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Before acquiring a new dog, it’s important to stop and think about your lifestyle. As a man’s best friend provides you with love, affection, companionship, and even protection, but you’ll need to take care of them as well. Are you aware of their specific health, grooming, exercise, training, and feeding needs? Most dogs in rescue centers are there because the owners didn’t understand or didn’t have the time and patience to take care of their dogs. Today we look at one of the most popular dog breeds, the Boxer, and this guide will help you decide whether or not they are the right fit for you and your family.
Boxer Dog Breed Introduction
There are so many reasons to love this dog, from their powerful body, innate intelligence, friendly and loving nature, expressive face, and clownish sense of humor. They may look tough, but they are absolute sweethearts and have warmed the hearts of many households. Because of their strength and courage, these dogs have wide use in search-and-rescue work and the military and the police. And thanks to their intelligence and innate attachment to humans, they also make excellent guide dogs for the blind. If you’re looking for a high-energy dog with a goofy personality and a big heart, then this is the breed for you. Whether you’re a new or seasoned Boxer owner, this guide is for you. You’re bound to learn a few surprising things about this beloved breed, so keep reading!
Boxer Breed History
The Boxer is believed to be the descendant of the German Bullenbeisser. This dog was used for hunting large game such as bear, deer, and wild boar and was tasked to catch and hold the prey until the hunters arrived. Over time, they lost their hunting jobs and were now being used to guard and drive cattle.
In the late 19th century, a man named Georg Alt in Germany bred a Bullenbeisser with another dog (possibly the Mastiff, Bulldog, Great Dane, or even a Terrier) to produce the Boxer we know today. The modern-day Boxer is smaller than the Bullenbeisser but still has vim and vigor. And like their ancestors, Boxers were hard workers from the very start, helping humans as guard dogs, police dogs, military dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, guide dogs, just to name a few of their jobs.
The Boxer became known in other parts of Europe in the late 1890s, and after World War, returning soldiers made this breed popular in the US. The AKC recognized them as a breed and registered the first Boxer in 1904.
Today, this dog’s winning combination of smarts, playfulness, warmth, athleticism, and work ethic make it one of the most popular dog breeds in the world.
Boxer Dog Physical Characteristics
The Boxer is a large, strong, muscular dog with imposing stature. They have regal, distinctly shaped square heads with wide, short skulls, large, expressive eyes, and blunt muzzle. Their ears fold over naturally, although traditionally, they have been cropped to stand erect. They have webbed feet that help them dig and swim, but the webbing is minimal compared to water dogs. Other physical traits include docked tails, a broad and deep chest, compact feet and arched toes, and an undershot jaw. They have a relatively short, strong back with a confident gait and stance. While this dog can look intimidating at first glance, you’ll see the mischief and joy of life as their playful, affectionate, enthusiastic personality shines through.
Size and Weight of Boxer Dog
The Boxer is classified as a medium-sized dog, although some cross over to the large breed classification. According to the AKC, a full-grown Boxer will stand 23-25 inches tall for males and 21-23.5 inches for females. Males typically reach 60-70 pounds while females weigh 55-65 pounds. It’s also important to know the ideal weights and heights at different stages in life so you can determine whether or not your dog is growing at a healthy rate. Of course, there might be some slight deviations here and there. But if your pup is way off the charts, you should consult your vet to help you keep them at a healthy growth rate.
These dogs reach their full adult size between 18 and 24 months but will continue to grow outwards, gaining mass until 2-3 years.
Several factors influence the size and growth of a Boxer. The first one is how they were bred, with show dogs typically smaller than their non-show counterparts. The second is care, environment, and diet. Of course, how you take care of your pup will determine its growth rate. For example, overfeeding and lack of exercise can lead to obesity.
Keeping your Boxer at a healthy height and weight is crucial for their longevity, happiness, and overall health.
Boxer Colors and Patterns
The Boxer is pretty interesting when it comes to color. While most breeds have many color combinations, this dog has only three possible colors. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes fawn and brindle as standard while white is non-standard. Furthermore, the Boxer comes with distinct markings on their coats. Black masks, black masks with white markings, and white markings are considered standard. Brindle and fawn markings are recognized by the AKC but not standard.
