— Breed of the Month —
In 2012, the AKC changed the rules and added boxers to the list of breeds eligible for herding titles.
Breed Traits and Characteristics
According to the American Kennel Club, here are some breed characteristic you can find in Boxers.
23-25 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)
65-80 pounds (male), about 15 pounds less
- Life Expectancy
- Coat Type/Length
Boxers originated in Germany and were bred as bull-baiting dogs and then butcher’s helpers, assisting in controlling cattle in slaughterhouses. They descended from a long line of bullenbaiser breeds (bull biters) that were used to hunt boar, bear, and bison on large estates. Boxers were eventually bred with Bulldogs and even Great Danes.
Boxers were invaluable in the World Wars carrying ammunition, messages and supplies. Some of the soldiers fell in love with the dogs and brought them home with them. There are various theories about the origin of their name. Some say it comes from the German word boxl (nickname for one of the Boxer’s ancestors), whereas others think it comes from the way they use their fore paws like a boxer in the ring.
The first boxer was registered by the AKC in 1904 and the first AKC Championship was won in 1915. They really became popular in the U.S. in the 1950s when Bang-Away, a Boxer, won the Westminster dog show. Now the boxer has become extremely popular, always appearing in the top 10 breeds.
Who doesn’t fall in love with their wrinkled, worried faces? Their imposing stares, noble posture and jaunty gait? Don’t be fooled. Behind that stern façade lies one of the friendliest, most playful and loyal breeds Bark Busters has ever had the pleasure to train.
And training they will need! Boxers are highly energetic and without consistent mental and physical stimulation, they can get into a lot of trouble! They love to jump on people, so it’s important to break this behavior as soon as possible. Because they are so people oriented, they do not like being alone, so separation anxiety can always be an issue.
Boxers are well-muscled and of medium in size weighing between 50 to 80 pounds and generally live 11 – 13 years. Their coloring is generally fawn, brindle or white. About 1 in 4 boxers are white, often with colored markings called “Checker boxers”. It is a misconception that white boxers are less healthy than other colors of boxers and always deaf because 14% are born deaf.
Many boxers have docked tails and cropped ears, although it is becoming more common among pet parents to not crop the boxer’s ears and just let them hang down.
If a boxer is joining your family, know that their intelligence, courage and easy-going nature makes them a great family dog!
Boxers are unique in that they don’t fully mature until three-years-old, meaning their puppyhood seems to go on forever! Boxers can be stubborn dogs, so they require a strong leader. Early training is important before your Boxer gets too big. Like many of the bully breeds, Boxers do not train well using physical punishment or being bossed around. Instead, with methods like Bark Busters uses, Boxers respond better to their leaders after you have earned their respect.
Think about it. Dogs learn how to communicate with each other at their Mother’s teat. They use voice tones (growling, barking, yipping) and body language (stance, position of tail, etc.) Therefore, it is best to use this same method of communication when dealing with your boxer. Mother dogs speak dog and teach their pups the law according to the dog.
Boxers don’t tolerate the heat too well, so walks during the cooler times of the day are best. They don’t like extreme cold temperatures either because of their short coat, so a doggie coat might be the ideal thing for your Boxer if you live in a cold climate. Many pet parents kid that their Boxers' range of tolerance is between 72 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit (21-22 degrees Celsius).
Boxers love to play and make great family companions displaying the utmost in love and loyalty. Even though they are not small, they often think they are lapdogs! When they get excited they do a little dance called a “kidney bean” where they twist their bodies into a semi-circle or even a full circle. They also make a special sound called a “woo woo” when excited. Owners of boxers know what I am talking about!
They can be headstrong, meaning you will have to have patience when training them. They can become overexuberant and in their zest to protect their family, can lead to some aggression, so training in good doggie manners, is advised. Early socialization is important so they become exposed to different sights and experiences. Exercise is key to keep their energy in check -- the boxer is a big dog and can do a lot of damage if he's bored or lonely.
Boxers Personality & Temperament
- Smart, friendly, fearless
- Loyal and graceful
- High energy and like to stay busy
- Great guard dogs
- Must be exercised regularly
- Don’t do well in hot weather (overheating) or cold weather since they are short coated
- Tend to snore and snort
- Initially distrustful of strangers particularly if they sense a threat to their family
- Will jump, twist and somersault to entertain humans
Fun Facts about Boxers
- Because of their playful nature, they are sometimes called the “Peter Pan” of dogs.
