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Say hello to the bouncing Boxer! Exuberant, curious, loyal, clownish, and life of the party are all great descriptions of the this breed. Just one look at that mushy, warm-eyed face will have you smiling. But don’t let that silly exterior fool you. The Boxer’s original purpose was dog fighting, bull baiting, cart pulling rounding up livestock, catching and pinning wild boar and bison until the hunters arrived.  Did you know the boxer was drafted into the US Army during WWI? They carried packs and messages and were used as attack dogs.


The Boxer originated in Germany by crossing the Bullenbeiszer and the Barenbeiszer, which are two extinct German mastiffs. They were later crossed with ancestors of the Mastiff and Bulldog. Today, two types of Boxers are bred: the German Boxer (having bigger heads and more muscular) and the American Boxer. It is said that the boxer may have obtained its name from a shortening of the name Bullenbeiszer to Boxi, which then became Boxer or from the way they stand on their hind legs and reach out with their forelegs in a “boxing” motion when they play or fight.

Physical characteristics

The boxer has a short, smooth coat that requires only a brushing once a week and bathing when absolutely necessary. Too much bathing will strip the oils from this breed’s coat.  Many boxers like to clean themselves like a cat but they have also been know to roll around in a mud puddle or two just for fun! Being brachycephalic (short-nosed) can cause the boxer some respiratory difficulty in overly hot weather. They are definitely not a breed to be left outside, as they are equally sensitive to cold weather. They come in a variety of colors such as fawn, fawn with white (flashy fawn), mahogany, brindled, reverse brindled (black appearance) and brindle with white (flashy brindle). They can have an all black mask or have some white on the snout. Most have white socks of varying length. Height is usually between 21-25 inches and weight between 53-70 lbs. They have naturally floppy ears (some people still have them cropped) and usually a docked tail.

Training and temperament

Training from puppyhood is a must for this breed because they can become very pushy and ill-mannered. Most boxers like to carry things around in their mouths and will display quite the show of excitement at feeding time. While very loyal to their family and wonderful around children, Boxers may eye strangers entering the house with a bit of scrutiny until the dog is comfortable with the visitor. They usually get along with other canine members of the household, but they may be aggressive to unknown dogs. Cats are not always recommended around the boxer as they can show a bit of prey drive even if it is just for the chase. But many boxers live in harmony with their feline housemates. Jumping is the No. 1 behavior issue for Boxers. They’re so boisterous and exuberant that it is not unusual for them to greet you in a full length stand, all feet off the floor as they try to plant a big, sloppy, boxer kiss on your face! Nothing compares to being greeted by your boxer in “kidney bean” position as they waggle their nub. It can be sometimes frustrating to train these dogs because they would much rather work to their own agenda, but using a positive and persistant training program will result in a well-mannered boxer.

Health issues

A Boxer’s life expectancy is nine to 14 years. They are prone to quite a few medical diseases, such as cardiomyopathy and other cardiac problems, sub-aortic stenosis and thyroid issues. Many have skin allergies and they can be prone to epilepsy. Cancer is of high incidence (especially lymphoma) and joint issues are common. They may drool, snore and have excessive flatulence. In spite of all the possible health issues, nothing can take away the enjoyment of owning a boxer.

Maureen Henderson is a a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and a registered nurse who trains in the Tampa Bay, Florida area.  She volunteers at the SPCA TampaBay and Florida Boxer Rescue.  Maureen owns five dogs: an 11-year-old lab/chow mix, a one-year-old boxer, a four-year-old and a five-year-old old chihuahua and a four-year-old xoloitzcuintle (who just finished shooting a commercial for Kahlua!) She is the owner of Sit, Down,Stay Dog training where she does private, in-home training and behavior modification.

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