The Boxer has been among the top 10 favorite and most popular dog breeds in the USA ever since the 1950s, and there are many good reasons for that.
These dogs look great, they are affectionate, funny, loyal, athletic, and have a great work ethic.
Bred to be medium-sized guard dogs, today the Boxers are favorite family pets and companions.
They do require a lot of exercising and play but are easy to groom, loving and family-friendly pups.
Read along to find out everything you need about this superb working dog breed.
Temperament: Active, happy-go-lucky, bright
Height at the shoulder: 23-25 inches for males, and 21.5-23.5 inches for females
Weight: 65-80 lbs. for males, and 50-65 lbs. for females
Life expectancy: 10-12 years
Breed Group: Working Dogs
About the breed
Boxers are playful and alert, and can be quite funny, but are also fearless and very capable watchdogs. They have been among the favorite dog breeds around the world because they have all characteristics you want in a companion dog.
Males can reach a height at the shoulders of up to 25 inches, and the females are a few inches smaller.
Their beautiful brown eyes combined with their wrinkled foreheads give the dogs from this breed that recognizable sweet alert and mischievous look.
They are natural athletes and move in a graceful and smooth way.
Thanks to their everlasting patience and their natural protective instincts, they are among the best playmates for children and adults as well.
They are excellent guard dogs and will protect their human families fearlessly. They reach adulthood when they are about three years old which has earned them the nickname – the Peter Pan of Dogs, as they have one of the longest puppyhoods in the canine world.
With endless energy and playfulness, the Boxer will keep you entertained and happy for years ahead.
In general, these pups are alert and smart, and although they are guard dogs, they are very friendly as well, given that they are socialized and trained properly.
Training a Boxer is relatively easy, but only if you use positive reinforcement and are fair to them. With harsh treatment, these pups can quickly turn into disobedient and stubborn dogs which are hard to control. The right way to train a dog from this strong watchdog breed is with confidence, love, patience and with a firm and yet kind reinforcement.
Once you establish yourself as the leader of the pack, you will gain your pup’s loyalty and respect.
The Boxers require minimal grooming but do need daily exercise as well as mental stimulation to meet their endless energy needs and to satisfy their natural intelligence.
With the right amount of daily activity, Boxers can live happily in any household, including in an apartment in the city.
The breed originated in Germany and was first imported in the USA right before and following World War I.
They are usually fawn or brindle in color and can have white markings. Pure white Boxers are not recommended because they are often deaf.
Where allowed, the Boxers will have cropped ears and docked tails, otherwise the ears hang down and the tails of these dogs are long and natural.
Even though Boxers are highly protective of their families, and will defend them at all costs, they are not aggressive to strangers, until a true threat is detected.
They are home dogs and love spending time with their humans. It is not uncommon for these strong animals to act like little lapdogs and to snuggle in their owner’s lap for a snooze or some cuddling.
Their happy-go-lucky attitude and their clownishness are what Boxer fanciers love the most about this dog breed. They like to dance and turn into semi-circles when they are happy or excited, and they will happily paw their toys, food bowls, and their owners. Another unique trait of Boxers is that they make a special sound like “woo-woo” which they make when they want to draw your attention.
These energetic and athletic dogs love to run, play, jump, and do all kinds of tricks just to keep their people happy.
On the other hand, Boxers that are used as police, military or search and rescue dogs have an admirable work ethic and are perfect at their jobs.
When used as guards, the dogs from this German breed will restrain a potential intruder just like the larger watchdog breeds like Mastiffs.
They can be trained to be excellent competitors in all kinds of dog shows, sports, and events including obedience, tracking, and agility, plus Schutzhund which combines testing all of these as well as the dog’s guarding abilities.
Although they are strong dogs, their short coats and their short noses make them intolerable to temperatures which are too cold or too hot, so you should leave a dog from this breed outdoors for long hours. They feel well at temperatures between 72-74 degrees Fahrenheit.
They tend to drool, snore and require a lot of attention, time for exercise and also proper training, so they are suitable pets for owners who have the time, patience and the desire to provide them with all that. Without the love and the physical and mental stimulation they need, Boxers can become destructive and ill-tempered.
They are also bouncy and boisterous, and mature when they are about three years old, so if you are prepared to have a strong, energetic and playful puppy for years, then the Boxer is for you.
Fanciers of the breed describe Boxers are “Hearing guard dogs.” Although some individuals may display no protective instincts, the majority of these dogs are highly watchful and alert, especially when it comes to their human family.
They can be clownish to please you, and amazingly patient with your children, but they are wary of strangers. Still, a well-bred and well socialized and trained Boxer will not be aggressive to other people and will be pretty polite to people who are friendly with it.
