The Boxer is quite a character. Mischievous by nature and filled to the brim with love and energy, these dogs can make wonderful and entertaining members of the family. The worried-faced Boxer often seems to consider itself (and everything else) to be indestructible, it loves nothing more than a good outdoor playtime session, regularly colliding with everyone and everything in its path! They can be variations of brown or brindle with a couple of distinctive white markings, often on the chest, but may also be completely white.
The breed stems from a now extinct German hunting dog that was used to help capture large game, the Bullenbeisser. Although it had the characteristic shortened face, this dog was stockier and larger; modernisation of the breed has led to a lighter framed dog.
- Energetic and happy dogs
- Obedient when trained
- Simple coat care
- Enjoys being active
- Require lots of exercise
- Can be stubborn
- Risk of heart disease
- Risk of gastric dilatation and volvulus
Although it has ancestral ties to a hunting dog, the Boxer is no longer used for this purpose. Athletic, intelligent and trainable, nowadays the breed is so versatile as to be found as readily on the battlefield with the armed forces, as it is in the showing ring. These dogs can thrive in agility classes, and love active games. It can be a suitable family dog if trained appropriately, although they may be too boisterous around toddlers.
- Needs plenty of exercise
- Outdoor space is a must
- Ideal for active individuals, couples or families
- Requires a fairly robust family and environment – high propensity for charging around!
- Ideal working companion for police or military services, or as an assistance dog
Perhaps families with older children who also have energy to burn would find the Boxer a welcome addition.
Breed care advice
The most important aspects of Boxer care are providing adequate exercise and Boxer-proofing the home! The breed is very affectionate and can be a joy to own, but without enough activity it can end up resorting to frustration behaviours including chewing, overactivity around the house and jumping up. Remember, it’s a big dog and it needs to burn energy every day, this is why these dogs are best suited to homes with plenty of outdoor space and owners with time to spare for lots of walks, games and ideally some form of applied training, like agility. Life is a game for this playful breed, which is why it’s so important to lay down good foundations in obedience training from the beginning, and teach him what behaviours are and are not acceptable in different situations. This will help shape a much more manageable dog for the home, and minimise any destructive or boisterous behaviours.
Coat care is fairly simple, weekly brushing should be enough to keep on top of any shedding. Additionally, as the modern-day Boxer should have a long tail, be sure to keep a check on the tip to make sure it’s not getting damaged from its endless wagging!
Known health problems
As wonderful as the breed is, they are known to suffer from various health problems, it’s important to be aware of these so any signs can be picked up as early as possible.
Boxers are particularly susceptible to heart disease. The breed can get a form of hereditary heart disease known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) – Boxer Cardiomyopathy. The right ventricular muscle becomes filled with fatty or fibrous tissue, leading to arrhythmias and progressive heart failure. Dogs might appear normal in the early stages, but later on it can cause fainting, weakness, coughing; it may cause sudden death at any time. ARVC can often be managed by regulating the heart rhythm using medication. Other heart problems include dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and aortic stenosis (AS/SAS). In DCM, dilation of the heart in some large breed dogs leads to heart failure, whilst in AS/SAS there is obstruction to blood flow from the heart, leading to a murmur (abnormal noise within the heart) and, in some dogs, fainting (syncope) and arrhythmias.
- Heart conditions – including Boxer cardiomyopathy, valve diseases such as AS/SAS and DCM
Spontaneous chronic corneal epithelial defects (SCCEDs) – poorly healing eye ulcers that can be difficult to treat
- Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) – deep chested breeds are at risk of the stomach becoming twisted and dilated, this is a surgical emergency
- Mast Cell Tumours – Boxers are reported to be at increased risk of malignant mast cell tumours, that appear at a younger age than in most dogs.
- Degenerative myelopathy (DM) – progressive neurological disorder causing ataxia (an abnormal, uncoordinated movement) and paralysis
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative or granulomatous colitis (GC) – individual susceptibility to invasive bacteria can lead to blood-tinged, mucousy diarrhoea, straining and weight loss.
Lead author: Yvette Bell MRCVS