Boykin Spaniels

The Boykin Spaniel is the product of his native South Carolina, specifically developed to hunt from small boats with little room for the typical large retriever. Hence, the Boykin, one of the smallest of the retrievers and a water dog par excellence. He weighs 25 to 40 pounds and has a wavy or curly coat. His claim to fame is that he is the official state dog of South Carolina. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Boykin Spaniel.

Is the Boykin Spaniel the Right Dog for You?

The Boykin has a friendly, cheerful personality in general. His size makes him a good choice for families with children, as long as he has been brought up with them and the canine and human playmates are supervised.

Like any sporting breed, the Boykin needs daily exercise. If you’re not a hunter, a long walk will do, as well as any opportunity to swim, but you can also channel his energy into dog sports such as agility and flyball. He’ll love anything that involves getting wet and he’s an excellent choice for boaters, including canoers and kayakers, seeing as how he was developed to hunt from a boat.

Some lines can have excessive energy levels or a tendency toward aggression. Begin training and socialization early to ward off problems such as aggression toward unknown dogs. Boykins are smart and respond well to gentle, consistent training techniques. For best results, make training fun, using positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise and food rewards.

Expect to comb and brush this breed’s curly coat two or three times a week. Comb it first to prevent or remove mats and tangles. Do this every time your dog has been outside and picked up burrs or other debris. Use a slicker brush to remove dead hair. You may need to trim the coat every once in a while to give it a neat appearance. Be sure to give him a thorough freshwater rinse after he has been in saltwater or a lake or pond with algae, and bath as needed. In addition, trim the nails regularly, clean and trim the fur between the foot pads, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-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.

Be aware that the Boykin is a rare breed. You may have to wait six months to a year or more for a puppy to be available.

5 Tips to Bringing Home a Healthy Boykin Spaniel Puppy

  1. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  2. Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America, which maintains a referral list of breeders. Choose one who is committed to following the BSCBAA's Code of Ethics.
  3. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Boykin Spaniels aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Boykin Spaniels can live 10 to 12 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
  4. Puppy or adult, take your Boykin to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Boykin Spaniels

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Boykin Spaniels have some health conditions that can be a concern, and they include hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, eye problems such as cataracts, and skin problems.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip scores of Excellent, Good or Fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a PennHIP score, an OFA patella clearance and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. You can check the website of the Canine Health Information Center to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications. For CHIC certification, OFA elbow and cardiac clearances are recommended but optional.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation
High $1,500-$3,000
Hip Dysplasia
Medium $1,500-$6,000
Pulmonic Stenosis High $1,000-$7,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Boykin Spaniels

Pet insurance for Boykin Spaniels costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Boykin Spaniels are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are preexisting) to which Boykin Spaniels are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Boykin Spaniel is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.