Do Boykin Spaniels Swim? | Which Activities are Best for Boykins?

Do Boykin Spaniels swim? YES, they do, and they are quite good at it. In fact, they have webbed feet, which makes this sport much easier for them. 

For those who own a Boykin Spaniel that has ever been allowed anywhere near a body of water, chances are good that your dog has at least attempted to jump in.

If you are new to the world of Boykins, this might have you a bit worried and wondering if it is okay to allow it in the water. Swimming is a great exercise for dogs, although it may leave your pet a bit stinky. 

Let’s learn more about Boykins swimming and other activities which are great for your dog.

Off to A Wateree Start

The story of the Boykin Spaniel begins in the early 1900s in the state of South Carolina. Hunters from that time were in need of a dog that would be great at retrieving turkeys, ducks, and other fowl from the Wateree River Swamp.

They were hunting in areas of the state that mostly made a winding map of rivers, lakes, and swampy wooded land. While the game was quite abundant, getting to it was almost impossible, 

Special boats called “section boats” were needed to reach deep into these areas and retrieve doves, quail, turkey, and ducks that these hunters shot. These boats were made up of 3 different sections that could separate to navigate, form a blind, or bolt together to glide through the water.

While they were great in the water and excellent at fetching, Labrador Retrievers were too large to travel in these boats and were often in danger of tipping them over. 

What these men needed was a breed of dog that was agile, great at fetching, eager to please, and not too big but able to handle the swampy-wet terrain of the area. What they got was the Boykin!

While its roots came from a stray that followed a man to church, it wasn’t long before dog trainer Whit Boykin had turned the little dog into an avid hunter. In turn, he created the breed which came to be known as the “swamp poodle,’ or the “dog who wouldn’t rock the boat.”

Born to Swim, Bred for Retrieving

The entire makeup of the Boykin Spaniel makes it a terrific dog in the water. Its coat is easy to manage and has a naturally oily texture that keeps water from soaking into its skin. 

Many Boykins have a double coat, making it possible for them to swim in frigid temperatures without being endangered. Long, wavy ears help to protect the face and are covered in the same waterproof hair.

Boykins, as already mentioned, also have webbed feet; skin stretching between their toes makes them swim like seals in the water. They love to dive into rivers, lakes, ponds, or swamps and fetch their owners’ felled prey. 

They can swim in any type of weather and run in practically any terrain.

Their Love of Water Can Be Stinky

Did we mention that Boykins will likely try to jump into any body of water that they come in contact with? It doesn’t matter to them if it is a pond, lake, swamp, river, creek, or just a stinky puddle

Because of this, your Boykin might sometimes return home a bit smelly from its adventures, especially if it found a particularly smelly pool of stagnant water. 

If this happens, simply brush your Boykin’s thick coat thoroughly to be sure that all debris is removed. You should also bathe your dog in a vet-approved shampoo. Try not to bathe them too often though, or you could dry out the natural oils that protect his skin and fur.

Other Activities for Boykins

Along with swimming, dock diving is a great sport for your Boykin to participate in. These little dogs will enthusiastically race down the dock and hurl themselves into the water. But, of course, you should be sure that they can swim.

If you have more than 1 dog, they can compete to see which dog can fly the farthest. Or, you can run along with your Boykin and jump into the lake with them. 

Aside from dock diving, swimming and hunting, there are many activities that are great for spending time with your Boykin and making sure that they get the exercise they need to stay healthy. Let’s explore a few.

  • Jumping – Jumping is another great sport for Boykins, and they can train to be quite competitive at it. Jumping off docks is one way, but they will also jump hurdles in short races.

    Be aware that this can put extra stress on their joints, so be sure that you take them to the vet for regular checkups. 

Also, be sure that any rigorous exercise is only done in short bursts of 15 to 20 minutes at a time, with rests in between, since boykins are prone to collapsing if exercised too much.

  • Agility Training – This involves running your Boykin through an obstacle course involving jumps, tunnels, curves, etc. This is a great indoor and outdoor sport and can be fun with groups of dogs.
  • Hiking or Walking – While Boykins should only run in small bursts, they are great at taking long walks or hiking in all types of terrain. Be sure that they stay well-hydrated and watch to be sure that they are breathing well.
  • Therapy Dogs or Service Dogs – Because they are known to be sweet, gentle, intelligent animals, Boykin Spaniels make terrific therapy dogs or service dogs for people in need. They do well around strangers, so taking them in public wouldn’t be an issue. 

Their smaller size also makes it easier to maneuver them for someone in a wheelchair. If needed, smaller Boykins can even jump into the owner’s lap to fit into elevators, etc.

They can be trained to perform almost any service for PTSD service, diabetic service, autism service, or even just emotional support.


While they make excellent swimmers, Boykins are also good at many activities, including hunting, jumping, hiking, or being service animals. It seems that there isn’t much these little dogs can’t do.

This post was meant to inform the reader on information about Boykin Spaniels and their agility in the water and beyond. Visit our site to learn about your favorite breed!

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