Boxers are wonderful dogs, but the breed is not for everyone.
The pros of owning a Boxer include their hilarious antics and affectionate natures …but the cons are not insignificant in that Boxers shed a lot for a short-haired breed, can be stubborn and are prone to a number of health problems — particularly when not carefully bred, fed and cared for.
The fact that many Boxer owners swear off other dogs for life is testament to what perfect companions they can make, and how favorably they compare to other breeds.
However, many of the Boxer’s pros can also be cons depending on your lifestyle, your expectations of how a dog should behave and how much time and effort you’re willing and able to put into your dog.
This post is intended for general informational and educational purposes. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer here.
The Pros And Cons Of Boxers As A Breed
Boxers are not your average dog.
First, to the positive.
The qualities Boxers bring to the table make them a joy to have around — and set them apart from other breeds.
- Very funny and quirky (The most laughs you’ll have with a dog, guaranteed)
- Affectionate (Meet your cuddly, 70-pound lap dog)
- Good with kids (Gentle, patient and protective)
- Observant watch dogs
- Highly intelligent
- Quick learners
- Playful (This can also pose a challenge in training as they’re not always food-motivated, but definitely fun-motivated, which can make for mischief)
- Low maintenance (Easy-care coats)
- A happy medium size — Most Boxers can be lifted by an average-strength adult female
In short, Boxers are delightful dogs.
But, in the interests of full disclosure, let’s consider the not-so-good aspects of the Boxer.
What Should I Know Before Getting A Boxer?
Boxer dog cons include a number of challenging traits that can be deal breakers for some owners, such as:
- Health issues
- Stubborn tendencies
- Potential for aggressiveness towards other dogs if improperly socialized
- They don’t do well left alone for long periods
- Boxers are puppies forever (This is also a pro!)
- High energy
- Vocalization (Though not barkers, they can be noisy in their own way.)
- Need for a lot of mental and physical stimulation to avoid boredom and behavior problems like destructive chewing, digging, escaping the yard
- Up-close-and-personal, in-your-face style (Many owners love this.)
- Anxiety and phobias in some individuals
Of course we’re not actually telling you to avoid Boxers — they’re our favorite breed of dog!
What we are saying is don’t get one because you think they’re cute — shelters and Boxer-specific rescue organizations are full of dogs that have borne the brunt of ill-considered decisions to get a Boxer.
Go into Boxer ownership with your eyes open, knowing what to expect from the breed in terms of Boxer traits and temperament, confident a Boxer will fit into your life and understanding how you can provide what these dogs need to be happy, healthy and well-behaved companions.
So, are you compatible with a Boxer?
Let’s find out.
If, at the end of this consideration of cons, a Boxer still sounds good to you …you might have found your match!
1. Boxers Shed. A Lot.
Boxers shed a surprising amount for a short-haired breed.
There’s even a term for it amongst die-hard owners: Boxer glitter.
Decide now whether fawn, brindle or white best matches your color scheme, because your Boxer’s fur will be all over your car, floor, clothes and couch.
It will jam the filter of your dryer and stick resolutely in the weave of your best sweater.
You will be constantly vacuuming and sticky rollering — to little avail.
If you or someone in your household is attached to having a spotless home and car, a Boxer is not the dog for you.
2. Boxers Are Excitable
Boxers overflow with zest for life.
This is mostly a pro, not a con.
But the excitability does make certain aspects of training more challenging.
It’s common for Boxer owners to have to put a lot of work into ratcheting down their dog’s excitement levels in certain situations.
The usual problems are:
- Jumping up on people
- Pulling on the leash
- Going crazy around other dogs
- Hyperactivity when not given enough outlets for their energy
In the house, one aspect of Boxer ownership you mightn’t have thought about is their tails.
When left beautifully natural, Boxers’ long tails wag like crazy and some owners find they split them open by hitting them against furniture and the hard corners of walls.
They’re also just the right height to sweep cups off coffee tables.
So, take care to avoid having your Boxer get too excited in confined spaces where he may hurt himself or knock over anything breakable.
And de-clutter the living space — minimalism goes a long way in a Boxer household.
Here is more information about the practice of tail docking in Boxers.
One other thing to consider is whether a Boxer is right for your family members.
Boxers are generally quite attuned to frailty in the very old and very young, and gentle with the vulnerable.
But their exuberance, particularly between the ages of six months to two or three years, can easily knock over those who’re unsteady on their feet.
