Meet the Boxer (I want one)

Puppy A Unique Breed

The Boxer wants to meet you, your children, and other members of your family
The Boxer's most notable characteristic is his desire for human affection. Though his spirited bearing, square jaw, and cleanly muscled body suggest the well-conditioned middleweight athlete of dogdom, the Boxer is happiest when he is with people--especially children, watching protectively over their play. His short smooth coat, handsome chiseled head, and striking silhouette never fail to excite comments from passersby as he trots jauntily by your side with neck arched and tail held erect. He is truly a "dog for all seasons," suiting the need for household guardian, attractive companion, and children's playmate and loyal friend.

Origin: The Hunter
The Boxer's historical background begins in feudal Germany. Here, a small, courageous hunting dog with mastiff-type head and undershot bite was used to secure a tenacious hold on bull, boar, or bear--- pending the hunter's arrival. He became a utility dog for peasants and shop owners. His easy trainability even found him performing in the circus. In the 1880s, descendants of this type of dog were bred to a taller, more elegant English import, and the era of the modern Boxer had begun. Imported to America after the first World War, his popularity really began in the late 1930s. His appeal in the show ring led to four "Best in Show" awards at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club between 1947 and 1970.

Physical Appearance
The Boxer is a medium-sized dog ranging from 21 1/2 inches high at the shoulder in a smaller female up to 25 inches (sometimes taller) in a large male. Adult weight may reach 65-80 pounds in the male, with females about 15 pounds less. There are no miniature or giant varieties. The short, close-lying coat is found in two equally acceptable and attractive basic colors-fawn and brindle. The fawn may vary from a tawny tan to a beautiful stag red. The brindle ranges from sparse, but clearly defined black stripes on a fawn background, to such a heavy concentration of black striping that the essential fawn background color barely, although clearly, shows through (which may create the appearance of "reverse brindling").

White markings should be of such distribution as to enhance the dog's appearance, but may not exceed one-third of the entire coat. It is not uncommon to have a totally white Boxer born in a litter. An all-white coat, or a predominantly white background (known as a "check") may occur. In order to retain the beauty of the fawn and brindle colors, American Boxer Club members are pledged not to use white boxers for breeding. They may be AKC registered on the Limited (non breeding) option, and they are eligible for all performance events (Obedience, Agility, Rally, etc).

Breed Characteristics: "Beauty and Brains"
The Boxer's official classification in the "Working Group" of dogs is a natural. His keenest sense, that of hearing, makes him an instinctive guard dog, always alert. Although always vigilant, the Boxer is not a nervous breed, and will not bark without cause. He has judgment, and an uncanny sense of distinguishing between friend and intruder. One of the delightful qualities that sets the Boxer apart is the unique expressiveness of his face. The skin furrowing of the forehead, the dark, "soulful" eyes, and at times almost human attempts to "converse," make his replacement by another breed difficult for one who has owned a Boxer. He mimics the mood of his master and can spend hours quietly lying at his feet.

Finding Your Puppy
Buying From the Breeder
The conscientious breeder plans a breeding to reproduce the best characteristics of an outstanding sire or dam. His guide is the official AKC Standard of the breed---the written "blueprint" that helps keep the breed uniform for generations to come. (You can find the breed standard, revised in 2005, at the American Boxer Club web site: The more common disappointments for pet purchasers come from commercial sources--especially pet shops that often buy puppies from the infamous "puppy mills" that take little notice of the quality or health they are producing. The pet store or dog broker will sell you a puppy with a breeder’s name attached to the paperwork—but this puppy may easily have been born in a puppy mill. His sire and/or dam are nowhere on the premises. The reputable breeder, on the other hand, will not only be able to demonstrate the pedigree and registration papers, but will also show you either the sire or dam themselves, or pictures of the parent who may be owned elsewhere. Though the mere presence of "papers" does not guarantee good health, conformation, or temperament, you will most often find these attributes in the puppy who has been raised with loving care in the home or kennel of a conscientious hobby breeder.