Of course, every dog is different. The personality of the Boxer depends on its genes, its socialization, and its training.
When picking a puppy from a litter, you should opt for a curious and friendly puppy which doesn’t mind playing with you or you picking it up. Also, make sure you meet your future dog’s parents in order to get an idea of what you can expect from its temperament later on.
In order to grow up to be well-rounded dogs, Boxers need early exposure to different people, to friendly dogs, to various sounds and sights. Socializing the dog is essential if you want it to have proper manners no matter where you go and who you meet.
A great idea is to enroll your puppy to a puppy kindergarten, as soon as it is safe for it to meet new dogs and after all its vaccinations have been made.
Overall, Boxers are friendly dogs, filled with energy, and with high energy needs. They are also intelligent and are superb guardians of their families, excellent service dogs, and do well in all kinds of dog sports and events.
They are home dogs, who thrive when they are with their humans. They shouldn’t be left alone inside or outdoors for long, in order to prevent aggressive and destructive behavior. Also, their short noses and short coats do not make them suitable for outdoor living, especially in very hot or in very cold climates.
With sufficient exercise, stimulation, and love, these pups can adjust to any kind of home, which makes them suitable both for country and for urban living.
They do not bark excessively, but do make their special woo-woo sounds, and can growl to express their feelings to you.
As with all dogs, you should feed your Boxer with high-quality food, in amounts which are suitable for its age, weight, metabolism, and activity level.
Choosing age-appropriate dog food is important for the growth, health, and wellbeing of your pup.
In order to prevent indigestion and bloating in an adult Boxer, you may want to opt for commercial or homemade dog food which contains 40% proteins, 50% veggies, and 10% carbohydrates.
If your dog weighs 10-25 lbs. about 1 ½-2 cups of high-quality food a day should be sufficient for the Boxer. For dogs weighing between 20-50 lbs. the recommended daily amount of food is 2-4 cups a day. And dogs which weigh 70-100 lbs. require about 5-6 cups of food per day.
Always divide the daily amount of food into two meals – one in the morning, and the other in the evening. This will help keep the dog feel satiated and active, and will also help prevent the life-threatening condition – bloat, which can be caused by eating large amounts of food at once.
Avoid feeding your pup with your table scraps, and especially with high fat, salty or other human food which is not only bad for canines but can be toxic to them as well.
You should always take the time to measure the food you feed your dog and stick to your set feeding schedule, as well as watch its weight closely because many pups are prone to becoming overweight and obese, especially if they are older, or have low activity levels.
Couch potatoes and senior dogs will need lesser calories, so make sure you choose a dog food suitable for the energy level and the age of your pup.
Obesity in dogs can lead to serious health conditions and can shorten the lifespan of your four-legged companion with several years.
Ask your vet or a dog nutritionist for guidance, if you are worried about your dog’s weight.
Boxers have short and sleek fawn or brindle coats with or without white markings. Those with white extending to the neck or face are called flashy brindle or flashy fawn, and those without the white markings are called plain Boxers.
White boxers or those with more white than other color covering their bodies are not accepted by the standard as they are prone to deafness and skin cancer.
Though white Boxers are still excellent pups and can be great competitors in agility and obedience and perfect family pets, reputable breeders do not breed them due to their genetic predisposition to these illnesses.
The short coats of Boxers do not require too much grooming. They are generally clean dogs, and often groom themselves as cats do.
They do shed quite a bit, especially in the spring and fall, but with weekly brushing with a rubber grooming glove or a rubber curry brush once a week, you can help remove the dead hair and keep the dog’s coat shiny and healthy.
Unless your dog manages to wear its nails down naturally by walking and running on hard surfaces, you will need to trim them once a month. This will help make walking more comfortable and safe for the dog, and will also prevent it from scratching you when it greets you or gets overly excited.
Nail trimming should be done carefully and in accordance with the guidance given from your vet or groomer, because canine toenails have blood vessels in them, and cutting through them can cause bleeding and pain for the dog.
You should also brush the Boxer’s teeth several times a week, or if possible on a daily basis, to help prevent the buildup of tartar and the growth of bacteria which can cause tooth decay, gum problems, and bad breath.
When you brush your pup, make sure you inspect its skin and body for any sores, rashes, bumps, hair loss, ticks or other problems.
Clean the inner part of the dog’s ears once a week with a cotton ball and dog ear cleaning liquid, but do not attempt to put anything inside the ear canal. Look for any redness or a foul odor, which can be signs of an ear infection.
