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boykin spaniels: breed profile
01-29-214 mins read
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Gaining rapidly in popularity in recent years, Boykin Spaniels have begun to make their place as a breed of choice for hunting families in search of a versatile gun dog.
Dog Breed Profiles
Pet Safety

Built for outdoor adventures and perfect for family cuddles on the couch, the Boykin Spaniel is truly a great companion. These little brown dogs are a relatively new breed, only becoming an official registered breed with the American Kennel Club in 2009. However, their roots trace back to the early 1900s in South Carolina. Their original purpose was to be the ideal compact and versatile hunting dog, able to fit in your canoe while paddling down small rivers in search of waterfowl.

Fact: The Boykin Spaniel is the official dog of South Carolina.

Breed Characteristics

  • Height
    • Males: 15.5”-18”
    • Females: 14”-16.5”
  • Weight
    • Males: 30-40lbs
    • Females: 25-35lbs
  • Coat
    • Generally flat to moderately curly at a medium length, many dogs have feathering on their legs and feet.
  • Life span
    • Boykin Spaniels generally have a good lifespan of 14-16 years.
  • Color
    • Typically liver brown or reddish-brown, some Boykins can have a small white patch on their chest.
  • Hunting Style
    • These dogs are flushers — they’ll diligently comb the fields, getting “bird-ey” when they’re on a strong scent until they flush a bird into the air. 
    • With proper training, Boykins can also be excellent waterfowl dogs because of their compact size, determination, and love for the water.

We recommend the medium dog kennel for Boykin Spaniels.

Breed Personality

Boykin Spaniels are known for being extremely friendly and energetic. If you’re looking to add a dog to your family, then make sure you’re able to properly exercise the dog. These dogs need to get outside and burn energy daily; otherwise, you might find your companion to be a little mischievous.

Their ability to run and swim for extended lengths of time is part of what makes them an exceptional hunting partner and has contributed to their growing popularity in upland and waterfowl communities alike. 

Blaine Tarnecki, of Hudson River Retrievers, is well known in the Boykin world. He specializes in breeding and training elite Boykins and considers them “special because they’re the best of both worlds: great companion dogs and a truly versatile gundog.” 

Breed Health

Boykins have beautiful coats that are often a rich color with soft, wavy hair. They are not hypoallergenic, however, and do require some routine maintenance. The frequency of coat maintenance will certainly vary from dog to dog, but it’s imperative that you comb and brush the dog regularly to keep their coat healthy.

Most in the dog world that are involved with sporting breeds know the importance of health testing for hips, eyes, and hearts. Additionally, the Boykin Spaniel Society suggests testing for 3 major genetic diseases that can be found in this breed; Exercise Induced Collapse, Collie Eye Anomaly, and Degenerative Myelopathy. If you’re on the search for a Boykin, be sure to source your pup from a health-tested sire and dam.

Genetic test results will show either “clear,” “carrier,” or “affected” — only affected dogs will be negatively impacted by a genetic disease. Carriers are not impacted directly and will live a perfectly normal, happy life, but if bred should be matched with a dog that tests “clear” (does not carry the gene) to avoid producing affected offspring.
For more information, visit the Boykin Spaniel Society’s page on inherited diseases.

Training Tips for Boykins

Boykins are naturally gifted hunters, so there isn’t much training needed when it comes to quartering fields and feverishly searching for birds. In fact, Spaniels are known for having fantastic scent tracking capabilities because of their strong nose and their oversized ears, which help trap scent in their face. 

However, when you do happen to train Boykins, Tarnecki suggests giving them a little freedom so they think they’re doing what they want and being independent, rather than being forced to work. It’s always best to keep training fun and interesting for Boykins and to be crystal clear with what you want before holding them accountable for something. He says “don’t show a Boykin something three times and then hold it accountable on the fourth. Instead, maybe show it something twenty times so you’re positive it understands the message before you correct it and hold them accountable.” If you aren’t super black and white with a little brown dog, then you’ll find yourself with a stubborn and confused pup.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Ross

Did You Know?

Boykin Spaniels are great turkey hunting partners, too. In states where it is legal (mostly northeastern states with a fall turkey season) some hunters are known to rely on their Boykin in their pursuit of a mature long beard. In the fall, turkeys are generally gathered in large flocks and Boykins are perfect for covering ground and busting up a flock. Once the turkeys have disbanded, the hunter can have his quiet, little dead leaf-colored dog sit next to him as he attempts to bring in Toms who are looking to rejoin the flock.

Overall

Boykin Spaniels are some of the most unique little hunting buddies that you could find to add to your family. If you’re able to provide this breed with proper exercise and a job to do to keep them engaged, then you’ll find yourself to be quite pleased with your pup.

Boykin Spaniel Hunting Dog
Photo courtesy of Anthony Ross

Read more: The Science Behind a Proper Kennel Fit

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GUNNER tie-down straps are used to securely anchor your dog crate to your vehicle and are the only ones that we recommend for 5 Star Crash Test certified safety.  Read why it's important to use GUNNER straps for safe travel. 

Made with an extra-thick custom cambuckle for additional break strength and a synthetic material to ensure you can leave these out 24/7. Now offered in two strap length options to accommodate a greater variety of setups.


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This GUNNER tough-skin insert provides a 3/4” pad of cushion for the crate, as well as waterproof comfort for the sporting dog’s tired joints on the ride home.

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