Boxers are funny, lovable dogs and will endear themselves to any owner — and half the neighborhood besides.
However, Boxers aren’t necessarily the right choice for those who’ve never raised a dog before.
They often suffer health problems (and become an expensive proposition) when neutered, fed kibble and dosed with chemical wormers, flea and tick treatments and the like. A more mindful approach to dog ownership is required to keep a Boxer fit and well.
Temperament-wise, this is an intelligent, high energy breed and one that can be stubborn. Boxers need gentle but firm direction, and consistent training, to reach their full potential.
Without it, their inquisitive nature can morph into mischief-making. A tired, happy Boxer is a well behaved Boxer. A bored or lonely Boxer may become unmanageable or even develop full-blown behavior problems.
For the sake of your Boxer’s wellbeing, and your own sanity, there are a few things you should know before bringing one into your life.
The Boxer Temperament
Because of their goofy personalities, Boxers can sometimes be misunderstood.
Sure, they play for laughs and have a great sense of humor.
But they are much more than the class clown.
See also: How Smart Are Boxer Dogs?
In fact, Boxers belong to the American Kennel Club’s working dog group.
Over their long history in Germany they served as hunting dogs, guard dogs, police dogs and distinguished themselves on the battlefield during World War I.
As legend has it, one particularly fearless war Boxer even caught live grenades out of mid air.
Boxers were unfortunately used in the sport of bull and bear baiting.
Equally though, they were a favorite of circus troupes and travelling performers, their trainability making them great at learning tricks.
Boxers have worked as service dogs and search and rescue dogs as well as being popular family pets, renowned for their patience and devotion to children including babies.
Likewise, they get along well with other pets including cats.
So, they are nothing if not versatile.
However, intelligence combined with athleticism means Boxers require a lot of physical and mental stimulation.
They need a job to do and will assign themselves tasks — deconstruct the sofa, dig up the lawn — if you don’t give them productive outlets.
Boxers are not the kind of dog you leave tethered in the backyard or that sleeps outside at night.
They need to be with their people and will end up squarely in your lap if you let them.
When thinking about getting a Boxer, consider your lifestyle.
If you work eight hour days outside the home and are often gone at night, or have a social life that won’t involve them, save a Boxer for later in life.
You don’t want to be leaving this breed home alone for long stretches, day after day.
If you have plenty of time to devote to daily training and exercise… if you are ready for your life to be thoroughly taken over by the best dog on the planet… you might have met your match.
How To Select A Boxer Breeder
This is where many Boxer owners make their first mistake.
Breeding Boxers is not something that should be done lightly and you want to be careful when selecting your pup’s breeder.
When done without sufficient knowledge of canine genetics and dedication to testing for the conditions known to affect Boxers, preventable disease is the result.
The puppies won’t show the signs, but later in life your dog will suffer and even die at a young age.
What To Ask A Boxer Breeder
Heart disease, hip dysplasia and neurological conditions like degenerative myelopathy all lurk within Boxer bloodlines and when parents are not rigorously tested and properly paired, these diseases can be passed down.
Just finding a registered breeder and one that does thorough health screening is not enough.
There are many other choices made by a breeder that can have a powerful impact on the health of your Boxer puppy, lifelong.
Perhaps the most important of these is what a mother is fed. Maternal nutrition lays the groundwork for the health of the puppies.
The absolute best case scenario is to find a raw feeding breeder whose dogs eat a natural, species-appropriate diet based on raw meaty bones.
Your puppy should have been weaned directly onto raw meaty bones like chicken necks and wings — at first minced but within days six-week-old pups can happily handle whole chicken parts.
See also: What To Feed Your Boxer Puppy
The use of chemical wormers, traditional vaccine schedules and flea and tick treatments all detract from a dog’s vitality through the accumulation of toxins in the body.
Make sure you ask breeders what their practice is on all these fronts.
There is increasing awareness of the benefits of natural rearing and you would be doing well to find a natural rearing Boxer breeder.
These breeders typically avoid vaccines and chemical wormers altogether. They have track records of successfully using nosodes and natural parasite remedies instead.