When people think of Boxers, they think of a fawn coat because that is the most popular and widely recognized color for this breed. These dogs exhibit various hues, including shades of yellow, brown, red, and even mahogany. Secondly, you have the brindle Boxer. This is not a color but a coat pattern, and it’s characterized by streaks of darker colors overlying a base color that’s usually fawn or red. The stripes can be darker or lighter or thin or thick. White Boxers are not as popular as the other two, but they exist. They are stunning but are also prone to deafness.
You may have seen Boxers that appear to be black. But the truth is this breed doesn’t possess the genes required to produce black coats. So, if you find one that is black, chances are it’s not purebred.
Shedding Levels and Grooming Routine
Boxers have a short, single coat. And although they don’t molt a large amount of fur like double-coated breeds, they are still shed considerably more than many short-coated dogs. You can expect moderate shedding throughout the year, but shedding usually increases in Spring and Fall. During this time, the Boxer will shed their old, dead hairs to regrow a new coat to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
That being said, watch out for excessive shedding. Even during seasonal shedding, your Boxer should not be shedding in clumps. Causes of excessive shedding include a poor diet, allergies, hormonal imbalances in a pregnant dog, fleas, irritated skin, etc.
Because of this dog’s short coat, they require minimal grooming. Brushing once or twice a week reduces the number of hairs you find around your house. It also removes dead hairs, leaving the coat healthy to continue its normal growth and shedding process. Remember that you may need to brush daily during the seasonal shedding to keep up with the increased shedding.
Boxers are pretty clean dogs and groom themselves as cats do. They rarely need a bath, perhaps once every 4-6 weeks, and if they get dirty before then, a quick wipe down with a towel will suffice. It’s also important to brush their teeth several times a week to help minimize dental disease and trim their nails every 4-6 weeks to reduce overgrowth. As you groom your dog, check for rashes, sores, and signs of infection such as tenderness, redness, or inflammation in the ears, nose, skin, eyes, mouth, and feet.
Energy Levels and Exercise Routine
Boxers are high-energy dogs that require plenty of exercises to stay happy and healthy. An adult dog should get 1-2 hours of daily exercise. This is quite a long time to do in one walk, so you may want to split it into three types of workouts:
- 30-60 minutes of daily walks
- 30-60 minutes of vigorous physical activity. You can take them for a run, swim, or interactive games such as play fetch, tug-of-war, and frisbee.
- 15-30 minutes of mental stimulation. Mental exercise is also tiring with the added advantage of working the mind. Agility training, puzzle toys, and scenting games are ways to provide mental stimulation.
The general recommendation of 1-2 hours of exercise is only for adult Boxers in good health. Puppies, seniors, and sick dogs will require moderate amounts of exercise. Keep in mind that Boxers have ultra-short noses. This can make breathing difficult, making it essential to monitor them during exercise to avoid overheating.
Exercise is essential in a dog’s life, so you must provide it no matter the circumstances. If your Boxer doesn’t get the required daily excess, they will have pent-up energy and find destructive ways to release it or develop behavior issues.
The Lifespan of a Boxer Dog
On average, larger dog breeds tend to have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds. This fact alone of being a large dog cuts down on the life expectancy of the Boxer. These dogs tend to live 10-12 years, although there have been records of Boxers living up to 16 years.
Boxers are generally healthy dogs, but they are prone to certain diseases affecting their lifespan or quality of life. These diseases include hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, Boxer cardiomyopathy (BCM), allergies, bloat, and degenerative myelopathy. This is not to say that your Boxer will suffer these illnesses, but you should be aware of them if you’re considering this breed, so you’re prepared if they do. Like other dogs, cancer and trauma are other significant problems among Boxers.
