Loyal, loving and devoted, the Boxer breed would seem like the perfect family dog. Despite having many positive attributes, responsible Boxer breeders will tell you that they aren’t a breed for everyone so before bringing a Boxer into your life, you should do your research and choose carefully. If more people made better choices before bringing a dog into their life, fewer dogs would end up in rescue or require re-homing.

Boxer Characteristics

Boxers are handsome, strong, athletic dogs with great enthusiasm for life. They are playful, exuberant, energetic and often mischievous with an amazing ability to make their owners laugh with their comical behaviour and facial expressions. They love to please their family and Boxer owners will tell you that the breed can show great empathy for their owners and often exhibit almost human characteristics. Personality plus, you can often tell what Boxers are thinking just by looking at them.

Boxers are handsome expressive dogs

A Boxer's most appealing attributes can also be the ones that cause the most problems for their owners. Boxers don’t just like to be with their human family, they need to be with their family so if you are looking for an outside dog that doesn’t really share your home, then a Boxer is not for you. They are sensitive and can be needy, often suffering from separation anxiety if left alone. Boxers are very intelligent, so left to their own devices they become easily bored and can be extremely destructive, finding the most inconvenient ways to entertain themselves.

Boxers are also sensitive to weather extremes. The Boxer coat is short and easy to maintain but they feel the cold and as a brachycephalic breed, care needs to be taken in the heat even though they have longer snouts than more extreme brachycephalic breeds. If left at home during the day ideally, they should have access to the inside of the house, even air-conditioning on extreme weather days, but somewhere to get out of the weather is a bare minimum. Boxers also have loose jowls so they may drool occasionally. This tendency has been greatly reduced with breeding and is nowhere near as extreme as some other breeds like Great Danes, but if you can’t deal with cleaning it off your walls, furniture and clothes occasionally, a Boxer may not be for you!

Training and exercise are absolute necessities for the breed due to their strength and high energy levels, but training is also a necessity for the Boxer owner. You need to understand the principles of positive reinforcement training to get the most out of your relationship. They are a versatile breed that is keen to work, quick to learn and eager to please but Boxers can also be stubborn and wilful. Training needs to be consistent, begin early, and all members of the family need to understand the principles. Boxers can also excel in dog sports such as agility, tracking, obedience and even sledding and dock dog competition with the right training.

Boxers were used in the military in World War 1 as messenger dogs, pack carriers and guard dogs. Later they were used as police dogs and some owners still do Schutzhund training with them but for many years they have been bred primarily as companion dogs. While they are characteristically friendly with both people and other pets, they can be very protective of their home and family. Although there can be incidents of same sex aggression, it is uncommon for Boxers to be aggressive. Some lines can be timid leading to a risk of fear aggression and they can also become leash reactive if not properly socialized from an early age. Temperament is paramount in a family dog so meeting the parents of a prospective puppy is the best way to avoid a puppy with potential problems. However, early socialisation is just as important. Even the most stable friendly puppy or dog can be overwhelmed by the world if it has never experienced anything outside its own backyard.

Boxer puppy and Boxer dog playing

Responsible breeders will always breed for good temperament. Even if they breed Boxers for the showring, a confident happy dog will be a better show dog and they are mindful that most of the puppies they breed will end up in family homes.

The Ideal Boxer Owner

The ideal Boxer owner is someone that is prepared to spend time with their dog and make it part of the family which includes allowing the dog inside. If they must be outside while you are at work, plenty of toys, water, and protection from the weather is essential. A home where at least one family member is at home during the day is ideal. In the absence of a person, the company of another dog can also reduce the likelihood of destructive behaviour while you are gone. Having owned a Boxer before is preferable but of course, you can’t be a second or third time Boxer owner without having been a first-time owner at some stage. If you have never owned a Boxer, don’t be surprised if a breeder quizzes you on how much you know about the breed to be able to assess whether you understand the responsibilities of being a Boxer owner. If you have never owned a dog at all, a Boxer is probably not your best choice and you should not be offended if a breeder turns you down in those circumstances. They only want the best for their puppies, and they are doing you a favour.

Boxers can be quite obsessive about children and even though they seem to be able to control their exuberance enough to be gentle with children, they are potentially too active and strong for toddlers. Families with toddlers may also find it difficult to devote the time to training, exercise and play that a young Boxer requires. A decent sized, secure grassed yard is ideal but as a Boxer owner you should also be prepared to take the dog out for walks and other activities. Boxers are not an ideal breed for apartment living unless you can commit to daily exercise.

Boxer Health

Like many purebred dogs, Boxers are prone to several hereditary health issues, one very important factor to consider when locating a puppy. Responsible Boxer breeders are working on reducing the prevalence of these conditions through genetic and other forms of health screening in their breeding dogs and puppies. These tests are expensive, and it is unlikely that someone with a couple of Boxers of unknown pedigree and background will have gone to the trouble of testing their dogs prior to breeding a litter of puppies. Buying a puppy under these circumstances leaves the buyer at risk of obtaining a puppy that may end up with a health condition. Getting a Boxer cross does not eliminate the risk either as different breeds are still dogs. The genes for hip dysplasia are the same genes in both Boxers and Labradors so buying a ‘Boxador’ does not eliminate the risk of hip dysplasia. There is also the possibility that your puppy may inherit the genetic problems of both breeds! It is unlikely that the breeders of a Boxador and other Boxer cross puppies have done any health testing and the puppies may have been bred in a puppy mill.