- Their short muzzles can cause them to snore.
- A boxer holds the world record for the longest tongue – 17 inches.
- Boxers are cousins to the bully breeds.
- According to the AKC, the boxer was one of the first breeds used for German police training.
- It is a myth that all white boxers are deaf – only 12 to 14% are.
Boxers are excellent guard dogs and have an above average IQ, making them diverse in the roles they can play. Boxers love to be active and are perfect for agility, obedience and flyball.
- Cattle dog
- Show dogs
- Police dog
- War dog
- Dog for the blind
- Search and rescue
Bark Busters Trainer Mark Renshaw on Boxers
Having been the original office now to have opened in the United States, with nearly 17 years in training over 6,000 dogs, I would have to say that Boxers are among my most favorite breed to train! Although highly energetic, with proper leadership, mental stimulation as well as exercise, I typically find this breed to be very receptive to learning new rules and boundaries and generally a good fit for most homes.
I advise most people looking to get a Boxer as a puppy to carefully research responsible breeders, as they are susceptible to breed-specific genetic conditions which include very serious afflictions such as dilated cardio myopathy (very serious heart condition) as well as various forms of cancer and hip and elbow dysplasia. I often deal with a lot of clients who have rescued adolescent or adult Boxers and advise them to work closely with their veterinarians to monitor for any of these issues and seek their recommendations on appropriate supplements to aid in their general well-being.
One of the most typical behavioral concerns that I often see with this breed is their unprecedented desire to jump on people. Because of their size and muscular frames, jumping can be very problematic especially around children and elderly people. In addition, pulling on leash is common due to their physical strength. I find that these dogs are great candidates for the Bark Busters Wagg Walker communication harness for learning to walk at a prope heel position. Another concern that I commonly see, especially when training adolescent or adult Boxers, is a trait that the breed was originally designed for (protection/guarding) manifesting into a pattern that can escalate into fear aggression and excessive barking habits if left unchecked. As with other ‘working’ breeds, they need extra mental stimulation and entertainment in addition to physical exercise to avoid destructive chewing behaviors due to boredom and inactivity. In essence, Boxers are truly wonderful dogs that are easily trainable!
Fortunately, utilizing a system of training which dogs readily understand which is neither compulsory nor reliant on food and bribes, the Bark Busters training method is ideal for this working breed. By engaging with the simple use of voice tone, body language and timing, the nuisance behaviors that are typical of the Boxer are easily resolved within the first two hours of training in most cases. I personally find the breed to be very intelligent, quick learners and genuinely compliant. (They are usually ‘softies’ occasionally acting out in assertive ways).
Bark Busters Trainer Jeff Drier on Boxers
It’s not true that these dogs were so named because they stand up on their back legs like kangaroos and “box” with their front feet, although I might start that rumor. As a trainer for 15 years, I have worked with many boxers and there are some things that I can generalize.
They have the greatest facial expressions. I love their expressiveness and if there is a dog that wears its feelings on its face it is the Boxer.
They are energetic and will be great companions if you are working towards running a marathon. They will not be as helpful if you are working on a crossword puzzle championship or doing a jigsaw puzzle. That’s not to say that they can’t stay quiet and still, but they can’t stay quiet and still for long. As I said they are energetic.
They bounce, pounce and jump. Do you remember superballs? Those were the hard rubber balls that bounced higher and longer than any other ball? Boxers are the superballs of the dog world. They WILL greet you by jumping up on you, unless you are very determined. Counter-surfing is also a common issue with them once they realize they can reach the counters.
They are very intelligent, friendly and easy to train and typically fun-loving. They are happy to participate in any physical activities, the more strenuous the better. If you want a frisbee chaser you cannot pick a better breed. They live to run, and jump. If you are a hurdler, Boxers will adopt you immediately and will give you a great home.
If they aren’t given outlets for their high energy they will develop their own outlets which probably won’t be what you want them doing, (see counter-surfing above).
They are very affectionate with their family but can be a little wary of strangers and visitors, so leadership is vital in keeping that under control. They can play rough so interactions with children need close monitoring. They don’t mean to hurt anyone but often they don’t know their own strength.
