Introduction to the Boxer Breed

Intelligent and alert, Boxers make excellent family dogs.

They are affectionate and love to be with their families. With a powerful, athletic build, these medium-sized dogs need plenty of daily exercise, but only minimal grooming.

Boxers are one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

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History of the Boxer

The Boxer was developed in Germany in the 19th century from the old English Bulldog and an extinct breed called the Bullenbeisser. They are descended from dogs of the Molosser or Mastiff group which goes back several thousand years. Ancestors of the Boxer, which resembled the breed, can be seen in Flemish tapestries that date from the 16th and 17th centuries. These tapestries show the dogs hunting stag and wild boar. The Bouldogue du Mida, the Spanish Alana, and the Matin de Terceira are closely related to the Boxer and probably have similar ancestors. There is also a belief that a British terrier may have been used to develop the Boxer.

Boxers were first developed for dog fighting in Germany, like many similar dogs at this time. When dog fighting was made illegal, the dogs were used for other purposes. Boxers were one of the first breeds in Germany used for police work. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904 but they only started becoming popular in the U.S. in the 1940s. During World War I the Boxer was used for military work. They performed work as a messenger, guard dog, attack dog, and pack carrier. Today the Boxer is ranked as the seventh most popular breed in the United States. Boxers are a member of the Working group.

Boxer Health-Related Issues

Boxers are a brachycelphalic breed (short-nosed) which means that owners may need to take special care when temperatures are high or very humid. Some airlines will restrict travel to cooler times of the year with short-nosed breeds because of potential problems.

The American Boxer Club, the AKC parent club for the breed in the U.S., has a good listing of health issues in the breed.  You can also view a very detailed breed health survey taken by the club on that site.

Health issues that can occur in the breed include cancer, several heart issues such as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (often called “Boxer Cardiomyopathy”) and Aortic Stensosis, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism (low thyroid), and degenerative myelopathy. Other conditions that are sometimes seen in Boxers include bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), allergies, intestinal problems, entropion (an eyelid problem), and spondylosis. Dystocia, or difficult births, can also sometimes be a problem. Occasionally seen are colitis peculiar to Boxers and corneal ulcers (a particular form found in Boxers).

A 2004 health survey in the UK, conducted by the Kennel Club, found that the single greatest killer of Boxers was cancer at 38.5 percent. Old age was the next leading cause of death, accounting for 21.5 percent of Boxers dying.

Boxers are very sensitive to the veterinary drug acepromazine. If you have a Boxer you should be sure to discuss this problem with your vet so s/he can work around it. Most vets will know about this issue but it doesn’t hurt to remind them.

Boxer Temperament

Boxers are loving, faithful dogs known for their devotion to their families. They are playful, energetic dogs. Boxers are natural guardians and they can be somewhat reserved with strangers, so good socialization while they are young is important. At home, Boxers are patient and affectionate.

Boxers are athletic dogs and they need plenty of daily exercise. Otherwise they can get bored and become destructive – chewing on things and tearing things up in the house. Boxers do best with some training, especially with positive reinforcement based on praise and reward. They can be headstrong at times, so a gentle approach works best.

Boxer Grooming

Boxers have a tight, smooth coat that is fawn or brindle with or without white markings. The breed commonly has a docked tail and cropped ears in the United States. He should have well-developed, clean, hard muscles. Males are 23 to 25 inches tall at the withers; females 21½ to 23½ inches. Boxers weigh between 55 and 70 pounds, with females weighing less than males.

Boxers should be brushed a couple of times per week to remove any dead hair. They are usually very clean dogs and some of them have rather cat-like habits of self-grooming. Bathe when necessary. Boxers are moderate shedders.

Common Boxer Mixes

The most common Boxer mix or designer breed is the Boxador – a cross between the Boxer and the Labrador Retriever. However, if you check local shelters you may find other Boxer crosses.

