Though the boxer was bred to be a working dog, don’t be fooled—this breed loves nothing more than quality playtime. Quirky, loyal, and affectionate, it comes as no surprise that the boxer ranks as one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States year after year. You may recognize a boxer by the trademark square jaw, and their traditionally cropped tails lend themselves to a waggy rump whenever they’re excited—which is often, especially when food is involved.
Boxer dog facts
Originally bred in 19th century Germany, boxers are medium-sized, short-haired, solidly built dogs originally bred for pulling, herding, fighting, and hunting. Their large and powerful jaws were strong enough to hold and pin large animals such as wild boar and bison. Their energy and athleticism have given them a wide range of jobs, such as messenger and attack dogs in World War I, circus performers, police dogs, and service dogs of all kinds.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) male boxers weigh between 60 and 80 pounds, with females typically weighing 15 pounds less than males. The typical boxer’s lifespan is between 10 and 12 years.
Boxer dog types
Most boxers are either brindle, with a “tiger-striped” look to their markings, or fawn (light brown). Brindle and fawn boxers may have white markings or a black mask. White haired boxers make up a fair portion of the population, and are neither rare nor albino.
Energetic, playful, loyal, goofy, doesn’t like to be left alone…that’s a boxer! A boxer’s social personality is one of their best qualities. Boxers make great companions, lively friends, and enthusiastic snugglers.
Boxers tend to mature later in life than most breeds (they typically tend to mellow out around three to four years of age), which means these youthful dogs love to goof off and require a lot of play time. You’ll have to keep up with your boxer, but what they offer in turn is enough personality and presence to make you feel like you have another family member.
This high energy breed also requires ample exercise daily or you run the risk of dealing with some less-than-endearing puppy-like behavior, like chewing, digging, and excessive licking.
But don’t see all this as a downside. Bubbly and bright, boxers are incredibly patient with children, making them excellent family dogs.
Loyal companions, fierce protectors
Boxers tend to get along well with children, and other dogs and cats, and they’re generally quite social. Curious at heart, they’re always looking for the next adventure… for better or for worse.
On the other hand, they can also be protective when the situation calls for it. This makes boxers a highly qualified breed if you happen to be concerned with household security. Boxers make excellent guard dogs because of their energy, vigilance, loyalty, and suspicion of strangers.
Caring for your boxer
As you can probably guess, a boxer needs plenty of exercise, both mental and physical.
Although boxer puppies shouldn’t be overexercised because of their growing bones, an adult dog can stand up to very long walks, daily runs, and plenty of playtime at the local dog park. Daily exercise not only keeps your boxer healthy but also prevents behavioral issues. Just be sure to take it easy in hot weather, because a boxer tends to overheat.
Remember that exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. Boxers love a challenge. Games like hide and seek and keep away, as well as teaching them new tricks, can keep your boxer’s active mind engaged.
Boxers don’t need much grooming because their short hair is easy to clean with a monthly bath or an as-needed wipe down with a washcloth. Regular ear cleaning (to decrease the risk of ear infection) and nail clipping are also recommended. Make these tasks easier with a boxer’s favorite treat: peanut butter.
Boxers also tend toward tooth decay, but in most cases, choosing a dog food with enough fiber will help reduce plaque. Regular tooth brushing can help, as can professional cleaning.
When you need to leave home for extended periods, even a well-trained boxer may need to go in a crate. This will give you peace of mind and prevent your boxer from tearing apart your shoes or furniture while he waits for you to come home. Add a challenging treat toy to stave off boredom and give them some mental stimulation.
Like many dog breeds, boxers are more prone to particular health problems. These include cancers (particularly mast cell tumors), degenerative myelopathy, heart conditions, hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and intestinal and digestive issues.
If you are considering buying a boxer from a breeder, ask about genetic testing for specific health conditions, and consult with your veterinarian about managing boxer health problems.
Training your boxer dog
Some people say boxers are harder to train, perhaps because of their energy level or their intelligence. Being a dominant but positive leader is a must with all dogs, but especially boxers. Boxers, like a lot of breeds, benefit from a structured regimen of training while they’re young to set them on the right path. Positive reinforcement and consistency work best. With enough guidance (plus that boxer agility), you could have a show dog on your hands.
Boxer rescues may be more work to teach than other breeds, and you may want to work with a professional trainer. But it’s well worth the effort for the companionship of a true friend.
Stumped on what to name your boxer puppy or rescue? Check out our list of popular boxer names to get your creative juices flowing.
More for boxer enthusiasts
A capable, handsome, and popular breed like the boxer has earned a lot of fans. Maybe you’re not in the American Boxer Club yet, but there are other ways to show your boxer pride. Check out our gift guide for boxer lovers.
Want to learn even more about boxers? And by learn we mean look at gifs of them being adorable? Check out this fun list about why boxers are the best, guaranteed to give you the warm fuzzies.
Top photo via Flickr/Mythicseabass