The serious breeder often strives to produce a potential "champion." Since not all in the litter can quite reach this goal, the breeder will able to offer you a good-looking brother or sister of the show prospect at a reasonable price. Sometimes the distribution of white markings alone may make the difference between the so-called "pet" and show-potential puppy. The pet puppy will have benefited from the same proven bloodlines, nutrition, and medical care as its "champion" littermate. His breeder will have health tested the parents and done the best he can to insure good temperament, soundness, and longevity. Here is your best buy.

Your local dog show is a good source---and is one of the purposes of such shows. Boxer magazines publish ads from breeders. The American Boxer Club web site ( can direct you to breeders across the country.

At What Age Should I Buy My Puppy?
Usually any time after 7-8 weeks. Many states have regulations regarding minimum age. However, your individual circumstances must be considered. Do you have the time to spend with a very young puppy? Will someone be home to housebreak him? Would an exuberant 6-month old puppy overwhelm a tiny child? Or would he be better matched with a 6-year-old youngster? Remember too that the puppy under 3 months needs lots of time to rest. Don’t forget that adult dogs, already trained, also make ideal pets.

While much can be told at six to eight weeks about the puppy's eventual looks, if you are seeking a show prospect you might be better off waiting until the pup is six to eight months of age. At that time, be prepared to pay a higher price for all the additional time and effort that the breeder has spent raising the show
potential Boxer.

Male or Female?
This choice is a matter of personal preference. Both males and females make admirable pets. Breeding is a serious committment of time, energy, and money, and not to be taken lightly. If breeding is not anticipated, it may be appropriate to spay or neuter your dog. This procedure is best done as your Boxer approaches adolescence. Please be aware that these surgeries should be discussed with your veterinarian as to safety of anesthesia and any long term effects other than sterilization. Spayed and neutered animals are not eligible to compete in the conformation ring but may be shown in performance events.

Check this list!

  1. Tails should have been docked within a few days of birth.
  2. Optional removal of front dewclaws (fifth toes) is done at the same time. The Boxer has no rear dewclaws.
  3. Ear cropping is customary and appropriate but not required—it is a matter of personal preference. Uncropped ears are permitted under the breed standard. If cropped, this procedure is done under general anesthesia, usually between six and nine weeks of age. If the puppy is taken before cropping, the breeder usually makes arrangements. The breeder also advises regarding aftercare and taping if ears are not already standing. Sometimes this is a lengthy process.
  4. In the male, both testicles should be descended into the scrotum. They should be in place by two to three months of age. A dog with undescended testicles may still make a fine pet, though he would be ineligible to compete in the conformation show ring. Consult your veterinarian for advice.
  5. Avoid the unusually quiet, inactive puppy, or the one that might shy away from you. This might mean a fault in temperament or even ill health.
  6. Papers the Seller Should Furnish:

    a. A three or four generation pedigree signed by the seller. There should be no extra charge for this. The pedigree preferably gives the color of the sire and dam, and the AKC registration numbers of each.

    b. The registration from the AKC, which is an official document identifying your puppy's individual registration number, sex, birth date, sire and dam, and name of the breeder(s). There are two ways to register puppies for the first time:

    (1) Limited Registration
    If the puppy is not to be bred, and is being purchased only as a companion pet, the breeder may check off the Limited Registration option. This does register the puppy with the AKC. However, it does not allow any registration of offspring from the mature dog. The breeder (and only the breeder) can cancel the limited registration should the puppy at maturity be considered of breeding quality.

    (2) Full Registration
    If the puppy is considered to be of breeding quality, the seller will check off the full registration option.