  1. Boxador – Boxer and Labrador Mix
  2. Boweimar  – Weimaraner and Boxer Mix
  3. Boxachi – Boxer and Chihuahua Mix
  4. Boxane – Great Dane and Boxer Mix
  5. Boxapoint – German Shorthaired Pointer and Boxer Mix
  6. Boxerdoodle – Boxer and Poodle Mix
  7. Boxita – Boxer and Akita Mix
  8. Boxmas – Boxer and Mastiff Mix
  9. Boxmatian – Boxer and Dalmatian Mix
  10. Boxpei – Boxer and Chinese Shar-Pei Mix
  11. Boxset – Boxer and Basset Hound Mix
  12. Boxweiler – Boxer and Rottweiler Mix
  13. Bulloxer American Bulldog and Boxer Mix
  14. Golden Boxer – Golden Retriever and Boxer Mix
  15. Pitoxer – Boxer and Pit Bull Mix
  16. Poxer – Boxer and Pug Mix
  17. Saint Berxer – Boxer and Saint Bernard Mix
  18. Valley Bulldog – Bulldog and Boxer Mix

Boxer Fun Facts

  1. The name “Boxer” is something of a mystery. Most people assume that it comes from the breed’s tendency to stand on his hindlegs and “box” with his front paws, but experts say this is unlikely. The name could come from various German terms used for some of the breeds used to create the Boxer, or from names of certain dogs, but it’s really not known where the name for the breed came from.
  2. Boxers today are great at obedience, agility, rally, flyball and other dog sports. They also make great pet therapy dogs and they have been used as guide dogs for the blind. They are still used in some places as police dogs.
  3. Boxers originally had their ears and tails cropped and docked to protect the dogs when hunting wild animals. Keeping the tail and ears short prevented animals from being able to grab them during a fight. Many hunting breeds had docked tails or cropped for the same reason. The practice is usually optional today, though some European countries have banned docking and cropping. In Britain some Boxers have been bred which have a natural “bob tail” and they have been admitted to the Kennel Club studbook for Boxers.
  4. You may occasionally see a white Boxer but there are no black Boxers. It is not genetically possible for the breed to produce solid black dogs. If you see a Boxer that appears to be black, it is probably a very dark brindle, or a reverse brindle – a fawn-colored dog with black stripes that can give the appearance of being black. White dogs can occur in Boxers but genetically they are fawn or brindle with excessive white markings. They have the extreme piebald gene that causes many of them to be deaf. At one time white Boxers were usually euthanized as puppies but today white Boxers are often spay/neutered and placed in pet homes.
  5. Boxers have always been popular with celebrities. Famous Boxer owners have included blues singer Billie Holiday, baseball great Ty Cobb, Robert Taylor, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe. Today Boxers have such owners as Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lover Hewitt, Luke Perry, and Giselle Bundchen. Miley Cyrus, Charlotte Casiragh, daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco, Zara Phillips, Jada Pinkett Smith, Josh Bowman, Kevin Spacey, and more. What’s not to like?

Boxer FAQ’s

Here are some recently asked questions regarding Boxers.

What is a Boxer’s Life Expectancy?

According to breed health surveys, the median lifespan for the Boxer is 10.25 years. Some dogs may live longer, or shorter spans, but about 10 years is typical.

Are Boxers easy to train?

Boxers are considered about average when it comes to training. They are smart but sometimes a little stubborn. They will do best with positive reinforcement methods such as using a clicker and treats. They can do very well at obedience class lessons taught by a good trainer.

Do Boxers shed a lot of hair?

Boxers are considered to be moderate shedders. They do need to be brushed a couple of times per week to remove dead hair, but they don’t shed as much as many dogs.

Do Boxers make good apartment pets?

It’s always possible that someone can make things work with a particular dog living in an apartment, but a Boxer would not be the first breed we would suggest for apartment life. They are medium-large, they need lots of exercise, and they can be reserved with strangers unless they are well-socialized. They typically need a lot more room and a house. If you want to live with a Boxer in an apartment, you would have to be devoted to making sure he got lots of daily exercise, among other things.

Are Boxers good with Children?

Boxers adore children. They are one of the very best family dogs you can have if you have kids. They are gently protective and love to play with kids.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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