The Boxer is an athletic, short-haired breed that originated in Germany. These fairly large dogs, weighing on average around 70 pounds (32 kg), are intensely loyal to their owners and make great companions for individuals and families.
They make excellent guard dogs, though they dislike being left alone. Boxers eventually mellow with age, but they remain playful and as active as their health allows.
Life span: 12 – 14 years
- Females: 21 to 23.5 inches
- Males: 22.5 to 25 inches
- Females: 50 to 65 pounds
- Males: 65 to 80 pounds
- Mastiff (bulldog)
- Livestock Dog
Common Health Issues:
- Hip dysplasia
- Gastric torsion
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Fold dermatitis
Boxer Breed Origin
The Boxer breed originated in Germany during the late 19th century. It is thought that this breed was the result of a cross between the Bullenbeisser (a Mastiff descent dog) and English Bulldogs. The Bullenbeisser is an extinct dog breed that was used for hunting for centuries.
Bullenbeisser dogs would chase bears, wild boars, and deer and hold the prey until the hunter arrived. As Bullenbeisser became smaller the Brabanter Bullenbeisser developed. It is widely accepted that Boxers descended directly from Brabanter Bullenbeisser dogs.
Boxers were introduced to other parts of Europe in the late 19th century and to the United States around the turn of the 20th century. The Boxer was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904. During World War I, Boxers were used for military work as messengers, pack-carriers, and guard dogs.
This breed became more popular after World War II when they were taken home by soldiers and became part of many families. Nowadays, Boxers are the 10th most common dog breed in the United States, according to the AKC. They are one of the favorite companion dog breeds and are commonly seen in dog shows. Boxers are also used as guard dogs.
It is not clear where the name Boxer came from. Some people claim that this breed was named after their tendency to use their front legs in fighting as if they were boxing. However, many people find this explanation unlikely and claim that the name Boxer means ‘prize-fighter’ in Germany and that the name was bestowed in appreciation of the fighting qualities of the breed rather than its technique. There are many other explanations for the possible origin of this name.
Boxer Physical Characteristics
According to the AKC, the ideal Boxer is a medium-sized, square-built dog of good substance with a short back, strong limbs, and tight-fitting coat. Boxers have well-developed muscles that appear smooth under taut skin.
They are a beautiful combination of strength and agility with elegance and style.
- Robust and muscular body type. Boxers have wide bones, wide shoulders, muscular legs, and moderate-sized feet. They are sturdy with balanced musculature. Males have larger bones than females.
- Coat: Their coat has short and shiny hair. The most common colors of Boxers are fawn and brindle. Fawn shades vary from light tan to mahogany. There are also white Boxers. However, Boxers of this color have a high incidence of deafness and breeding them should be discouraged.
- Head. Boxers have a characteristic blunt muzzle that should be in harmonious proportion with the skull. The AKC Boxer breed standard states that the muzzle of a Boxer should be one-third the length of the head and two-thirds of the width of the skull. They usually have wrinkles that appear on the forehead when the ears are erect and are always present from the lower edge of the muzzle.
- Expression. Boxers have an intelligent and alert expression.
- Eyes. Their eyes should be dark brown, frontally placed and not too small or too protruding. Boxers’ eyes give them a unique quality of expressiveness.
- Ears. The AKC suggests that the ears of Boxers should be cropped, but they also include guidelines for uncropped ears. According to the breed standard, Boxers should have ears that are moderate in size, thin, lying flat and close to the cheeks in repose, but falling forward with a definite crease when alert.
- Tail. The AKC states that the tail of Boxers should be docked. However, Pet Insurance U, as well as many veterinary medicine professionals, strongly oppose to performing cosmetic surgical procedures in animals. The American Veterinary Association (AVMA) states that “performing a surgical procedure for cosmetic purposes implies the procedure is not medically indicated…there is no obvious benefit to our patients in performing this procedure…the only benefit that appears to be derived from cosmetic tail docking of dogs is the owner’s impression of a pleasing appearance.” You can read more about the welfare implication of tail docking here.
To read more about the Boxer’s breed standard, download the Official Standard of the Boxer by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Boxer Common Health Concerns
Despite their vigorous and active nature, Boxers have relatively short lifespans, averaging only 10 years, and are especially at risk for several canine illnesses:
- Hip Dysplasia. Canine hip dysplasia is an inherited issue that stems from an abnormal looseness in the ball and socket joint of the dog’s hip. When the femoral head doesn’t fit snugly into the socket, or acetabulum, the components rub irregularly on each other and can eventually cause a deformation of the bone, resulting in pain and arthritis. Depending on the severity of the condition and the age of your dog, treatment options can range from exercise and weight reduction to hip replacement surgery. Owners are urged to ask breeders for confirmation that the hips of the parents are not affected, though this does not guarantee that puppies will not develop dysplasia.