  7. Records the Breeder Should Furnish:

    a. Date and type of vaccines given. Depending on the type of vaccination program started, your veterinarian will advise you on following through. Vaccination protocols are evolving even among the medical professionals.

    b. Date and agent used for worming, if done. Do not worm your puppy without consulting your veterinarian. Avoid store-bought preparations which can be dangerous.

    c. Diet your puppy has been receiving. It is well to maintain the regimen begun by the breeder, especially while the puppy is adjusting to his new home. If changes are to be made. do so very gradually, so as not to upset his system. When he is an adult it will be wise to maintain your Boxer on two smaller meals a day.

What About Obedience, Rally, or Agility Training?
Many Boxers are great successes in performance events. However, that same innate intelligence that makes him quick to learn also gives the Boxer a mind of his own. The trainer must be purposeful and patient. The well-trained Boxer is a glorious picture going through his paces in the Obedience ring, or joyously rushing through the Rally or Agility course, such trials usually being held in conjunction with dog shows. You will quickly find that your Boxer has quite a sense of humor, and may invent the most unexpected games in the course of his training and performance. Occasionally, Boxers are successful in Lure Coursing, Tracking, and other performance pursuits.

Boxers make wonderful service dogs—therapy dogs to brighten the days of shut-ins, guides for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, even seizure alert dogs for those who suffer from epilepsy. They were used as guards and couriers during war time, and perform beautifully as narcotics detectors, police dogs, and in search and rescue operations. The Boxer has an innate desire to help those in need.

Should he be confined?
The Boxer requires relatively little care, but ownership of any dog is a definite responsibility. Your Boxer should NOT be allowed to run loose. Exercise within a fenced area or on a leash should be adequate. It also prevents a potentially unpleasant encounter with a neighbor's dog or an overly effusive greeting that may frighten the small child who may not have had the chance to know how instinctively tolerant the Boxer really is. Death from automobiles, poison, or many other causes may await the Boxer who runs loose in the neighborhood. Remember, too, that improperly protected screen doors are a common mode of unexpected house exit. So-called invisible fencing is fine, but while it may keep your own dog in his yard, it will not keep other dogs out—which can be a problem in the case of overly aggressive visitors. It is also a sad but true fact of life that your Boxer may easily be confused by many with the much maligned Pit Bull, often with tragic consequences for the Boxer. You must be your dog’s best advocate and protector—a strong leash and a good fence are musts for the conscientious Boxer owner.

What about a crate?
A crate is an invaluable asset to your puppy's training and well-being. It is not a prison. A crate is a safe haven for the puppy when his owners go to work or the store, a place where his owners don't have to worry about his chewing of electrical cords or furniture. Be sure that the crate does not allow your boxer to slip his head through any wire mesh, as he may not be able to retract it. Since a puppy is loathe to soil his crate, it is a great aid in housetraining. If you leave the crate door open, you will find that the puppy will probably enter the crate voluntarily when he wants to rest. Be sure to put the crate in a warm place. The Boxer is sensitive to temperature extremes and does not enjoy drafts, summer heat, or cold. He should not be kept outdoors, but inside the house as a cherished member of the family.

Collar Considerations
Collars are always appropriate when going for a walk with the owner. However, be aware that your Boxer should not have any collar left on him when he is unattended. Even simple buckle collars can and do get caught on the most unexpected objects. They can also be twisted in the jaws of any p
layful doggy companion, with the potential for choking a very real danger. As a conscientious owner, you must beware.

How Much Grooming?
The Boxer requires very little grooming, and it can easily be done by the owner. Nails must be trimmed regularly unless naturally worn down on a hard surface. An occasional currycombing and/or bath should suffice---the Boxer has a natural tendency to keep himself clean. His neat and tidy coat does not unduly attract dirt. Tartar may have to be removed from the teeth periodically, especially as the Boxer grows older. You can learn to clean the teeth yourself, or use the services of your veterinarian.