Look for redness or discharge from the eyes, and examine the nose and mouth of your pooch as well.
The earlier on you notice any signs of a health problem, the easier it will be to treat it or prevent it.
In order to get your Boxer accustomed to its regular grooming regimen, it is a good idea to start teaching it to sit still and obey you when it is still a young puppy. Praise your pup for staying still and tolerating the grooming, and this will pay off later on when the dog grows up strong and energetic!
Many Boxers drool quite a lot, and some of them snore.
They are intolerant of hot and freezing cold weather, so you should protect them from becoming overheated in the summer and from the cold in the winter.
You should bathe the Boxer whenever it needs a bath. Otherwise, it is a pretty clean dog breed.
Boxers are very energetic and playful and will remain bouncy and rumbustious puppies for up to 3 years. This means that you should be ready to spend a lot of time and energy to keep your dog busy and entertained if you want a Boxer.
They do love jumping and leaping, so you should make sure that you have a secure fence if you want to let the dog run outside unleashed.
It is essential to teach the dog to obey commands such as “stay” and “down” from an early age in order to keep them, and yourself and others safe from all of the crazy jumping and running around of this bouncy pup.
They are definitely not suitable for elderly or frail owners, or for very young children, because they are very active and powerful dogs.
Boxers love playing and running. Plan on walking your dog for 30 minutes or more at least twice a day. Also, make sure you take the time to entertain the pup with different games and exercises. This will help it burn that extra energy, and will also keep it mentally stimulated and thus out of trouble. As Boxer owners say – a tired dog is a happy and good dog.
Not only will playing and exercising with the Boxer satisfy it’s high energy and mental stimulation needs but will also provide it with the attention and close companionship it requires to thrive and to behave properly.
A Boxer left isolated, and without enough exercise can resort to destructive and even aggressive behavior.
So, if you don’t have the time or desire to spend enough time at home and outdoors with your dog, then the Boxer is definitely not the right dog breed for you.
Like with all dogs, especially large and strong ones like the Boxer, obedience training from an early age is a must.
These dogs if left without control are bouncy, powerful and strong enough to hurt people even by accidentally knocking them over. This is why you should start teaching your Boxer to control its actions from as early as possible.
Due to their excitable, mischievous and bouncy temperaments, Boxers need consistent, firm, and yet fair obedience training from as early as possible.
Always praise or reward the dog for obeying your commands and for good behavior. Do not use harsh punishments, because this can turn things around completely and you can end up with a dominant and completely out of control pup instead.
You need to be consistent when training the dogs from this breed because they are naturally intelligent and will notice any time you let inappropriate behavior slide. They may even try to test you to see how far they get along without any consequences.
Before starting each training session, make sure you have gone on a long walk or had a long play session with the Boxer so that it gets all that excess energy right and is ready to concentrate on taking your directions and obeying them.
Too much repetition will bore these smart animals, so try to make the training more fun for them.
Housetraining Boxers does require some patience, as these dogs do not mature completely until they grow up to an age of 3 years old. Try to maintain a regular schedule and take the pup out before it has the opportunity to do its business at home. Praise the pup when it urinates or defecates outdoors to stimulate this good behavior in the future too.
As soon as the puppy can safely meet other people and dogs, make sure you start socializing it. Invite guests at home, get your pup to meet other friendly dogs, take it to different places and expose it to various sites and sounds, if you want your Boxer to grow up to be well-rounded and to have proper manners in the future.
Boxers are intelligent and athletic and excel in all kinds of dog sports including tracking, agility, and obedience. They will stay mentally and physically stimulated, and will also appreciate the part you as an owner will take in such activities too.
If you are looking for a reliable working dog, Boxers are excellent military, police, drug tracking and search and rescue dogs as well, and are very serious about their jobs.
Boxers, in general, get along with other dogs, when socialized in a timely manner. They can live peacefully with other dogs or pets under the same roof, especially if they have grown up together.
They are also very patient and good with children but can be too powerful and bouncy for very young kids.
You should teach your children how to safely interact with your dog, and advise them to never approach it when it is eating or sleeping. Also, always supervise the communication between your Boxer dog and your child.
Boxers are strong and generally healthy dogs, but unfortunately, do not have a long lifespan (10-12 years), and are prone to certain hereditary and other health conditions and problems which Boxer owners should be wary of.
Here are some of the most common conditions found among dogs from this breed:
As mentioned previously, white Boxers or those with predominant white markings, are predisposed to developing skin cancer due to their larger risk of sunburn. This is why owners of such dogs should use sunscreen safe for these dogs on their noses, ears and their coats when going outdoors in the sun.
