A delightful combination of house dog and dedicated flusher and retriever, the Boykin Spaniel was once the best kept secret of their native home of South Carolina. Prized by Carolinian waterfowlers and turkey hunters, this is a relatively new breed, developed entirely in the twentieth century.
Boykin Spaniels are the official state dogs of South Carolina, and September 1st is known as Boykin Spaniel day in the state. Although originally restricted to their home state, Boykins gained popularity with fowl hunters along the east coast and throughout the country, valued for their versatility and intensity. Soon, they also became recognized as a gentle, mellow dog for the family.
Boykin Spaniel Appearance
Designed to hunt in smaller boats where a traditional retriever simply wouldn’t fit, the Boykin Spaniel runs between 25-40 pounds and stands 14-18 inches tall. Their life expectancy is 10-15 years. The coat of the Boykin is liver in color, and moderately curly, especially around the ears, which are pendulous like most Spaniels. The tails on this breed are generally docked to 3-5 inches.
These medium sized pups are sturdily built for swimming, running, and playing with their humans.
This breed is enthusiastic in addition to being energetic, so they are best suited for a family that has time to spend assisting them in expending this energy. Boykins are known to love children if they are raised around them and treated well by them, but don’t expect them to be patient and tolerant with a toddler. Boykin Spaniels should be exposed to children at a young age and always supervised. Children should be instructed on how to properly treat the dog.
If well-socialized from puppyhood, these Spaniels are generally outgoing with both people and other dogs. They can live in harmony with cats and other pets if they are used to them.
These dogs don’t usually bark a lot, even at strangers or visitors to the home, so they don’t always make the best watchdogs. However, they are very seldom nuisance barkers.
Caring for a Boykin Spaniel
The nonstop Boykin Spaniel needs an owner that can keep up with him, not only in terms of his energy levels, but his standards of care as well. Exercise and grooming will be two time consuming aspects of owning a Boykin, though the dog is sure to reward excellent care with endless affection and loyalty.
Boykin Spaniels don’t have any specific nutritional requirements when compared to other breeds. These dogs should be fed according to their needs by selecting a high quality food that matches their age and any specific health concerns, such as puppy food for puppies and senior food for dogs that are age 7+. Treats should also be high quality, not table scraps, and used in moderation, such as for a training aid. It is important that owners always monitor their dogs for signs of obesity and adjust food intake accordingly. The individual’s veterinarian can provide guidance in the area of food concerns if any arise. Dogs should always have water available to them at all times.
Boykin Spaniels require daily exercise, at a minimum, a lengthy walk on collar or harness. If their owner enjoys athletics such as running, biking, or hiking, the Boykin will be happy to tag along. They also enjoy playtime, including activities such as fetch (naturally, since they were bred for retrieving). Boykins are enthusiastic participants in field trials and can be trained for obedience, agility, and rally competitions as well to aid in their physical and mental fitness.
In general, these intelligent dogs are simple to train, but owners will want to begin socialization with humans and other dogs early and often to result in a well-adjusted adult dog. As aforementioned, care and early exposure should be maintained if children are to be a part of the dog’s life.
If the owner is choosing to hunt with their Boykin Spaniel, they may want to pursue professional guidance from a field trainer if they do not have an extensive background in training hunting dogs themselves. This will ensure that the dog not only understands commands necessary to work in the field, but that they have the skills they need for a life of hunting success.
As with all purebred dogs, Boykin Spaniels carry some risk for genetic health conditions. Some that this breed is more susceptible to include pulmonic stenosis, a heart condition; hemophilia, and distichiasis, an eye problem. A reputable breeder should be willing to provide proof of available genetic testing.
The Boykin Spaniel requires daily grooming to keep its coat and skin healthy. They are moderate shedders, but regular brushing will help keep the hair under control and not all over the house. Areas between the pads of the feet will need to be trimmed as needed to keep the dog comfortable. Whole-body trimming by a groomer or at home is an option that some Boykin owners pursue.
The pendulous ears of the Boykin should be checked weekly for any unusual symptoms such as redness, itching, or discharge. If the ears appear as if they need extra cleaning, the dog’s veterinarian can suggest an appropriate cleaner and method for doing so.
- French Spaniel: The largest of all Spaniel breeds, the French Spaniel is also one of the oldest pointing breeds in the world.
- American Water Spaniel: Another native to the U.S., this breed originated in the upper Midwest near the Great Lakes. They love the water, even on the frigid shores of the Lakes in autumn.
- Brittany: Fun loving and versatile, the Brittany is a midpoint between a setter and a Spaniel. Smaller than a setter with longer legs than a Spaniel, this medium sized breed is a favorite bird dog both in the U.S. and in its native France.
- Deutscher Wachtelhund: Unheard of to the general public, this breed is for the most part only owned by enthusiasts and German sportsmen. A medium sized dog that is used for hunting waterfowl, upland birds, and tracking game, they are incredibly versatile. With a tracking ability comparable to that of the beloved bloodhound, Wachtelhunds are said to be able to track wounded game that is 40 hours old.
- Field Spaniel: With a visual resemblance to Cocker Spaniels, the Field Spaniel is known to be unusually docile, yet fun loving.