Written by Vet

Boykin Spaniel: The Ultimate Dog Breed Guide

Ivana Crnec
Written by: Dr. Ivana Crnec
Did you know that Boykin Spaniel has a water-repellant coat and that is one of the best dog swimmers ever? Read on to discover more about this Little Brown dog.
Dog Breed Group:
Sporting Dogs
14 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder
25 to 40 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 12 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

Ranked as 100th out of 197 dog breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Boykin Spaniel is skilled flushing and retrieving dog and an affectionate companion.

This ultimate dog breed guide will review the breed’s history, personality, lifestyle requirements, health problems, needs, and more.

Scroll down to learn why the Boykin Spaniels was kept as a secret in its native South Carolina and how it earned the nickname “the dog that does not rock the boat”.

Breed Overview

The Boykin Spaniel is a friendly, eager, and loveable dog from the Sporting Group (according to AKC Classification) or the Gun Dog Group (according to UKC Classification).

The Boykin Spaniel is a middle-sized, sweet-looking dog with a rich brown coat, an avid and merry personality, and impeccable flushing and retrieving skills.

Once bred for its hunting skills on the field, the modern Boykin Spaniel is mostly kept as a fun-loving and devoted companion.

Quick Facts

Real name: Boykin Spaniel
Other names: Boykin, Swamp Poodle, LBD (Little Brown Dog)
Origin: United States
Breed type: Sporting Dogs
Weight: 30-40 pounds (male), 25-35 pounds (female)
Height: 15.5-18 inches (male), 14-16.5 inches (female)
Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
Litter Size: 5 – 7 puppies
Color: Solid, rich liver or dark chocolate
Coat: Medium length, straight to moderately curly

The History Of The Boykin Spaniel

Developed in South Carolina, just after the turn of the 20th century, the Boykin Spaniel is a true American original. Originally bred to be an all-around gun dog, the Boykin developed exceptional waterfowl and upland hunting skills.

Flushing and retrieving ducks and wild turkeys in swamplands are this dog’s area of expertise.

Careful and light, the Boykin Spaniel could easily fit in boats and was, therefore, popularly nicknamed “the dog that does not rock the boat”.

The Boykin Spaniel’s story starts with a small and brown, spaniel-type stray dog. The short and stocky dog was adopted by Mr. Alexander White and named Dumpy.

Shortly after adopting it, Alexander and his hunting partner, Mr. Boykin Whitaker, took Dumpy hunting and were impressed by its bird sense and unique hunting skills.

They mixed Dumpy with several spaniel dogs, including the American Water Spaniel, the Cocker, and Springer Spaniel, as well as with several Pointers and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

The result was the Boykin Spaniel we have grown to love and cherish.

Proud of their native dog, Governor Richard Riley, in 1985, signed an act making the Boykin Spaniel the official state dog of South Carolina.

Today, this friendly and loving companion is also known by the names “Swamp Poodle” and “Little Brown Dog”.

Boykin Spaniel Physical Appearance

The Boykin Spaniel is a medium-sized dog with a sturdy frame, agile posture, and constantly wagging tail.

The head is proportional to the body with pendulous and feathery ears, oval, wide-set, and amber to dark yellow-colored eyes. The expressive eyes radiate with confidence and intelligence.

Boykin Spaniel Size

Boykin Spaniel males are 17 inches tall (43 centimeters) and weigh around 32-38 pounds (14.5-17.2 kilograms).

Female Boykin Spaniels are slightly smaller – they are around 16 inches tall (40 centimeters) and weigh around 30-36 pounds (13.6-16.3 kilograms).

Boykin Spaniel Coat And Color

The Boykin Spaniel’s coat is double-layered and flat to slightly-wavy. The undercoat is short and dense and the outer coat is of medium length and smooth texture.

The coat color is the breed’s hallmark. In most cases, it is solid brown but the exact shade can range from luscious chocolate to rich liver. Small white markings on the chest and toes are permissible.

Stories suggest that the brown coat color was not an accident. The breed’s developers favored this color because it offered good camouflage during bird hunting.

Boykin Spaniel Grooming And Maintenance

Based on grooming needs, the Boykin Spaniel is classified as low-maintenance. Its medium-length, the double coat needs biweekly brushing and occasional bathing.

