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Boykin spaniel standing by a tree.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height —13-19 inches
  • Weight — 20-45 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Textured, flat, and smooth, feeling silky to the touch.
  • Coat color — Dark brown, light brown, chestnut, red-brown, liver, and sable. Puppies may not show much variation from adult breed members.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 14-16 years
  • Temperament — Eager to please, challenge-loving, athletic, smart, affectionate
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — United States

Boykin spaniel fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Boykin Spaniels Cooper; Beau is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Boykin Spaniels love Dixie, then Millie.

  • Boyskin spaniels are known affectionately as a breed that doesn’t “rock the boat”. This is due to their lightweight, athletic structure — which kept them from rocking the boat too much when they’d go on hunting adventures.
  • These hunting dogs only recently received acknowledgment by the American Kennel Club. This occurred in 2009, making them one of the most recently recognized breeds.
  • The Boykin spaniel is considered to be the official state dog of South Carolina. This is their known state of origin.
Boykin spaniel in a field of flowers.

Boykin spaniel temperament and characteristics 

Boykin spaniels are incredibly playful and love to connect with their owners. They also have the stamina to play and romp for hours,  making them the perfect pet of choice for adventurers and playful pet parents!

Due to their high level of intelligence and sweet-natured personalities, Boykin spaniels notably love children. They bond and play well with them and are exceptionally tolerant of children still learning how to treat dogs and animals. Patient, defensive and loyal, Boykin spaniels are often a safe pet for homes with multiple littles or other animals.

While not overly fond of strangers, your Boykin spaniel may appear to be friendlier than your average pup. They genuinely enjoy the company of people and are not too wary compared to other similar breeds. However, if your Boykin perceives a threat, they will make you aware,  barking and fiercely defending the family they love.


The Boykin spaniel is a medium-sized dog with a sturdy, well-balanced build and an intelligent expression. According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, this breed’s coat is a solid liver color – a deep reddish brown color that includes various shades of chocolate brown, from light to very dark. They can also have white markings on the chest. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, a common coat color for the Boykin Spaniel is (97%) brown.

Common Boykin spaniel health problems

The Boykin spaniel is generally a healthy breed. However, they can be genetically predisposed to certain health problems. Being aware of this early on can help pet parents get the care these dogs need to thrive,  leading to a higher quality of life for them overall. Here are a few medical problems you should watch out for in your Boykin.

  • Hip dysplasia. Like many mid-sized breeds, your Boykin may be susceptible to hip dysplasia. This condition occurs when there is instability between the femur (thigh bone) and the hip socket, which can lead to inflammation and pain in the surrounding ligaments. Your pet may be treated with pain management measures and surgery, if needed.
  • Ear infections. Stinky ears can be more than a grooming issue. Boykins are prone to ear infections from seasonal allergies or general sensitivity, which can occur even if they don’t get their head wet or dirty. Keep an eye out for any debris found around the ear, or obvious redness — and consider taking them in for a check-up if you notice anything “off.”
  • Exercise-induced collapse. Otherwise known as EIC, exercise-induced collapse is a neuromuscular problem that can occur in perfectly healthy dogs. It can happen even after low-impact exercise, and is mainly avoided by lifestyle changes.
  • Juvenile cataracts. As the name suggests, your Boykin may run into cataracts pretty early on in their life. This condition occurs when there is cloudiness found around the lens of the eye. Over time, this can lead to blindness, but doesn’t in all cases. Your vet can help you monitor your Boykin’s cataracts in order to slow the progression and help mitigate blindness if and when it occurs.

Cost of caring for Boykin spaniels

Boykin spaniels are relatively low maintenance dogs. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,500-$4,000 their first year of life, which includes costs associated with their purchase price, vet visits and registration fees. After the first year, your Boykin bill should decrease, with the only main expenses being routine vet exams, toys, and food. We estimate this will run you between $1,000-$2,000 on average.

Planning ahead is key to making sure you’ll be giving your Boykin their best home experience. If you’re looking to save on any future vet visits, it might be time to look into pet health insurance for your pup. You can use it to reduce out of pocket expenses — and you might even hit a few bonuses for signing up early on. If you’re in the market for a more flexible option, however, we recommend a pet savings account. This option allows you to save before a need comes up, keeping you as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency.

Sleepy Boykin spaniel

History of the Boykin spaniel

The Boykin spaniel is considered to be a domestic breed, with origins beginning in the early 1900s along the Wateree River Swamp. These loyal companions were bred to hunt wild turkeys and other game both in and out of the water — which meant that Boykins needed to be highly intelligent, athletic, and skilled hunters.

Hunters along the South Carolina coastline began to experiment with breeding a range of different dogs to get their ideal breed of hunter, including American Water Spaniels, the cocker spaniel, and the springer spaniel. All of these are attributed with the end development of the Boykin spaniel breed, now affectionately known as the “little dogs who don’t rock the boat.”

Today, Boykins are well-loved companion dogs that are excellent in both the hunter’s grounds and the show fields, using their high level of intelligence and trainability to their advantage. They fit in seamlessly with the lives of their owners and are a source of love and companionship for family members of all ages.

