Originating in Germany, the Boxer is a stocky, medium-sized, short-haired breed. The coat is smooth and tight-fitting; colours are fawn or brindled, with or without white markings, which may cover the entire body. Boxers are brachycephalic (they have broad, short skulls), and have a square muzzle, mandibular prognathism (an underbite), very strong jaws and a powerful bite ideal for hanging on to large prey. The Boxer was bred from the Old English Bulldog and the now extinct Bullenbeisser and is part of the Molosser (mastiff) group.
The Boxer is happy, high-spirited, playful, curious and energetic, often referred t oas the clown of the dog world. Highly intelligent, eager and quick to learn, the Boxer is a good dog for competitive obedience. It is constantly on the move and bonds very closely with the family. Loyal and affectionate, Boxers are known for the way they get along so well with children. A well brought-up and properly socialized Boxer will also get along with his own kind and other household pets such as cats. Animals such as rodents, ducks, chickens and other farm birds may be too tempting, however, they can be taught to “leave it” but it is still not recommended they be left alone with them.
The Boxer’s nature is to protect you, your family, and your home. Known visitors will be welcomed. They are always keen to work and play. Boxers need lots of human leadership. Teach the Boxer not to be boisterous and especially not to jump up at people. They are extremely athletic, sometimes even in their old age. This dog needs to go on a daily pack walk. Daily mental and physical exercise is paramount. Without it, the Boxer will become high strung. This breed requires a dominant owner. Training should start young and be firm and consistent. The objective in training this dog is to achieve pack leader status. Meek Boxer owners will find their dogs to become stubborn. If they do not take you seriously they will be sneaky, demanding, boisterous and hard to control.
There is a little disagreement over the intelligence of this breed, Stanley Coren’s survey of obedience trainers, summarized in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, ranked Boxers at #48 – average working/obedience intelligence. However many who have worked with Boxers disagree quite strongly with Coren’s survey results, and maintain that a skilled trainer who uses reward-based methods will find Boxers have far above-average intelligence and working ability.
These strong and intelligent animals have also been used as service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs, police dogs in K9 units, and occasionally herding cattle or sheep. The versatility of Boxers was recognized early on by the military, which has used them as valuable messenger dogs, pack carriers, and attack and guard dogs in times of war.
The Boxer’s body is compact and powerful. The head is in proportion with the body. The muzzle is short and blunt with a distinct stop. The nose is large and black with very open nostrils. The jaw has an under bite. The eyes are dark brown. The ears are set high, falling forward, lying close to the head. In some countries both ears and tails can be surgically altered to produce a ‘preferred’ look. When cropped ears are taped to stand up on the head, tapering to a point. The neck should be round, strong and muscular, without a dewlap. The muscular front legs are straight and parallel when viewed from the front. The back legs are well muscled. The tail is set high, the American kennel club severely penalised undocked tails, but it is illegal to dock in the UK and most of Europe. Dewclaws are usually removed. The short, smooth, close-fitting coat comes in fawn, brindle, tan, mahogany and black often with white markings. Boxers also come in a white coat that cannot be registered with some clubs.
Height: Males 22 – 25 inches (56 – 63 cm) Females 21 – 24 inches (53 – 61 cm)
Weight: Males 60 – 70 pounds (27 – 32 kg) Females 53 – 65 pounds (24 – 29 kg)
Leading health issues to which Boxers are prone include cancers, heart conditions such as Aortic Stenosis and Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (the so-called “Boxer Cardiomyopathy”), hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy and epilepsy; other conditions that may be seen are gastric dilatation and torsion (bloat), intestinal problems, and allergies (although these may be more related to diet than breed). Entropion, a malformation of the eyelid requiring surgical correction, is occasionally seen, and some lines have a tendency toward spondylosis deformans, a fusing of the spine, or dystocia.Other conditions that are less common but occur more often in Boxers than other breeds are hystiocytic ulcerative colitis (sometimes called Boxer colitis), an invasive E. coli infection,and indolent corneal ulcers, often called Boxer eye ulcers.
According to a UK Kennel Club health survey, cancer accounts for 38.5% of Boxer deaths, followed by old age (21.5%), cardiac (6.9%) and gastrointestinal (6.9%) related issues. Average age of death was 9 years and 8 months.Responsible breeders use available tests to screen their breeding stock before breeding, and in some cases throughout the life of the dog, in an attempt to minimize the occurrence of these diseases in future generations.