However, twice per year, during shedding season, this dog leaves hair everywhere and needs to be brushed more frequently – perhaps every other day.

It is also prone to developing dander which makes the Boykin Spaniel a problematic dog for people allergic to dog hair and dander.

Boykin Spaniels have weird ear anatomy – the ears are big, floppy, and covered with extra-feathery hair.

All in all, the ears are prone to wax buildup and retaining moisture which easily leads to infections. To avoid ear problems, the ears should be checked and cleaned on a weekly basis.

If it is hot and humid, the ears can be taped back for a couple of hours, several times a week.

The nails should be trimmed monthly and the teeth washed on a daily basis. The anal glands are prone to impactions and infections and require regular expressions.

Boykin Spaniel Temperament And Personality

The typical Boykin Spaniel’s personality can be described as gentle, curious, friendly, and loveable. It seems that the Boykin Spaniel has lots of tasks on its daily to-do list.

This busy little dog with go-all-day stamina thrives on performing tasks is always in a hurry. Extremely obedient, energetic, and enthusiastic, the Boykin Spaniel does not need to be told twice.

The Boykin Spaniel is a naturally amiable dog. It is friendly with both familiar people and strangers. It is also friendly with other dogs and pets.

Thriving on friendship and approval, the Boykin Spaniel loves kids too. However, clumsy toddlers are not this dog’s favorite form of entertainment. The trusting nature and good manners make the Boykin Spaniel a poor watch and guard dog.

Training The Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin Spaniel is an alert, smart, and highly biddable dog that needs a communicative, persistent, and patient trainer. This dog needs frequent reminders regarding which behaviors are expected and acceptable and which are not.

As long as properly approached, with positive reinforcement techniques and light corrections, the Boykin Spaniel will learn the basic commands in no time.

Eager to please and willing to learn, the Boykin Spaniel is a learning sponge, ready to soak whatever information the handler throws.

As most highly intelligent breeds, the Boykin Spaniel gets easily bored. To avoid this problem, the training sessions should be short, fun and interactive.

Once basic obedience is mastered, this dog can start learning advanced obedience, and agility, or train for dog sports.

Exercise Requirements And Energy Levels of the Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniels need ample physical activity to stay mellow and even-tempered at home. Like most dogs from the Sporting group, they have go-all-day stamina and enthusiastic spirit ready to accept and physical challenge.

Equipped with webbed toes and water-resistant coats, Boykin Spaniels make excellent swimmers. They are also very keen on camping and hiking.

If you are planning half-day hikes, your Boykin Spaniel will gladly be your hiking partner. Finally, Boykin Spaniels love to run and can easily run for around three to four miles.

When vigorously exercising a Boykin Spaniel, watch for signs of coordination loss and muscle weakness.

Members of this breed are prone to exercise-induced collapse and need to be supervised when performing strenuous physical activities.

Common Boykin Spaniel Health Issues

The average lifespan of the Boykin Spaniel is between 11 and 15 years. Members of this breed are prone to several breed-specific health issues and conditions.

The most frequently reported conditions include:

  • Hip dysplasia and patellar luxation
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Exercise-induced collapse
  • Juvenile cataracts, distichiasis, and other eye issues
  • Hemophilia A.

Unless properly fed and exercised Boykin Spaniels tend to gain unnecessary weight which eventually leads to obesity. Their pendulous and hairy ears are prone to ear infections and require frequent cleaning.

According to the National Breed Club, Boykin Spaniels should be subdued to the following health tests:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • EIC DNA Test
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) DNA Test

Diet And Nutrition Needs For The Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniels need around 1¾ to 2¼ cups of high-quality and protein-rich food. This is the daily food amount and it is advisable to divide it into two separate meals.

As highly energetic and active dogs, they need meat-sourced proteins and healthy fats in their diet. Carbs and certain veggies are also an integral part of their diet.

To add diversity to their menu, Boykin Spaniels can occasionally be treated with yogurt, boiled eggs, and cottage cheese.

If not properly exercised, Boykin Spaniels tend to gain weight.

This may lead to obesity and obesity-related health issues. Therefore, the exact food intake should be tailored based on Boykin Spaniel’s exercise regimen and lifestyle.

Tips For Raising A Healthy Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniels are lively and exuberant dogs that thrive on human interaction and having a job to do. They need a great deal of physical activity and challenging mental stimulation.

