Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Boykin Spaniel

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin Spaniel is a medium sized purebred and was bred in the US. Its small size makes it valued by hunters who can take it easily on and off boats. It is one of the smallest retrievers and comes from South Carolina which is why it is that state’s official state dog. With the right home it can also be a great family dog as it gets along with everyone and is friendly, charming, smart and hard working.

The Boykin Spaniel at A Glance
Name Boykin Spaniel
Other names Swamp Poodle, Little Brown Dog
Nicknames LBD, Boykin
Origin United States
Average size Medium
Average weight 25 to 40 pounds
Average height 14 to 18 inches
Life span 14 to 16 years
Coat type Short to medium, wavy curly or straight, waterproof
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, liver
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 111th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – about average
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle hot weather just nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Good – able to live in cool climates but nothing too cold without extra care
Shedding Average to above average – there will be some hair around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity High – gains weight easily, food and treats need to be measured and it needs daily physical exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush regularly
Barking Occasional – some barking but not constant
Exercise needs Quite active – needs physical exercise and mental stimulation daily
Trainability Moderately easy – process will be gradual, some experience would help
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good but better with experienced owner
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good – needs socialization, can be wary
Good apartment dog Moderate – needs a home with space and a yard
Handles alone time well Good – can be alone for short periods
Health issues Fairly healthy but some issues include hip dysplasia, ear infections, heart problems and eye problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic care and for pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $225 a year for miscellaneous items, basic training, toys and license
Average annual expenses $830 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including Boykin Spaniel Rescue, Inc and Operation Little Brown Dog, Inc
Biting Statistics None reported

Boykin Spaniel’s Beginnings

The Boykin Spaniel was bred and developed in the US in South Carolina to be bird hunter and retriever in the early 1900s. Its size was ideal for hunters to take it into the swamps of South Carolina on boats easily and for it to get on off the boat without rocking it. It would hunt birds like wild turkey, pheasants and other waterfowl, flush them out for its human companion and then retrieve them when they were shot down. Its nickname little brown dog comes from its appearance, liver, brown or dark chocolate brown.

It is said the breed began with a brown stray dog called Dumpy and its owner Whit Boykin. In the early 1900s an Alexander White from South Carolina saw the stray after church and took it home and gave it to his hunting partner, Whit Boykin. Boykin adopted the stray and saw that he had great bird sense so crossed him with other hunting dogs such as the Cocker spaniel, American Water Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever and Springer Spaniel to develop a small but very successful waterfowl retriever. The breed that resulted was named after him. Because the area where the breed was popular was also near a resort it was noticed by visitors and became popular across the US.

New Lease on Life

The Boykin Spaniel Society was started in 1977, the United Kennel Club recognized it in 1985 and to gain SKC recognition the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America was formed in the 1990s. In 2009 it became an officially AKC recognized breed. While it is still found more commonly in South Carolina and across the Atlantic coat there its popularity is still on the increase. It is currently ranked as 111th most popular recognized purebred by the AKC which is up from previous years. It is South Carolina’s official state dog and September 1st is designated Boykin Spaniel Day there.

The Dog You See Today

This dog is medium sized weighing 25 to 40 pounds and standing 14 to 18 inches tall. It has a typical looking spaniel shaped head, its tail tends to be docked as this is still allowed in the US, and it has a straight, wavy or curly short to medium coat that is brown or liver in color. Its under coat is dense, and short. Some feathering around the chest, legs and ears can be longer. It is a little larger than a Cocker Spaniel and its ears are set higher and are smaller too.

The Inner Boykin Spaniel


Boykin Spaniels are alert and can be good watchdogs as it will bark to let you know if there is an intruder. It is energetic and friendly too and does bark occasionally so expect some noise from it. It is a very sensitive breed and very responsive too. It is intelligent and has a great deal of enthusiasm for everything from playing to hunting, being a part of family activity or just enjoying life in general. It is loving towards its family but needs lots of attention not absent owners, so keep that in mind if you are out at work for long hours every day.

It is an active breed so it needs a home where its owners are also active, it does not have to be hunting though, but this is not a dog happy to be a couch potato. If not raised properly and with enough stimulation it will be high strung, loud, bored, destructive and may snap. This dog is curious about everything and loves to explore everything everywhere. It can be owned by new owners with some success but experienced dogs owners are likely to have an easier time.

Living with a Boykin Spaniel

What will training look like?

For people with experience this dog is easy to train as it is intelligent, eager to please and listens well to commands and is ready to obey them. It can even learn with less repetition needed so less time needed. For people with less experience it may be a more gradual experience but is still moderately easy. Use positive and gentle methods and keep it fun and interesting for them. Offer it praise, rewards, encouragement and use treats to motivate. Be consistent and patient but also be firm so it is clear you are the one in charge.

Early socialization is very important too, just as important as basic obedience training. There are some lines of Boykin Spaniel that lean towards being more aggressive and over energetic, early training and socialization are essential in those cases, but also important in general. Socialization can help dog become more confident and be happier. It is better able to deal with different places and people and more able to know what kind of responses are acceptable to certain situations.

