Boxer Dog Temperament: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
Boxer Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
Boxers can be fine family dogs if you can proviide enough exercise and training to control their rambunctiousness when young, and if you can provide for their special needs due to their unnaturally short face.
As puppies and young adults, Boxers are animated, playful (often cuckoo!) dogs who love to romp and jump. Middle-aged Boxers typically become more deliberate and dignified and make calm, loyal companions for the rest of their (unfortuntately not very long) lives.
Exercise needs vary from long daily walks for more sedentary Boxers to vigorous daily romping for high-energy individuals – but not in hot weather, because Boxers are more susceptible to heatstroke than most dog breeds.
Though most Boxer dogs are fine with other family pets, including the family cat, quite a few Boxers are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex, and some are cat chasers.
Boxers need consistent leadership. Their heritage, after all, is that of a strong-minded working dog. But you must handle them in an upbeat, persuasive way. Boxers are stubborn, yes, but also sensitive and proud. They will "shut down" (sulk and pout and passively refuse to do anything) if you jerk them around.
Most Boxers make vigilant watchdogs – meaning they will bark when they see or see something out of the ordinary. Their guarding and territorial instincts, though, vary a great deal.
Most Boxers react to strangers with a joyous "Hi, come on in!" accompanied by enthusiastic jumping and tail-stump wiggling. Other Boxers are more standoffish, neither fawning over strangers nor threatening them.
A few Boxers (typically those from German lines) are more forceful and challenging.
Early socialization is important to develop a stable attitude in your Boxer.
If you want a dog who...
- Is medium to large, with a rugged, sleekly-muscled "masculine" build
- Needs minimal grooming
- Loves to romp and play
- Is usually steadfast and reliable with everyone
- Looks imposing enough that he is an effective deterrent even when friendly
A Boxer may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
- Potential aggression toward other dogs (usually of the same sex)
- A strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Snorting, wheezing, snoring
- Slobbering and drooling
- Gassiness (flatulence)
- Very real potential for health problems and a short lifespan
A Boxer may not be right for you.
Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Boxers have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Boxer to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
More traits and characteristics of Boxer dogs
If I was considering a Boxer, I would be most concerned about...
- Health problems. Most Boxers, unfortunately, do not live a long life. This is partly due to unwise breeding practices such as inbreeding and linebreeding, which are more likely to pass along defective genes. It's also partly due to the deformities in their structure, especially their shortened face. An alarming number of Boxers die of cancer or heart disease in middle age. Other health concerns include eye diseases (such as corneal ulcers), digestive diseases (such as ulcerative colitis), hypothyroidism, itchy allergies, skin tumors, and more.
Prospective Boxer owners should be aware that they might be taking on expensive health problems over their dog's lifetime. Read more about Boxer Health.
- Boxer sounds. Boxers are not quiet dogs. Now I don't mean they're yappy! Not at all. But they do vocalize with grumbles and grunts (which owners find endearing) and also snorts, snuffles, and snores (which bother some people). Only you know whether you're one of those people.
- Gassiness (flatulence). All short-faced breeds gulp air when they eat, and that air has to go somewhere, after all. However, commercial diets make flatulence worse by including fibrous or hard-to-digest ingredients. Boxers who are fed a homemade diet of real meat and vegetables have much less trouble with gassiness.
- Slobbering. Many Boxers, especially those with loose lips, slobber or drool, especially after eating and drinking.
- Stubbornness. You seldom see Boxers in obedience competition. They have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. Many Boxers are passively stubborn and will brace their legs and refuse to do what you want them to do. Some want to be the boss and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show your Boxer, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Read more about Boxer Training.
- Bounciness. Older Boxers can be quite mellow, but most young Boxers (up to about two years old) romp and jump and play with vigor, and things can go flying, including small children or infirm people.
- Potential dog aggression. Most Boxers are fine with other family pets, including the family cat. But many Boxers are dominant or aggressive toward strange dogs of the same sex, and a few Boxers view cats as prey.
To help you train and care for your dog
Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.
The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.