Recognised health conditions worldwide in Boxers are the heart conditions aortic stenosis and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) requiring breeding dogs to be tested by a cardiologist. Kidney disease in the form of juvenile kidney disease (JKD) and thyroid disease are also present in the breed in some lines. Degenerative myelopathy (DM), a progressive disease of the spinal cord that affects some breeds including Boxers later in life, may also be tested for as well as screening for hip and elbow dysplasia. The extent to which good breeders test may vary depending on the country they reside in as some health conditions may be less prevalent in the breed lines of that country. A Boxer breeder that does not discuss potential health issues is either ignorant of the problems or avoiding the discussion. Both are reasons to avoid the breeder and continue looking. Puppies are hard to resist so it is better to ask these questions before being presented with a litter of adorable Boxer puppies.

Cute Boxer Puppies

Cancer is on the increase in all dogs and is one of the biggest killers of the breed. There is no testing that can help you avoid getting a dog that will develop cancer. The only thing you can do is keep your dog healthy with a good diet and regular exercise. The same also applies to avoiding heart conditions. Like humans, poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity can also result in heart disease regardless of any health testing that has been carried out on the parents of your dog.

Finding a Reputable Boxer Breeder

So how do you recognise a good breeder? Talk to Boxer breeders before looking at puppies and meet their adult dogs if possible. You should not be surprised if they have more questions for you than you have for them! Good breeders may have a waiting list for their puppies, a positive sign though they may also refuse to take your details if they don’t have a litter planned and you are not prepared to wait. The best breeders tend to breed rarely. For them, it is more about improving the breed and finding good homes for their pups than breeding large numbers of puppies. If they have determined that you are a good fit for a Boxer, most will want you to be involved in the progress of the litter in the form of photos and regular updates. Social media is being used increasingly to connect breeders with puppy buyers, allowing breeders to share their thoughts on the breed, training and ongoing care of your puppy. It makes it easier for them to assist you with any puppy problems that you may encounter. You may be invited to meet the puppies before collection but disease transmission is always a concern so that may vary if, for instance, there is an outbreak of Parvovirus in your area. It helps the breeder assess your personality and choose or recommend a puppy that is a good fit for your family. As puppies require a midday meal for several weeks, they will also have questions for you on how you will manage the first few weeks of your new responsibilities.

On collection of your Boxer puppy you should receive a puppy pack that includes information on the ongoing care of your puppy including diet and health information such as vaccination and worming records, and future schedules for both. Some breeders will pay for the final vaccination provided the new owners bring the puppy back to their breeder’s vet. It gives them the opportunity to assess the condition of the puppy after the first few weeks in its new home. The puppy pack will usually include some food to make sure that the puppy doesn’t experience diarrhea from a sudden change in diet and may include suitable toys, and a blanket that has been with their mother to give the puppy a sense of security and reduce stress.

You should also receive microchip certificates, registration papers, details of health testing performed on the parents, and your puppy contract. Many breeders require owners to sign a contract that includes a non-breeding agreement and requires the puppy to be returned to them rather than being sold to anyone else. Most good breeders would prefer to refund a buyer and take the puppy back than see the puppy go on to another potentially unsuitable home. It may include a sterilisation clause though for puppies, particularly males, there is increasing evidence that for health and developmental reasons, sterilisation is best left until 12 to 18 months.

Reputable Boxer breeders want the best for their puppies and the lifetime support you receive from a good breeder is invaluable. It can make the difference between having to re-home a dog that has become part of the family or experiencing devastating health or behavioural problems that cause you to regret your decision to bring this wonderful, funny and beautiful breed into your home.

For those that want the Boxer Dog statistics…

Colours

Fawn ranging from light tan to deep red. Brindle, again ranging from light to very dark which gives the illusion of reverse brindling. Both colours can be with or without white markings on the feet, chest, neck and face. The face should have a predominantly dark mask even with white markings. Boxers may be born all white which is not permitted in the show ring. White Boxers have an increased risk of deafness (approximately 5-8% are deaf in both ears and up to 13% can be deaf in one ear) and an increased risk of skin cancer due to lack of pigment.

Weight: Female: 25–29 kg, Male: 27–32 kg

Height: Female: 53–60 cm, Male: 57–63 cm

Boxer Life Expectancy: 10-12years

Boxer dogs playing in the water at the beach.

Training Resources for Boxer Owners

Clicker Training - What is it? Cindy Ludwig, Canine Connection LLC

Clicker Training - Getting Started - Cindy Ludwig, Canine Connection LLC

Dog Training - Articles on positive reinforcement training.

Further Reading from the Author

Getting to Know Dogs - by Diana Andersen Animalinfo Publications

Getting to Know Dogs by Diana Andersen, Animalinfo Publications

Learn more about dog ownership and choosing a dog that is right for you with this comprehensive, easy to use guide covers topics including the history and origin of the domestic dog, popular breeds, locating and choosing a healthy dog or puppy, the first days at home, diet, basic training and an extensive section on maintaining the health and wellbeing of your canine companion.

Illustrated throughout with over 200 images from award winning animal photographer Diana Andersen. Helpful health diagrams and useful links for further information.

Available in Hardcover or eBook.

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