Boxers are impressive dogs with square jaws and naturally lean bodies. They are known to be loving, loyal, energetic, intelligent, and great with children. Their personalities gave way to their rich history as bull baiters, police dogs, and faithful companions. At times, this breed can be headstrong and stubborn, which could pose a real challenge for first-time dog owners. However, if you have the time and patience to train these beautiful dogs, they will reward you with a lifetime of love and devotion. We created this guide to help you determine if a boxer is the best dog breed for you.
Boxer Dog Characteristics
A boxer’s body is typically medium in size, with a sturdy back and muscular limbs. They have broad chests and shiny, short coats. A boxer’s distinct squared-off head shape gives them their signature smile and name. Their square, blunt snouts tend to be smashed-in, which provides them with a soft, brave look.
They have naturally floppy ears and long tails, which adds to their appeal. It’s also not uncommon to see these dogs with their ears and tails trimmed. However, several people consider ear and tail clipping harmful, making it very controversial in the dog community.
Boxer Dog Size
The bodies of these dogs range from medium to large, depending on their gender. Male boxers are typically 23-25 inches in height, while females are a little smaller, averaging 21-23 inches in height. Males also tend to be heavier, weighing between 60-85lbs on average. Females are usually about 15lbs lighter. Regardless of gender, a boxer’s size and loyalty make them ideal guard dogs and companions.
Boxer Dog Personality
For the first three years of life, boxers are often rambunctious, silly, and incredibly energetic. Although they do settle down once they are fully mature, many adult boxers still display large amounts of energy. Throughout their lifespan, many of these dogs will also show traits of stubbornness. Impatience and unruly punishment can cause boxers to develop behavioral problems.
With that said, the best way to manage this breed is with patience and positive reinforcement. Their headstrong personality calls for a strong-willed owner who will discipline, train, and keep them on a steady schedule.This breed is known to get very attached to their owners. They love following their loved ones around the house since they dislike being alone. They will protect the home and show extreme loyalty to their owners or pack (members of your household).
Since this breed is more prone to separation anxiety, they must get enough exercise and mental stimulation. Maintaining a daily exercise routine is necessary for a boxer’s emotional and physical health. At times, this affectionate breed might see themselves as a lap dog. Despite their size, they will curl up on their loved ones just to be near them. Boxers can be suspicious of strangers at first, mainly because they are overprotective of their owners. However, they have a naturally timid personality unless their owners raise them differently.
How to Care for a Boxer
Three things are necessary when it comes to raising a boxer: exercise, grooming, and training. As long as you keep up with these, everything else should be a walk in the park. Of course, regular vet visits, affection, and a high-quality diet are also essential to your dog’s health. Let’s focus on the three fundamental care categories separately.
Boxer Dog Exercise
Running, jogging, playing fetch, mild wrestling, tug of war, and swimming are all great ways to exercise a boxer. Toys that require patience or memory, such as doggy puzzle games or chew toys with layers, are also great passive exercises to stimulate your dog’s mind.
Taking your boxer to the dog park is also highly recommended. They are a great place to work out a large breed because of the open space. Dog parks can also help improve your pet’s socializing skills. Boxers need about 30 minutes of exercise a day to remain healthy and happy. In some cases, the more exercise, the better. Keep in mind that if you live in a smaller home or in one without a yard, it might be more of a challenge to get your dog the exercise they need. Still, it can be done if you have the time and are committed to the daily task.
If you can, it’s best to allow an hour of exercise time, every day, for your boxer. Activities can be broken up in several parts throughout the day since you also don’t want to over exhaust your dog. Just like in humans, overexertion can lead to injury in dogs. Dogs place about 60% of their weight on their front limbs, which puts a lot of pressure on those joints. High intensity running, jumping, or wrestling can also cause extra wear and tear on these front limbs.
When it’s done right, enough exercise can mean a longer-living, healthier, and happier pet. If you’re unsure of how much exercise time your dog needs, a trip to the vet can help.
Boxer Dog Grooming
Boxers typically do not need much grooming since their short, generally polished coats are easy to manage. It’s a good idea to keep a steady rubber brush on hand for at-home grooming sessions. Brushing their coat for five minutes once or twice a week can help with excess shedding. Interestingly enough, boxers are one of few dog breeds that are good at cleaning themselves. Their self-grooming means one monthly bath will do the trick, unless, of course, they get themselves in a messy situation.
When it comes to their nails, they should be clipped once a month. If your boxer spends a lot of time outside or running around, they may naturally wear them down. However, it’s always best to make sure their nails don’t get too long since that can lead to injury.
Finally, oral health can be tricky with a boxer. This breed’s teeth appear to be different than most other dogs. Boxers tend to have a slight upward curve in their jawline that often leads to unerupted teeth. Because their teeth don’t fully break through their gums, the awkward teeth placement may cause them to bite tiny holes in their gums.
So, it’s crucial to brush their teeth daily. A consistent oral routine can help prevent plaque and tartar build-up. It can also help you notice any dental hygiene issues in advance. Giving them dental chew toys or dental chew treats can also help maintain healthy gums and clean their teeth.
