Playful, energetic, and bright, the boxer is a fun dog for sure! With long legs and a short nose, the boxer is a great balance of activity and trainability, athleticism and cuddliness. While their short noses can make breathing tough, these dogs are a graceful and powerful member of the dog family. Read on to learn about the boxer.
Description of the Boxer
The modern boxer appeared in Germany in the late 1800s, having been bred down from a bulkier cousin –the Bullenbeisser – whose main purpose was hunting big game. Sleeker and more elegant than the original Bullenbeisser (whose name means “bull-biter” in German), the boxer is named for its play style. These dogs tend to play with lots of paw sparring and jabbing, and their muscles ripple under a short coat, much like athletes in a ring.
The boxer has had many uses in the last 200 years, from war dog to guide dog. Their trainability and strength make them ideal for a wide variety of jobs – including just being an active companion in your life.
While many boxers have a protective instinct, these dogs have also been bred as family dogs for long enough that they’re not the go-to choice for protection anymore. Their energy level can be a mismatch for their super-short noses, which can make breathing freely difficult.
Boxers have a tight-fitting coat that comes in fawn or brindle, with white markings. Their ears naturally flop, and they have a whip-like tail, though some breeders still crop the ears and tails.
These dogs do best with a good energy outlet, such as regular romps in the park or dog sports, but are often acceptable for first-time owners, provided they get appropriate exercise and training. This breed’s inquisitive nature makes them fun to train, and many do well in active family settings.
Life Expectancy and Size
The boxer is leggy, giving it an appearance of being slightly larger than it is. They can weigh up to 80 pounds, but females can be as small as 50 pounds. They stand roughly two feet tall. Like many large, deep-chested, and short-nosed breeds, the boxer only lives about ten to twelve years.
Despite having once been used as war dogs, the boxer has also been bred as a family dog and guide dog for long enough that much of their protective ability has been diluted. Depending on its lineage, a boxer may have very strong to very weak protective instincts. That said, many of these dogs will do very well in protection and ring sports, and can be trained to protect areas or people quite readily. They require good socialization and training to ensure that they are affable with friends.
Boxers are extremely trainable, and are highly interested in treats and playtime as rewards. They tend to be bright, attentive, and trainable – albeit a bit excitable. They do very well when told what to do and given a job. Many boxers excel at competitive dog sports, such as agility, obedience, and the protection dog sports like French Ring and IPO.
These dogs benefit from careful socialization to ensure that they don’t become overly suspicious of – or aggressive towards – strangers, kids, other dogs, and new situations. An under-socialized boxer can easily become a fearful or aggressive boxer. With a bark and stature like theirs, it’s important to avoid this for the comfort of your neighbors.
The majority of these dogs are natural athletes. They’re happy to use their long legs and muscled bodies for rough-and-tumble play, especially wrestling and tug-of-war. That said, some lines of the boxer have been bred with ultra-short noses, which make breathing difficult. Dogs like these should be carefully monitored during exercise to avoid overheating.
Care of the Boxer
These hardy dogs generally don’t need much beyond the normal care for a high-energy large dog. That said, they are high energy and large!
With their short noses, the majority of boxers don’t do well in extreme heat. This is because a dog cools himself through air exchange (hence the panting). They also have short coats, making them ill-suited to cold climates, if you don’t have a jacket for them. With proper care, though, most individuals will do well in most climates.
This breed is a natural athlete, and needs regular activity to stay happy and in shape. Being quite bright, the boxer also needs regular training and mental enrichment. Tug-of-war, wrestling, and training for sports are common exercise outlets for this breed.
Shedding and Grooming
Dog coats don’t come much shorter than the fur of the boxer. While this means they’re very easy to groom, this also lends itself to these dogs shedding lots of short hair. Keep a lint roller handy, but you won’t need a de-matting tool for your boxer.
Ideal Home Environment
This breed is exceptionally bright and active. Without proper training, this makes them ill-suited to homes with small children. They’re apt to getting overexcited and jab at things with their paws. That said, the boxer is a good fit for many homes, due to its generally happy-go-lucky nature. With proper socialization, training, and exercise, the boxer is perfect for most active homes.
Like most short-nosed breeds, the boxer can struggle in heat and with heavy exercise. Their cute short snouts lead to breathing problems. They are also susceptible to bloat, a common issue in large and deep-chested breeds.
The boxer is also unfortunately prone to a rather long list of other health concerns. Responsible breeders should screen their stock for issues with their hips, elbows, thyroid, and degenerative myelopathy (a progressive spinal cord disease).
Boxers’ hearts are also at risk, so they should be checked for aortic stenosis (“AS”) and subaortic stenosis (“SAS”) These are conditions involving the narrowing of valves in the heart), As well as Boxer Cardiomyopathy (a disease where the muscle of the heart is replaced with fatty tissue).
An under-socialized or poorly trained boxer can be quite a handful! These dogs are large and powerful, making an overly exuberant boxer nearly as difficult to handle as a fearful or aggressive one. Some lines of boxer are still bred for their suspicion of strangers, making them somewhat fearful of, or aggressive towards, strangers. Be sure to speak to your breeder about the adult temperament of your puppy’s parents – and meet them yourself – before going home with your puppy.
Once the pup is in your home, help get him off to the right start with puppy kindergarten and treat-based training.
How to Get One
Boxer mixes and purebreds are quite common in the U.S., making them relatively easy to find in shelters and rescues. Avoid puppies sold online or in pet stores, as they often come from puppy mills. Given the number of health concerns in this breed, it’s important to find a reputable breeder that properly screens its dogs.