Boykin Spaniel

Elise Schmelzer

Elise Schmelzer

. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM
Updated Jul. 23, 2023
portrait of a brown boykin spaniel sitting outside in front of trees

In This Article

General Care

The Boykin Spaniel is an adept hunting dog with roots in the wetlands of South Carolina. A medium-size spaniel breed, the Boykin is known for its friendly, eager-to-please nature, making them equally happy flushing birds and being a family pet.

The breed was developed in the 1900s after Whit Boykin’s hunting partner sent him a stray named Dumpy, according to The Boykin Spaniel Society (BSS). From those humble beginnings, the Boykin Spaniel became the state dog of South Carolina and a reliable partner for hunting turkeys, doves, and ducks.

Weighing up to 40 pounds and standing shy of 18 inches at the shoulder, all Boykin Spaniels have a reddish-brown coat, with some having small white markings on their chest.

Caring for a Boykin Spaniel

This South Carolina dog breed is an intelligent, amicable pup that loves to swim, hunt, and play. While they have minimal grooming needs and are generally healthy dogs, Boykin Spaniel puppies and dogs thrive in an active family and need “several hours” of exercise and attention every day, according to the BSS.

If you can keep up with their energy level, Boykins are easy to train and eager to please. These qualities make them great family dogs who get along well with children and other pets.

Boykin Spaniel Health Issues

The Boykin Spaniel Society recommends pet parents ask a veterinarian to perform DNA tests on their dog to make sure genetic diseases aren’t present. Reputable Boykin Spaniel breeders should also provide health information about any puppy’s parents. 

Exercise-Induced Collapse

Exercise-induced collapse is a genetic neuromuscular disorder where otherwise healthy dogs can become weak after intense exercise. Dogs experiencing an episode have sudden muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and may collapse after 5–25 minutes of intense physical activity.

Symptoms of an episode include dragging hind legs or the sudden inability to move the front legs. In severe cases, episodes may be fatal, but with proper management, dogs can live full and healthy lives. 

Canine Degenerative Myelopathy

Some Boykin Spaniels can be susceptible to degenerative myelopathy, a condition that causes increasing weakness in the back legs. The disease slowly destroys nerves in the spinal cord and can eventually lead to paralysis of the hind legs. Although degenerative myelopathy is not painful, there is currently no cure for the nerve damage. The condition generally begins in middle or older age, and symptoms include dragging paws and wobbly walking.

Pulmonic Stenosis

Pulmonic stenosis is a congenital heart defect that affects many large and medium-size breeds, including the Boykin Spaniel. While mild cases are unlikely to have any significant impact on a dog’s life, those with more severe defects can experience difficulties in exercising, may collapse, and may develop heart arrhythmias or heart failure. In some cases, the defect can be treated with surgery. 

What To Feed a Boykin Spaniel

Feed your Boykin Spaniel pup a high-quality dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to ensure their diet is nutritious and balanced. Popular brands that meet these standards include Purina®, Royal Canin®/MD, and Hill’s Science Diet.

When selecting a brand, be sure to choose a food specifically formulated for your Boykin Spaniel’s current life stage, whether it’s puppy, adult, or senior.

How To Feed a Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel puppies should be fed three meals a day until they are approximately 1 year old. During this period, they should transition from puppy food to adult food and begin eating two meals per day.

For both Boykin Spaniel puppies and adults, mealtimes should be consistent, as this helps create a stable routine for your pet. 

How Much Should You Feed a Boykin Spaniel?

A Boykin Spaniel eats approximately 2 cups of dry food per day, according to the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America. However, the actual amount may vary based on the dog’s exercise level and the quality of the food. Dogs who hunt all day will need more calories to keep up with their high level of activity.

Always talk to your veterinarian about how much you should be feeding your dog to keep them healthy and prevent obesity.

Nutritional Tips for Boykin Spaniels

Boykins generally don’t need supplements as long as they are healthy and are being fed high-quality food. Never start your dog on a supplement without speaking to your vet first. 

Behavior and Training Tips for Boykin

Boykin Spaniel Personality and Temperament

Boykin Spaniels—especially Boykin puppies, require several hours of exercise and attention from their family every day. They are bred for long hunting days and possess excellent stamina.

While not all Boykins are hyperactive, the BSS recommends assessing the energy levels of a Boykin Spaniel pup’s parents to get an idea of how much energy they may have. But even the calmer Boykins are no couch potatoes, so be prepared to take your dog on daily walks and hikes. They also enjoy swimming, and their webbed toes make them adept in the water.

Boykin Spaniel Behavior

Friendly and loving, the Boykin is an easygoing dog who loves to please their family. But if these athletic dogs don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation, they can turn to destructive behaviors like chewing or digging to keep themselves entertained.

Boykin Spaniel Training

Boykins are generally easy to train and thrive while learning new tricks and commands. Like all dogs, they respond best to positive reinforcement and a consistent training schedule to learn the basics like “sit” and “stay.”

If you’re looking for your Boykin Spaniel to be more than a family pet and join you in the hunting field, you may choose to hire a professional trainer to mold your pup into a hunting pro. 

Fun Activities for Boykin Spaniels

Boykin Spaniel Grooming Guide

The Boykin Spaniel’s brown coat sheds moderately and needs to be brushed regularly. But other than that, these hardy hunting dogs don’t need a ton of upkeep—unless they’ve recently gone swimming, that is.

Skin Care

Boykins can be susceptible to skin irritation and infections if they’re not properly dried after going for a swim. To prevent moisture from becoming trapped in their fur, the breed club recommends keeping your pup’s coat trimmed shorter during the summer. This summer cut will help them dry faster.

Coat Care

The Boykin Spaniel’s coat is medium in length, with flat or moderately curly fine hair. The breed club recommends brushing your Boykin’s coat at least once a week to minimize shedding and prevent matting.

Boykins can also be bathed up to once a month, but any more frequent bathing could lead to an unhealthy, dried-out coat.

Eye Care

Boykins don’t require any specific eye care, but pet parents should be sure to keep excess hair around the eyes trimmed and clear of debris or discharge. Contact your veterinarian if you notice changes in your dog’s eyes.

Ear Care

Boykins, like other spaniels, can be prone to chronic ear infections. A weekly flushing of your pup’s ears with a pet-friendly cleaning solution can help keep their ears clean, especially for dogs who regularly swim or hunt in tall grass.

Keeping your Boykin Spaniel’s hair around their ears trimmed can also help prevent moisture from becoming trapped, which can cause infections.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Boykins make excellent family pets when provided with the resources they need to thrive, including ample space to run, proper attention, and consistent training. Although they can be high-energy, they are easily entertained and trained. Their coat, eyes, and ears require a medium level of care.

Boykin Spaniel FAQs

Is the Boykin Spaniel a good family dog?

Yes, Boykins make excellent family dogs. They love attention and being part of a group. 

Are Boykin Spaniels hyper?

While most Boykin Spaniels are energetic, properly trained dogs who are given adequate exercise and attention should behave well. 

How much do Boykin Spaniels cost?

A Boykin Spaniel can cost up to $1,000, depending on the breeder. You can also find dogs at Boykin Spaniel rescues for less.

Featured Image: Adobe/Jonathan

Elise Schmelzer


Elise Schmelzer

Freelance Writer

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health