Boxer: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Boxer

 

Ryan Murphy / Getty Images

The boxer is an energetic, intelligent, athletic, and loyal dog breed with a sweet and playful temperament that makes it an ideal companion. Boxers often get along very well with children and possess an instinct to protect the family, making them wonderful family dogs, despite their history as fighting dogs. Boxers have become incredibly popular in the United States, but the breed dates back to 16th-century Europe.

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 1 foot, 9 inches to 2 feet, 1 inch at the shoulder

Weight: 55 to 70 pounds

Coat and Colors: The coat is short. Fawn and brindle are the standard colors, while all-white is typically not recognized by many kennel clubs. Standard markings include a black mask; black mask with white markings; and white markings.

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the Boxer

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Boxer

The ancestors of boxers can be traced back to a variety of dog breeds throughout Europe in the 16th century, but the breed was developed and perfected over the last several hundred years in Germany. Boxers are related to nearly all bulldog-type breeds.

They were historically used for dog-fighting but then developed into loyal, hard-working canines that were used as protectors, hunters, and even couriers. They were one of the first breeds employed as police dogs in Germany.

Boxers began to gain popularity in the United States during the 1930s, though the breed was recognized by the AKC in 1904. The American Boxer Club (ABC) was formed in 1935. Boxers often have docked tails and cropped ears, but more boxer owners are leaving the ears uncropped.

Railway guard dog
Mishka, a boxer and a guard dog on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway line in Kent, May 13, 1966. Reg Speller / Getty Images

Boxer Care

The happy boxer is an affectionate and loyal companion that would make a delightful addition to an active household. Despite their history of being used for dog fighting, boxers are typically gentle creatures without aggressive tendencies. They are known to get along well with children once trained and socialized.

Boxers take a long time to mature and it may be three years before your boxer is no longer a puppy. They are generally housetrained between 4 and 7 months of age, but some take longer.

Because boxers have very short hair coats, they have relatively simple grooming needs. Most boxers need occasional bathing and brushing. Although an active boxer may wear down its nails, keep an eye on them. Regular nail trims are important in order to keep their feet healthy and comfortable.

Boxers are not very tolerant of either cold or hot weather: Their short coat doesn't give them insulation against the cold, and because of their short noses, boxers can't pant well so they can't cool themselves off easily. It is best to keep boxers indoors during extreme weather, hot or cold. Exercise your boxer during the coolest part of the day during hot weather.

Boxers can be hyperactive and unruly if not properly trained. This is simply a result of their big, loving personalities. Boxers love to jump up on people but can be taught to refrain from this. Don't forget socialization; this is as important for your boxer as for all dogs.

The high energy level and athletic physique of the boxer means the breed needs a significant amount of exercise every day. Make sure you provide the exercise needed to keep your boxer physically fit and mentally stimulated. Take your boxer for a 30-minute walk at least twice a day and play fetch or other active games.

While not all boxers are droolers, some drool excessively. They have also been known to be snorers. Luckily, they are not known as diggers and most boxers don't bark except when appropriate.

Boxers playing at the beach
Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC). Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. Remember that regular veterinary check-ups are an important part of keeping your dog healthy. Your vet may be able to detect the early signs of health problems before they affect your dog.

The following are some health conditions that may affect boxers:

  • Cancer: Boxers are prone to several types of cancer, including mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and skin cancer.
  • Aortic stenosis: This narrowing of the aorta causes the heart to work harder. It is a genetic condition and dogs with it should not be bred. It can cause fainting and sudden death.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy: This is also an inherited condition of an irregular heartbeat. Boxers with this condition should not be bred. The boxer may show fainting and sudden death.
  • Deafness: Loss of hearing is associated with white coloring and may be seen in all-white or mostly-white boxers.
  • Hip dysplasia: Boxers may have this inheritable condition that can cause pain, lameness, and arthritis. Breeders should provide proof that the parents have been tested.
boxers as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Your boxer will likely do best with two meals of two to three cups of high-quality dry dog food per day. As boxers have been known to have stomach torsion, a condition that occurs when the animal's stomach twists around its axis, you may want to provide a feeding station that is elevated so your dog doesn't have to bend down to eat. Providing two meals can help prevent eating too much or too fast, which can lead to stomach torsion.

Monitor your dog's weight to prevent obesity; a change in diet, as well as more exercise, may be in order. Discuss any special dietary issues with your veterinarian.

Pros

  • Smart

  • Fun-loving

  • Energetic

Cons

  • Excessive drool with some

  • Love to jump up on people

  • Cannot tolerate hot or cold weather

Where to Adopt or Buy a Boxer

The American Boxer Club is a great place to start your search for a boxer puppy. You can contact the club's breeder referral chairperson who will connect you with breeders in your area. If you are interested in locating a rescue boxer, the club's website provides extensive listings of rescue organizations throughout the U.S.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any breed, if you think the boxer is the dog for you, do plenty of research before you get one. Talk to veterinarians, other boxer owners, reputable boxer breeders, and boxer rescue groups to learn more.

If you are interested in similar breeds, look into these:

There is a wide variety of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.