On the bright side, there are a couple of things you can do to extend the life span of your Boxer and give them a quality life. Start with offering proper nutrition. Regular exercise is also vital for strengthening their heart muscles and entire body. Spaying/neutering is not just for population control as it also reduces the risk of certain cancers. Most importantly, take care of your dog’s emotional health. Remember to go for regular vet visits. This will help identify any health condition in time for better treatment or management.
Are Boxer Hypoallergenic
Although some people with allergies are affected by dog hair, the main culprit is a protein in this animal’s saliva, urine, and dander. Hypoallergenic dogs are characterized by their tendency to shed less, drool less, and produce less dander, thus triggering allergies less.
Boxers still shed considerably despite their short coat, and when the hair falls off, it is covered in dander. These are already two leading causes of allergies, making this breed non-hypoallergenic. These dogs also have drooping jowls and produce a lot of saliva, which is another major cause of pet allergy. In fact, an allergic reaction due to dog saliva can be much worse than dander or fur. Boxers also groom themselves a lot with their tongues. And the saliva gets onto the fur and into the air when they shed.
If you’re still set on having a Boxer, there are several ways you can minimize the risk of an allergic reaction. Regular grooming will help capture loose hairs before they fall all over your house. Needless to say, you should do the brushing outside. Secondly, vacuum and clean your house regularly to remove allergens. While you’re at it, get a HEPA air filter to clean the air in your home. You could also seek medical attention to manage your allergies.
Giving your Boxer a wholesome diet with all the necessary nutrients is crucial to their lifelong health. As with other dogs, your Boxer’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and into their senior years. For example, puppies need an abundance of protein, calories, carbohydrates, and other nutrients to encourage healthy growth.
There are three different types of food you can give your dog. Dry kibble is the standard for most canines as it offers all the nutrition in one bag. Just note that there are many levels of quality. Wet food is delicious for most canines but is much higher in calories, quickly leading to obesity. It is better offered as a topping rather than a standalone diet for a Boxer. Another alternative is a raw diet, which eliminates harmful preservatives, artificial additives, and fillers. But then there’s the risk of potential bacteria in a raw diet.
The exact amount and type of food you should give your Boxer will depend on several factors. Adults, for starters, will require 3-5 cups of food per day, depending on their weight. A highly active dog will need more calories than a lazy one that doesn’t get a ton of exercise. When your dog is pregnant or nursing, they will need increased portions of highly nutritious foods to replenish their bodies and provide nutrition for their puppies.
Keep in mind that these dogs tend to experience flatulence and fart a lot, so watch what they eat and how fast they eat.
Are Boxers Suitable for Apartments?
Because of their high energy levels and large size, you may think that Boxers can only thrive in a large house with a huge yard. Well, that would be the ideal environment for them, but these dogs are quite versatile for the most part. They’re happy to live anywhere, provided their needs are catered for.
Whether or not a Boxer is suitable for apartment living largely depends on their personality and your lifestyle. Several characteristics make Boxers ideal for apartments. For starters, they rarely bark, which is an essential factor to consider if you share common walls with others. Secondly, they are short-haired and love to clean themselves. Since there’s limited space in apartment, this characteristic makes them suitable to live in close quarters with humans. These dogs are also highly trainable, so you can easily train them to live well in an apartment.
That being said, here are a few tips to help keep your Boxer happy and healthy in a small apartment:
- Provide plenty of physical and mental exercise, so they don’t find destructive ways to release excess energy
- Don’t leave them alone for too long
- Avoid living on the upper floors. Your dog will need plenty of breaks outside, especially when they are young; you don’t want to put so much strain on their legs or bladder.
Can Boxer Live Outside, In Cold and Hot Weather?
Some dog breeds work well under the sun, while others love the cold and the snow. The Boxer falls in between. So, unless you live in an area with absolutely perfect weather, outdoor living is not for this dog.
Boxers are quite susceptible to the cold because of their short, single coats. Frostbite and hyperthermia are just a few health concerns. Hot weather will be just as tough on their body. These dogs are brachycephalic (a short-muzzled dog with a flattened face). Their short nose doesn’t cool hot air efficiently in the summer, and they don’t have a double coat to act as insulation. Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to heatstroke, trouble breathing, and dehydration.