Boxers are very sensitive to the hypotensive and bradycardiac effects of a commonly-used veterinary sedative, acepromazine.It is recommended that the drug be avoided in the Boxer breed.
Like bulldogs, pugs and other brachycephalic breeds, they do not do well with high heat or humidity, and common sense should prevail when exercising a Boxer in these conditions.
The Boxer is part of the Molosser (Mastiff) dog group, it was developed in Germany in the late 19th century from the now extinct Bullenbeisser, and Bulldogs brought in from Great Britain. The Bullenbeisser had been working as a hunting dog for centuries, employed in the pursuit of bear, wild boar, and deer, it was very similar to the present day Spanish bulldog, bred for bull fighting and the illegal ( in the UK) Dogo Argentino. Its task was to seize the prey and hold it until the hunters arrived. In later years, faster dogs were favoured and a smaller Bullenbeisser was bred in Brabant, in northern Belgium. It is generally accepted that the Brabanter Bullenbeisser was a direct ancestor of today’s Boxer. In 1894, a group of Germans decided to stabilize the breed and put it on exhibition in Munich in 1895, and the next year they founded the first Boxer Club, the Deutscher Boxer Club. The Club went on to publish the first Boxer breed standard in 1902, a detailed document that has not been changed much to this day.
The breed was introduced to other parts of Europe in the late 19th century and The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered the first Boxer in 1904. During World War I, the Boxer was co-opted for military work, acting as a valuable messenger dog, pack-carrier, attack and guard dog. It was not until after World War II that the Boxer became popular around the world. Taken home by returning soldiers, they introduced the dog to a wider audience and soon became a favourite as a companion, a show dog, and a guard dog.
The name “Boxer” is supposedly derived from the breed’s tendency to play by standing on its hind legs and “boxing” with its front paws. According to Andrew H. Brace’s Pet owner’s guide to the Boxer, this theory is the least plausible explanation. He claims “it’s unlikely that a nation so permeated with nationalism would give to one of its most famous breeds a name so obviously anglicised”.
German linguistic and historical evidence find the earliest written source for the word Boxer in the 18th century, where it is found in a text in the Deutsches Fremdwörterbuch (The German Dictionary of Foreign Words),which cites an author named Musäus of 1782 writing “daß er aus Furcht vor dem großen Baxer Salmonet … sich auf einige Tage in ein geräumiges Packfaß … absentiret hatte”. At that time the spelling “baxer” equalled “boxer”. Both the verb (boxen [English “to box, to punch, to jab”]) and the noun (Boxer) were common German words as early as the late 18th century. The term Boxl, also written Buxn or Buchsen in the Bavarian dialect, means “short (leather) trousers” or “underwear”. The very similar-sounding term Boxerl, also from the Bavarian dialect, is an endearing term for Boxer. More in line with historical facts, Brace states that there exist many other theories to explain the origin of the breed name, from which he favours the one claiming the smaller Bullenbeisser (Brabanter) type dogs who were also known as “Boxl” and that Boxer is just a corruption of that word.
In the same vein runs a theory based on the fact that there were a group of dogs known as Bierboxer in Munich by the time of the breed’s development. These dogs were the result from mixes of Bullenbeisser and other similar breeds. Bier (beer) probably refers to the Biergarten, the typical Munich beergarden, an open-air restaurant where people used to take their dogs along. The nickname “Deutscher Boxer” was derived from bierboxer and Boxer could also be a corruption of the former or a contraction of the latter.
A passage from the book “The Complete Boxer” by Milo G Denlinger states:
It has been claimed that the name “Boxer” was jokingly applied by an English traveler who noted a tendency of the dog to use its paws in fighting. This seems improbable. Any such action would likely result in a badly bitten if not broken leg. On the other hand, a German breeder of forty years’ experience states positively that the Boxer does not use his feet, except to try and extinguish a small flame such as a burning match. But a Boxer does box with his head. Or perhaps, since the German dictionary translates ‘boxer’ as ‘prize-fighter’ the name was bestowed in appreciation of the fighting qualities of the breed rather than its technique.
The name of the breed could also be simply due to the names of the very first known specimens of the breed (Lechner’s Box, for instance).