- Gastric Torsion. Bloat in dogs is commonly known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus or more simply as ‘GDV.’ Volvulus refers to the twisting motion of the bloated stomach causing air to be trapped with no release. This life-threatening condition occurs mainly in large breeds. GDV occurs when the stomach becomes distended within the abdomen, compromising the organs around the stomach. Symptoms include a bloated abdomen, drooling, and unproductive vomiting. Without immediate treatment, usually surgery, a dog stands a good chance of dying.
- Entropion. This congenital condition occurs when the dog’s upper or lower eyelids roll inward toward the inside of the eye. Boxers with this condition will show visible signs of abnormally rolled eyelids, pain, and swelling of eyes. Treatment consists of surgical replacement of the eyelid. If left untreated, entropion may lead to corneal ulceration and vision loss.
- Elbow Dysplasia. Medium and large breeds are particularly prone to elbow dysplasia, which occurs when the bones that form the elbow joint do not fit properly. Boxers who suffer from elbow dysplasia usually show lameness of the forelimbs, thickening of the elbow, and pain. Treatment usually consists of pain and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and surgical correction, whenever possible.
- Fold Dermatitis. Dogs with wrinkles or folds are prone to developing skin irritation and infection. It is important to keep the wrinkles of your dog clean and dry to avoid bacterial growth.
- Deafness. Deafness is defined as a partial or complete hearing loss. Levels of hearing impairment vary from a mild to a total loss of hearing. Dogs with white pigmentation, such as white Boxers, have a high incidence of deafness. It is not recommended to breed these dogs.
- Colitis. Boxers are prone to the inflammation of the inner lining of the intestines. While the cause of the condition in most dogs is often whipworms or fungal infections, boxers are highly susceptible to the condition for unknown reasons.
- Boxer Cardiomyopathy. This is a genetic disorder characterized by an abnormal heartbeat that can lead to an enlargement of the right side of the heart, reduced capabilities to pump blood out to the rest of the body, and congestive heart failure. Symptoms include lethargy and weakness; diagnosis is confirmed by electro- and echocardiography. Treatment involves administration of drugs that control the heart’s rhythm. A genetic test is now available, but it has not proved entirely reliable.
- Hypothyroidism. This condition occurs when a dog’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, resulting in a lack of the necessary hormones that the thyroid produces. Symptoms include hair loss, skin problems, weight gain, and lethargy. Blood analysis is used to confirm the presence of the disease; treatment involves daily administration of an artificial hormone to replace what the thyroid no longer produces.
|Health Condition||Risk Profile||Avg. Treatment Cost|
|Hip dysplasia||Medium||$1,500 to $6,000|
|Gastric torsion||Medium||$1,000 to $3,000|
|Entropion||High||$305 to $1,490|
|Elbow dysplasia||Medium||$1,550 to $6,025 per elbow|
|Fold dermatitis||High||$120 to $380|
|Deafness||High in white Boxers||$115 to $2,507
|Colitis||High||$75 to $100|
|Boxer Cardiomyopathy||High||$450 to $1,100|
You can learn more about this is other genetic diseases in Boxers and other breeds on the Guide to Congenital and Heritable Disorders in Dogs published by The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
Above all, Boxers are loyal to their masters. They are characterized by an alert expression that reflects their steadfast and tractable temperament. Those who have lived with a Boxer would say that they are fun, loving, bright, active, and loyal.
Boxers are excellent companion dogs for individuals and families, as well as excellent guard dogs. This breed bonds closely with the family. Boxers need a lot of human companionship. An active family is the best fit for them. They generally get along well with people in their families, but they can be a little wary when it comes to strangers.
Their working dog heritage makes them very active dogs—they like to play and spend a good amount of time leaping about. As young dogs, they are constantly in need of correction to teach them to stay “down.” Boxers need daily exercise.
Some people may consider Boxers stubborn, but they are exceptionally sensitive and responsive to training. Firm and consistent training starting at a young age is highly recommended.
Training is essential for Boxers. They are big, strong, and exuberant. When not trained properly, Boxers can accidentally hurt people or other dogs. Their temperament plays a role in their trainability. They need a firm and constant training method combined with positive motivation. It is a good idea to take your Boxer for a walk or play session before going to a training class since this will help him or her burn out some energy and focus on the training session.