Another reason Boxers are not suited for outdoor living is they are family-oriented and crave companionship and attention. If you leave them out for prolonged periods, they might suffer from separation anxiety, some level of stress, behavioral issues, and even become disobedient.
This is not to say you can’t leave your Boxer outside. Even in extreme temperatures, you still need to take your dog out for exercise and go potty. In that case, keep them warm in winter with a sweater or dog coat. You also want to build them a shelter to keep them from the elements.
Boxer Dog Personality Characteristics
At first glance, the Boxer might seem like an imposing or aggressive breed, but there’s a playful spirit and welcoming demeanor behind their muscular build and commanding presence. If you take time to know them, you’ll find that they are lovable, affectionate, loyal, courageous, and energetic. They are cuddly and love giving and receiving hugs without being too clingy. They are also smart, which makes them stubborn at times. But with the proper training, you can have a well-behaved dog. That being said, remember that an individual dog’s temperament can be affected by a number of factors, including heredity, past experiences, how you treat the dog, and how well-socialized they are.
Living with Children and Family Members
Boxers have gained a well-deserved reputation for being the ideal family dog. Their most notable characteristic is their desire for human affection. They are most happy with their human family, especially children, playing and protecting them. The Boxer demonstrates patience and gentleness with children, although some do better than others.
This dog has the most playful and goofiest personality that will charm your child. And if you guys love the outdoors, the better. Seeing as they are high-energy, they will love to channel some of that energy to play, run, goof, and jump around with the rest of the family in the yard.
It’s important to note that while Boxers possess these great traits, no two dogs are the same and will have the same personality. A good example is dogs raised in a household with children will feel more comfortable around them than those not properly socialized. You also want to teach your child to treat your dog with respect and gentleness. No dog, including the friendly and patient Boxer, will like their tails and ears being pulled. Your Boxer may react to such mistreatment with a bite or some other form of aggression.
These dogs also tend to be clumsy and can unintentionally knock over kids when they are excited or playing. This can be a problem given their large size. For this reason, it’s advisable never to leave your Boxer and child alone together.
Living with Cats and Other Dogs
Boxers are generally friendly and pleasant dogs. They will easily bond and form friendships with other dogs and enjoy the company of one another. Something to watch out for is other larger dogs of the same sex. Your dog might show aggression towards such a dog because they are territorial and want to show dominance. That being said, early socialization goes a long way to preventing unwanted barking, fighting, and growling at other dogs.
When it comes to Boxers and cats living together, you can already see and feel the difference. For starters, the former is much large, proving intimidating to the cat. Additionally, the Boxer was originally bred to be catch dogs and can sometimes direct their strong prey drive at your cat or other unsuspecting animals.
This doesn’t mean these two can’t co-exist peacefully. The key is to offer early socialization and proper training. If you socialize your Boxer correctly, they will become comfortable around other animals, including cats, as well as different social situations, sounds, smells, and sights. You should also do the introduction correctly. Make sure the dog is on a leash when they first meet the cat, and after multiple interactions, you’ll notice that both animals respond better to one another as they learn more about the new member of the family.
Barking Levels of a Boxer Dog
All dogs bark, but as far as predisposition goes, Boxers are not yappy dogs. Usually, if they’re barking, it’s for a good reason. This is not to say Boxers are not vocal. Like any other dog, they produce all manner of groans, howls, and whines by which they express themselves. That being said, it is rare for their method of communication to be loud and excessive.
Some possible reasons behind your Boxer’s vocalization are physical needs such as when hungry or thirsty and emotional needs like fear, anxiety, or boredom. They could also be barking to alert you to something happening in their surroundings.
Then there’s nuisance barking, which typically arises from boredom, loneliness, distress, pent-up energy, attention-seeking, or a combination of all. Excessive barking is irritating to you and can cause problems with neighbors or landlords. If your Boxer is especially noisy, chances are they are missing something in their day-to-day habits. Some tips to avoid excessive barking include:
- Exercising the dog to release excess energy
- Training them to bark on command and teaching the quiet command
- Spending quality time with them
- Avoiding leaving them for extended periods
- Eliminating the motivation
- Providing proper socialization
Are Boxer Good Guard or Watchdogs?