Boxer Dog Training
Boxers are quick learners, which can make things a little easier for owners. Like we briefly mentioned earlier, boxers are determined dogs that, at times, can be stubborn. So, a person who has never experienced stubbornness in a dog may have more difficulty training them.
Although a new dog owner can raise a well-behaved dog, it can be helpful to have prior experience. Training a boxer usually requires a lot of patience, understanding, and consistency. This breed especially will not respond well to negativity or stressful corrections. Providing encouragement, consistency, repetition, and positive reinforcement are crucial elements of training a boxer.
Many owners find that training a boxer can be incredibly rewarding because of the bond and trust it builds. As a respected leader, a boxer will, in time, look up to their owner to set guidelines they undoubtedly follow. Owners have found that leash training is the hardest part of training this breed. Boxers are powerful dogs that will naturally pull or yank as they try and walk well-passed their owner.
Another difficult habit to break in a boxer is their need to jump on people. For them, jumping on someone they care about is a way to display their love and affection. The best way to curb any behavioral issue is to work on it as early as possible. There are many tips, tricks, and training methods that can help with leash training or jumping. Finding a solution for any bad habit might take time and experimenting. And, of course, a lot of love and patience.
Boxer Dog History
Boxers have a long history, dating back to ancient times. They are descendants of the great war dogs of the Assyrian Empire, although their bloodline goes back to Germany. In the late 1800s, Germans bred bullenbeissers, which were energetic dogs meant for bull baiting. Germans also used bullenbeisser as big-game hunters. They were known to track and hunt down bears, wild boar, bison, and other large animals.
Tracking and hunting dogs of this size and power were mostly owned by the rich, who would hold large hunting expeditions on their vast properties. Because bullenbeissers were prevalent among the rich, the downfall of nobility in Germany made the breed’s popularity decline. Soon after, bullenbeissers were crossbred to the point of extinction.
Their crossing with mastiffs and old English bulldogs brought about the creation of boxers. The Boxer breed became popular in Europe during World War I due to their tracking skills, loyalty, and strength. After the end of the war, their popularity made its way to America. Across the U.S. boxers were seen as working dogs. Boxers often became police dogs, seeing-eye dogs, lifeguards, and cattle herders, among other things.
Boxer Health Problems
Boxers are generally healthy dogs because of how naturally active they are. Still, there are a few ailments that boxers are more prone to getting. Boxers do not deal with extreme hot or cold weather very well, making them indoor dogs. Below is a list of some of the most common health problems prevalent in boxer breeds.
Boxer Cardiomyopathy (BCM)
BCM, boxer Arrhythmic Cardiomyopathy, is an inherited disease that’s tough to detect. It has led to heartbreak for many boxer owners. BCM causes an uneven heartbeat in boxers. Their heart problems can cause fatigue, collapse, and sudden death.
Aortic Stenosis/Sub-Aortic Stenosis (As/Sas)
AS/SAS is a very prominent heart defect found in boxers. It’s caused by a narrowed aorta that forces the heart to work overtime to pump blood. AS/SAS is an inherited condition that vets can detect if caught soon enough. AS/SAS can lead to fatigue, fainting, and sudden death.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Gdv)
GDV happens when air or gas suddenly inflates or expands a boxer’s stomach. This air or gas twists their stomach, keeping them from burping or naturally getting rid of the gas. GDV also slows the movement of blood back to the heart and causes blood pressure to plummet. This can result in shock and death. Signs of GDV include lethargy, bloating, depression, excessive drooling, and dry heaving without throwing anything up.
Hip Dysplasia is common amongst many dogs, including boxers. Many times it’s hereditary, but outside factors might also cause it. This ailment occurs when the thigh bone has trouble fitting into the hip joint. Some symptoms include changes in behavior, appetite loss, and tiredness, among other things. Boxers may show signs of discomfort, but many will also hide their symptoms until it becomes overbearingly painful. In some cases, arthritis may develop from hip dysplasia if it’s left untreated for too long.
Deafness tends to be a genetic ailment in boxers. Almost one in five boxers are deaf. White boxers are more likely to be deaf than other colors. For more information on that, see the coat color section below.
Hypothyroidism is when a dog isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones, causing their metabolism to slow down. This condition can cause a boxer’s hair to become brittle and fall out. Their skin may also begin to show dark marks.
Demodectic mange is a skin infection caused by Demodex mites. It’s more common for puppy boxers to have issues with demodectic mange than adult dogs. These mites live in the skin of dogs and transfer instantly from mother to puppy during birth.
This mite is usually not a problem unless the dog has a compromised immune system. If the dog has other underlying health issues, it can be tough to keep these mites in check. In sick dogs, the Demodex mite can multiply rapidly and cause itchiness and red spots. Excessive scratching may lead to secondary skin infections and hair loss.
Boxers lighter in color are more prone to get a sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer later in life. Boxers are also known to develop brain tumors, mast cell tumors, and lymphoma easier than other breeds.
Corneal Dystrophy typically will cause opaque areas within the eye and is very common in many dog breeds. Usually, both eyes will be affected.
