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Honest FAQ for Boxer Dogs

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Boxer dog

The Boxer has been called an honest dog because his face expresses his emotions. There are different "types" of Boxers with different builds and temperaments, so be careful to get the type you can handle, and from a good source.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Boxer have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Boxer temperament and behavior are:

very individualistic, from "loves everyone" to protective; from energetic to calm; from clownish to dignified; stubborn and strong-willed but responsive to persistent leadership, snorts/drools/farts

I give you my honest opinions about Boxer temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Boxer Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

Where did the name Boxer come from?

Probably from the breed's tendency, when fighting or play-fighting, to rear up on his hind legs and spar with his front paws like a prizefighter. (Not all members of the breed do it.)

What were Boxers used for?

In their native Germany, Boxers were once used as guard dogs, police dogs, and war dogs.

What traits would help Boxers accomplish their work? That's right... high energy, endurance, athleticism, toughness, independent thinking yet high trainability, and loyalty to their owner.

How big are Boxers? Height and weight?

About 21-26 inches at the shoulder, and 50-85 pounds, which puts most of them in the LARGE category.... except for those (few) Boxers at the smallest end of their size range, who could be classified as MEDIUM.

What colors do Boxers come in?

Fawn or brindle.

  • Fawn ranges from tan to reddish to mahogany brown, while brindle means black stripes on a fawn background.
  • On some brindle Boxers, the stripes are few in number but clearly defined. On other brindle Boxers, the stripes are so numerous and heavily concentrated that you can hardly see the fawn background peeking through, i.e. the dog might appear black, especially from a distance. The latter dogs are, in fact, often called "black" brindles or "reverse" brindles. Boxers do not have a true black gene.

Don't Boxers have white markings?

Officially, Boxers aren't required to have any white markings. They can be solid fawn or solid brindle. But in practice, even solid Boxers usually have at least a tiny bit of white on their chest and toes.

However, dog show judges tend to favor extensive  white markings on the legs, stomach, chest, and wrapping around the neck in a full wide collar. These dogs are called "flashy" Boxers.

Therefore breeders who show their dogs in the conformation ring often become overly focused on producing "flashy" Boxers with loads of white.

The problem with extensive "flashy" white markings is this:

Breeders are maximizing the markings by breeding one flashy Boxer to another flashy Boxer. Let's see what happens when they do that.

Such a litter, on average, will include:

  • 50% flashy pups... "Yay!" says the breeder
  • 25% solid fawn or solid brindle pups... "I'll just sell them as pets," says the breeder
  • and 25% solid WHITE pups (or mostly white with a few colored patches or spots)... "%$*!" says the breeder

Why do so many breeders look askance at white Boxers? Because whites are slightly more susceptible to skin cancer, and are more likely to be born deaf in one or both ears. Partial deafness (one ear) doesn't bother a dog, as the other ear can compensate. But complete deafness (both ears) can be very challenging to raise and train.

Thus you should always confirm the hearing status of a white Boxer before buying or adopting one.

Do Boxers come in different "types"?


The modern Boxer is not an old breed. It was deliberately created in the late 1800s. German breeders crossed a large, mastiff-type, hunting dog called a Bullenbeisser  ("bull biter") with smaller mastiff-type dogs from England. The resulting pups were stocky and courageous and used as police and military dogs, but over time, became streamlined into a more "elegant-looking" dog with a bizarrely-shaped head and muzzle. This is the modern show Boxer, especially in the United States.

A few breeders, primarily those using German lines, continue to produce stockier and less extreme-looking Boxers for protection dog sports. If this interests you, get your Boxer from a performance/working breeder. Just be prepared to provide more exercise and challenging activities. Also be sure you can act like a capable leader, as Boxers from working lines are typically stronger-willed.

Do Boxers have a doggy odor?

Not from their skin or coat. But due to their deformed head, Boxers are pretty much forced to swallow air whenever they eat and drink... and swallowed air has to go somewhere, after all. So yes, the breed can be smelly.

How much exercise do Boxers need?

Those from show lines need moderate exercise: long brisk walks, a decent yard to romp in, along with active games of fetch and tug.