How active is the Boykin Spaniel ?

This dog is very active and has a lot of endurance but being a medium sized dog this means about an hour a day of a mix of play and a couple of walks should be enough if you are not using it daily as a hunting dog. However some might need more, you can tell from its behavior if that is the case. If it is restless, hyper active, destructive for example these could be signs it is bored and needs more mental as well as physical stimulation. It needs to live with active owners who will not begrudge the needs to be out daily for longer periods. While it can adapt to apartment living it does better with a yard. It loves to play doggy games, go swimming, join you in a canoe or kayak, go hiking and so on. Make sure it also gets opportunity for mental challenge too.

Caring for the Boykin Spaniel

Grooming needs

Boykin Spaniels need a moderate amount of grooming and care. It will need routine brushing to keep its coat healthy and that will also help with loose hair from its shedding. It does shed a moderate amount so be prepared for daily vacuuming and some hair in the home. The feathered areas can tangle easily so care should be taken when brushing there. Only give it a bath when it really needs one to avoid drying out the natural oils in its skin and only use a proper dog shampoo. If it has been swimming though give it a rinse in clean water to get rid of algae or saltwater. You may want to have the coat clipped regularly especially if you are using it out in the field.

It should also have its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week. It is a breed prone to ear infection, so make sure you dry them after swimming and baths or anytime it gets them wet. Check them weekly for infection signs like a bad odor, discharge, redness or swelling. Give them a wipe clean using a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball. Never insert something into the ears. Its nails, if not worn down naturally, will need to be trimmed. Dog nails are not like ours, they have nerves and blood vessels in them. Should you cut into those it will cause bleeding and hurt the dog. If you are not sure about it have a professional groomer do it for you.

Feeding Time

A Boykin will eat between 1½ to 2½ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals. How much exactly can vary because of difference in size, build, health, age, metabolism and level of activity. As this breed is highly prone to obesity make sure you measure out its food and track the treats, while avoiding giving table scraps. Also make sure it gets enough physical activity each day.

How is the Boykin Spaniel with children and other animals?

Boykin Spaniels are excellent with children when raised with them and socialized well. Together they make great play mates, will burn off energy together, play and have fun and enjoy life as well being affectionate and loving too. It is always a good idea to still supervise toddlers around dogs, but in this case it is true because of their energy they can knock over toddlers or cause them to wobble and fall! It is also not a breed that is patient enough to put up with being tugged and pulled at by younger children too much. Make sure children are taught how to be kind to dogs and what is safe to do and what is not. With other pets and other dogs it also accepting and with socialization can get along with them just fine.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of a Boykin Spaniel is 14 to 16 years. There are some issues it is prone to but it is generally fairly healthy. Those issues can include ear infections, heart problems, eye problems, hemophilia A, hip dysplasia, skin problems, seizures, Cushings, hypothyroidism and patella luxation.

Biting Statistics

Canadian and American reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm over the last 35 years do not mention the Boykin Spaniel. It is not a dog likely to attack anyone or start anything, but while it is not likely that does not mean it is impossible. Any dog, not matter what size or type has the potential to snap, over react or just have a bad day. There are some lines of Boykin that can be quicker to aggression than others. While you can never have 100$ guarantees you can lessen the chances of serious injuries or over reacting by giving it enough exercise and mental stimulation, enough attention and care, and making sure it is well socialized and has at the least good basic obedience training.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Boykin Spaniel puppy from a good breeder of pet quality dogs is going to cost around $1000. For something of show quality or field trial quality expect that to be $2500 or even more. There is the possibilty of getting a dog from a rescue or shelter for less money, around $50 to $400 will allow you to adopt a dog and give it a new home. However it will likely be an adult not a puppy. Avoid using pet stores, puppy mills, backyard breeders or suspect local or online adverts. These are not places you want to fund.

When you have successfully found a dog or puppy from a trustworthy breeder you will need to have some medical needs taken care of and some items for your new pet. It should be checked over by a vet and then given its shots, dewormed, be spayed or neutered, blood tests done and be micro chipped. This will cost about $270. At home it needs a collar and leash, bowls, crate, carrier and such and those will cost about $200.

Annual costs come to a total starting figure of $830. That includes $460 for medical basic needs and pet insurance, $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats and $225 a year for miscellaneous costs, license, basic training and toys.


Looking for a Boykin Spaniel Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Boykin Spaniel is a great all round hunting dog and a great family pet too. It is very cheerful, full of energy, very charming and also very loving and loyal. It loves to be around people and is not good in a home where people are absent all the time. It is hard working, confident and friendly but is prone to weight gain and ear infections. -loving dog like the Boykin Spaniel needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Boykin who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Featured Image Credit: Cynthia Davison, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

Did you know: an average of 18 dog foods are recalled every year?

Get FREE Dog Food Recall Alerts by email whenever there's a recall.