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Everything You Need to Know About Boxers

The quizzical-looking Boxer has been a perennial favorite among American dog-owners for years. And it’s no wonder—Boxers are as affectionate as they are intelligent, and their loyalty knows no bounds. Plus, we can’t get enough of that adorably wrinkled mug!

If you’re considering adding one of these popular pups to your household, read on to learn more about this fun-loving canine.

Breed Characteristics

If your living quarters are on the small side, take heed: Boxers are a whole lot of dog. Male Boxers can be expected to reach a height of 23-25 inches, with females reaching an average of 21.5-23.5 inches. A full-grown male will clock in at around 65-80 pounds, and females will be about 15 pounds lighter. 

The most distinguishing physical features of the breed are its wrinkled forehead and expressive eyes, which lend the breed a curious and alert look. A Boxer has muscles to spare, which is evident in the powerful and energetic way in which they carry themselves. The American Kennel Club sums up the Boxer’s proud gait perfectly, stating, “he combines strength and agility with elegance and style.” 

The breed sports a short coat that comes in shades of fawn or brindle with white markings. About a quarter of all Boxer puppies are born white: a trait that generations of breeders have sadly tried to weed out through euthanasia. Thankfully, this practice is no longer considered acceptable, and more white Boxers are being placed in loving forever homes.

Typically, a healthy Boxer will live for 10-12 years.

Boxer Temperament

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If you have kids, you’ll be happy to hear that Boxers get along beautifully with children. Their clownish antics and admirable patience make them the ideal playmate for rambunctious little ones. 

On the flipside, Boxers also make incredible guard dogs. One look at that square jaw and chiseled frame ought to keep any intruders at bay. The loyalty of this breed runs deep, and they’re naturally protective of their human pack. While they’re not an aggressive dog, Boxers tend to be prudently wary of strangers. Until a friendly introduction is made, of course—a well-socialized Boxer loves to make new friends!

Boxers bond closely with their owners, preferring to be near them as much as possible. They have a sweet, silly, and sometimes mischievous personality that we can’t help but find endearing. Playful and energetic, a Boxer is always up for a game of frisbee or a stroll around the neighborhood.

Boxer Grooming and Health Needs

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You won’t need to devote heaps of time to maintaining a Boxer’s coat. A weekly brushing is all it takes to keep his shiny coat in tip-top shape. And unless he has a little too much fun in the mud, a Boxer won’t require frequent baths as they tend to be a clean breed. 

While a Boxer’s muzzle isn’t as short as other flat-faced dogs, he’s still considered a brachycephalic breed, which means he could have breathing problems. It’s important to monitor a Boxer on particularly hot and muggy days, as they don’t tolerate extreme heat well. 

The breed is prone to certain heart conditions such as aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy. They can also develop degenerative myelopathy—a progressive spinal cord disease. Genetic screenings can reveal whether or not a puppy’s parents are carriers of the condition. If both parents are clear, the puppy will also be clear. 

Like other large breed dogs, Boxers are at a higher risk for bloat—a life-threatening condition in which the stomach twists and fills with gas. Bloat can strike suddenly and quickly, so if you observe any signs of the condition (drooling, pale gums, restlessness, unsuccessful attempts to vomit, apparent pain), you must call your veterinarian ASAP.

Boxers are also prone to allergies, skin issues, thyroid deficiency, and certain cancers, including lymphoma. According to Vetstreet, the breed can’t tolerate acepromazine, a common canine sedative.

Boxer Energy Level and Training Needs

Keep your running shoes handy—the Boxer is no couch potato. These athletic dogs need plenty of exercise to burn off excess energy, and they’ll happily join you for an hour-long walk, a heart-pumping game of fetch, or the latest canine sport. If a Boxer isn’t able to blow off steam, he’s liable to redirect his pent-up frustration towards destructive behaviors like chewing or barking.

Boxers are incredibly intelligent dogs, and with consistent training, they can be molded into a delightful companion. Just be sure to change things up, now and then—the breed is known for becoming easily bored with repetitive lessons. A firm and fair approach is best, and positive reinforcement with his favorite treat is a great way to encourage good behavior. 

Their stamina and intelligence make the Boxer an excellent candidate for competitive canine sports, including agility, herding, and flyball. They also make brilliant service and therapy dogs and are frequently employed by search-and-rescue teams.

Breed History

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Evidence suggests that the Boxer can trace his lineage back to a medieval-era German breed, the Bullenbeisser (“bull biter). This massive, powerful canine accompanied noblemen on their hunts to bring down big-game. Later the breed would assist herders with keeping livestock from wandering off. By the mid-1800s, however, Germany’s large estates were split up, and the Bullenbeisser became obsolete. 

The Boxer as we know him today was developed in Germany in the late 19th century. The origin of the breed’s name is up for debate. Some insist that it’s an alteration of the word “beisser,” while others believe the breed was named for its ability to stand on its hindquarters and play with its front paws, mimicking the stance of a human boxer. 

When the breed was first registered by the American Kennel Club in 1904, it wasn’t an immediate hit. Prejudices towards German breeds during World War I did nothing to boost the breed’s popularity. By the 1940s and 50s things began to turn around, and the Boxer gained a place of endearment in many American hearts. 

Today, the breed is ranked #11 out 196 for popularity among American dog owners.

Is a Boxer right for you?

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Could a Boxer be in your future? The breed has a lot going for it, but they’re not for everyone. 

First, be honest with yourself about your energy level. Are you a fitness junkie who’s looking for a running or hiking partner to keep up with your active lifestyle? If so, a Boxer could be a perfect match for you. If, on the other hand, you’re more of a Netflix-and-chill kinda person, perhaps a more mellow breed would suit you better. 

Climate is another consideration. As brachycephalics, Boxers cannot tolerate extreme heat or humidity. So if you live in a hotter region you’ll need to crank the AC and let your poor pooch stay indoors during the day. 

Boxer’s aren’t exactly the daintiest of eaters, and mealtime can be a messy affair. The good news is that they’re only moderate shedders, and you won’t become a slave to their grooming routine as their coat is fairly low-maintenance. 

Overall, Boxers make a wonderful family pet. There’s something about that mischievous face and happy-go-lucky attitude that has us swooning over the breed. If you’re searching for a friendly, sociable, and affectionate companion, a Boxer could be just the thing!