The Boxer Dog: A Complete Owner's Guide (part 1)

The noble Boxer Dog
The noble Boxer Dog

In part 2 of this series, we will look at a Boxer's specific nutritional needs. In Part 3, we will weigh the pros and cons of some of the best-recommended dog foods for Boxer dogs. So if you're a Boxer lover, be sure to check out the rest of this series.

Attributes of the Boxer Dog

The Boxer Dog is a working dog, and to properly understand them, we need to understand their history. After all, it's tempting to take home a gorgeous Boxer puppy with its squidgy face and oversized ears, but doing so without doing one's homework on the breed. Unfortunately, this can lead to trouble down the line.

Although many people believe that puppies are blank slates, each puppy always comes with a specific genetic blueprint. To understand your Boxer, you need to first understand their basic genetic blueprint. And this starts in their history.

The Boxer is a German mastiff descended from the Olde English Bulldogge and an extinct bull-baiting breed called the Bullenbeiser. They likely have some common ancestry with other German mastiff breeds like the Great Dane.

So, they began as a bull-baiting breed and developed into butcher's helpers that herded cattle at slaughterhouses. This is likely where they gained a lot of their athleticism and natural courage. After that, Boxers were one of the first breeds used as police dogs, solidifying them as a working breed.

In fact, one of the critical characteristics of Boxer dogs is their sheer versatility. From seeing-eye dogs to protection dogs, Boxers are perhaps one of the most overlooked and talented working dogs today.

Other terms to describe the Boxer dog include:

  • Devoted
  • Confident
  • Energetic
  • Playful
  • Cheerful
  • Courageous.

Physical features of the Boxer Dog

Height

Females: 21 – 24 inches or 53 – 60 cm

Males: 22 – 25 inches or 57 – 63 inches

Weight

Females: 55 – 64 lbs or 24 – 29 kg

Males: 60 – 71 lbs or 27 – 32 kg

Coat

  • Smooth short coat with moderate-to-heavy seasonal shedding.
  • This is not a hypoallergenic breed.

Colors

  • Boxer dogs come as fawns or brindles (although brindle is a pattern, not a color). You can get white Boxers, although these dogs can often be deaf, so the color is no longer recognized by the AKC.
  • Most boxers have white markings on the belly, feet, chest, and nose. This is called "flash," and dogs with these white markings are called "flashy."
  • The fawn and brindle tones can be yellow, dark honey blonde, light tan, red, mahogany, or stag deer red.

Other Boxer characteristics

  • Boxers are brachycephalic, meaning they have smooshed-in noses, making them vulnerable to heat exhaustion.
  • The average Boxer lives 10 – 12 years.
  • Boxer dogs cost between $800 and 3000 dollars, depending on the quality of the breeder. It is worth paying more for a dog that is appropriate health screened to avoid some of the common health issues in Boxers.
  • You can adopt a Boxer from a rescue specializing in the breed at this site.

Boxer Personality

A Boxer dog is a playful and energetic companion
A Boxer dog is a playful and energetic companion

Although Boxer dogs need plenty of socialization and training, this breed notoriously gets on well with cats and other dogs. So this is an excellent breed for a multi-pet household. They are also a good choice for active kids from about 8 or 9 years old, as they tend to love children. However, their rambunctious nature can lead them to knock over younger children during play.

These are loyal, intelligent, highly trainable, and versatile dogs. Two areas to note are that they are highly energetic and need a home that provides them with space and plenty of activity and training. This breed thrives with a job to do, and a bored Boxer is likely to become a nuisance and may be destructive.

These are also velcro dogs. They do not like being left alone for long periods and are prone to separation anxiety. So do not get Boxer unless somebody is home most of the time.

Another key aspect of the Boxer personality is that these dogs are highly active clowns that thrive on playtime. Any Boxer parent should put at least 30 minutes a day aside just for playing games like fetch. This is aside from their daily regular exercise and training that they require, which should amount to at least 40 additional minutes of exercise a day.

Certain Boxer bloodlines, particularly show lines, are prone to high anxiety levels. So make sure you meet your Boxer's parents and check their temperament before getting a puppy.

This is usually not an aggressive dog, although many have retained a strong defense drive. Not having been bred for protection may have made guard dogs less effective than once, but some Boxers are still bred for protection work. And many companion Boxers still retain a solid urge to defend their family.

Best Activities and Exercise For a Boxer Dog

Perhaps one of the qualities that stand out most about a boxer is their versatility. This is an active working dog with a tremendous range of activities. They are highly trainable and can thrive in very many sports for dogs. If you have a Boxer, giving them a sport or an activity is vital for their mental and physical wellbeing. Although they are adaptable as companion dogs, a sport is ideal for getting the best out of your Boxer and improving the quality of their life.

Protection and IPO or Schutzhund

Perhaps the first choice for a Boxer owner is some kind of protection work. Depending on your Boxer's individual drive, they may do very well in protection training or sports such as IPO and Schutzhund. These sports challenge a Boxer's natural intellect with intensive obedience work and tracking and satisfy their defense drive with bite work.

Herding

Perhaps one of the most surprising talents of the Boxer is that they are so versatile; they are one of the few mastiff types that make excellent herding dogs. Perhaps because of their early role in controlling cattle in slaughterhouses, their genetic instinct to herd is still easily fostered.

