Boxer dog traits can be simultaneously endearing and challenging.
Before deciding a Boxer is the right breed for you, it’s worth understanding the full range of Boxer dog traits, so you know what to expect from your puppy’s temperament.
This article will tackle the most common questions prospective owners have about the temperament of the Boxer breed as well as provide some answers to questions you maybe didn’t know you had, but should get your head around before welcoming a Boxer into your life.
Positive Boxer Dog Traits
Boxers figure among the most popular breeds in America year after year because they have a heap of appealing qualities.
The winning Boxer personality is remarkably consistent from dog to dog within the breed, so you can predict with some reliability what your dog is going to be like.
Here is a list of typical Boxer dog traits that owners love.
Boxer dogs are:
- Funny and goofy
- Affectionate and attached to their people
- Active and energetic
- Good with children and babies
- Puppylike long into adulthood
- Low maintenance in terms of coat care
- Gentle, sweet and sensitive
- Quiet (unless allowed to become chronically bored)
The thing about Boxers is that many of their good points can quickly become bad points, if their considerable needs aren’t met.
For instance, a Boxer’s intelligence and inquisitiveness can be a double-edged sword.
On the plus side, it makes for a highly trainable dog (though not necessarily an easy-to-train dog).
However, it also means your Boxer needs a lot of stimulation, and can easily become bored.
If you fail to provide constructive outlets for your Boxer’s mental energy, you can be certain he’ll find ways to entertain himself …and they may not align with your idea of appropriate behavior.
What’s the solution?
Plenty of attention and exercise, yes.
But a Boxer also needs to work his mind.
A few ways you can do this include:
- Ongoing obedience training
- Canine enrichment activities like puzzles and other smart toys
- Games like “Find it” or nosework that activates your Boxer’s keen sense of smell
- Teaching tricks
- Agility training
Negative Boxer Dog Traits
Whenever you truly know a person, or a dog, you become intimately familiar with not just their good qualities, but their less appealing attributes — and Boxers have their share.
It does neither dog nor would-be owner any favors to paint a partial picture that leaves out the things that can make Boxers difficult at times.
Anyone who has been owned by a Boxer will recognize this compilation of less desirable aspects of the Boxer temperament.
Boxer dogs can be:
- Excitable, which can lead to behavior problems like pulling on the leash, jumping up on people, not coming when called and hyperactivity
- Demanding (of affection, attention, time) — Boxers don’t do well as outside dogs left alone in the backyard
- Prone to health problems if fed kibble, neutered/spayed and dosed with chemicals like flea/tick treatments, dewormers, vaccines etc
- Aggressive with other dogs in multi-dog households and with dogs encountered off leash. Some Boxer rescues believe homing Boxers with dogs of the same sex increases the chances of conflict though other owners report doing so without problems
- Destructive if allowed to get bored — give your Boxer a better option like a raw meaty bone
- Willful with a tendency to fixate
- Independent-minded i.e. you may think your Boxer should bring the ball back, he may think he should run away with it
Of course, as with every dog, the biggest influence is training and how your Boxer is raised, and managed.
Your traits as an owner will be reflected back at you in your Boxer.
Successful Boxer dog ownership is as much a question of whether YOU are right for a Boxer, as whether a Boxer is right for you.
Here is a guide to reading your Boxer’s body language.
Useful Traits In A Boxer Dog Owner
The key to all good relationships is compatibility.
Think seriously about what kind of behaviors you expect from your dog, and what kind of lifestyle you want to lead.
What are you like as a dog owner?
Boxers thrive in the care of owners who are:
- Present — If you work long hours or lead a busy social life that can’t include your Boxer, pick another breed. A Boxer needs someone able to spend lots of time with them and whose lifestyle is dog-friendly, rather than one that means the Boxer is left home alone day after day
- Outdoorsy — Your Boxer will happily snooze with you on the couch, but only after a romp at the beach, an explore through the woods or at least a good walk and some playtime
- Interested in training — You will need to invest time over many years training your Boxer. Here are 5 Things You Must Teach A Boxer
- Able to be clear and consistent in enforcing house rules and required behaviors (Give a Boxer an inch, he will take a mile)
- Fun loving — Much of the appeal of a Boxer is his amusing antics. A straightforward chase-the-ball-bring-it-back Border Collie or a German Shepherd they are not
- Wanting a dog that is physically affectionate (60-pound lap dog, anyone?)