You’ll typically hear the phrases guard and watchdog used interchangeably, but these are two different roles. A watchdog alerts their owner to a potential threat by barking while a guard dog can go the extra mile to neutralize the threat. Some dog breeds are better suited as watchdogs, while others can do both. Boxers fall in the latter category.
Several characteristics make Boxers excel in protection work. They are affectionate, loving, loyal, brave, and courageous. In other words, these dogs will protect their owners with their own lives. This dog has natural territorial and protective instincts that you can leverage for guarding and watching. Their large body can be quite intimidating, with plenty of powerful muscle to take cation if needed. They are strong and athletic and can easily outrun a human intruder. Last but not least, this working breed loves having a job. And guarding and watching are jobs that Boxers will be happy to take on.
That being said, a few characteristics could hold these dogs back from being excellent at guarding and watching. They aren’t big barkers and will only do so when there’s a genuine concern or potential threat. If you’re looking to cast a wide net in terms of alerts, then this dog’s selective barking may not be enough. Secondly, some guard work may require the dog to spend long hours outside surveying. As mentioned earlier, the Boxer is not a good outdoor dog.
Some dog breeds are more aggressive than others. You’ve probably heard stories of Pit Bulls and Rottweilers that show aggressive behaviors and even bite people and other dogs. So, what category does the Boxer fall under?
When you hear the name Boxer, what comes to mind is it must be a fighter dog that is prone to violence. You’ll be surprised to know that despite its large size and muscular body, the Boxer is a pretty gentle and lovely dog. They may have a strong build and domineering presence but are not really vicious.
This doesn’t mean they cannot be aggressive. No matter how small it is, any dog can be aggressive when provoked. The Boxer tends to be aggressive when they’ve not been properly socialized. They will show aggression to people and other animals because they’re afraid and unsure about them. A Boxer can also become aggressive if mistreated or improperly managed. If you cause pain to your dog or try to take their belongings away, they will react in a way that could be dangerous. Aggression could also be due to pain/illness, being protective, and showing dominance to other dogs.
Lastly, these dogs are highly active, and if not given proper outlets for their energy, they could develop behavioral problems such as aggression.
Can A Boxer Be Left Alone?
Leaving your dog at home alone is a necessary part of life and something you need to equip them early on. After all, you will not be with your dog 24/7. Even if you work from home, you may have to leave for a while to run errands. Some breeds of dogs can handle being alone better than others.
Boxers can, of course, be left alone, but the amount of time they can handle being alone will depend on several factors. All Boxers have their own tolerance; while some will be fine for up to 6 hours, others will freak within an hour. The former applies to an adult Boxer who’s been fully trained to be alone. Puppies, seniors, or sick dogs should never be left alone for such long hours.
Boxers are highly social dogs and can quickly suffer from stress and separation anxiety if constantly left for prolonged periods. Your dog will also find ways to keep themselves busy and entertained while you’re away, like dig, chew on everything, bark excessively, or try to run away.
While you can leave your Boxer for close to 4-6 hours, you’ll need to ensure they have access to food, water, shelter, and entertainment. If you have to leave for too long, you can ask a neighbor, friend, or family to watch over them or even hire a dog sitter. However, if your lifestyle involves traveling and you rarely spend time at home, this breed is not for you.
Boxer Dog Training – Easy or Hard?
Boxers are smart and will pick up commands pretty quickly. Their eagerness to please their owners means they excel at obedience tasks. But these dogs can have a stubborn streak, which means you need to be patient and consistent in your training to achieve results. They are also high-energy, especially when they are young. You want to calm them down before training with an energetic walk or play session. Be sure to keep training sessions short and precise to maximize their attention span. And always use positive reinforcement, which involves rewarding good behavior while ignoring or redirecting bad behavior.
