Boxer puppies are a force of nature that will steal your heart and make over your life, in ways delightful and unexpected.
Raising a Boxer puppy involves everything from feeding and potty training to socializing, obedience, trimming nails, grooming and making decisions about neutering/spaying, parasite control and vaccinations.
There are also some Boxer quirks to watch out for including vocalization (sometimes perceived as growling), “smart” bumps, “flying nun” ears and, of course, the zoomies!
Though Boxer puppies don’t come with a user’s manual, we’ve put together the next-best thing: a guide packed full of Boxer puppy information, to help you navigate life with a budding wigglebutt.
This post is intended for general informational and educational purposes. I encourage readers to view my full disclaimer here.
Boxer Puppy Food
The most critical aspect of your new Boxer puppy’s care is his diet.
Here is what you need to know about what to feed a Boxer puppy, and how:
- Avoid kibble and provide your Boxer puppy with a fresh, natural canine diet — this means a raw meaty bone-based diet — here is your guide to feeding a Boxer puppy with detailed instructions
- Always use floor-level dishes, never raised bowls — elevated platforms create an unnatural eating posture and are associated with an increased risk of deadly bloat, a rapidly-progressing condition to which Boxers are already predisposed, on account of their deep chests
- Use a slow feeding bowl to prevent guzzling of food, another risk factor for bloat
- What to feed a Boxer puppy with diarrhea? Nothing. Never keep putting food into the stomach when the body is trying to empty the gut. Puppies can’t be fasted as long as adult dogs, and be sure to keep your pup hydrated, but if he has an upset stomach, digestive rest is the fastest way to get back on track. Try for 8-12 hours, depending on your pup’s age. Dogs over 12 months can be fasted for a full 24 hours or until diarrhea stops
- Avoid tap water as it contains a slew of contaminants
Boxer Puppy Exercise
The main mistake owners make when exercising their Boxer puppies is to go too far, too fast.
To avoid setting your Boxer puppy up for joint problems later in life:
- Err on the side of play sessions on grass rather than walks on concrete sidewalks, the repetitive jarring action can be damaging to developing joints
- Hold off on taking your Boxer puppy jogging, running or on super long walks until after his growth plates have closed, not before 18 months and closer to two years to be safe
- Avoid having your Boxer do acrobatic leaps high in the air. Instead, throw balls and frisbees in such a way that your Boxer jumps long and low to the ground
- No running on cement or other hard surfaces
- Raise your Boxer pup on cushioned surfaces with maximum grip i.e. grass, carpet, rugs. Too much time spent on hard, slippery surfaces e.g. tiles, cement, floorboards can contribute to a developmental deformity called knuckling
Boxer puppies will sleep most of the day when they first come home but the Boxer puppy energy level is high.
You are likely to witness the zoomies — sudden bursts of high-speed burnouts — at least once a day.
Make sure your pup is in a safe environment when this happens.
If you don’t have a backyard, a Boxer will improvise, turning your living room into a racetrack/obstacle course.
What Can I Expect From A Boxer Puppy? Temperament And Personality
Boxer pups are adorable.
They will melt your heart — but they can also reduce you to tears of frustration.
Typical Boxer puppy characteristics include:
- Exuberance (They are enthusiastic and physically active dogs)
- Alertness (Boxers are great observers and don’t miss much)
- Sensitivity (No harsh training methods are appropriate)
- A sense of fun (Boxers are not always food-driven but they are fun-motivated, so play can be used as its own reward when training)
- Affection for and protectiveness towards babies and children (Boxers make great family dogs)
- High trainability
As far as cons go, the more challenging aspects of the Boxer temperament include:
Boxers need to be with their people, are highly interactive — some say demanding.
They are not the kind of dog you can necessarily slot into an already-busy lifestyle.
Boxers thrive when they are actively included in their owners lives, given jobs to do, tasks to perform and kept constantly learning.
They are great dogs to do agility and other activities with.
Boxer Puppy Training
Your Boxer pup is a sponge and training begins, whether you intend it or not, from the moment he comes home.
Your Boxer will be observing your every move and, if you don’t take the lead, he’ll be only too happy to jump in and fill the void.
