How to Train a Boykin Spaniel

🐾 #dailydog breed of the day: Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin Spaniel is avid, eager, merry, and trainable, a medium-sized flushing and retrieving dog known for its rich brown coat. This mellow housedog and tenacious bird dog was once South Carolina’s best-kept secret. Boykins are medium-sized spaniels, larger and rangier than Cockers but more compact than Springers. The breed’s hallmark is a beautiful solid-brown coat. Colors range from a rich liver to luscious chocolate. The large, feathery ears hang close to the cheeks, setting off an expression of soulful intelligence. Bred to work in the lakes and swamps of their native South Carolina, web-toed Boykins can swim like seals. For years, Boykins was known only to hunters of Carolina waterfowl and wild turkey. But lately, the wider world has discovered that the Boykin is as delightful at home as he is eager at the lake. ‘They are very, very sweet dogs to have around the family, a longtime owner says, ‘but an absolute tiger in the field.


The Boykin Spaniel is among the handful of AKC breeds wholly developed in the 20th century. Boykin is a small South Carolina community with of approximately 100 souls, named for a founding resident, Lemuel Whitaker “Whit” Boykin. As the Boykin Spaniel origin story goes, around 1900, a man named Alexander White found a little brown spaniel outside the church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where he attended services. White gave the young male spaniel the uninspiring name Dumpy. An avid sportsman, White took Dumpy out hunting with his retrievers, and to White’s delight, Dumpy showed great enthusiasm and instincts for water retrieves and more than held his own with the pedigreed bird dogs.

White sent Dumpy for training to his hunting partner, community patriarch Whit Boykin, who was the area’s leading dog man. Boykin was fascinated with the brown spaniel, who turned out to be as skillful at flushing and retrieving wild turkeys as he was at duck hunting. Boykin built a new breeding program around Dumpy, utilizing crosses to such breeds as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Cocker, English Springer, and American Water spaniels. The result was the upbeat gundog we know today as the Boykin Spaniel.

From the breed’s beginning, sportsmen working Carolina’s swampy terrain were enamored of the breed’s intensity, versatility, and effortlessly balanced gait. The Boykin’s popularity was restricted to the immediate area of its birth. Eventually, the Boykin caught on with bird hunters around the country, especially on the East Coast. The breed’s success was its unbridled energy in the field, the ability to work on land or lake, and a sweet, gentle manner at home.

South Carolinians have made the Boykin Spaniel their official state dog and celebrate September 1 as Boykin Spaniel Day. The Boykin gained full AKC recognition in 2009, joining the elite assembly of the AKC’s “all-American” dog breeds.

Quick Facts

Temperament: friendly / eager / lovable

Height: 14 to 18 inches

Weight: 25 to 40 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10-15 years

Sporting Group


Boykin Spaniels are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts, and exercise-induced collapse. The Boykin’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection and cleaned when necessary’¿this can be done with soft gauze and an ear-cleaning solution, which the dog’s breeder or veterinarian can recommend. The teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
  • EIC DNA Test
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) DNA Test
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation


The Boykin’s medium-length, wavy coat requires only minimal maintenance. A weekly brushing will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep him looking his best, and an occasional bath will help to keep him clean-smelling. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause discomfort and problems walking and running.


Boykins have moderate to high energy and require lots of exercise every day. They do best with active people, especially those seeking an athletic partner for activities like hiking, running, or biking. Regular exercise will help keep the Boykin healthy and happy. This can come in the form of long walks and play sessions. The breed also exercises mind and body by participating in obedience, tracking, agility, rally, field events, and other activities that can be enjoyed by both dog and owner.

The Boykin Spaniel is a tough, energetic, and enthusiastic hunting dog, yet gentle and contented in the home. An affectionate and fiercely loyal personality is a hallmark of the breed, and Boykins make wonderful family pets. They thrive on companionship, enjoying the company of children and other dogs. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended to help ensure that the Boykin grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. Intelligent and eager to please, Boykins are generally easy to train.


The Boykin Spaniel should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.