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Never judge a book by its cover. I don’t know who first uttered this somewhat cliched phrase, but there’s never been a truer statement, especially as it applies to our featured furball. We’re shining the spotlight on a canine that has a tough exterior, but a tender heart.
Come with us as we take a closer look at the reasons why the Boxer is such a knockout.
The Boxer was originally developed in Germany in the late 19th century from a descendant of the Mastiff called the Bullenbeiser. Bullenbeiser were used for hunting by aristocrats on their expansive estates to catch and detain big game such as wild boar, bear, deer, and bison.
In the early 1800s, Germany saw a shift in political structure. The nobility fell out of favor, their estates were broken up, hunting expeditions came to a halt, and the heyday of the Bullenbeiser ended rather abruptly. Eventually, butchers and farmers began to use the breed for driving and guarding cattle.
The modern-day Boxer was created when a man from Munich named Georg Alt, bred a Bullenbeiser named Flora with a dog of unknown origin, said to have been called “Boxer.” From this litter came a pup named Lechner’s Box, the sire of the line that has become the Boxer we know today. The American Kennel Club registered its first Boxer in 1904.
With the onset of World War I, the Boxer took on several roles in the military including (but not limited to) guard dog, attack dog, messenger, and pack-carrier. They continued to serve in these capacities during World War II, and many of these canine troopers were brought to America by soldiers returning home after the war ended, spurring a surge in the Boxer’s popularity.
What’s in a name? Well, apparently not a definitive answer. There is much speculation on where the breed got its name. Some think it was passed down from its ancestors, and others think the name refers to how the breed balances on its hind legs and “spars” with its front paws when playing or protecting themselves. Whatever the case, the Boxer has ranked as one of the top ten most popular breeds in the U.S. since the 1950’s.
Furry fact: The Boxer solidified its popularity in the U.S. in 1951, when a Boxer named Bang Away won the Westminster Dog Show.
Size and Appearance
The solidly built, barrel-chested Boxer cuts an imposing figure, standing 21 to 25 inches, with a “fighting weight” (hey, give me a break, we are talking about Boxers) between 55 and 75 pounds. And although it has muscular physique that can prove intimidating to both people and other pets, the true nature of the Boxer can be seen in its deep, soulful eyes.
Thought to be one of the more handsome canines, it is a brachycephalic breed, which means it has a short, wide skull. This type of structure typically makes the face appear flat, but the Boxer’s square muzzle is a feature that sets it apart from other dogs of this type. A slight underbite rounds out the list of characteristics that gives this dapper doggy its dashing good looks.
The Boxer coat comes in shades of fawn (which range from yellow, to honey blonde, to rusty tan, and mahogany) and brindle (fawn stripes on a black base color). The chest, underbelly and feet are commonly splotched with White “flash” markings, which provides a nice contrast to the rest of the body.
Roughly 20 to 25 percent of Boxers are white. Over the years, many of them have been euthanized because some breeders think it is unethical to sell a dog with a “fault” and others justify their actions by pointing out that these Boxers have a greater risk of being abandoned.
Furry Fact: The record for the longest “tongue on a dog” is held by a Boxer named Brandy whose tongue measured a whopping 17 inches long.
Temperament and Family Life
One would expect a dog called the Boxer to be aggressive, but this super-sociable, clownish canine is anything but. The Boxer is a protective, incorrigible lover—not a fighter…unless it needs to be.
Boxers make wonderful family members. They’re playful and spirited, with just the right amount of patience to deal with kids of all ages, from toddlers to teens. And while they respond in kind to friendly, familiar faces, they tend to be leery of strangers and protective of their homes and those closest to them. Most Boxers are so clingy that the breed has earned a reputation as a Velcro dog. Boxers love to love and be loved—they will only become aggressive when they think their family or territory is being threatened.
Early socialization is the best way to make sure your puppy grows into an outgoing, affectionate, well-balanced dog. Exposing your pup to different people, animals, places and experiences is essential to their psychological development.
Intelligence and Training
According to Stanley Coren’s, The Intelligence of Dogs, which ranks dogs in terms of their trainability, the Boxer ranks 90th out of 138 dog breeds. Based on this ranking, it may seem as though the Boxer is near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to brains, but a dog’s trainability is like “book smarts” in humans —it’s only a portion of what makes up their overall intelligence. Trainability aside, the Boxer receives high marks for instinctive intelligence and adaptability—what’s known in humans as “street smarts.”
Because Boxers are big, strong dogs that are completely unaware of their size and strength, it is imperative that they are trained at an early age. Considered a “Peter Pan” breed, they don’t reach maturity until about three years old, which can add another degree of difficulty when they’re being trained. Young Boxers can be excitable, mischievous, and slightly stubborn but these personality traits are easily balanced by their desire to please us.
To properly train your Boxer, you must be firm, fair, consistent, and instead of punishing your pup for bad behavior reward them with treats, toys, or affection. It is also a good idea to take your best friend for a walk or let them have a little play time to burn off some energy before each training session. It’ll be easier for them to focus once they’ve gotten it out of their system.
Furry Fact: Boxers were once popular as circus performers.
Speaking of exercise…your Boxer will need a lot of it. They are a very muscular breed and don’t handle boredom well, so they require what we would call a “beast mode” workout. There, I said it.
It is recommended that your canine companion get at least two hours of activity each day. Two half-hour walks, or a one hour hike supplemented with free play, agility training, fetch, or a good session of tug of war, should provide your pup with the right amount of exercise to keep them in excellent physical shape.
Because Boxers have compressed, flat faces, it can be harder for them to breathe in hot, humid weather, or when it’s cold and dry. Be sure to watch for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including heavy panting, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, fatigue, agitation, rapid heartbeat, lack of coordination, a dazed look, drooling, vomiting, retching, diarrhea, lack of urination, muscle cramping, tremors, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
To keep your Boxer mentally stimulated, you can play scenting games, give them chew toys (to release stress and endorphins) such as the KONG Goodie Bone Dog Toy, or teach them new commands and tricks.
Health and Lifespan
Boxers live an average of 10 to 12 years and are a generally healthy breed, but like any other breed, they’re susceptible to certain health problems.
Hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, demodectic mange (which is caused by a mite that is passed on from a mother to pups), and corneal dystrophy (a general reference to several eye diseases), are non-life threatening conditions that can be managed with treatment.
More serious conditions common in Boxers include cancers like lymphoma, brain cancer and mast cell tumors. Bloat and heart defects like cardiomyopathy, aortic and sub-aortic stenosis are other potentially fatal illnesses that Boxers are prone to.
White Boxers can get sunburn and are more susceptible to skin cancer. If your Boxer is white or light-colored, be sure to apply sunscreen before they go outside.