Boxers are smart, easy to train dogs. They should be socialized and trained as early as possible. Boxers are strong dogs, so they can become destructive if not trained appropriately. It is a good idea to train Boxer puppies to heel on the leash so that they do not bolt out doorways and gateways before their masters. This will teach them who is the pack leader. Boxers need a great amount of mental and physical stimulation. If left alone for long periods of time, Boxers can become destructive.
Boxers do not require much grooming. They have a short and smooth coat that is easy to groom. It is recommended to brush them once or twice a week to remove dead hair. Boxers shed their undercoat twice a year (during the spring and fall shedding seasons). Baths can take place every two to four weeks depending on your dog’s lifestyle. The only other grooming required is nail trimming, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing.
Pay special attention to the wrinkles when you bathe your Boxer — they should always be clean and dry. You should clean your Boxer’s wrinkles various times a week using a damp cloth or a baby wipe and then dry them thoroughly. When wrinkles are moist, they become an excellent place for bacteria and fungi to grow and this may lead to dermatitis and pyoderma (skin inflammation due to bacterial or fungal infection).
Energy & Exercise
Training is definitely necessary because this breed has a lot of energy and exuberance. The working heritage of Boxers means that they are very active dogs. This breed needs a great amount of physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. When not exercised properly, Boxers can become destructive.
In order to meet their exercise needs, you can take your Boxer on daily walks, jogs or runs. Remember to keep your dog walking beside or behind you, that way your dog will learn that you are the pack leader. If possible, teach your Boxer to do a job around the house. For example, you can teach him or her to bring you the newspaper every morning. Having daily chores will keep your dog busy. To prevent obesity, feed your Boxer according to his or her physical activity level.
Nutrition & Feeding
Your best options for feeding your Boxer are commercial dry (kibble) or canned dog food, and homemade meals. There are several types of commercial dog foods—how should you choose the best one for your dog? You should consider your dog’s size, age, and activity level. It is important to understand that dogs, just like us, need a nutritionally balanced meal with an appropriate amount of calories.
Dog food contains a combination of ingredients, including meat, grains, vitamins, minerals, fats, and byproducts. This combination is balanced to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs. If you prefer to feed your Boxer a homemade meal, you should make sure it is nutritionally balanced.
Dr. Paula Terifaj from Founders Veterinary Clinic in California has developed a nutritionally balanced homemade dog recipe that you can use to feed your dog. You should consult your dog’s veterinarian before you start feeding your dog with homemade meals.
The amount of food that your Boxer should eat depends on the calories on that food. In general, if you are feeding a high-quality commercial dog food, your dog will need to eat less to get the amount of calories that he or she needs. To determine how much of a particular food you should feed your Boxer, read the label on the dog food packaging or call the manufacturer for the information you need.
Boxer Pet Insurance
Despite their vigorous and active nature, Boxers have relatively short lifespans, averaging only 10 years. In addition, Boxers are known to suffer from a number of health conditions.
There is no way to know if your Boxer will suffer from any of these illnesses, but the possibility is always there. You should also consider that every dog will require special care as he or she gets older. The right pet health insurance plan can help keep you from the added burden of financial worries when your dog requires medical care.
When choosing your pet insurance plan, it is a good idea to check if it covers the hereditary conditions mentioned above. Taking this precaution can save you lots of money and headaches.
The following pet insurance companies allow you to choose a plan that covers hereditary or breed-specific conditions, such as Boxer cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, and deafness:
Knowing in advance that their dogs are prone to these and other problems, responsible owners make sure that they will be able to afford treatment for any and all health issues as they arise.
Purchasing the right pet health insurance plan is one way to be sure that you will be able to do everything possible to keep your Boxer happy and healthy for as long as possible.
Is a Boxer Right For You?
A Boxer may be right for you if you want…
- a medium to large dog
- a dog that requires minimum grooming
- a confident and smart dog
- a dog with a muscled and strong build
- a dog who needs minimal grooming
- a playful dog
- a reliable and loyal dog
- a guard dog
A Boxer may NOT be right for you if…
- you don’t want an active dog
- you don’t have time to train your dog
- don’t have time to exercise your dog on a daily basis
- won’t like a dog who snorts, snores and is flatulent
- Snorting, wheezing, snoring
- don’t want to deal with potential congenital diseases
For other types of dogs, check out our full list of dog breeds.