What Age Should Your Boxer Puppy Be When He Comes Home?
Another telltale sign of a breeder you want to avoid is one that’s willing to release a puppy to you before the age of eight weeks.
Pups should stay with their litter until closer to 10 weeks, during which time they undergo important socialization under the guidance of their mother and in the company of their brothers and sisters.
Puppies denied this important developmental experience will often show the signs in their new homes, with behavior problems like nipping and crying etc.
Do your research and ask all your questions on the phone before going to see any litters because the moment you lay eyes on a Boxer puppy you’ll be a goner.
Your Boxer’s Health Care
Inexperienced dog owners wanting to do the very best for their Boxers often fall under the sway of conventionally-trained vets and end up neutering their puppies outrageously young, over-vaccinating and having them ingest chemicals every month in the name of worming and flea and tick prevention.
We are programmed to trust those who wear white coats, but it’s critical to do your own independent research before making these decisions on behalf of your dog.
Many vets still advise owners to neuter at six months of age.
They persist in recommending this even though the overwhelming weight of current evidence — available for all to see in the veterinary literature — is that neutering triggers a cascade of serious disease.
This is unsurprising when you consider that neutering removes a quarter of a dog’s endocrine system.
The conditions made more likely by neutering include:
- mast cell tumors (which are very common in Boxers)
- cranial cruciate ligament rupture (CCL tears)
- hip dysplasia
- endocrine disorders like Cushing’s disease
- behavior problems like noise phobias, fear of storms and aggression
.. and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
See also: When Should I Spay Or Neuter My Boxer?
The only conditions prevented by neutering are testicular cancer in males and pyometra (uterine disease) in females. But this is like saying if you cut off a woman’s breasts, she will never get breast cancer.
Mammary cancer is frequently cited as a reason to spay female dogs, but even this long-repeated benefit has been called into question by the latest research.
Dr Karen Becker is a good source of information on neutering.
In this video she describes how she stopped routinely neutering her patients after seeing them develop disease like clockwork:
Chemical Wormers And Flea And Tick Preventatives
There are dog groups full of owners whose pups have suffered ill effects, up to and including seizures and death, as a result of using these products.
The dangers apply not only to ingested products but to topical treatments and flea collars.
Boxers are not infrequently represented in these grim statistics.
It is incumbent on you as a Boxer owner to learn how these parasites are transmitted.
Armed with this knowledge you will be able to make an informed decision about whether or not it’s necessary to take the risk of using these products.
Heartworm, for instance, is not caught from other dogs but transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.
The heartworm larvae cannot survive in cold temperatures.
At the very least, heartworm medication is unnecessary in winter yet most vets have their patients take it year round.
There are natural alternatives.
Your Boxer’s best defence is eating a natural diet.
Raw feeding owners notice their dogs seem to have no problem with parasites, appearing to develop a natural resistance.
Healthy dogs are less vulnerable to all kinds of disease.
Health Issues Specific To Boxers
Gingival hyperplasia (gum overgrowth), Boxer colitis, Boxer acne, skin problems, yeasty paws, UTIs, allergies, food intolerances, bee stings, pancreatitis, obesity.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Boxers were a sickly, accident-prone breed.
Vets surely see dollar signs when a new Boxer patient wiggle butts through the door.
But remember: the vast majority of these dogs are kibble fed, neutered, heavily vaccinated and ingesting monthly chemical wormers and flea and tick treatments.
Not to mention a near-constant assault from environmental toxins. Lawncare chemicals, weedkillers and household cleaners are just a few examples of what the modern dog must contend with every day of his life.
Such dogs are usually medicated to suppress symptoms rather than their owners identifying and eliminating the cause of the problem … which is, arguably, all of the above.
You can set your Boxer up for better outcomes by going into Boxer ownership educated, and charting a different course.
Too often the only question first time owners know to ask is “Which dog food is best for my Boxer?”
All the talk is of which brand, which flavor, wet or dry?
It’s easy to be bamboozled by the “Boxer specific” products, “puppy formulas”, “prescription” diets and so called “complete and balanced” meals.
These are marketing gimmicks.