The zoomies are real and a high-speed Boxer has properties resembling a missile, but with a considerably less predictable flight path.
3. Boxers Can Have Health Issues
Having a healthy Boxer requires a thoughtful approach to dog ownership and careful decision-making when it comes to routine aspects of care.
The health problems that can affect Boxers fall into three broad categories:
- Serious, heritable diseases and short lifespans that can be avoided to a large degree through proper health screening of parents and matching of breeding pairs, something that is not always done by “backyard” breeders
- Breed-specific issues like bloat and heat stress that even well-bred Boxers can be prone to because of their short noses and deep chests
- Health problems like “allergies” that can arise as niggles resulting from sub-optimal care, but which are often misdiagnosed, medicated and which proceed to develop into full-blown problems because the underlying cause goes unidentified and uncorrected
Serious, Preventable Boxer Diseases
Diseases that Boxers can be screened for to prevent passing the genes on to puppies include:
- Heart problems like arrythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), dilated cardiomyopathy, aortic and sub aortic stenosis (Can present as heart murmurs in Boxer puppies)
- Degenerative myelopathy — a debilitating, progressive disease of the spinal cord with onset in older Boxers
- Hip and elbow dysplasia — joint malformation producing osteoarthritis
Breed Specific Issues That Can Hit Any Boxer
Emergencies that can strike Boxers include:
- Deadly bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV) — condition whereby air becomes trapped in the stomach, and it sometimes twists, cutting off blood to vital organs. Bloat comes on rapidly and is fatal without prompt veterinary intervention
- Heat stress — with their brachycephalic (squashed) head structures, Boxers’ breathing gear is compressed into a much smaller space than long-nosed breeds, making them sensitive to extremes of temperature (hot and cold) Overheating can be fatal
Health Problems Related To Care And Nutrition
Health problems due mistakes made in the care of a Boxer are perhaps the most widely seen in the Boxer dog population.
The array of conditions commonly reported by Boxer owners include:
- Stomach issues or being a “picky” eater
- Ear “infections”
- Boxer acne
- Paw licking or chewing
- Tear stains
These problems are frequently misdiagnosed and medicated with drugs including antibiotics, steroids like prednisone and allergy meds like Apoquel that go on to cause their own damage, saddling a dog with more issues including persistent autoimmune conditions and digestive problems like acid reflux.
In most cases, these conditions reflect not so much a true allergic reaction or a problem with the dog himself, but rather represent a normal reaction to toxic exposures, more akin to poisoning.
The average pet dog is constantly assaulted by toxins contained in:
- Kibble and other highly processed dog food
- Chemical wormers and flea/tick treatments
- Household and personal care products including scented plugins, fabric sprays, fragranced candles, cleaning sprays, perfumes and hair spray etc
- The environment e.g. weedkiller or grass and in sidewalk cracks, lawncare chemicals etc
- Tap water, which contains traces of more than 90 regulated, legal contaminants including industrial runoff, pesticide residues and disinfectants added during the water treatment process
A healthy dog might be able to cope with inhaling or ingesting a certain amount of toxins.
But chemicals accumulate in the body via a stacking effect and eventually, if the toxic exposures persist and surpass the body’s ability to clear them via the liver’s detoxification pathways, they cross a threshold of tolerance and erupt, producing symptoms.
Initial symptoms, often low-level, are the body’s efforts to rapidly expel an excess of toxicity using the skin.
When the influx of toxins continues unabated, the symptoms can escalate over time into chronic disease.
Into this equation, add another practice that’s very much normalized in pet dogs in the United States (though not in Europe): neutering.
The weight of current scientific evidence suggests neutering/spaying a Boxer puppy dramatically increases the likelihood of developing a range of serious diseases including:
- Mast cell tumors
- Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears
- Adrenal disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Immune-mediated diseases including inflammatory bowel disease
There are a few disorders that can occur in Boxer puppies including:
Note that Boxers can also have fatal reactions to — and should never be given — the commonly used veterinary drug Acepromazine, often prescribed as a tranquilizer and used as a pre-anesthetic agent.
4. Boxers Can Be Headstrong
Boxers are strong willed.
Though they love their people, they also have minds of their own.
There’s a fair chance a Boxer will make a fool of you at obedience class once or twice before he ends up passing with flying colors.
Ok so let’s call it what it is: Boxers can be a little stubborn.
Obstinance can try your patience.
It might manifest as your Boxer throwing himself down on the ground whenever he doesn’t want to do something.
