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Boykin Spaniel Dog Breed Information

General Information:

Height: 14-18 inches
Weight: 25-40 pounds
Life Span: 14-16 years
Coloring: Solid brown, dark chocolate or liver. While some white on the chest and toes is allowed, no other white is permitted.
Area of Origin: United States
Similar Breeds: American Cocker Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, Irish Water Spaniel, and Springer Spaniel.

History and Origin:

The Boykin Spaniel was originally developed by hunters for hunters. Through carefully planned breedings to bring out the very best out of the selected dogs and then selective additions to bloodline, the Boykin Spaniel emerged in the early 1900s in South Carolina. These cross breedings were not looking for merely the best breeds to cross with, but individual dogs as a result honing the traits that appeared in the resulting litters to the standard that exists today.

Spreading from South Carolina, the Boykin Spaniel is now found throughout the United States and the world. These dogs are well known for their birding abilities and are happiest when they can be out with their people, finding and retrieving their quarry as their soft mouths are ideal for retrieving even the most delicate bird.

The breed itself was first recognized in England in 1985 and officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2009.

Personality and Temperament:

The Boykin Spaniel is a loyal companion who is very willing to please. At home in either a home or work environment, this dog thrives on human affection. While they are quiet and placid, these dogs will quickly alert their family should something be amiss.

These dogs, even from working lines, make wonderful family dogs as they are calm and affectionate with children of all ages. These dogs are very gentle with their little wards and will happily play with them tirelessly. For these loving and loyal dogs, it is very uncharacteristic of them to show any sign of aggression or nervousness.

Even though these dogs are hunting dogs, they do well with other animals, other dogs in particular. They are very social and enjoy playing with large and small dogs alike making a dog park a wonderful place for them to burn off extra energy.

These dogs excel at any task they are faced with. From the traditional hunting and bird retrieval to agility, flyball and even dog diving, these dogs are incredibly intelligent and live to please.

Overall, the Boykin Spaniel is a loving dog that is suited to any family situation, any sport and all around a wonderful dog to own. It is very apparent why these dogs are overbred, and thus health issues are making themselves known which is very unfortunate as these dogs have the potential of being one of the best all-around dogs out there.

Exercise & Training:

These dogs are very energetic and have a high energy level both indoors and outdoors. This energy level makes them unsuitable for apartment living unless their owner is home all the time and willing to take them out 2-3 times a day for at least 45 minutes each time.

The Boykin Spaniel loves to run, swim and be active in any way possible. This means that they do require considerable exercise. This can be achieved through a modest jog in the morning and the evening, allowing the dog to play at a dog park, hiking or hunting. These dogs have amazing stamina and can actively retrieve for the entire hunting day on a daily basis.

One issue with these dogs is that some are prone to Exercise Induced Collapse as well as hip dysplasia. This ailment should be a non-issue for well-bred dogs whose parents were responsibly tested and selected. However with the number of breeders who insist on breeding multiple litters per year and rely more on quantity over quality, this is something to keep in mind. Exercise should be carefully monitored when they are puppies. If signs of either disease are noted, a visit to the vet is warranted as is contacting the puppy’s breeder to inform them that their line is displaying these symptoms. Responsible breeders want nothing more than the proper care and handling of their dogs and will want to know this information.

Depending on what your intended purpose for the dog is to be will determine the type of training these dogs should endure. For hunting dogs, there should be no games of tug or chase as these will teach the dogs bad habits. Habits that, for most dogs, are benign yet for a spaniel these habits will affect their working style and obedience. For pets, these dogs can be trained in much the same manner as any other breed of dog. This training should always include the standard “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” These dogs are incredibly intelligent and will excel at any sport they are involved in while maintaining their position as a beloved family member.

These dogs are natural retrievers with incredibly soft mouths, and this is commonly seen in puppies as young as 10-14 weeks carefully picking up either a decoy or actual bird and retrieving for their human companions. Their instincts are very ingrained, and while they are retrievers, they are fine with other animals and dogs as long as they are properly socialized.


While these dogs look quite similar to a Cocker Spaniel, thankfully their grooming requirements are not nearly as extensive. Working dogs should be trimmed to prevent excessive tangling and burrs. Some hunters suggest lightly oiling the coat to ensure nothing sticks to their long feathering. This oiling, while preventing snags and unwanted hitchhiking foliage, also allows the dog to retain their natural hair length and keep their unique appearance.

