11 Things You Should Know about the Boxer

Intelligence. Protection. Devotion. Great with your kids.

If you’re looking for the breed that embodies all the best characteristics of a dog, you might want to start – and end – your search with the Boxer.

The breed didn’t really begin to gain popularity in the United States until the late 1940s, but once it caught the eye of the public, it’s been beloved ever since. It’s currently number ten in popularity on the AKC’s list of recognized breeds.

What makes this dog so sought after? And is it the right dog for you and your family? Read on to find out.

They are cousins to the Bulldog breed.

They both trace their origins back to the molossus breed, a war dog of the ancient Greeks and Romans. You can see the family resemblance to one another in the way the skin folds on their faces.

Compare this image to one of a Bulldog and you will see the family resemblance. Most obvious is the excess folds of skin, but also note the large wide-set eyes, the perky ears, and the upturned nose.

They have won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club four times.

Being a four-time champion means that the boxer is number seven on the list of all-time winners. They won in 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1970.

This is a really strong dog.

It’s average height (23-25 inches for a male and 21.5-23.5 for a female) and weight (65-80 pounds for a male and about 15 less than that for a female) might seem to put it in firmly in the category of medium-sized dogs. And it is, but the Boxer is different than other dogs of its size in that it is very compact and lean and almost entirely muscle. As such, it’s very strong and should be monitored around small children and people who are unsteady on their feet as this breed may not really know how strong it is. It doesn’t usually mean to be aggressive, but often its exuberance gets the better of its behavior.

This picture shows the muscles of the breed in detail. You can also see that there is not much fat on the dog, and by the way the dog is pointing and pulling on the leash, you can see her strength and power inherent to the breed.

The breed originated in Europe.

Drawings of dogs that bear a strong resemblance to the Boxer actually date back to 2,500 B.C., but the breed as we know it today formally came into existence in the late 1800s. It’s a descendant of the “Bullenbiesser” (literally translated to “bull biter”) that was a big game hunter in northeast Belgium, but it was streamlined into today’s Boxer in Germany in the early 1900s.

They are extremely intelligent.

This is a breed that is really smart and wants to please you as its owner. That’s a great combination and one that can lead to a very well-trained dog as long as you are willing to do the work along with the dog. Boxers are so intelligent that they have been trained as service, therapy, search-and-rescue, and drug detection dogs.

Precisely because they’re so smart, they really need to be trained.

All dogs benefit from training, but because this breed is so intelligent, they need it more than others. You may have heard that a bored dog is a destructive dog, and that is definitely the case for the Boxers. Take advantage of how smart they are and train them early and keep at it.

Winston was a rescue dog and has been treat-trained so that he is now well-behaved. He looks to his owner before taking action and he is always adequately rewarded with treats when he does the right thing.

They got their name from the way their paws move.

If you look at their paws and how they move while the dog is playing or when it’s getting ready to defend itself, you’ll see that they move around much like someone who spars during a boxing match. And so that’s where they got their name.

They need to run – but don’t ever let go of the leash.

Boxers are definitely a high-energy breed. They need a good amount of exercise every date to get that energy out in a constructive way. However, this is a breed that comes from a line of hunting dogs. They need to be in a fenced-in backyard or secured on a leash. Beware that if you drop the leash, the dog will run.

I witnessed this firsthand when I was photographing these Boxers. The owner accidentally clipped the leash to Lucy’s rabies tag and not her actual collar. Lucy saw a squirrel, yanked at the leash, the thin wire the leash was clipped to bent, and off she went. It took her owner and me about 30 minutes to grab her because she treated her escape like one big game.

They love kids.

It’s been said that this is a dog that is happiest when he’s with his people, especially children. That love of kids puts the dog on the AKC’s list of the top ten breeds to own if you have kids. The breed is protective of children, and the owner of the dogs that I photographed relayed a story to me highlighting that protectiveness.

She said that her family owned a Boxer that would accompany them on family trips to a lake. And when one of the small children who was with her family would start to wander towards the lake, the dog, who had been lying with the family, would get up and herd the child back to the group before lying down again. It was all gentle and loving and showed just how much the dog cared for the child.

They make great watchdogs.

While this breed is known to be outgoing and friendly, the dogs are also known to be very protective of their owners. This makes them great watchdogs for your family and home. The good news is that once you as the owner introduce a guest or stranger to your Boxer, he will accept that person in the house, unlike other protective breeds that struggle with letting anyone near their owners.    

From the moment that I rang the bell, Winston kept a close eye on me. Literally. He did not move from the window next to the door until his owner opened the door to greet me.

For further evidence of their watchdog ability, check out this video. Winston is more concerned with keeping an eye on me right after I met him than he is with playing with his favorite toy.

You need to watch out for certain health issues.

For all the great things about this breed, they can have more health issues than other dogs. If you’re interested in buying a puppy, which can set you back anywhere from $1,000-$2,000, make sure you ask the breeder about any health problems that have existed in the dog’s family tree. In particular, you’re looking for issues with hip dysplasia, heart problems, thyroid concerns, eye ulcers, and certain cancers.

Eye ulcers are common in the breed. In fact, their formal name is indolent corneal ulcers, but they are actually known informally as Boxer ulcers. The ulcer is thought to be a defect in the cornea, where the layers fail to correctly adhere to one another. Treatments include surgery, topical ointment, or yes, even a doggie contact lens of sorts.

Bogie & Bacall gave these dogs their first taste of fame.

When movie star Humphrey Bogart married his leading lady Lauren Bacall in 1945, they were given a Boxer as a wedding present. The dog, named Harvey, was often shown in their family photos and the couple’s adoring public fell in love with the eyes and beauty of their new canine companion. The couple went on to adopt two more of the same breed during their time together, George and Baby.

Could the Boxer be right for you and your family? Talk to a breeder or a rescue organization and see if this high-energy, highly lovable dog is a good fit. And if you think it will be, prepare to have a great relationship with a fantastic dog.

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