Strong, handsome, and very, very jowly? That’s a boxer. While boxers can look intimidating at first, once you get to know them, their playful, affectionate, enthusiastic personality shines through. Read on to learn more about this popular breed, from boxer dog facts to their impressive hunting and working history to their insatiable need for snuggles. We’ll help you decide whether a boxer dog is right for you.
- Origin: Germany
- Weight: 55-80 pounds
- Lifespan: 10-12 years
- Breed group: working group
- Activity level:
- Barking/howling level:
- Good with dogs: yes
- Good with kids: yes
- Good with cats:
- Easy to groom:
- Easy to train:
Boxers have short hair, with strong, muscular bodies and square jaws.
Boxer dogs are also brachycephalic, which means that they have wide, short skulls, with square muzzles. They also have an underbite, which, in combination with their long jowls, can lead to some very amusing head-out-of-the-car-window situations.
Boxers can have a few different colorings, including the fawn boxer and brindle (both sometimes with white markings). Some boxers are entirely white. White boxers aren’t albino, and they’re fairly common. Apart from white boxers, many boxer dogs have what’s called a black mask, which is a patch of coloring, varying in intensity, around the eyes and mouth.
An interesting fact: since boxers lack a specific gene for having a pure black coat, there are no black boxer dogs.
Because of that short coat, a boxer’s grooming needs will be very minimal. They rarely need brushing and can get away with a bath every few months or a quick wipe down with a towel after they get dirty.
Boxer dogs are loyal, affectionate, high-energy, and need plenty of attention. They’re also intelligent, so they can be stubborn. But with the right training, they can be very well-behaved. And despite their sometimes intimidating appearance, boxers aren’t particularly aggressive or vicious.
They do tend to be focused on their loved ones, which makes them good watchdogs. You can count on a boxer to let you know something’s up, but because they tend to like people, they don’t make the best guard dogs unless they’re trained to do so.
Boxers are, for the most part, versatile dogs. They’re happy wherever you are (wherever they’ll get plenty of love), and don’t mind spending time indoors. Of course, you’ll need to get out on a daily walk and work in play opportunities that your boxer will enjoy.
If you have a family, you’ll find that a well-trained boxer is very patient with children. But be wary of leaving your boxer dog unattended with access to local pets in your neighborhood. Because boxers were originally trained as catch dogs, they sometimes feel remnants of their hunting instinct, which can be directed at your neighbor’s cat or other unsuspecting animals. A strong fence without escape routes is a good idea.
On account of their short coat, it’s important to take steps to keep your boxer warm in cold weather and limit unsupervised time spent outside in the cold. And although boxers do well in hot weather, white boxers might need some sunscreen. Yes, dog sunscreen is a thing.
The ideal pet parent for a boxer has time to interact, exercise, and entertain their dog. A bored boxer will chew, lick, and dig to excess, so a kennel or crate may be necessary when you need to be away for longer than they like.
In the perfect world, a boxer owner would work part-time, or from home, so that they could spend maximum time caring for and bonding with their pet. That said, enlisting the help of a trusted pet sitter or daycare provider can be a lifesaver for those times when you can’t be there for a daily walk.
Boxer owners may also need to field questions from people who might be intimidated by their dog’s formidable presence and willing to provide extra structure and supervision when the situation calls for it.
Training a boxer is not too difficult. But they’re smart enough not to fall for punitive measures, so positive reinforcement works best. Treats, praise, and clicker training all work well with boxer dogs.
Something to watch out for: boxer dogs can be difficult around other dogs, particularly larger members of the same sex. Strong leash training and tight supervision are good ideas any time you’re out and about. As with all dog-dog issues, early socialization can go a long way to prevent unwanted growling, barking, and fighting.
Like Pitbulls, Boxers have a short, tight coat—meaning you don’t need to take them in to get a frequent haircut. You can groom a boxer at home by giving them a bath, trimming their nails, cleaning their ears and brushing them regularly. If you don’t want to do this yourself, a groomer will do all of this for you. Plus, they’ll also typically express your dog’s anal glands, which many dogs needs several times per year.
Just like other dog breeds, boxer dogs are prone to particular health problems. These include hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, heart conditions such as aortic stenosis and boxer cardiomyopathy, epilepsy, intestinal problems, and allergies.
Degenerative myelopathy, an incurable spinal disease, affects a large number of boxer puppies (most of whom die before seven weeks of age), so it’s important to buy from a reputable breeder with knowledge of congenital health conditions.
Skin cancer is also a common problem among white boxers, who need extra sun protection (so remember that sunscreen).
In the realm of minor health concerns, many boxer owners worry about their dog’s snoring. Some snoring is to be expected, especially in brachycephalic breeds. However, if the snoring starts suddenly when there was none before, or if snores come with excessive mucus and other allergy symptoms, tooth decay, or lethargy and fever, it’s time to go to the vet.
Boxer dogs were originally bred in late 19th century Germany, from a dog known as the Bullenbeisser. The Bullenbeisser (descended from Mastiffs) was crossed with the Old English bulldog to eventually produce the modern boxer breed.
Bullenbeissers were generally used as catch dogs for hunting bear, wild boar, and deer. With their strong jaws, they would catch and hold prey until their hunter masters came. The first boxers were developed to be a smaller, faster dog for similar purposes.
Unfortunately, like their bulldog ancestors, boxer dogs were sometimes used for bull-baiting, and, after the practice was outlawed, for dog fighting.
The boxer became a recognized breed in the United States in 1904, and in World War I and World War II, they took roles as working dogs in a variety of military posts. Many boxers are still working dogs, for the military and as police dogs. But most have taken an equally important place as the popular companion dog we know and love today.
Getting a boxer is simple, but it’s important to be prepared. If you’re buying a boxer puppy, you will spend plenty of time on basic obedience, socializing the puppy to other people and dogs, and teaching important skills like sleeping through the night and going to the bathroom outside.
Finding a boxer puppy or adult dog can be as easy as an internet search, but be careful of puppy mills and internet scams. There are many ways to find a reputable breeder, and it’s good to ask around, visit before committing to payment, and trust your gut.
Another way to find a boxer dog is to adopt a rescue. Unlike puppies, rescues often come spayed and neutered, and with all their shots. Many boxer rescues are surrendered by individual owners, and these dogs are likely to know basic commands and be socialized. If not, that doesn’t mean you can’t work with them. Contact a trusted dog trainer for more information on how to teach a dog who hasn’t experienced much structure, or how to help a dog who has been traumatized to feel safe and welcome.
To find breeders who have to meet stringent requirements, use the American Kennel Club (AKC) search tool to find a reputable boxer breeder near you. When you visit, be sure to ask about any health issues in the dog’s bloodline, and discuss any genetic tests you might want to run.
If you’re dreaming of making a boxer your very own, we’ve got more to help you make that dream come true. Or maybe you’re already the proud parent of a beautiful boxer, and looking for some more inspiration for toys, food, and more!