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the search for a dog
boxer

Breed overview

  • Breed groupWorking group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height21 to 25 inches
  • Weight60 to 70 pounds
  • Coat length & textureShort, shiny coat
  • Coat colorFawn or brindle. Some boxers also have flashy white markings on their face and torso, but all white or mostly white boxers aren’t desirable because of their genetic association with deafness.
  • Exercise needsFrequent
  • IntelligenceHigh intelligence
  • BarkingModerate
  • Life span10 to 12 years
  • TemperamentHappy, playful, curious, and energetic
  • HypoallergenicNo
  • OriginGermany

Boxer fun facts

  • Descended from ancient eastern Molosser dogs used for fighting and protection by the ancient Assyrians around 2000 B.C.
  • One of the first police and military dogs due to their intelligence and innate attachment to humans
  • When excited, boxers do the “kidney bean dance.” They twist their bodies into a semicircle and turn energetically in circles.
boxer-funfacts

Boxer temperament and characteristics

Boxers have instinctive guardian tendencies, which makes them alert and watchful. On top of being protective, they’re also a very intelligent breed that learns things quickly.  However, they have been known to be sensitive and stubborn at times, which is why a combination of reward-based training and good leadership tends to work best with them.

Don’t let their courage and protective nature fool you — boxers are also incredibly loyal, affectionate, and even silly dogs. They’re generally playful and gentle around kids, strangers, and other pets, but some can get aggressive around strange dogs, so it’s important to socialize and train them when they are puppies to avoid aggressive tendencies.

Common boxer health problems

Boxers are a generally healthy breed, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. These include:

  • Cancer. Cancers are some of the most common health conditions in boxers, especially mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and brain tumors. Boxers with excessive white markings on their coats sunburn more easily and may even develop skin cancer. Treatments vary depending on the type of cancer, but surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation may be recommended.
  • Aortic stenosis (AS). This inherited disorder is caused by a fibrous band of tissue in the left ventricle that limits blood flow to the aorta and forces the heart to work harder. Boxers with mild cases may live normal lives.  However, boxers with severe cases of aortic stenosis can experience fainting (syncope), decreased energy levels, and sudden death. 
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). Sometimes referred to as boxer cardiomyopathy (BCM), this condition causes a boxer’s heart to beat erratically. Some boxers carry a genetic mutation that leads to this heart condition, but not all boxers with ARVC have the genetic mutation, so other causes are still being determined. Most boxers that have ARVC have no symptoms, but boxers with severe forms of ARVC can have fainting spells (syncope), the inability to exercise, and may die suddenly.  
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This life-threatening condition, also called bloat, affects large, deep-chested dogs like boxers. The stomach becomes distended with air and fluid and twists on itself, which causes blood flow obstruction as well as gastrointestinal obstruction. GDV is more common in middle-aged and senior dogs. Many risk factors can lead to GDV, but the most common causes are stress, eating a large amount of food at once, and exercising vigorously after eating. 
  • Hypothyroidism. When a dog’s thyroid gland is impaired, it can lead to complications like obesity, mental dullness, skin issues, ear infections, and lack of energy. Luckily, hypothyroidism can be easily managed with the help of a daily thyroid supplement.

Cost of caring for a boxer

The cost of treating your boxer’s health conditions ultimately depends on the type of illness or injury as well as its severity. Cancer treatments are notoriously expensive, sometimes running well into the five-figure range. Treatment for GDV isn’t much better, usually running between $2,500 and $5,000. Heart and thyroid conditions affecting boxers require diagnostic tests and medications that can easily add up to several hundred dollars a month.

good pet insurance policy can help slash some of those out-of-pocket costs. Pet parents will enjoy more benefits if they sign up while their dog is still a puppy. Alternatively, you could consider opening a pet savings account or finding another form of financial aid in your area.

History of the boxer

While the boxer’s original ancestors trace back to ancient times, it’s a more recent descendant of the German bullenbeiser, or “bull-biter.” For centuries, the bullenbeisser hunted bears, wild boars, and deer. By the late 1800s, farmers used them to guard and drive cattle. They were referred to as “boxl,” which became “boxer” in 1895.

When World War I broke out in 1914, boxers were enlisted into the military, delivering messages, carrying supplies, and protecting soldiers when needed. But it wasn’t until the end of World War II that the breed started gaining popularity in the United States. The American Boxer Club was officially formed in 1935.

boxer-history

Caring for your boxer

Caring for any kind of new dog can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your puppy’s vaccinations. Then comes the puppy-proofing and teething prep. Beyond that, you’ll want to brush up on other basics specific to boxers below.

Exercise 

Boxers are high-energy dogs that require lots of exercise and attention. Whether you live in a big city or out in the country, you should plan on playing with them or walking them at least twice a day for 30 minutes. While this means your boxer should ideally have a big yard to run around in, their short nose and coat make them intolerant of both hot and cold weather, so you should also plan on keeping them inside the house when the weather is not ideal. 

If their exercise needs aren’t met, or if you leave your boxer home alone for extended periods, they can be destructive. Only bring home a boxer if you’re looking for a companion that will be at your side most of the time, or if you have a lot of people around to give them the attention they need.

boxer-exercise

Grooming 

Boxers are surprisingly clean. They sometimes bathe themselves like cats do and usually only require minimal grooming. Bathe them as needed and give their coat a weekly brushing with a bristle brush or hard rubber grooming mitt to keep their shedding under control.

Brush your boxer’s teeth several times a week to help limit tartar and bacteria, though daily brushing is best. If you are unable to brush your boxer’s teeth, there are other ways to offer at-home dental care, so talk with your local veterinarian to find out what will work best for you and your pet.  You’ll also want to trim their nails once or twice a month (unless they wear down naturally) to keep their feet healthy.

Diet and nutrition

Boxers do best on a well-balanced diet of high-quality dog food. Measure out their food portions, avoid leaving food out all day, and try to stick to a regular feeding schedule of two meals.

As with all dog breeds, a boxer’s dietary needs will change as they grow out of puppyhood and again when they reach their senior years. Always ask a veterinarian for dietary recommendations so you’re giving your boxer the best nutrition for their particular weight, energy level, and overall health.

Training your boxer

Training is a must for boxers and should be started while they’re still puppies so they can learn to control their actions before they get big enough to accidentally hurt someone. They’re intelligent dogs that respond well to firm training, but they’ve also got a silly streak in them so make sure to incorporate plenty of praise, play, and food rewards.

Most importantly, keep your training consistent. Boxers are smart enough to notice times you let them get away with something, and they’ll keep pushing to see how far they can go. Walk or play with them before each session to help them let off steam and focus better when it comes time to train.

boxer-training

Breeds similar to the boxer

Not quite sure that a boxer is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other popular dog breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Boston terrier. This breed share’s the boxer’s love for being silly and social. On the flip side, Boston terriers can also get destructive if left alone.
  2. American bulldog. The fun-loving American bulldog is excitable and affectionate, much like the boxer.
  3. Bull mastiff. This fearless breed is  larger than the boxer and makes for an alert, affectionate guard dog.

Frequently asked questions

Is a boxer a good family dog? 

Yes, boxers are generally very affectionate with families. 

What are boxer dogs known for?

On top of being known as alert, protective guard dogs, boxers have a distinctly silly nature that always makes hanging out with them a good time.

Why is a boxer dog called a boxer?

In the 1800s, farmers used dogs they called “boxl” to protect and steer their cattle. This is thought to have contributed to the breed being given the official name “boxer” in 1895. 

Is a boxer easy to train?

Boxers are intelligent, attentive dogs that do best with strict but fun training. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to train them.