Or he might stop, immovable, when out walking and the route takes a turn he doesn’t prefer.
If you give in, and things become a negotiation — rather than you fully calling the shots — you will inevitably see the behavior again.
Any loopholes in your leadership, a Boxer will happily exploit.
Boxers are good learners but the downside is that habits can stick, including bad ones.
5. Boxers Can Develop Aggression Issues
If it occurs, aggression in a Boxer will almost always be towards other dogs.
It’s not that Boxers are any more inclined than other breeds to be aggressive, but if a Boxer is poorly socialized, problems can develop.
It’s not uncommon for Boxers in multi-dog households to suddenly have a huge fight with the dog that’s been their best bud since puppyhood.
Some Boxer rescues refuse to place female Boxers in homes with other females, saying conflict is more likely between two female Boxers than between other gender combinations.
Other owners, probably a majority, never encounter a problem.
The trouble is, when a fight breaks out, a Boxer will not back down — even when they are outmuscled.
Courage, and fearlessness, is another pro that can quickly turn into a con.
It’s important to remember the Boxer has a long history as a hunting breed and guard dog.
Equally though, the Boxer’s roles in the military, search and rescue and as a police dog are proof they also have what it takes to be reliably trained, trusted dogs.
6. Boxers Don’t Do Well Left Alone For Long Periods
Boxers are not set-and-forget dogs.
They’re not the breed to get if you work long hours.
They are not outside dogs fit for living in a kennel in the backyard.
Nor will they fare well if kept confined for extended periods in a crate.
A Boxer is a dog you get when you want, and have time for, a close companion that’s welcome in the heart of the family unit.
They love to be involved in whatever’s going on.
Underestimating a Boxer’s needs, or subjecting him to a lifestyle for which he is unsuited, will invariably create behavior problems that would otherwise never arise, such as nuisance barking.
7. Boxers Are Puppies Forever
Boxers are a slow-maturing breed.
The upside of this is that they remain bouncy and funny basically for life.
The downside is that they can take a while to “settle down” with age, so you may be contending with puppy-like behaviors for longer than with other breeds.
More importantly, Boxers do not complete their physical growth and development until around two years of age.
Their bone plates don’t close until this time, which means it’s inadvisable to engage them in jogging, running or even long walks, until after this age.
The repetitive, jarring motion can set still-forming skeletons up for joint problems, pain and immobility later in life.
8. Boxers Are High Energy
Boxers will never be too tired for whatever you have in mind.
Which makes them great accompaniments for an active, outdoorsy lifestyle.
If you’re a couch potato?
Get a different dog, one that’s going to be content to lie around all day.
A Boxer will go stir crazy.
From there, it’s a short leap into misbehavior.
9. Boxers Can Be Noisy
Not in the way you might think, but Boxers can be noisy dogs.
They’re not typically barkers, but they are very vocal.
Boxers have a full range of grunts, groans and other sounds.
Your Boxer may emit a long, low groan for the full duration of however long it takes you to prepare his dinner.
Cute for the first little while.
But, if a behavior like this is allowed to take hold, it can be hard to un-train.
10. Boxers Need A Lot Of Mental Stimulation
Boxers are not only physically active dogs, they are thinkers with a lot of mental energy.
They thrive when given a job to do and readily learn tricks, which is part of the reason they were once a favorite of circus troupes.
Left to their own devices, however, Boxers will entertain themselves by making their own fun — which may not align with your idea of a good time.
11. Boxers Are In-Your-Face
One owner’s cuddly is another owner’s needy or clingy.
Whatever you call it, Boxers are affectionate and they want to get up close and personal with those they love.
Sure, your Boxer might be happy to conk out on his bed with his legs in the air after dinner.
But he’ll also spend a considerable amount of time square in your lap, if you let him.
Boxers are curious to the point of nosy — expect smudge marks all over your pristine glass doors from you-know-who pressing his nose up for a better view of the street.
They will rest their chins on your knee to remind you they exist, or paw at you for a pat.
Worst of all, you will find these demands, and more, impossible to resist.
12. Boxers Can Be Anxiety-Prone
Boxers are sensitive souls.
Some owners report:
- Jumpiness in young Boxers
- Fear of thunderstorms and fireworks
- Separation anxiety, which in its true form involves high distress and involuntary defecation
How To Bring Out The Best In Your Boxer
Now that we’ve told you the problems that may come with a Boxer, and you still want a wigglebutt in your life, it’s time to get busy on solutions.