All kibble, no matter the “quality”, no matter whether your vet sells it, is highly processed.
It is not fresh food. It is a “shelf stable” product.
It contains a whole array of inappropriate ingredients, contaminants and chemical additives that have no place in a Boxer’s body.
The same goes for canned dog food and, in fact, all commercially manufactured dog food.
Cooked homemade food is less laden with toxins, but still sub-optimal food for a dog. No wolf lit a fire and boiled up some chicken and rice.
What your Boxer needs to eat is a natural canine diet.
This means fresh, raw meaty bones, muscle meat and organs — just as dogs ate for a million years during their evolution.
All you need is a butcher.
If your puppy has not been weaned onto raw, you should transition him right away.
With all the misinformation that exists on this topic, it’s imperative to educate yourself rather than take anyone’s word for it.
Keep in mind the pet food industry cultivates close relationships with veterinary schools. Dog food companies sponsor veterinary conferences.
Vet students are taught relatively little on the subject of canine nutrition.
Their focus is on disease.
The British-trained Dr Tom Lonsdale is one vet who’s spoken openly about this.
Because of the way vets are trained, the average practitioner unfortunately has a lot to learn — and unlearn — when it comes to how best to feed a dog.
Give Your Dog A Bone by the trail-blazing Australian vet and breeder Dr Ian Billinghurst and Dog Nutrition 101 by Nora Lenz are two must-read resources on how to properly feed a species-appropriate diet.
These books will also give you an understanding of why raw feeding is essential to a dog’s health.
But the proof is in the dog.
You, like many raw feeders before you, will see your Boxer thrive.
Your raw-fed dog will likely escape many of the health problems that have taken hold in the pet dog population — including in far too many Boxers — since the widespread adoption of kibble feeding in the United States in the 1940s.
See also: How To Raw Feed A Boxer
A common mistake with Boxer puppies is to give them too much exercise.
They are every-ready bunnies and won’t say no.
But, as a slow maturing breed, Boxer’s bones and joints are still developing until the age of 18 months to 2 years, and even 3 years.
In this growing phase, resist the temptation to take your Boxer on long walks.
The repetitive jarring action will show up as joint problems later in life.
Check out our article 5 Things To Know Before Taking Your Boxer On A Run.
There should be no jogging with your Boxer during this period either.
Instead, opt for short walks for training purposes but have most of your pup’s physical activity be in the form of play sessions.
This way, he can decide when to stop and rest.
It’s also a lot more fun for your dog, and a bonding opportunity for both of you.
As an adult, your Boxer will need at least two decent walks or active play sessions every day.
These should include off leash running around and regular adventures to different places with new sights, sounds and scents.
The beach is hard to beat as a destination.
Swimming is great exercise and sand is gentle on the joints. Plus, Boxers love to dig!
Boxers are highly trainable and love to learn new things.
However, if you give them an inch they will take a mile.
If there are any inconsistencies in your enforcement of the rules, your Boxer will find and exploit them.
Training approaches for Boxers must use positive reinforcement with plenty of praise, play and treats.
Trainers often talk of “food motivated” dogs.
Boxers can be food motivated. But above all, they are fun motivated.
Keep things upbeat.
Make training a game and enjoy it, and you will have a highly engaged dog on your hands.
Boxers won’t respond to harsh methods or punishment. This will cause them to shutdown.
Though they can be willful, Boxers are sensitive souls and will be wounded by any unfair treatment or raised voices.
Boxer puppies are super easy to potty train. They will master the basic obedience commands of sit, stand, drop in double quick time.
Training a controlled recall, or “Come” command, can be more of a challenge:
Pulling on the leash is another behavior frequently encountered by owners of young Boxers who haven’t yet learned to contain their exuberance.
A front-attaching harness, high-value treats and practice will go a long way.
Jumping on strangers when excited is something else you’ll probably need to work on.
Impulse control exercises will help with all this.
Boxer rescues are sad testament to the fact that many owners don’t realize what they’re getting into when they bring home a Boxer.
Don’t let that be you.
Be prepared so you can can give your dog the kind of owner a Boxer deserves.