Boxer Dog Potty Training
Potty training your dog should begin as soon as possible. The goal is to teach your Boxer not to eliminate inside, thus leaving you with a clean house and a happy household for everyone. The good news is Boxers are relatively clean dogs and pretty smart, which makes them easy to potty train.
If you’re housebreaking a puppy, their bladder and bowel muscles are not yet fully developed. Hence, they have very little control over their ability to hold it in. It’s your job as the owner to watch them constantly and make sure they don’t eliminate inside. You’ll need to take them out several times in a day, including when they wake up, after naps, after meals, after playtime, and before bed. You also want to watch for signs that they want to go potty, like squatting or lifting their legs.
On the other hand, adult Boxers who are well trained can hold their bowel for several hours, but you’ll still need to create a routine so they know when they can go. This also means sticking with the feeding and sleeping schedule.
Choose a spot outside that works well in all-weather so your dog can get used to it and associate it with doing their business. Once outside, give them a cue like saying, “Go potty.” Reward them immediately they eliminate correctly with praises or treats.
Boxer Dog Obedience Training
When you get a Boxer, they’ve likely come from an environment where there’s a pack order with brothers, sisters, moms, and dads. Even those in rescue centers have a hierarchy. If they come to live with you and there are no other dogs, they’ll think, “Well, maybe I can be in charge.” And they do try to insert dominance. Dogs, by nature, are either leaders or followers, and you want to establish right away that you are in charge. You can’t have a dog who’s large and strong charging around without any boundaries, which is where obedience training comes in.
You want to start this type of training from day one. Start with teaching them basic obedience commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ ‘wait,’ and any other that would be useful. These commands will help you guide them through what is okay and what isn’t. If you think about what’s important to your Boxer, it’s food and water, treats, toys, play exercise, attention, and affection. If you offer them all their needs and wants without expecting anything in return, it’s pretty natural for them to think humans are their servants.
It would be best to enforce some rules to show your Boxer who controls and leads the pack. For example, use commands to stop them from biting, barking, or jumping on people. It’s also important to offer plenty of exercises so they can blow off steam. A tired dog is calmer and more likely to follow the rules than a hyperactive one.
Boxer Dog Behavioral Training
Even though the Boxer is an excellent pet, negative behavior can arise. Behavior problems in these dogs can include peeing in the house, digging, biting or nipping, excessive barking, chewing on everything, trying to run away, etc.
These behaviors often come from a lack of training, making behavioral training a necessity. Begin with basic command words to teach your acceptable dog behaviors and those that aren’t. The goal is to teach the dog how to respond well in any situation. And they shouldn’t need verbal commands or even for the owner to be around. In short, it teaches your dog to be a good member of society. Socialization is key. Your Boxer needs to interact with other dogs and be in different situations, experiencing different sights, smells, and sounds. This will help them know how to react in different situations.
Lastly, if you want to break your Boxer’s bad habit, you have to be consistent about the rules you enforce. A good example is if your dog has a problem chewing, don’t offer them an old shoe to chew on and expect them to keep off your new clothing. By making exceptions, you’re just confusing the dog.
Boxer Dog Protection Training
Boxers are known for being naturally good guard dogs. They have the build and strength to chase after an intruder and a large, muscular body that can be quite intimidating. They are very loving and loyal to their owners and won’t hesitate to attack to protect them. But as mentioned earlier, certain characteristics hold them back from being excellent protection dogs, like being rare barkers. They are also too friendly, and while they can look intimidating from a distance, as soon as you get close, they want to jump on you and say hello.
This makes protection training very important. You’ll need to use obedience commands to teach them how to bark and do some territory training to show them where they need to guard. Succeed in this form of training, and you’ll have an effective deterrent, keeping you and your loved ones safe and secure.
A word of caution, though, encouraging guarding behavior is not something you want to do deliberately with a pet dog. Boxers don’t do well as protection-trained dogs in a family setting because children will easily irritate a dog. Since these dogs are trained to have short fuses, a bad bite or worse is possible.