The earliest training tasks revolve around:
- Teaching your Boxer his name
You want your Boxer to associate his name with only positive things.
Be careful not to use his name when angry.
In the beginning, every time you say your Boxer’s name, give him a treat.
This should help you develop the instant attention you want whenever you call him.
- Potty training
Young Boxer puppies have tiny bladders and don’t yet know how to hold them.
To avoid accidents, anticipate your pup’s needs.
Make sure you take your Boxer to where you what him to pee and poop as frequently as possible — as often as even waking half hour.
How often do Boxer puppies poop?
All the time!
And peeing? Even more often.
Your Boxer pup will need to pee at every juncture — after sleeping, after drinking, after eating, playing etc.
It can be a good idea to carry your Boxer pup to the pee pad or the designated spot in the yard and plonk him down in the exact right area at first, so you remove the room for error en route.
It’s always harder to correct a habit of going potty in the wrong place than to establish the right place from the get-go.
It won’t take your Boxer long to get it, and once he understands what you want him to do, he’ll be able to walk himself there as long as you don’t wait until he’s busting.
Use your chosen cue words like “Go potty” or “Do a wee” as he’s in the act, so he learns the command.
If your Boxer puppy keeps peeing in the house, reevaluate what you’re doing.
When puppies go in the wrong spot, they are not being naughty, they were just physically unable to wait or they don’t yet understand where you want them to go potty.
Never punish your Boxer pup for mistakes, but if you catch him in the act you can pick him up and whisk him to the right spot.
Here is a detailed guide to how to potty train your Boxer pup.
- Boxer puppy socialization
Socialization is the most important thing during this period and refers to a much broader array of things than just making sure your Boxer puppy gets to play with other dogs.
It involves desensitizing your Boxer to all the different kinds of situations and experiences — including potentially frightening ones — that will make up his life.
From pots and pans clanging in the kitchen, to baths, nail trimming (see below for how to acclimate your Boxer to both of these) and plastic bags blowing across the street.
The trick is small, incremental exposures to the world — by giving your Boxer pup plenty of opportunities to encounter and explore new and unfamiliar things you will help build his confidence and shape a well adjusted adult.
Off-leash dog parks, dog daycares and poorly-run puppy schools are among the things that can derail your Boxer puppy’s socialization.
These settings can put your Boxer in harm’s way and teach him a range of bad habits, the worst being to associate other dogs with high excitement.
This is an association you may spend years trying to undo if you get it wrong up front.
By educating yourself on the right way to socialize a Boxer puppy you can avoid these pitfalls.
- Crate training
Crating is not necessary if you have other ways to keep your Boxer puppy safe in the home, but it can be useful.
It’s important to establish the crate as a refuge and a den where good things happen and where your pup learns to love to hang out.
It should be his safe place where the kids don’t bother him and where he can go for guaranteed quiet time.
- Basic obedience training
The first and easiest commands to teach your Boxer are sit, drop/down and come — although proofing your recall command so that it is reliable in all situations, will be a work in progress from now until adulthood.
A long line is one piece of equipment that will be essential for keeping your Boxer safe while working on recall.
You will also want to work on a variety of others like “Wait”, “Stay”, “Go to your bed”, “Leave it”, “Quiet” and “Off”.
Keep training sessions super short to work within the limits of your pup’s attention span — as brief as two minutes — but repeat them often.
Positive reinforcement methods using food rewards are the way to go for Boxers.
Clicker training is the most effective method for teaching your Boxer anything and everything.
- Respecting the house rules
Make sure your Boxer clearly understands what behavior is expected of him around the house.
Is he allowed on the couch or not?
Where do you want him to sleep at night? Start there as it will be much harder to get him out of your bed later.
He is not to chase the vacuum cleaner.
Drinking from the toilet is a hard no.
Countersurfing in the kitchen is out, for his own safety.
So is chewing power cords.
Humans go through doors to the outside first.
Barking at the doorbell or intercom buzzer may be something you need to work on.
Are paws up on windowsills acceptable?
Set the rules and stick to them, as inconsistency will only confuse your Boxer and undermine your training.