If planning to get a Boykin Spaniels, consider the following breed-specific concerns:

  • Boykin Spaniels can be hard to handle for inexperienced, first-time dog parents
  • Boykin Spaniels enjoy being physically active but are prone to exercise-induced collapse, which means their exercise sessions should be carefully organized and closely supervised
  • Boykin Spaniels respect their independence but only for few hours, for the rest of the day they demand lots of attention
  • Boykin Spaniels have extremely sensitive noses and if triggered they can follow the scent trail, wander, and accidentally get lost

Parenting a Boykin Spaniel is a long-term commitment in terms of time, attention, and money.

Before purchasing your new Boykin Spaniel puppy, make sure you fit each other in terms of lifestyle and daily needs.

The Cost Of Parenting A Boykin Spaniel

Purebred Boykin Spaniels usually cost between $750 and $1500 and the average purchase price is $1050. A Boykin Spaniel puppy with exceptional parental lineage may cost well above $4000.

Adopting through rescue organizations or from a shelter is much more budget-friendly – it usually costs around $300.

This is just the initial purchase cost. Once the Boykin puppy is home, there will be additional expenses for food, treats, bowls, toys, harness, and leash, beds, and last but not least – vet bills.

The first year is the most challenging with expenses coming close to $3600. After that, the annual expenses decrease. In general, after the first year, the annual cost is around $1400.

The average lifetime cost of parenting a Boykin Spaniel is estimated to be $20000.

Four Fun Facts About Boykin Spaniels

1. In Their Native South Carolina, Boykin Spaniels Are A Big Deal

The people in South Carolina are particularly proud of their only, truly American, hunting dog.

Most breeds’ histories evolve slowly while thriving in different countries. That is not the case with the Boykin Spaniel – this dog was born, bred, and raised in South Carolina.

2. Boykin Spaniels Are Often Mistaken For Cocker Spaniels

The Boykin Spaniel is larger and definitely heavier and more muscular than the Cocker Spaniel.

He is not much taller but it is much heavier and sturdier. However, for an untrained eye, these two dogs look similar. And they are not to blame. There really are some confusing traits between the Boykin Spaniel and its more popular English cousin.

3. Boykin Spaniels Have Their Own Holiday

There are not many dog breeds awarded with their own special date on the calendar.

Yet, Boykin Spaniels have their holiday – in South Carolina, September 1st is Boykin Spaniel national day.

4. The Boykin Spaniel Goes By Several Nicknames

Boykin Spaniel may be the official name, but this breed’s fanciers refer to Boykin Spaniels via one of their nicknames. Perhaps the most popular nickname is the Swamp Poodle.

This nickname is quite fitting since their size and coat resemble the Poodle’s and they spend lots of time hunting birds in swamps.

Another popular nickname is Little Brown Dog or shortly LBD which refers to the dog’s diminutive size and rich, solid-brown coat. Finally, because of its lightness and steadiness, the Boykin Spaniel is called “the dog that does not rock the boat”.

Boykin Spaniel FAQs

Do Boykin Spaniels Bark Lot?

Boykin Spaniels are responsible not nuisance barkers. This means they never bark without a reason. If a Boykin Spaniel barks it is to alert you of something or somebody suspicious.

Can Boykin Spaniels Be Left Alone?

Yes, Boykin Spaniels are a bit independent dogs and do not mind spending some time alone.

If crated and provided with entertaining toys, Boykin Spaniels can be left alone for between three and five hours. Just make sure they are well-exercised before being crated.

Are Boykin Spaniels Aggressive?

No, Boykin Spaniels are not naturally aggressive dogs.

They are fun, loving, and affectionate dogs. However, if provoked or mistreated they might show aggression, but only in defense.

Do Boykin Spaniels Like To Swim?

Yes, true to their spaniel and retriever genes, Boykin Spaniels not only adore swimming, but they are excellent at this activity.

Plus, they are equipped specifically for this task – they have webbed toes and a water-repellent coat.

Are Boykin Spaniels Hyper?

Boykin Spaniels are naturally active dogs but they cannot be described as hyper.

They need physical and mental stimulation to stay happy and satisfied. If not properly challenged, they become bored and turn to destructiveness.

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