin Spaniel Society – national breed club

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find a Boykin Spaniel?

The Boykin Spaniel is a relatively new breed of dog that is only recently starting to gain interest in people as a loving and affectionate pet. Always be sure to find a dog from a reputable breeder, ensuring the breeder knows the breed and practices good breeding standards. The biggest issue to watch out for is whether or not the breeder has “excellent” hip test results from the OFA for their dogs.  

To begin your search for a Boykin Spaniel, consider visiting the Breeder Referral List of the Boykin Spaniel Society. This organization is geared toward educating people about the breed and offers a list of trusted and reputable breeders.

Of course, it may also be possible to rescue a Boykin Spaniel from a dedicated rescue. Many people adopt this small dog without fully understanding the time and exercise commitment these dogs require. Check out Boykin Spaniel Rescue for more information!

Fun Facts About the Boykin Spaniel

  • The Boykin Spaniel was developed to help hunters attempting to navigate the tight waterways and swamps through the southern United States. Boats were loaded to the gills with men, provisions, and guns, so a small dog was required to fit into the small available space. The Boykin Spaniel proved to be just the right size and was also incredibly gifted at hunting waterfowl.  
  • The first Boykin Spaniel was developed from a stray dog named Dumpy. This little stray became friends with a man from Spartanburg, South Carolina, who quickly observed how well this dog hunted. The man sent the Dumpy to hunt with his friend, Whit Boykin, and eventually, the Boykin Spaniel was born.  
  • It is thought that the Boykin Spaniel was developed from a mix of the American Water Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  
  • The Boykin Spaniel is one of the newest AKC-recognized dog breeds and only recently gained its official recognition in 2009.   
  • There are only two American-bred dog breeds named after the family that helped breed and develop them. The Plott Hound and the Boykin Spaniel are the only two American dogs that are named after the original breeding family.