You can prevent bad habits developing and protect your Boxer from potential hazards by Boxer-proofing your house and keeping doors closed and toilet lids down while your pup is young and settling in.
You will be able to gradually expand his access and relax your vigilance as he gets older and once you know he won’t put himself in danger or get up to mischief.
- Learning to walk on a leash without pulling
Loose leash walking is something you’ll want to master with your Boxer early on.
Otherwise walks will become decidedly less enjoyable, and less safe, for you both.
Don’t just hope your pup will grow out of it, or the behavior will become ingrained.
Leash pulling is far easier to fix before your Boxer becomes a fully muscled adult.
Boxer Puppy Behavior Problems
A range of behavioral issues can arise in the first year or so of a Boxer’s life.
As a physically and mentally active breed, Boxer puppies are capable of the full range of nuisance behaviors if their needs are not met, including:
Note that what owners sometimes perceive as growling or aggression is often just normal, boisterous Boxer play.
While not overly prone to barking, Boxers are highly vocal, known for making a range of Chewbacca-like noises.
Most problem behaviors reflect a failure to provide a Boxer with enough exercise, mental stimulation and training.
Improper nutrition, overvaccination and neutering/spaying can also influence a Boxer puppy’s behavior.
(See the relevant sections for more information on food, neutering and vaccination.)
Boxer Puppy Coat Care
Boxers are low maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming.
Here are our top 5 recommendations for best brushes for the Boxer dog coat.
The tendency of most owners is to overwash their Boxer puppies.
Bathing your Boxer too frequently will strip essential oils from the coat, predisposing the skin to tiny cracks called microfissures, which can produce itchiness.
While it’s worth getting your Boxer comfortable with baths while he’s young, don’t overdo it.
Note, the best Boxer puppy shampoo is often none at all.
Most of the time, a rinse down with pure water is a much better idea than using soap.
Boxer Puppy Nail Care
Long nails are uncomfortable, more likely to tear and can interfere with proper gait and posture.
Your pup’s nails shouldn’t touch the ground when standing and you shouldn’t hear a clicking or scraping when he walks.
While your pup is young, get into the habit of trimming his nails weekly so he’s relaxed about it from the start.
This is not a task you need to outsource to a groomer or vet.
Use a grinder rather than guillotine-style clipper, which make it too easy to cut the quick.
Boxer Puppy Health Issues
Boxer puppies may experience some bumps on the road to good health, such as:
- Undescended (retained) testicles — vets advise surgical intervention if this doesn’t self correct)
- Recessed vulva (May normalize after a few heat cycles)
- Umbilical hernia (Either self correcting or requiring surgery)
- Knuckling (See exercise section above for more information)
- Heart murmurs
- Boxer puppy worms (Pot belly is the classic sign of roundworm. See section on worming below for how to approach parasite control in a Boxer puppy)
- Kennel cough (Usually a mild and passing, though highly contagious, illness similar to the human cold, with a runny nose and cough, requiring nothing more than rest and time)
- Diarrhea or vomiting (Usually transient, but dehydration can be deadly in very young pups. Persistent loose stools or stomach upset is not uncommon in Boxers fed kibble. See the section on food for how to properly feed a Boxer puppy)
- Going off food or not eating
- Grass eating
- Poop eating
- Tear stains
Note, new owners often worry when they notice their Boxer puppy breathing fast while sleeping.
Chances are he may well just be dreaming — especially if his limbs are twitching at the same time.
Myths About Boxer Puppies
Some myths relating to Boxers include that it’s normal for them to have health problems like:
While these problems trouble quite a few Boxers, it is is no way normal.
Affected dogs are invariably kibble-fed, over-vaccinated, medicated with chemical wormers, flea/tick treatments and carrying a considerable toxic load due to exposure to environmental toxins like scented plugins, fragranced candles, fabric sprays and chemical cleaners in the home and weedkiller on grass.
Nor are Boxers:
If your Boxer puppy is not enthusiastic about food, chances are you are not offering the right kind of food i.e. you are probably expecting your pup to eat kibble when this highly processed product bears no resemblance to what his body is designed to digest.
Yet another myth is that:
A well adjusted, properly socialized Boxer will be cuddly and affectionate while also being independent with a stable, even temperament.
