American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel: What Are the Differences?

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: February 24, 2023
© Steve Bruckmann/
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Many people have trained dogs to be their hunting partners. Various types of Spaniels have trudged through muddy banks to flush out ducks and other waterfowl for their owners. The American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel are two of these types of dogs that have been used as gun dogs in the U.S. However, they tend to look a bit alike. For that reason, we’re going to spend some time telling you all about the differences between an American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel.

We’ll provide you with five different points of comparison between these animals. When we’re finished, you’ll know several ways that they differ from one another.

Comparing an American Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel

A major distinction is the reddish fur Boykin spaniels may possess.


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American Water SpanielBoykin Spaniel
SizeWeight: 25-45 pounds
Height: 15 to 18 inches
Weight: 25 to 40 lbs
Height: 14 to 18 inches
Appearance and Fur Coat– Double coat
– Coat is very curly or has a marcel coat of wavy fur
– Oily fur that helps with insulating the dog when it’s in water
– Large and droopy ears covered with long fur
– Does not have a docked tail
– Double coat
– Somewhat curly fur or flat with a medium length
– Not oily
– Droopy ears that are covered in strands of feathered, wavy hair that make them seem even longer
– Tail is often docked
Colors– Colors include various shades of brown, including chocolate, liver, and solid brown– Reddish-brown, solid brown, chocolate brown, or liver
Temperament–  Slow to mature
– Easy to train but requires a lot of instructions at first
– Great hunting dogs
– Require lots of exercises
– Can be very vocal
–  Very social dogs that easy to train
– Good with children and other dogs
– They make great hunting dogs
Life Expectancy– 10-14 years– 10-15 years

The 5 Key Differences Between an American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel puppy lying in grass
Boykin Spaniels can have very expressive “eyebrows.”


The greatest differences between an American Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel lie in their appearance and coloration. The American Water Spaniel is a chocolate, solid brown, or liver-colored dog with a double coat of oily, curly fur or a marcel coat of wavy fur, long droopy ears, and a tail that has not been docked. Boykin Spaniel is a reddish-brown, brown, liver, or chocolate-colored dog that has somewhat curly or flat fur of a medium length that is not oily.

These are the most obvious physical differences between the two dog breeds. However, they are not the only ways that these animals are unique from one another. Let’s take a closer look at their five unique attributes.

American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel: Size

On average, the American Water Spaniel is a larger dog than the Boykin Spaniel, but not by much. The American Water Spaniel weighs between 25 and 45 pounds and stands 15 to 18 inches tall. However, the Boykin Spaniel weighs between 25 and 40 pounds and stands 14 to 18 inches tall.

However, the Boykin Spaniel is more likely to have a greater size disparity between males and females than the American Water Spaniel.

American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel: Appearance and Fur Coat

The fur coats of the two dogs are different. The American Water Spaniel has a double coat of fur, but the Boykin Spaniel only has a single one.

Also, the American Water Spaniel has two potential types of fur. Its fur may be very curly, or it can be a marcel coat, which is wavy fur. However, the outer layer is coarse to protect the dog’s skin. It has oily fur that provides a level of insulation since it is frequently in or near the water with owners. Lastly, these dogs have large, droopy ears that have long fur on them. Usually, these dogs do not have a docked tail.

The Boykin Spaniel has a single coat of curly or flat fur that is described as medium-length. Their droopy ears are covered in feathered, wavy hair that makes them seem even longer than they already are. Most of the time, these dogs have docked tails in competition.  

American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel: Colors

Mature Boykin Spaniel
Boykin Spaniels may have reddish fur that sets them apart from the American Water Spaniels.

©Flatscaster – Public Domain

The Boykin Spaniel integrates reddish colors into its fur, and the American Water Spaniel generally does not. However, each dog has certain colors. The American Water Spaniel has shades of brown from solid brown to dark chocolate colors.

The Boykin Spaniel usually can appear solid brown or darker shades like chocolate brown, but they may also have liver and reddish-brown in their fur, giving them a far redder appearance than American Water Spaniels.  

American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel: Temperament

The American Water Spaniel can be a stubborn breed, but the Boykin Spaniel is known for being a singularly pleasant animal that is much easier to train.

American Water Spaniels are known for being slow to mature, easy to train under firm instruction, and very vocal. They are free with families, but they require a great deal of exercise. Also, they need to work off their energy. They are hunting dogs, after all.

The Boykin Spaniel is a very social dog that is easy to train. It is known to be great with children and other dogs, but it is also said to be a little too friendly. This dog does not make a good guard animal because it is not confrontational, but it can still be a very useful hunting dog.

Both dog species require grooming to care for their unique fur.  

American Water Spaniel vs Boykin Spaniel: Life Expectancy

American Water Spaniel seated outside
The American Water Spaniel is not as long-lived as the Boykin Spaniel.

©Ltshears / Creative Commons

The life expectancy of an AWS is between 10 and 14 years, so it does not have the same longevity as the Boykin Spaniel. The Boykin Spaniel lives about 10 to 15 years, so it has a longer life on average but also faces some potential health problems.

Unfortunately, the Boykin Spaniel has a high incidence rate of Exercise-Induced Collapse syndrome. When they exercise too long in hot weather, they can collapse or die outright, shortening their lives. However, proper screening can reduce the likelihood that this will harm one’s dog.

The American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel have a lot in common, but they also have some meaningful differences. We’ve covered five major points of comparison between the breeds, so now you should have some idea of what makes them distinct!

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Types of water dogs - American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniel resting. This type of water dog is the state dog of Wisconsin.
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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with 8 years of experience. I've written in a variety of niches such as managed service providers, animals, and retail distribution. I graduated from Rowan University in 2014 . When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games, reading, and writing for fun.

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