These are all breed generalizations and there are certainly boxers that don’t fit these descriptions, but of all the boxers I’ve worked with, most do resemble the above. Bark Busters’ methodology makes it easy to teach your dog, even Boxers, how to be great family members. Love, trust and respect are necessary elements of a great relationship and all those grow from understanding and clear communication. This is where Bark Busters excels, teaching our clients what their dogs are looking for and how to provide the leadership and structure that dogs instinctively seek. If you have issues with your Boxer or any other breed, contact your local trainer for assistance. You and your dog will be happy you did.
Boxer Common Behavioral Issues
Boxer puppies need socialization as early as possible and firm but fair training. Boxers need to be positively motivated and love praise. Establishing yourself as the alpha dog and providing a consistent and structured environment goes a long way with a boxer.
Remember that your dog wants to please you – he just doesn’t know how. He will challenge you for control if he suspects you are not going to be a strong leader. Letting him know who is in charge and earning his respect upfront is key to successful training.
Boxers tend to have a mind of their own. Remember that boxers don’t like to be left alone, so separation anxiety can be a problem. They respond best to firm but fun training to help overcome their jumping, biting, barking and other mis-behaviors. Praise should be a major part of your training program.
An essential part of your training must involve exercise. Because of their high energy, a rousing game of fetch, or a long walk daily is a good idea. Remember that a bored dog is a mischievous dog.
Some Boxers don’t do well when left home alone. They just don’t like solitude (especially if their doggie parents have never prepared them for it).
Things like leaving the home for a few minutes, but staying close by, to gauge your Boxers reaction to being left alone.
Leaving durable toys or treat-dispensing toys with your dog can help break the boredom, but sometimes they just want you.
This might sound great since anyone would want to be loved that much? However, the issue is that you might never be able to leave your dog at home alone while you go out to the movies or a meal.
It is best to start practicing separation from your Boxer as soon as you can. For example start off by teaching your dog not to follow you from room to room. They need to understand that they cannot always follow wherever you go.
If your dog sleeps with you or a family member, that might seem like a wonderful thing and no issue if your dog does not suffer Separation Anxiety, but a problem if it does.
The reason is your dog never gets to experience separating from you or the family when you are at home and the only time you do is when you all go out.
So practice separating, stopping your dog from following you everywhere you go and understand that the wanting to be with you all the time, might not be love, but could be the start of Separation Anxiety.
Common Injuries and Illnesses
Your Boxer's health concerns will change over the course of their life. A puppy might be more prone to eating something they shouldn’t, a 2-year-old Boxer is more likely to develop a cancerous mass, and a senior Boxer may develop urinary tract infections as they age. Boxers also have personality and physical traits that may make them more prone to certain conditions—they’re prone to heart conditions as they age, and tend to be active dogs that can injure themselves when playing or running.
If you are ever concerned about your dog’s health, your local veterinarian is a great resource—no matter how small the question.
At any stage of life, here are some of the most common injuries and illnesses you should be aware of when bringing home a Boxer:
- Cruciate ruptures
- Eye conditions
- Heart problems
Genetic Health Concerns
Like many popular breeds, the Boxer has a number of hereditary health issues, like eye conditions and heart problems. Boxers are also susceptible to allergies and multiple types of cancer. Most reputable breeders now have their breeding stock checked and scored for these hereditary ailments by a vet. You can request proof that the puppy you are purchasing comes from parents that have been checked for these issues.
Because many other health issues are also hereditary, you should do some research on the ancestry of your puppy and any health issues of that particular breed.
Many rescue organizations also check for common-ailments before making them available for adoption.
Tips For Every Dog Owner
Tips for Every Dog - Socialization
Dogs are social animals and like to be part of a structured social group. In the wild, their pack provides this purpose, but in the domesticated world, this consists of the humans they live with and other animals that live in your home.
Tips for Every Dog - Four Basic Needs
At Bark Busters, we believe that every dog has four basic needs. When these needs aren’t being met, misbehavior will likely follow.
Tips for Every Dog - Why Training?
All dogs need some form of training and education. Love is vital to the bond you and your dog share, but on its own and without all the other elements of a strong relationship, your dog won’t feel fully fulfilled.