Corneal Dystrophy is an umbrella term for several types of ailments that cause opaqueness in a dog’s eyes. It is not heredity and is usually painless unless ulcers begin to appear. It doesn’t always affect a dog’s vision. However, an untreated and advanced version of this disease can lead to blindness.
Like all dogs, boxers are susceptible to allergies. Pollen, dust, mold, aerosol sprays, and food allergies are the most common types. Allergies can cause several symptoms, including itchiness, hives, excessive drooling, and rashes. Unmanaged allergies may lead your boxer to develop dermatitis or other skin conditions.
For additional information on how to screen for these ailments and how to treat them, boxer owners should read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.
Nutrition and Feeding for Boxers
Boxers must have a high-quality, protein-rich, and nutrient-dense diet. L-carnitine and calcium are among the essential nutrients your boxer’s food should have. Since boxers are susceptible to food allergies, it’s best to avoid ingredients that might cause any adverse reactions. Those ingredients include corn, soy, wheat, and yeast––none of which are necessary for a dog’s health. It’s also a good idea to avoid artificial coloring, artificial flavoring, highly processed foods, and synthetic food ingredients.
Related Article: Good & Bad Dog Food Ingredients: Knowing Is Caring
There are three standard types of coat colors for boxers: white, fawn, and brindle. Although mixed breeds may have a broader range of coat colors, those are the standard three for purely bred boxer breeds. They also have some characteristic markings like a black mask, white markings, a black mask with white markings, brindle markings, and fawn markings. Below are some more details for the three most common boxer coats.
White Boxer Dogs
Entirely white boxers make up roughly 25% of all boxers. Their gorgeous white coat has made them very popular. Like we mentioned earlier, white boxers are more prone to be born deaf than other colors. This happens because of a lack of pigmentation in the ears and a loss of hair follicles.
Brindle Boxer Dogs
Brindle is a pattern, instead of a color. Brindles have light or dark stripes, similar to those of tigers. In many cases, the stripes are so dark that they are hard to see unless placed under direct light. Brindle boxers may also have some white markings on their paws and chest.
Fawn Boxer Dogs
Fawns can come in several types of hues, typically closer to brown or beige colors. Some fawns may be a darker brown color while others are lighter or pale. Although you may have seen “black” boxers online or in pet stores, it’s most likely not what you think. The gene that turns a boxer coat black does not exist in the actual breed.
The first reason a boxer is black is that it’s mixed with another breed. The second reason is that it has a dark fawn or brindle color with wide dark stripes making them appear black. There are circumstances where a boxer’s coat appears black because of something called reverse brindle. In this case, the stripes are dominant and so thick that it is hard to tell there is a fawn coat as a backdrop.
Children and Other Pets
Boxers make great pets for owners with children. Often, these fierce dogs turn into putty next to a newborn baby or young child. Many times, boxers will keep a close eye on young kids, making them great protectors.
Since boxers are full of energy and love jumping on people to show affection, it’s important to correct that behavior immediately. The size and strength of a boxer may be too much for a small child to handle. As we mentioned earlier, this behavior must be corrected when they’re puppies because they can be stubborn to learn new things as adult dogs. While boxers are known to be friendly to other pets, this all depends on what they learned as puppies.
Dogs are all territorial. So, socializing them at a young age can help boxers welcome new pets in the home. Exposing a dog to different animals at a young age is always a great idea. A puppy boxer will more likely be friendly with cats than a one-year-old boxer who has never seen a cat. The older the dog gets, the less likely they are to be friendly with an unfamiliar animal.
Rescue Groups for Boxers
There are several official rescue groups for boxers all over the nation. Across America Boxer Rescue, Adopt A Boxer Rescue, and Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue are some of the most popular and reputable rescue groups for boxers. American Boxer Club is excellent for finding rescue groups locally.
With that said, there are thousands of local groups doing fantastic work. If you are looking to adopt, it’s a good idea to check your local ASPCA or high kill dog shelter first. The ASPCA focuses on getting orphan dogs into safe and healthy homes. By checking with the ASPCA, you can help save and adopt boxers that are on kill lists.
Boxer Dog Breed Organizations
There are thousands of local organizations in each state specializing in treatment, safety, rescue, and education for boxers. The American Boxer Club is just one of many fantastic organizations that does incredible things for boxers.
More About This Dog Breed
All around, boxers make lovely pets. They are incredibly loyal, intelligent, energetic, and naturally friendly. However, their stubbornness and high energy can be intimidating for first-time dog owners. Although a new dog owner can certainly train a boxer, they must be very patient and consistent with how they discipline them. Boxers do not do well with negative reinforcement or frustrating corrections, which can also be tough to avoid for someone who’s never trained a dog.
They can easily sense signs of faltering leadership or stress in owners. This breed needs a loving but stern alpha leader to guide them. Many owners find that successfully training a boxer comes with many rewards. Proper training enforces the bond and trust between a dog and its owner. If you feel like you can handle raising a boxer, you will experience loyalty, friendship, and lots of love from your furry friend. Read more here.