- Patient, even-tempered and gentle but firm when it comes to discipline — Boxers can be exasperating at times, how are you likely to handle it? A Boxer will work for rewards and positive reinforcement but will shut down if you resort to harsh methods
- Motivated to provide a fresh, natural canine diet and chemical-free healthcare (A Boxer’s health tends to suffer if subjected to many modern dog owning practices)
- Relaxed about the the state of the house — For short-haired dogs, Boxers shed quite a lot
How Boxers Are Different To Other Breeds
Boxers may surprise you if you’re used to other breeds.
Here are a few examples.
How Boxers Play
While Boxers can run forever and love to zoom around wide open spaces (they have zoomies like you’ve never seen), they can tend to be less task-focused than other dogs.
Your Boxer may love chasing after a ball and there’s a chance he’ll bring it back to you some of the time.
But there’s also a fair likelihood he’ll invent his own game of running off with the ball, preferring to be chased and to chase, than simply playing fetch.
Boxers also play differently dog on dog.
Their in-your-face, “boxing” style with liberal use of paws and quite a bit of “mouthiness” can rub some dogs the wrong way.
It takes another Boxer to truly understand a Boxer.
How Boxers Learn
Your Boxer is going to embarrass you at obedience school, be prepared.
Reliable recalls and walking on leash without pulling are the two skills that tend to be the most difficult for Boxers to master, on account of their exuberance.
This moderates somewhat with maturity, but don’t rely on ageing as a strategy — bad behavior that persists into adulthood can also become ingrained habit and hard to break.
You may need to work up to calm, obedient behavior in social situations incrementally.
Practice in closer and closer proximity to people and other dogs or situations that your Boxer finds stimulating.
The idea is to manage your Boxer’s excitement levels so that he can still concentrate on you above distractions.
You won’t be able to get much sense or good behavior out of an “overthreshold” Boxer, so wind back the degree of difficulty and begin again.
While Boxers can take a little more time to learn new skills than some other breeds, they often end up acing it in the end.
So, stick with it!
How Boxers Interact
Boxers are so sweet-natured that it’s easy to forget they are descended from fighting and hunting dogs.
They also have a strong prey drive, which means they have to overrule in-built instinct to resist chasing small, furry, fast-moving things.
Boxers will be good with cats and other animals if they’ve been brought up with them, but otherwise will require some teaching.
The breed also has a keen sense of smell and can be very scent-driven.
While mental focus is perhaps more developed in European lines of Boxers, compared to American Boxers, this is a working breed employed throughout the world as police dogs, search and rescue dogs and seeing eye dogs.
Even in pet homes, Boxers enjoy having jobs to do and can tend to behave better when given some level of responsibility and room to show initiative, as opposed to being kept under very tight control which can be a little crushing to their playful spirits.
The trick is allowing this level of freedom while keeping your Boxer safe.
Crating and Boxers doesn’t always mix — you may find it a happier arrangement for everyone to dog proof your home so your Boxer can safely have the run of the house.
Boxer Dog Health
Boxers as a breed are sometimes lumbered with a reputation of being sickly, short-lived “cancer factories”.
While too many Boxers do suffer from health problems, this invariably occurs in dogs that are subject to a sorry combination of practices that have become a normalized part of dog ownership but which are in fact disease-producing in any dog.
Factors that contribute to ill-health in Boxers include:
- Kibble feeding
- A failure to feed raw meaty bones
- Neutering/spaying, especially before the age of two
- Chemical worming
- Flea/tick treatments
- Vaccines and overvaccination
- Chemicals in the home and environment e.g. chemical cleaners, weedkillers
- Poor breeding practices — here are 24 Must-Know Questions To Ask Your Boxer Breeder
Health problems seen in Boxers as a result of the abovementioned mistakes in basic care include:
- Picky eating
- Stomach problems
- Acid reflux
- Allergies including food allergies
- Ear “infections”
- Red eyes and eye discharge
- Gingival hyperplasia (gum overgrowth)
- Bad teeth
- Foul breath
- Itchiness and skin problems
- Paws that smell like Fritos
- Tear staining
- Anal gland impaction
The good news is you can avoid all these problems with proper care and feeding.
If the Boxer personality and your own are a good match, you will find no better companion.
Boxer ownership requires some thought and commitment, but when done right you will be able to bring out your Boxer’s best traits and minimize his weaknesses.
One thing’s for sure, you will never meet another dog like the Boxer.