This activity also channels their natural urge to chase, which is a fantastic outlet for an energetic Boxer dog. However, they will need proper channels, so look for a ranch specializing in herding training for dogs.

Just see this video for an example of Boxer herding potential.

Boxer dogs make surprisingly great herding dogs

Agility

Naturally agile and athletic, Boxers love navigating the obstacles in agility. This is a great way to reinforce their training, stimulate them mentally, and give them a physical outlet.

Service dog

Although rambunctious, some Boxers make great service dogs and are versatile enough to work as competent service dogs in areas such as search and rescue or as seeing-eye dogs.

Dock Jumping

A fantastic way to burn off your Boxer dog's energy is to try sports like dock jumping. These are high-energy sports that burn off tremendous amounts of energy. The challenge and exertion are enough to keep your dog settled.

However, be aware that this is a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have a short nose. Short-nosed dogs have a shorter airway in their nasal passage that undermines their ability to cool down.

This makes your Boxer dog more prone to overheating and heat exhaustion. Be careful to ensure that your dog does not swallow too much water when exercising, avoid possible water toxicity, and avoid exercising in the day's heat.

Boxer Intelligence

The Boxer dog is highly intelligent with high trainability. Their energy levels can make them a little difficult to train at first since they may have short attention spans and do not enjoy repetitive tasks. Use positive reinforcement and short training sessions to keep them interested. They also have a high play drive, so working play into their daily training can help get the best out of them.

Tips for taking care of a white Boxer

A white Boxer dog is rare and prone to deafness
A white Boxer dog is rare and prone to deafness

If you have a white boxer, you may need to add some additional steps to daily life:

  1. Invest in doggy sunscreen. The lack of pigment in their skin makes white Boxers extremely vulnerable to skin cancer. Make sure to apply it daily to all parts of your Boxer not covered in fur, such as the eyelids, lips, inner ears, and belly. Do this in the winter months, too as dogs may spend more time sunbathing in winter.
  2. If your white Boxer is deaf, take the time to teach obedience training through hand signals. This will help you and your dog communicate with each other.
  3. Teach any deaf white Boxer to pay attention to you by constantly rewarding eye contact with a treat. You want to condition your white boxer dog to look at you as much as possible so that you can communicate with your hand signals.

The Boxer dog might be the right dog for you if you are looking for:

  • A highly active breed that is versatile and trainable.
  • If you want to take part in sports like IPO, agility, or herding.
  • You live an active lifestyle, and you want a dog that can keep up.
  • You are looking for a passable guard dog.
  • You don't mind drooling and snoring.
  • You have of space
  • You need a good family dog or dog that is good with other animals.
  • You want a dog with minimal grooming requirements.

A Boxer puppy is not the right dog for you if:

  • You need a hypoallergenic breed.
  • You are away at work for long periods.
  • You live in a small space or apartment.
  • You do not have time for plenty of exercise, training, play, and activities.
  • You live a sedentary lifestyle, or you think a large yard is enough to keep your dog occupied.

Potential Boxer Dog behavior problems and how to deal with them:

Separation Anxiety

The two tricks for dealing with separation in anxiety in Boxer is increasing the amount of exercise and decreasing hyper attachment. This means no more following you to the bathroom or sitting on your lap on the couch.

To help a Boxer with separation anxiety, we need to teach them that it's okay to be on their own. This means teaching them place or mat training and having them go to their "place" at certain times, rather than being glued to you. This should be a positive time for them with chew toys and puzzle toys to keep them occupied.

Place training must be coupled with sufficient exercise to get rid of pent-up energy and flood your Boxer's system with feel-good hormones that will help calm them down and settle when they are on their own.

Destructive chewing, barking or digging.

The most significant cause of destructive behaviors in Boxers, such as chewing, barking, and digging, is boredom and frustration. Occasionally, the problem is also anxiety. To deal with this, the best way is to invest in crate training and time in the crate. However, this should not be abused. A happy and content Boxer is a working Boxer.

This means regular training and intensive exercise. Giving a boxer a job to do, even if it is just carrying a doggy backpack on a hike, will remove a lot of the boredom and frustration that leads to destructive behavior. A daily routine that involves playtime like fetch, training time, and some structured exercise will resolve 90% of unwanted behaviors in Boxer Dogs.

Hyperactivity

Unfortunately, Boxers, especially young Boxers, can be hyperactive. Most of them calm down between 12 and 18 months, and neutering and spaying may somewhat help them with this. However, your Boxer will still likely stay an active dog even when they are mentally and emotionally mature, and you must channel their energy with training and exercise.

Boxer health checklist: how to make sure you get a healthy puppy to keep it that way

Unless you adopt a Boxer, it's a good idea to do your due diligence on any breeder before purchasing a puppy. You can make sure you prepare for a new Boxer puppy by reading our new puppy start kit checklist.

When it comes to Boxers, be sure to ask your breeder about the following common health issues in Boxers and check that the parents are cleared:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Aortic Valve Disease
  • Subvalvular aortic stenosis or AS/SAS
  • Boxer Cardiomyopathy1
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
  • Degenerative Myelopathy

Final Thoughts

As we can see, Boxers make lovely companions and working dogs. They are both comedians and faithful guard dogs with great versatility. In addition, they need plenty of exercise and training.

However, we note that Boxers are particularly prone to heart and joint problems. Therefore, in the next part of this series, we will look closely at the chief nutritional considerations for Boxers. In the third part, we will look at foods that will maximize their long-term health.