These dogs, regardless of whether they are trimmed or not, should be brushed on a daily basis to ensure that matting is discouraged. With their longer wavy outer coat, a longer brush is desired, and a slicker brush works wonderfully to separate the over and undercoats. This type of brush will also pull the dead hairs up and out of the very fine undercoat to keep the dog looking neat and tidy as well as preventing excessive shedding.

Bathing these dogs should only be done when necessary. The natural oils in their coat help shed water and should the dog be shampooed this removes the protective oils making the dog more susceptible to rain and temperature variants.

Health and Wellness:

With newfound popularity comes unethical breeders who care more for quantity over quality. This unethical breeding in turn increases the chances for major health issues and, unfortunately, the Boykin Spaniel is no stranger to this quality degradation. With over a third of Boykin Spaniels being born with hip dysplasia, it is imperative that potential owners ensure that both the sire and dam have undergone all necessary tests for hips, eyes and other genetic issues.

The issues most commonly seen in this breed are:

  • Hip Dysplasia
    • A genetic condition where the dog’s hip joint is shaped incorrectly causing painful rubbing and tearing of the surrounding tissue. This condition is usually treated with medication, physiotherapy, massage therapy and diet for mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery to either fix or replace the affected joint. This disease can be prevented by testing the parents prior to breeding.
  • Patella Luxation
    • A genetic issue with the knee that causes the knee to pop out of place. It may be as simple as an occasional issue or severe enough to prevent the dog from ever walking properly even with surgery
  • Cushings Disease
    • A condition where the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol. It can cause varied symptoms but hair loss, increased appetite, increased water consumption, and urination is common. Diagnosis is difficult as there is no single test for Cushing’s
  • Pulmonic Stenosis
    • A category of congenital heart issues found in dogs that can cause susceptibility to murmurs and congestive heart failure due to obstruction in the dog’s heart valves. Once a blockage is found, surgery is required and the dog will be required to live the rest of their life quietly away from strenuous exercise, children or stress. Prognosis for dogs with a severe blockage is never good.
  • Exercise Induced Collapse
    • A condition that usually only affects working animals. This causes muscle weakness, coordination issues, and possible full collapse. This reaction can happen after or during a period of exercise or excitement, even one as brief as 5 minutes. While this excludes these dogs from field work, they are often still suitable as a pet and can live their life out in a quiet home. Hiking, swimming and running should be limited, if not eliminated, from their exercise regime. As this is a genetic issue, careful screening through DNA testing can reduce, if not eliminate the potential for this disease in potential litters. Anti-seizure medication may be able to help with this although the side effects of these medications can cause other complications and, as a result, are often not a suggested course of treatment.

These dogs, as long as they are from reputable stock are relatively long-lived, and they are incredibly hardy. While they have a long life, senior ailments in this breed are, on a whole, uncommon. This longevity is a pleasant surprise for many owners as they can enjoy the dog’s whole life with them in good to reasonable health.

As mentioned above, incidences of hip dysplasia are incredibly high in this breed and precautions must be taken. In addition to hips, the Boykin Spaniel has the highest incidence of the gene that causes Exercise Induced Collapse. This high incident of genetic issues has led the Boykin Spaniel Society and the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America to create a Code of Ethics, which enforce genetic testing. This testing includes checking for genetic eye issues, heart issues, hip dysplasia and many other hereditary issues. This testing is also is upheld by the AKC in conjunction with the Canine Health Information Center. For a breeder to be a member in good standing of the CHIC, the dogs must be tested and kept in a public database. This database shows the unedited results of tests for the dog’s eye health, patellar luxation and hip dysplasia. While not mandatory, it is heavily suggested that other tests such as those looking for elbow dysplasia are carried out and publicly posted as well.

Interesting Facts About the Boykin Spaniel

  1. The Boykin Spaniel looks similar to a Cocker Spaniel although is heavier, more sturdy and is favored in a field environment due to their work ethics and desire to please.
  2. Boykin Spaniels are very social dogs and should not be considered as an outdoor dog as they should be indoors with their family.
  3. While only requiring modest exercise for a Spaniel, these dogs will happily keep up with whatever activities you have planned.
  4. With extremely high prevalence of hip dysplasia and Exercise Induced Collapse, it is very important to know the genetics of any potential puppy’s parentage.
  5. This breed is known for being South Carolina’s state dog and was featured on the 1988 South Carolina Duck Stamp designed by Jim Killen.

Organizations Dedicated to the Boykin Spaniel

Breeds Similar to Boykin Spaniel Dogs:

Boykin Spaniel Dog Breed Info

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