Caring for your Boykin spaniel

We understand — caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. Once you bring your furry friend home, you’ll want to set up an appointment for your first trip to the vet, and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. This important step can help you to get ahead of any possible medical issues and get your pet the strongest start yet. We also recommend puppy-proofing your home early on, helping you to prepare in advance for teething.

Lastly, we recommend signing your new Boykin puppy up for FidoAlert. This free service provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared in case they manage to get out on their own.

Here are a few more things you should know about your Boykin spaniel puppy.


Although they’re a “small size” dog, Boykin spaniels require about 1 to 2 hours per day of activity and exercise. While owners should be careful not to risk exercise-induced collapse (EIC), they can engage with Boykins in a moderate- to low-impact way — such as a game of fetch on the green or a nice jog in the dog park. As they are more compact, Boykins can do well in virtually any environment with room to play (such as a yard) and any dog home with available living space. Those who have small children or other animals as a part of their pack will appreciate the kind-hearted and affectionate nature of Boykin spaniels.

In addition to their moderate to high exercise needs, Boykin spaniels also enjoy being the center of attention. They are known to be very smart and love to show it off,  showcasing new learned tricks and doing just about anything to capture the eye of their pawrents. Taking an extra hour or so a day to give your Boykin uninterrupted together time can go a long way toward their socialization and bonding.

Boykin spaniel running


Due to the textured nature of Boykin fur, these pups can pick up quite a bit of dirt and grime. That’s why many Boykin owners find success with a once-monthly bathing routine that keeps their dogs clean — without stripping the fur of any moisturizing surface oils. Consider washing with care to avoid any tangles or snags on the breed’s curl-prone coat, and take the time to brush them at least once a week to keep shedding at bay.  However, we do want to note that some shedding is to be expected, since this breed has a textured double coat that seasonally sheds.

Need a way to make wash day less of a to-do? Try putting up a licking mat up on the shower wall with peanut butter or their favorite smearable treat. You’ll have bathtime cinched.

As a friendly reminder, nail trimming and ear cleaning should occur at least once a month to keep up with your Boykin’s hygienic needs. Teeth brushing is a little more of a frequent chore, however, and should be done at least once every other day to keep plaque and decay away.

Diet and nutrition

Boykins remain fairly “middle of the road” when it comes to their eating and nutritional needs, with many consuming approximately two cups per day. High-quality dog food is a great way to support your Boykin’s health, ensuring that they have enough protein, healthy fat and carbs to sustain them — without the fillers and chemicals found in lower quality options.

We do want to note that Boykins in the puppy phases or those with health conditions may eat more or less than the approximate amount above. As always, please consider consulting your vet for personalized diet recommendations and quantity amounts for your Boykin. They can advise you based on your dog’s specific nutritional profile and needs.

Training your Boykin spaniel

Looking to train your Boykin? As you already know, they’re incredibly smart — almost humanlike in their ability to perceive others and the world around them. This makes them exceptionally trainable and pleasant to interact with. They even have the capacity to perform in formal showings and competitions!

If you’re looking to have a fruitful training session with your furry friend, you might consider keeping training sessions relatively short. The Boykin spaniel’s high intelligence makes them get bored easily, which means they can disengage from longer sessions. The secret? Leveraging their natural curiosity with different training techniques each time.

You might try different positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats and clicker training. You can also try frequent verbal positive reinforcement, and extra cuddle time after training sessions to help your Boykin transition to a slower state of mind.

Boykin spaniel closeup from the side.

Breeds similar to the Boykin spaniel

Not quite sure that a Boykin spaniel  is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Cocker spaniel. Though cocker spaniels and Boykin spaniels are closely related, Boykins have a more independent temperament — and also require more personal space and room to roam. Cockers, on the other hand, can be more “needy,” requiring near round-the-clock attention.
  • English springer spaniel. English springer spaniels are like a larger version of Boykin spaniels, carrying many similarities in temperament and appearance. They may also live longer than Boykins, averaging about 15-17 years.
  • Clumber spaniel. Clumbers are known for their sweet disposition, acting as a calmer iteration of the Boykin spaniel. They are similar in the sense that they’re great family pets, and are very patient with little ones.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Boykin spaniel a good family dog?

Boykin spaniels are loyal companion pups that are willing to go just about anywhere with their pack and pet parents. They love children and are extremely patient, making them an ideal choice for large families or pawrents with multiple pets.

Do Boykin spaniels bark a lot?

Boykin spaniels are considered to be pretty quiet, and only alert to potential threats. They are extremely friendly and can usually discern a threat from a friendly stranger. Ongoing training and socialization is a good idea to reaffirm and refine this skill in your Boykin.

Do Boykin spaniels shed a lot?

Yes, your Boykin is likely to shed due to their thick double-coat. You can keep shedding at bay with regular brushing and ongoing coat care.

Are Boykin spaniels hyper?

These special spaniels aren’t usually hyper. While they can be demanding as far as their need for attention and engagement goes, they are relatively quiet and enjoy being focused and challenged. If you notice excessive hyperness in your Boykin spaniel, they may be bored.