Here’s how to deal with the 12 common Boxer issues and successfully navigate life with a Boxer.
You can help control shedding by brushing your Boxer frequently with a grooming mitt to extract loose hairs.
White Boxer hair, in particular, seems to stand out in the average home.
If you wear a lot of black, you will be cursing it!
In the spirit of not beating ’em but joining ’em, you can adapt by wearing clothes or having bedspreads and other furnishings the color of your dog’s fur.
This sounds crazy, and when you do it you’ll know you’ve officially become a Boxer tragic, but it works!
White hair is a lot less visible on a white floor.
Proper socialization, and training focused on building impulse control, are the key to equipping a Boxer with the skills to behave, even when excited.
Patience, persistence and a lot of practice will be necessary.
Boxers respond to positive, reward-based training methods and will shut down if harsh methods are used.
Clicker training is the easiest way to teach a Boxer anything.
Many genetic diseases can be avoided by getting your Boxer from a reputable breeder that does proper, thorough health testing and makes careful choices when selecting breeding pairs.
You can avoid heat stress by knowing how to keep a Boxer cool.
“Allergies”, hives, yeast and other common Boxer dog complaints due to toxic accumulation can be prevented or cleared up by:
- Optimizing care to minimize exposure to chemicals in wormers, flea/tick products etc
- Cleaning up the home by getting rid of fragranced products, which are just aerosolarized chemicals your Boxer will inhale
- Avoiding overvaccination
- Delaying or avoiding neutering/spaying
- Feeding your Boxer a fresh, natural raw diet
Overcoming stubbornness in Boxers is a matter of tapping into what makes them tick.
Engage your Boxer by appealing to his sense of play.
Make things a game and he will be all in.
Proper socialization will prevent dog-on-dog aggression ever arising in most Boxers.
Careful management when interacting with unfamiliar dogs is crucial.
Within multi-dog households, strong leadership is the other part of the equation.
A Boxer that knows his place in the pack — which is as a good “follower” dog, not a leader — will relax and not feel the need to challenge other pack members.
Not Good Left Alone A Lot
Only get a Boxer if you have time for him and then make sure you do it.
Build plenty of time with your Boxer in to every day, no matter what.
Extended Puppy Phase
Avoid running with your Boxer until he’s at least two years old, to protect his joints.
Keep up your training — it’s not over when you graduate puppy school.
Give your Boxer constructive ways to get his energy out with a mix of activities.
Good options for a well-rounded routine include:
- Brisk short walks
- Off-leash play sessions to blow off steam and stretch the muscles \
- “Sniffing tours” — meandering walks more about smelling the roses than covering a lot of territory
- Ball or frisbee chasing
- Tugging (Uses just about every muscle in a dog’s body)
- Swimming (Boxers love the beach even if they don’t go in the water)
- Digging (At the beach!)
- Hiking in natural settings
- Recall training that involves running back to you as fast as possible
Think ahead about what noises you do and don’t want from your Boxer.
Don’t encourage ones you’re not happy to be stuck with long term.
Put an on/off switch on noises by teaching a command like “Speak’ paired with its opposite, “Quiet”.
Need For Mental Stimulation
To keep your Boxer mentally stimulated:
- Teach your Boxer tricks
- Use canine enrichment toys like puzzles
- Play thinking games like “Find it”
- Let your Boxer have a go at “nose work” — any game that involves using his incredible sense of smell
Remember, mental activity will tire a dog out much faster than physical exertion alone.
There is no fighting this one.
Find ways to include your Boxer in your daily life that work for both of you.
Make sure he knows which behaviors are acceptable, and which are off limits.
Maybe he’s allowed on the couch, but only on the blanket and only after being invited.
You can avoid anxiety issues by:
- Working with good breeders that select for stable temperaments
- Properly socializing your Boxer puppy
- Gradually introducing change
- Avoiding practices known to increase the risk of noise phobias and anxiety disorders, such as neutering
- Teaching your Boxer how to be home alone from a young age
- Using dog desensitization sounds to work on fear of storms or fireworks
Before you bring a Boxer into your life, make sure it’s a good fit.
For all their positive attributes, Boxers do require proper breeding, food, care and training to avoid bringing out their worst.
If you’re comfortable with the potential pitfalls associated with Boxer ownership, and willing to do what it takes to bring up a healthy Boxer, welcome to club!
If all goes well, the biggest con may end up being that you feel compelled to revolve your life around your Boxer or, dare we say, to get another.