But unfortunately, the other Boxers are also in risk of different types of cancer as well, including lymphoma, mast cell tumors or brain tumors.
Aortic stenosis, sub-aortic stenosis
This heart defect is quite common among Boxers. It causes the aorta right below the aortic valve to become very narrow. This forces the dog’s heart to start working much harder in order to ensure sufficient blood flow to the rest of the body.
This is usually diagnosed after a heart murmur is detected by a vet.
It can cause fainting and in some cases – even sudden death.
Aortic stenosis is genetic, which is why reputable breeders do not breed Boxers with this heart condition.
BCM is also known as Familial Ventricular Arrhythmia, Boxer Arrhythmic Cardiomyopathy or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy. It is an inherited condition which causes the Boxer’s heart to suddenly start beating irregularly. This arrhythmia can cause collapse, weakness, and sudden death.
Unfortunately, this condition is hard to diagnose, which leads to sudden death in Boxers more often than in most other dog breeds.
Dogs with this condition should not be bred.
Hip Dysplasia is another genetic disease which can affect Boxers. It causes the dog’s thigh bone and hip joint to be misaligned and not fit properly. Dysplasia of the hip can affect one or both rear legs, and can be symptomless, or can cause pain and even lameness.
The condition is diagnosed through X-ray examinations.
It tends to worsen over time as the dog ages. It can also worsen by the rapid growth of puppies of large breeds which are given high caloric diets, as well as from injuries from falling or jumping on hard surfaces.
The treatment can include giving the dog special supplements to improve joint health but in more severe cases can require a hip replacement.
Dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia should not be bred, which is why your breeder should be able to provide you with written proof that both parents have been tested and cleared of hip dysplasia.
Hypothyroidism is another disease which can be found in Boxers, and which in many cases is hereditary. It causes the thyroid gland to be incapable of producing sufficient thyroid hormone. The disease can cause multiple symptoms and other health problems including hair loss, hyperpigmentation, obesity, epilepsy, darkening, and thickening of the skin and others.
The condition can be controlled and managed successfully with hormone replacement therapy on a daily basis, and through an appropriate diet.
Reputable breeders will test their dogs for risks of hypothyroidism before breeding them.
Corneal Dystrophy is the general name of several inherited eye diseases which can affect Boxers. These conditions cause one or more layers of the cornea in the eye to be affected and to create the appearance of an opaque spot in the cornea or close to it. It is not a painful condition unless an ulcer of the cornea appears.
This skin disease is also known as Demodicosis. It is caused by a microscopic parasite which every dog carries – the Demodex mite. The microscopic mites are passed from the mother to the litter right after birth and in normal conditions do not affect the health and wellbeing of the puppies and dogs. The Demodex mites reside in the hair follicles of the dog.
When the dog has a weakened immune system, they can boost the growth and reproduction of the mites, and cause Demodectic Mange.
Unfortunately, this is a disease which can often affect Boxers.
The Demodectic Mange can affect a certain area of the skin or the entire body of the dog. The symptoms are hair loss, red and scaly skin, and bald spots, as well as infections of the skin.
In some mild cases, the condition can resolve itself on its own, but in others – treatment, as well as treatment of the underlying cause for the weakened immune system, should be applied.
Vets recommend that dogs with Demodectic Mange are not bred because of the genetic link found in the cases of the condition.
Gastric dilatation-volvulus, a.k.a. Bloat or Torsion
Bloat can be life-threatening and affects dogs which have deeper chests and larger dog breeds. It is caused by air getting stuck in the stomach causing the organ to torsion around itself. This twisting blocks the blood flow to the other organs of the dog’s body. It requires immediate emergency veterinary care or can lead to death very quickly.
The symptoms of Gastric dilatation-volvulus are – the dog desperately trying to vomit, belch or retch without being able to get the air out of its digestive tract. The heart rate of the dog can increase, it will start salivating excessively, and it will be lethargic, weak, restless, with a distended abdomen, and can collapse or lose consciousness.
It is essential for dog owners to learn to recognize these symptoms and to act immediately.
The ways to prevent bloat include feeding the dog smaller meals, dividing the daily food into smaller portions, refraining from feeding the dog right after strenuous exercise and play, as well as limiting the water intake after such activity. Also, keeping the dog from vigorous exercise right after eating can minimize the risk of torsion as well.
There are some indications that the condition could be genetic, which is why dogs which develop bloat should be neutered or spayed.
Boxers can develop all kinds of allergies, including environmental, contact and food allergies. Often the symptoms include digestive problems, and skin problems, such as excessive itching and scaly skin.