What Should A Boxer Puppy Look Like?
There are a few things that can crop up with Boxer puppies and take owners by surprise.
Egg Heads In Boxer Puppies
If you notice a bump on the peak of your pup’s head or he starts to look a little “egg headed” or have a bit of a “cone head”, don’t worry.
It is normal for Boxer pups to have a domed head with a pronounced occiput (the body protuberance at the back of the canine head).
Some contend puppies that have this feature will develop the best head structures as adults.
Flying Ears In Boxer Pups
“Flying nun” ears in a Boxer puppy are when the ears hang away from the head and flap open, rather than sitting in neat triangles.
It can be a phase that corrects itself, but it may be something you want to help along by gentle massage or possibly taping for a few days.
If flying ears persist into adulthood, they are regarded as a “fault” and do tend to detract from the classic Boxer face.
Note: a Boxer puppy with ears taped to correct flyaway ears is not the same as a Boxer puppy with cropped ears.
Ear cropping, banned in several countries, involves surgically cutting a Boxer’s natural, floppy ears to make them stand straight.
Long Hair In Boxer Puppies
There is such a thing as a “fuzzy” Boxer.
Rare long haired Boxers are thought to arise through a genetic mutation, similar to the way in which long hair occasionally arises in other short-haired breeds like Dalmatians and Weimaraners.
Some long haired Boxers are actually crossbred dogs.
Black Boxer Puppies
Boxer puppies that appear black are actually reverse brindles, also known as “seal” brindles.
White Boxer Puppies
White Boxer puppies are also recognized and granted limited registration by the American Kennel Club.
Whites arise in litters when the parents each carry the gene for white or “flashy” markings.
Other than being sometimes deaf, white Boxers have no special health problems compared to their fawn and brindle littermates.
Bobtail Boxer Puppies
If your Boxer puppy has not had his tail surgically docked but has a short tail, he may be a bobtail Boxer.
Bobtail Boxers are purebred Boxers and were developed in England as an alternative to tail docking which is now outlawed, on animal cruelty grounds, in many parts of the world.
A naturally short tail was achieved by introducing the “bobtail” gene from Corgis.
Boxer Puppy Supplies
You’ll want to get some basic supplies as you prepare for the arrival of your Boxer puppy.
Aside from food, the essentials include:
- Harness (You’ll want a soft, fabric one for when he’s little, but pretty soon you’ll want a front-attaching one to discourage pulling on the leash)
- Flat collar (No chockers or prongs or other punitive devices)
- Long line (You’ll need it to keep him safe until his recall command is 100 per cent)
- A comfortable bed (You’ll go through several as he grows so you might wait until he’s full-size to invest in the orthopedic model)
- Coat or vest (If it’s cool where you are, as Boxers do feel extremes of temperature)
- A slow feeding bowl
- Water dish (Glass is best)
- A crate (Even if you’re not crate training, it’s not a bad idea to give your Boxer some experience with a crate when he’s young, so it’s not a shock if he ever has to stay in one at the vet’s)
- Pee pads
- Baby gates or puppy enclosure to keep him safe inside
- A wi-fi camera so you can monitor him when you’re teaching your Boxer to be home alone
- Boxer-appropriate puppy toys — here are our top 10 best toys for Boxers and toys you should never give your Boxer
You may also like:
Boxer Puppy Neutering And Spaying
Don’t let anyone, vet or otherwise, convince you to neuter or spay your Boxer puppy before maturity, which in this slow-maturing breed is not before two years old.
Neutering/spaying is done for the purposes of population control, but may not be necessary when owners are educated, willing and able to prevent unwanted litters through proper management and supervision.
Removing a dog’s hormone-producing sex organs is known to unleash a cascade of effects on overall health that you need to be aware of before making this irreversible decision.
There is a considerable body of scientific evidence showing that neutered and spayed Boxers are likely to face an increased risk of developing numerous health problems including:
- Mast cell tumors
- CCL or cranial cruciate ligament tears
- Hip dysplasia
- Immune-mediated diseases including inflammatory bowel disease
- Behavior problems including aggression and anxiety
The detrimental effects are related to the lack of the sex hormones produced by the ovaries and testes, which have a protective effect on whole body health.
