Boykin Spaniel

A chestnut boykin spaniel trots across a field of dry grass.

The Boykin Spaniel is an American original, developed in South Carolina to hunt wild turkeys and ducks in swamplands. Compact and agile, the breed is an all-around gun dog adept at flushing and retrieving. If you don't hunt, Boykins love participating in dog sports and any outdoor adventure, such as hiking, canoeing, or kayaking. The breed is small enough to fit comfortably in a canoe, and with their web toes, they are naturals in the water.

Boykin Spaniels have a beautiful, wavy coat in a solid brown hue that can range from rich liver to dark chocolate. They are engaging and intelligent dogs who make excellent company during long days upland hunting or just hanging around at home. Like all spaniels, Boykins have energy to burn and may become mischievous if they are not kept busy throughout the day.

Other Names

Boykin Spaniels are also known as Boykin, Swamp Poodle, and Little Brown Dog (LBD).

Physical Description


Boykins have a medium-length double coat of rich brown fur. The outer coat is flat or slightly wavy, and the undercoat is short and thick. The coat is feathered on the ears, legs, belly, and chest. The coat color is a solid brown, that can be a deep liver, brown, or dark chocolate. The coat may include small white markings on the toes or chest.


Average Height: 14-18 inches


Male: 30-40 pounds

Female: 25-35 pounds

Breed Standard & History

Boykin Spaniels are athletic, agile dogs with a lively gait. Of medium build, they have a sturdy and well-balanced physique. They have a slightly arched neck and a neat muzzle with jaws that can carry game with ease. Boykins have a docked tail when meeting breed standards. Along with their beautiful coat, their intelligent brown eyes are a defining feature. Boykins charm with their sprightly personalities and friendly, alert expression. Their large, pendant ears are covered in wavy fur that is often a slightly lighter brown than the fur on the rest of the body.

Boykins are the state dog of South Carolina, where they were originally developed in the early 1900s. It is said the breed originated after Alexander White found a small, friendly brown spaniel outside of his church, named him Dumpy, and brought him home. When White took him hunting and discovered the dog was a natural at retrieving and flushing, he sent Dumpy to his hunting buddy Whit Boykin for training. Dumpy became the forefather of today's breed, when Boykin began a breeding program that incorporated the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and several spaniel breeds, including the Cocker, American Water, and English Springer. For decades the breed was known exclusively in the region where it originated, but has since become more popular along the Eastern Seaboard and across the US. The plucky little brown sporting dog was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010.

AKC Breed Category

Sporting Group


General Temperament

This little brown dog is feisty and friendly. Boykins have lots of energy and are laser focused in the field. When they get enough exercise, they are easygoing, amiable company at home. Boykin Spaniels are fast learners, admired for their intelligence and their attentiveness during training. When well socialized, they are gregarious with people and dogs they don't know.

Family Life

Are Boykin Spaniels Good with Kids? Boykins are loving with the children with whom they're raised, but they are impatient with rough treatment, however innocent. They are better suited to households with older kids who know how to care for dogs.

(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)

Are Boykin Spaniels Good with Other Pets? When socialized with other dogs and cats from an early age, Boykins are perfectly amiable with other furry family members. The same holds true for strange dogs; Boykins will be well mannered as long as they have plenty of experience with dogs they don't know.


Boykin Spaniels aren't an especially protective breed.

Are Boykin Spaniels Good Guard Dogs? Boykins Spaniels usually bark when people approach the house, but they are fairly welcoming of newcomers.

Energy Levels

Like most spaniels, Boykins are exuberant dogs who require a good deal of exercise and interaction throughout the day.

Specific Concerns

  • Boykins require a lot of attention and exercise.
  • They're not a great match for first-time dog owners.
  • They're at risk of exercise-induced collapse, so end exercise sessions if you notice any signs of weakness or imbalance.
  • Boykins are prone to nuisance barking.
  • They need socialization to learn manners towards people and other dogs
  • They tend to wander if not well trained.



Boykin Spaniels want to spend time with their families and should live indoors with them. Though they are energetic, if well trained and given ample exercise, they are fairly mellow companions at home. Their beautiful brown coats shed moderately, so fur around the house is not a major issue.


Take your Boykin Spaniel outdoors multiple times a day for training sessions and play. If they spend time in a yard, make sure it is well secured because they will try to find an exit.


A healthy Boykin Spaniel requires an hour or two of daily physical activity to remain fit and well behaved. They are excellent candidates for challenging dog sports and field training. (Note: Boykins are at risk of exercise-induced collapse, so watch your dog for signs of muscle weakness and imbalance, and talk with your veterinarian about the illness.)


Like most sporting dogs, Boykin Spaniels have the stamina for long days in the field.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Healthy, adult Boykin Spaniels can run with you for three to four miles handily. (Note: Boykins are at risk of exercise-induced collapse, so they should be watched for signs of muscle weakness and loss of coordination during any vigorous exercise.)
  • Hiking Miles: This is your Little Brown Hiking Buddy. Boykin Spaniels will stick by your side on half-day hikes with ease.


Generally, this breed requires about 1¾ to 2¼ cups of good quality dry dog food each day, given in two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your Boykin's activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Boykin Spaniel.

Alone Time

Boykin Spaniels don't mind spending some time alone. With crate training, entertaining dog toys, and plenty of exercise beforehand, you can probably leave your Boykin alone for three to five hours.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

10-15 years


Boykin Spaniels are relatively low maintenance. Brush their rich brown coat once or twice a week. A bath once a month, or whenever they get dirty, will keep their coat clean and healthy. Wash your Boykin's ears weekly with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush your Boykin Spaniel's teeth several days a week, and trim their nails every month or so to prevent painful cracking.

Common Health Issues

Boykin Spaniels may present some breed-specific health conditions, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Eye problems, including juvenile cataracts and distichiasis
  • Exercise-induced collapse
  • Hemophilia A

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Boykin Spaniel by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



With patient training, the smart and alert Boykin Spaniel is a highly biddable dog. Keep lessons fun and interactive, and your Boykin will have the basic commands down in no time.

Advanced Training

Boykin Spaniels flourish when they are kept active, so advanced training is a good idea for the breed. They excel in agility, dog sports, swimming, and advanced obedience.

Sporting Dog Training

This Little Brown Dog is in its comfort zone during field training, and when waterfowl and upland hunting.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Boykin Spaniels.

Explore Other Breeds

No. Boykin Spaniels have a double coat that sheds and, as a result, leaves pet dander in your home. Pet dander is the primary cause of pet-related allergies.

No. Boykin Spaniels are excellent waterfowl hunters, as well as upland hunters. They will find and flush birds with the best of them, but they don't point in the process.

Yes. Boykin Spaniels have round, compact paws that make them fleet on land, and webbed toes that make them swift swimmers.

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