You will want to consult with your veterinarian as to the most current vaccination protocols for your Boxer. Some practitioners are recommending fewer so-called ‘booster’ shots than were formerly commonplace. You will also need to comply with your state laws regarding Rabies vaccinations. It is wise NOT to give multiple vaccinations on the same day, but to space them a few weeks apart so as not to challenge your Boxer’s immune system unnecessarily.

Heartworm Prevention
Heartworm has unfortunately become rather commonplace throughout the USA. You will need to protect your Boxer from acquiring this parasitic disease, spread by the bite of the simple mosquito. Once-a-month preparations are available, as well as the daily pill (now being manufactured by private labs). Beware that there can be serious side effects from any such medication: consult your veterinarian.

The Ubiquitous Flea
The annoying, persistent and fast-multiplying flea is a bloodsucking insect. It carries disease and acts as an intermediate host to the tapeworm.

There are no easy solutions to controlling fleas. In addition to the dog, his environment must be treated. But remember, almost all flea products contain certain toxic chemicals and must be used with caution. So-called natural preparations may be equally toxic. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice, and pay particular attention to the safety of treatments for young puppies and adults alike.

Despite a breeder’s best efforts, Boxers do sometimes suffer from conditions to which the breed seems to be predisposed. In many instances, diagnosis and treatment will effect a cure or symptomatic relief.

Like many breeds of dogs, Boxers are subject to heart ailments. These include congenital anomalies as well as acquired disease later in life. Boxer heart disease usually falls into two important categories: aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy.

Aortic Stenosis
This is a congenital condition, a narrowing or constriction of the outflow tract from the left ventricle to the aorta. It can be detected as a systolic murmur by your veterinarian in young puppies and older dogs. Sometimes the murmur will not show up until the dog reaches enough physical size for the constriction to become evident.

This murmur must be distinguished from other types of murmurs, often so-called innocent flow murmurs that disappear as the puppy grows. There is no practical surgical treatment, and if the condition results in arrhythmias, antiarrhythmic therapy is usually instituted. Mild forms of the anomaly may go undetected and are not incompatible with a normal life span.

Cardiomyopathy is an electrical-conduction disturbance (sometimes referred to as ARVC--Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy), a condition of the heart muscle itself causing abnormal electrical impulses to disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm. This arrhythmia may lead to sudden death or heart failure. Symptoms include weakness and/or collapse. Arrhythmias can be brought on by certain poisons, infections (notably parvovirus), severe uremia, diabetes, and heatstroke. However, in Boxers they most often occur due to no known cause. Heredity undoubtedly plays a key role. Boxer breeders around the world are frustrated that there is at present no way to diagnose the propensity for this condition in asymptomatic dogs. A 24 hour Holter monitor, recording the heart’s activity for this period of time, may be needed to diagnose potentially life threatening arrhythmias.

Boxers are at risk for a variety of cancers. These include benign and malignant skin lesions as well as cancers affecting the brain,,thyroid, mammary glands, testes, heart, spleen, blood, lymph system (lymphoma), and other organs. Benign skin tumors usually respond to simple surgical excision under local anesthesia.

Malignancies require treatment specific to the cancer itself, and vary widely. As in humans with cancers, dogs are treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation. Great advancements have been made in treatment protocols and survival times, but there is no way to predict whether your Boxer will develop cancer in his lifetime. It is prudent to be alert to any unusual growths or medical developments, especially as your Boxer ages. Consult with your veterinarian immediately if you notice anything suspicious. Early detection is important to long term survival.

Of recent years, incidences of Degenerative Myelopathy have been widely reported in Boxers of middle and advanced age. DM is a neurological disease affecting the spinal cord and nerves coordinating the rear quarters. Over time, dogs lose the ability to walk, become incontinent, and are most often euthanized at this point. DM is a sad disease in that the patient remains mentally alert; there is no pain; and yet, keeping such an animal happy poses special challenges There are custom carts designed to allow some patients to regain a degree of mobility. Research suggests that certain medications and herbal supplements may retard the progression of the disease.