It is essential to take your dog to the vet and to establish which allergen is causing the negative reaction of the body so that you can manage or eliminate the allergy.
The most common dog allergies are from flea bites, pollen, household cleaning products, dust, and certain types of food.
Food allergies can be determined via an elimination diet and limited ingredient food.
If the allergen cannot be completely removed, the allergy can be managed via medication.
White or mostly white Boxers are susceptible to deafness. Nearly 20% of the white Boxers are born deaf. Breeders abstain from breeding white Boxers or Boxers with predominant white markings, because the trait is genetic.
General health advice for Boxers
Boxers cannot tolerate extreme heat or cold, due to their short noses and short coats. This is why they should never be left outdoors in such conditions for long.
Responsible breeders who care about the Boxer breed and about their pups do regular health tests and checkups of their dogs for hip dysplasia, for thyroid deficiency, for eye health, for heart health, as well as for myelopathy and genetic tests for some types of cancers.
The earliest ancestors of the Boxer were war dogs from the Assyrian Empire in 2,500 B.C.
But what we know as today’s Boxer ascends from several German breeds from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
It is believed that the ancestors of today’s Boxer are the now extinct German Bullenbeisser. These Mastiff-type dogs were used as hunting dogs for large game, such as wild boar, bison, and bear. The name Bullenbeisser means “Bull Biter” in German. They were used mainly by noblemen from medieval times.
The other ancestors of today’s Boxer are believed to be the smaller and also extinct Brabenter Bullenbeisser which were also agile, and strong with powerful jaws and were used for large game hunting.
The task of these massive dogs was to trace and hold the prey until the hunters came.
Over the years, after the German nobles fell out of favor, the dogs from this breed started to be used by the butchers and farmers for guarding and driving cattle.
Later on, these dogs started being crossbred with smaller English mastiff-type dogs for size, as well as with terriers for a stronger drive, as well as with Bulldogs.
As a result in the 1800s, a much more elegant and sleek dog was produced – namely the modern Boxer. The breed was first established in 1895.
Boxer refers to the way in which the dogs spar with their front paws when they are playing or when they are defending themselves.
The first Boxers were bred by a breeder in Munich, Germany who crossed a female Bullenbeisser called Flora with a local dog. The litter was called Lechner’s Box and is believed to be the beginning of what we know today as the Boxer breed.
One female from the Lechner’s Box was bred with an English Bulldog and produced a puppy named Flocki which became the first Boxer to be registered in the German Stud Book following a win at a dog show in Munich.
After the German breeders and fanciers put Boxers at a dog show in 1894, in 1895 they founded the Boxer Club in Germany.
The breed started gaining popularity outside of Germany around the same time. In 1903, the first dogs from this breed were imported to the USA.
In 1904, the first Boxer named Arnulf Grandenz was registered by the American Kennel Club.
In 1915, the AKC recognized the first Boxer championed owned by the wife of the Governor of New York – Mrs. Lehman. Unfortunately, during those years, there weren’t too many available females to breed the champion with, so he didn’t play too much of a role in the development of the breed in the US.
When World War I began, Boxers started being used as messenger dogs, as well as cargo dogs, and attack and guard dogs by the military.
During and after World War II, many American servicemen brought back Boxers with them, which caused a boost in the popularity of Boxers in the 1940s.
The dogs from this breed became popular family companion dogs, guard dogs and show dogs.
The founding dogs of the American Boxer breed were “The Four Horsemen of Boxerdome” namely Sigurd who was born in Germany on whose puppies were brought to America in the 1930s, Lustig and Utz which sired over 70 American Champions. The last of the “horsemen” was Dorian who won the Working Group title at Westminster in 1937.
In 1935, the American Boxer Club was first founded and was accepted by the American Kennel Club in the same year.
In 1938, the American Boxer Club approved a new standard for the Boxer breed.
The latest revisions of this standard were made in 2005.
The popularity of the Boxer breed started growing rapidly in the 1950s, when Bang-Away, a winner at Westminster became a national celebrity in the US.
Even celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall became Boxer lovers after receiving a dog from this breed as a wedding gift. His name was Harvey, and he appeared in many of the star’s photos. The couple then adopted two other Boxers called George and Baby.
Since those years, the dogs from this breed have maintained their position among the top 10 most favorite US dog breeds.
Boxers today are the 7th most popular dog breed in the USA according to the American Kennel Club.
Through the years these beautiful, strong and loyal dogs have been used for so many purposes, including as war dogs in world wars, police dogs, cattle dogs, guard dogs, guide dogs for the blind, and for competitions in dog sports.