The negative impact of neutering/spaying is worse the younger a pup is when the operation is done.
If a Boxer is desexed while still growing, the closure of his growth plates will be delayed, causing an artificially long growth period.
A neutered dog will be unnaturally tall, with the distorted anatomical proportions predisposing him to joint problems like arthritis as an adult.
Boxer Puppy Vaccinations
Outmoded Boxer puppy vaccine schedules that prescribe repeated vaccinations of very young puppies with combination vaccines has been abandoned in favor of a less heavy-handed approach.
Modern methods of vaccinating Boxer puppies tailor vaccines to the individual dog and make use of a much more extensive toolkit that encompasses:
- Waiting until a pup is older to deliver the first vaccine so that maternal antibodies have more chance of having worn off, allowing the shot to be effective
- Titer testing before vaccinating to check whether the pup has already developed their own immunity
- Recognizing that vaccines can harm as well as help, and that overvaccination is particularly detrimental to a dog’s health
- Applying a cost-benefit analysis to each vaccine before giving it to a pup, to make sure it is right for the dog’s particular risk profile, considering location, lifestyle and health status
- Avoiding automatic yearly boosters and revaccinating only after the dog returns a negative titer
- Using only single vaccines, spaced well apart — not all-in-one combination jabs that are known to increase the risk of adverse vaccine reactions
- Making use of homeopathic remedies to help detox pups after administration of vaccines
- Considering homeopathic nosodes as an alternative to pharmaceutical vaccines
Boxers are among the dogs that suffer adverse vaccine reactions, including anaphylaxis and death.
There is also an increasingly recognized phenomenon called vaccinosis in which vaccinated dogs experience diminished vitality and develop chronic health problems over time, many of them seemingly unrelated to long-ago administered vaccines.
Boxer Puppy Worming And Parasite Control
The best thing you can do to protect your pup from parasites of all kinds is feed a fresh, raw diet.
A landmark study known as Pottenger’s Cats powerfully demonstrated that gastrointestinal parasitism is largely a problem of carnivores fed cooked food instead of their biologically-appropriate raw diets.
Note that the latest research does away with automatically monthly worming protocols.
The evidence is that a small worm burden, as found in wild dogs, can actually help regulate a dog’s immune system, protecting against the development of allergies and chronic inflammatory disorders.
Chemical wormers contribute to toxic load and, like all pharmaceuticals, should be approached with caution.
Always do a fecal test before concluding your Boxer puppy has a worm problem.
Similarly, fleas and ticks are not an issue for most properly fed Boxers living city-based lifestyles.
Don’t give flea treatments preventively — there is no sense in treating a problem your dog doesn’t have, particularly when these products have been associated with serious side effects.
The US Food and Drug Administration in 2018 and 2019 issued alerts for flea and tick products containing the insecticide isoxazoline, warning of the potential for “neurologic adverse events” in dogs and cats, including seizures.
Heartworm is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito and so year-round heartworm medication is not necessary in most geographical locations.
Boxer Puppy Development
Boxers go through a series of predictable growth and developmental stages including fear periods and skinny phases and optimal windows for socialization.
In female Boxers, the first heat cycle commonly arrives between the ages of six months to one year.
Male Boxers often don’t begin scent marking and cocking their legs to pee until 12 to 18 months of age.
It is common for Boxer puppies to be on the skinny side until as late as three years old when they fill out.
However, Boxers are a lean breed and a fit and healthy Boxer will often show a hint of ribs when viewed from the side.
Knowing how to tell whether your Boxer is right weight will avoid misguided attempts to put weight on by overfeeding.
If your Boxer is genuinely underweight, here are some healthy ways to provide more calories.
Boxer Puppy Dental Health And Teething
Bones and teething are what you want to know about when it comes to the oral health of your Boxer puppy.
Bones As Toothbrushes
The single most protective thing you can do to support your Boxer puppy’s dental health is to provide plenty of raw meaty bones.