Hip Dysplasia is a developmental disease of the hip joint that affects many breeds of dogs. The head of the femur (thigh bone) and the acetabulum (hip socket) become incompatible; the joint weakens and loses proper function. Reluctance to engage in strenuous physical activity, lameness and pain are all possible signs of dysplasia, usually manifested between the ages of 4 months to 1 year.

X-rays are definitively diagnostic and will show evidence of abnormal joint laxity. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms of pain and includes drug therapy and/or surgery. Hip dysplasia is thought to be hereditary, but other factors such as diet and conditioning cannot be ruled out. Dogs older than 2 years can have their x-rays evaluated and may be registered free of the disease
by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) in Columbia, Missouri (

This condition may be caused by thyroid tumors or a primary malfunction of the thyroid itself. The deficient thyroid may have an effect on many organ systems, including the heart. Symptoms may include excessive hair thinning, obesity, anemia, infertility, and lethargy. Diagnosis is confirmed by a complete thyroid panel blood test. Oral doses of thyroid hormones will alleviate most symptoms and will probably need to be given for the duration of the dog’s life. Luckily, thyroid therapy is relatively inexpensive and effective.

Remember, many Boxers can and do live long and healthy lives. Nonetheless, it is important for owners to be alert to ills that may befall their beloved pets, so as to institute treatment as soon as possible and/or wise. Your veterinarian is your best ally, and it is important to choose a practitioner that has a good knowledge of any breed-specific ailments that may be encountered.

The American Boxer Club
A member of the American Kennel Club, the American Boxer Club was founded in 1935 and is the parent organization of nearly sixty regional clubs throughout the United States. Individuals belonging to these clubs are dedicated to preserving the desirable qualities of the Boxer as set forth in the breed Standard. Your local club may be found through the ABC Website or by contacting the secretary of the American Boxer Club whose name and address may also be found at this same URL:

The American Boxer Club Charitable Foundation
Begun in 1995, the non-profit ABCF is dedicated to the health and welfare of the breed. To that end, it seeks donations for educational and medical research projects to benefit the Boxer. Approved research grants are eligible for matching funds from the AKC Canine Health Foundation. To date, the American Boxer Club is the largest single breed contributor to the AKC’s CHF. To donate, and/or learn more, go to

Despite our best efforts, some Boxers do not fall into good hands and end up in need of Rescue. Volunteers all over the USA are organized at the local level to take in those unfortunate dogs that need special care and placement. Sometimes, the Rescue organization spells the difference between another chance at a good life and euthanasia at a shelter. If you know a dog in need of Rescue, have one to surrender, or want to adopt, go to the American Boxer Club web site at Follow the links to Boxer Resources, and Rescue in your area.

Staying in Touch
It is very advisable to maintain a relationship with your puppy's breeder. The breeder can be an invaluable friend to you throughout your Boxer's life, and can advise you about care and health matters that are unique to the breed.

Bringing a puppy or even an older dog into your home and your life is a major decision. It brings with it responsibility and commitment, but it also renders supreme joy, laughter, and sadly, but inevitably, tears. No one of us who has ever shared his life with a Boxer would have it any other way.

     The Boxer Review -
     The Boxer Ring -
     The American Kennel Club Gazette -

     Abraham, Stephanie - The Boxer: Family Favorite (2000)
     Abraham, Stephanie- Boxer—An Owner’s Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet (1996)
     Beauchamp, Richard - Boxers for Dummies (2000)
     McFadden, Billie - The New Boxer (1989)
     Tomita, Richard - The New Owner’s Guide to Boxers (1996)
     Tomita, Richard - World of the Boxer (1998)

Web Sites
     American Boxer Club -
     American Boxer Charitable Foundation -
     American Boxer Club Reference List -
     American Kennel Club -
     American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation -
     Boxer Underground -
     Rescue -
         Follow the links to Rescue in your area.

© Copyright 2006 American Boxer Club, Inc.