If you don't provide enough exercise and mental stimulation, a Boxer, especially an adolescent or young adult, might vent his pent-up energy by destroying your house and yard.

Do Boxers need a fenced yard?

Yes. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Boxers easy to train?

Yes and no. If you are an assertive person who can "read" and respond to a strong-willed dog and establish a healthy leader-follower relationship, most Boxers are very willing to work with you.

Oh, they might be a bit stubborn and hard-headed at times, and not always quick to obey, but if you stand your ground re: "I'm in charge and you must follow my rules", your Boxer's behavior should be fine.

Are Boxers easy to housebreak?

Usually average.

Are Boxers friendly with people?

Many Boxers are outgoing and friendly with everyone. But many others are loyal to their own family, and standoffish (though still polite) with strangers.

Boxers from working/performance lines often have tougher temperaments, but a Boxer who threatens a stranger just because he's a strangers is not typical of the breed.

Some (definitely not all!) Boxers have protective instincts, but without actual protection training,  they are not effective protectors. But they can still be excellent deterrents... as long as you stay in charge and immediately stop any unwarranted aggression.

Are Boxers good with children?

Most Boxers are great with children. And yet... I don't recommend Boxers for children younger than about 8 years old. This is a strong, vigorous breed that could accidentally knock over a small child.

In addition, the various bulldog breeds can have issues of resource guarding, which means being possessive of their food and chew toys. I don't allow small children (or other pets) near a Boxer who is engrossed in his food or bones.

Are Boxers good with other dogs?

This varies a lot. Most Boxers are fine with other dogs in their own family. But toward strange dogs, some Boxers are playful and accepting, especially if the other dog is the opposite sex and has a naturally submissive personality. However, other Boxers are bold, dominant, or aggressive, especially toward the same sex.

Are Boxers good with cats?

It varies. Boxers from show breeders usually have a lower prey drive and are fine with cats in their own family. Boxers with a high prey drive can become cat stalkers/killers.

How much do Boxers shed?

Boxers are average shedders. They shed moderately in the spring and fall, and a bit of hair the rest of the year as well.

Are Boxers hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. Boxers are not hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do Boxers need?

Just an occasional quick brush to sweep the dirt, dander, and loose hair off your dog's skin.

What's a good training schedule for training Boxer puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Boxers: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Boxers tend to have?

Like most other large breeds, a young Boxer (6 to 24 months old) can be a handful: romping around like a bull in a china shop, pulling on the leash, jumping on people, and chewing destructively. Don't make the rookie mistake of leaving a young Boxer alone and loose in the house, instead of properly crated/penned/safe.

This critical adolescent period is when you must teach calmness, establish the right leader/follower relationship, and respond properly to behavior problems.

Once through the adolescent period, as long as you've established the right leader-follower relationship and you're providing sufficient exercise and companionship, adult Boxers don't misbehave much. Their adult behavior issues center around dominance or aggression, which might be toward strangers, or other dogs, or cats, or guarding their food or toys from you or your family.

What health problems might Boxers have?

Health and lifespan are, by far, the weakest aspect of the Boxer breed. Breeders have chosen to deliberately breed this dog with a deformed skull. For example, the eye sockets have been made shallow, which makes the eyeballs protrude, which makes them more vulnerable to injury. The muzzle has been shortened, which compromises the dog's ability to breathe.

Because of this, Boxers are forced to snort and snuffle their way through life, swallowing air, which makes them gassy. They choke and spit up food and need air conditioning in hot climates.

Boxers suffer from severe eye disorders, multiple heart diseases, tumors and cancers, digestive syndromes, and hip dysplasia.

What breeds are similar to the Boxer?

Boxers are related to mastiff-type breeds and bulldog-type breeds. So you might be interested in:

Where can I buy a Boxer puppy?

Show breeder, performance/working breeder, pet breeder? Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Boxer?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Boxer. Which pages should I read first?

  • Boxer Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Boxer puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Boxers, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Boxer puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Boxers have pros and cons, and female Boxers have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Boxer puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Boxer breeder would ever place one of their Boxer puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Boxer puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Boxers?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Boxer to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Boxer until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Boxer, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Boxers that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my free online books.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

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