A properly fed Boxer puppy will be eating bones in two forms:
- As the edible bone component of every meal e.g. chicken necks, wings and frames
- As “recreational bones” mostly designed for chewing e.g. lamb necks
You do not need to brush your Boxer’s teeth as long as you are supplying raw meaty bones, a.k.a “Nature’s toothbrush”.
Raw meaty bones will also help prevent other oral health issues including gum overgrowth or gingival hyperplasia.
Teething In Boxer Puppies
Boxer puppies go through two rounds of teething:
- Around four months of age — 28 baby teeth fall out
- At about six months old — Rear molars erupt
Sore, itchy gums as teeth fall out and new ones push through is the main reason you may find your Boxer puppy has an irrepressible urge to chew everything.
You can direct this urge away from your furniture and other household objects by supplying your Boxer pup with safe, appropriate chews.
Chewing sticks and other non-food objects should also be discouraged — swallowed sticks have caused gut perforations and blockages requiring surgical intervention in too many Boxers.
Dogs don’t always survive these mishaps.
What Does It Cost To Raise A Boxer Puppy?
How much money you’ll need to have set aside for your Boxer depends on a lot of factors.
The price of purchasing your Boxer puppy from the breeder may be the single largest outlay — but it may not.
Budget for a constant drip-drip of small, incidental expenses and also plan to sustain the occasional large hit that you didn’t anticipate.
Commonly incurred costs associated with owning a Boxer puppy include:
- Purchase price
- Pee pads
- Identification tags
- Tracking devices
- Car safety harness
- Car seat cover
- Canine enrichment equipment e.g. puzzles
- Obedience classes
- Online dog training courses
- Dog training books
- Clickers, treat pouches and other training equipment
- Nail trimmers e.g. Dremel grinding tool
- Brushes or grooming mitts
- Diapers for female heat cycles or spay incontinence
- Dog doors
- Baby gates
- Boxer-proof fencing in the yard
- First aid supplies e.g. snake bite kits
- Vet appointments including specialists
- Pathology tests e.g. blood panels, poop tests
- Pet thermometer
- Treatments or therapies for minor illnesses
- Major medical crises and surgeries as a result of disease or accident/injury
- Boarding kennels or dog sitters
- Dog walkers or dog daycare
- Vaccinations (Rabies is compulsory by law) or titer tests
- Dog insurance
- Repairing wear and tear to your home and replacing damaged belongings
- Fines for having your dog off-leash in an on-leash area etc
Boxer dog ownership can be an expensive proposition if your dog turns out to have health problems, so it is well worth doing all you can to find a reputable Boxer breeder who health screens the parents.
Selecting the right pup is part of the equation, but the most important influence on your Boxer’s health will be how well you optimize the diet and care.
Minimizing exposure to toxins, both ingested and environmental, is an often-overlooked by critically important part of Boxer dog care.
All things being equal, your Boxer will generally cost you more during puppyhood, when he’s constantly growing out of collars, beds and coats and you are still setting up your life together.
Costs should stabilize once your Boxer reaches adulthood, but owning a Boxer is a long term financial commitment lasting a lifetime.
The Boxer lifespan is 10 to 12 years or hopefully more.
Of course, as your Boxer ages, you may have to brace yourself for an uptick in spending: an older dog may be more prone to developing one of the diseases associated with the breed.
Once your Boxer enters his senior years, you may see costs increase if he experiences age-related or degenerative conditions (e.g. degenerative myelopathy) that necessitate special care and equipment.
Getting a Boxer puppy is an adventure.
Even if you have had dogs before and mostly know what to expect, there will be curve balls.
Boxer groups on social media can be a valuable way to connect with other owners — just make sure you apply the truth test and verify information before relying on it.
Last but not least, Boxer Dog Diaries looks forward to being your trusted source of Boxer-specific advice and support as you go through life, owned by a Boxer.
Billinghurst, Ian, Give Your Dog a Bone, Warrigal Press, 1993
Dodds W J, More bumps on the vaccine road, Advanced Veterinary Medicine, 1999
Hart, Benjamin L et al, Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for 35 Breeds of Dogs: Associated Joint Disorders, Cancers and Urinary Incontinence, University of California, Davis, 7 July 2020
Pottenger, Francis M Jr, MD, Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 1983