Getting a Boxer dog safely through a pregnancy is a costly, labor-intensive commitment.
A lot can go wrong between here and a healthy litter of puppies.
Here’s a checklist to help you evaluate whether you have what it takes to be a responsible Boxer breeder — even just once.
Find A Breeder Who Can Mentor You
Probably the single most helpful thing you can do if you are considering breeding your Boxer is get a mentor.
You will need to seek out a an experienced, reputable breeder who will agree to guide you through the process from start to finish.
You will want to download their brain and learn everything they can possibly teach.
There will be a reading list to get through. Someone who’s done this many times before will be able to point you to the best resources.
Local Boxer clubs are a great place to start your search for a mentor.
This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. I encourage readers to see my full disclaimer here.
Health Screening To Do Before Breeding A Boxer
Boxers suffer from several serious (and fatal) diseases, many of which have a genetic basis. In other words, they are inherited to some degree. These diseases occur not infrequently, with devastating effect on quality and length of life.
The major conditions that occur in Boxers include:
- arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy
- dilated cardiomyopathy
- aortic and sub aortic stenosis
- degenerative myelopathy
- hip and elbow dysplasia
- cancers including mast cell tumors and brain cancer
- eye problems like corneal dystrophy and corneal ulcers
- chronic kidney disease
Just because your Boxer is a picture of health right now, as a young dog, does not mean she will not develop one of these conditions later in life.
Most heart problems, for instance, don’t show up as symptoms until a dog is past five years old. The only way to tell if your dog is affected is to do a DNA test. Tests can tell whether a dog is clear, a carrier capable of passing on a condition to puppies, or potentially destined to develop the disease herself (and obviously able to pass it down).
It is your responsibility, even as a “just once” breeder, to screen for every possible condition. Failure to do so will exact a huge cost in dollars and heartbreak later.
Proper testing involves blood panels, cheek swabs, x-rays, auscultation by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist, Doppler echocardiograms, and wearing of 24-hour holter monitors.
Certain Boxer bloodlines will require additional testing.
Do you know what brucellosis is? Breeders Jennifer and Jeremy Walker of the Michigan based Newcastle Boxers say “Don’t even think about breeding if you don’t know what brucellosis is”.
You will need to be able to provide proof of test results to potential puppy buyers. The best owners will insist on seeing them.
There are also other health problems that cannot be tested for but which mean a dog shouldn’t be bred. These include things like skin problems and “allergies”.
Both parents need to be tested.
Knowing the genetics and health of the dogs involved is the only way to have any real chance of avoiding pairings that will produce puppies that grow up to develop preventable diseases.
You will need a working knowledge of canine genetics so that you understand how to breed away from disease traits.
Can You Afford To Breed Your Boxer?
To make a bit of cash is one of the six bogus reasons that boxerworld.com says unscrupulous owners give for breeding their Boxer.
Not only is it a poor motivation to breed, it’s misguided.
Breeding Boxers is many things. A money making venture is not one of them.
According to Liz Phillips, of JayRbar Boxer in Lawrence, Kansas, “If you are doing it right, you will not be making money from breeding Boxers. It is expensive.”
Consider the basic costs:
- health screening for parents
- stud fees
- vet fees
- supplies and equipment including heat lamp/heating pad etc
- whelping costs
- vaccinations and worming (even if you are natural rearing there are homeopathic nosodes and natural parasite control measures)
- highest quality food for both mom and weaned puppies
- lost income from time off work in lead up to whelping and for the first many weeks of the puppies’ lives
And those are just the expected outlays for a breeding that goes smoothly. If you run into trouble at any stage of the process, costs can sky rocket.
Are You Registered As A Breeder?
You may not care about whether or not your dog came from a registered breeder. The new puppy owners may not care whether you are registered.
But there is a reason for registration: it tells you something about the quality of the breeder and, by extension, the quality of the dog.
(At the same time, registration is not a guarantee of good practices. But it tends to be a pre-requisite.)
Professional breeders have spent lifetimes steeped in Boxers and have developed carefully-structured breeding programs. Their entire way of life often revolves around breeding and showing their dogs. It is a true labor of love.
They are devoted to the betterment of the breed.
You might think this is a bunch of baloney. After all, you are only interested in breeding “pet quality” Boxers, not “show quality”.
Appearance, or “conformation” as it’s known in the competition ring, mightn’t matter so much in a pet Boxer. But temperament, health and longevity are of utmost importance in a beloved family member. To adopt lax standards on these fronts ushers in a world of pain down the track, for both dog and owner.
Are you familiar with the current breed standard and the code of ethics for the Boxer breed? There are American Kennel Club rules and regulations and American Boxer Club by-laws that breeders are expected to adhere to.
In California there is such a thing as the Puppy Lemon Law and other states have similar legislation.
You do not want to wake up in a second here and realize you are the dreaded backyard breeder, the very definition of “careless and clueless”.
Breeding Boxers takes more than a love of the breed. It takes specialized knowledge.
Is Your Boxer Breeding Quality?
All Boxers are delightful. Only a small percentage are of high enough quality to pass down their genes.
For the sake of the puppies and their future owners — and for the good of the breed as a whole — it’s critical to only breed from the best of the best.
This is how health problems, and the suffering they bring, are avoided.
If you are considering breeding your Boxer, she needs to be evaluated by several independent experts to assess conformation and temperament.
The same goes for any males you are considering as the mate.
If both dogs pass this threshold test, you can then embark on the health testing.
Finding A Mate For Your Boxer
Selecting breeding pairs is a science and an art.
Health-wise, it’s imperative to avoid mating dogs whose genetics mean puppies will have a high likelihood of inheriting disease.
But in virtually every aspect, you want the strengths in one parent to offset weaknesses in the other so as to produce puppies that are better again. Every trait should be considered.
Do you know:
- the health outcomes and lifespans of not just the parents, but the grandparents and siblings on both sides?
- how to avoid inbreeding?
- the particular bloodlines involved?
How To Safely Mate A Boxer
Mating Boxers is not as simple as having a play date and letting nature take its course.
Some bitches do not want to be mated and become aggressive. Some need to be restrained and muzzled to achieve a mating.
Is this an experience you want for your girl?
Even if you’re only wanting to stud out your male Boxer, there are risks you need to know before subjecting your dog to them.
Dogs have been injured and killed by bitches during attempted matings.
Even if it’s a successful mating and a tie results, the stud dog can get inadvertently hurt during this process. Do you know how to break a tie if it goes on too long? How long is too long?
Do you know what age a Boxer should be for mating?
Caring For A Pregnant And Lactating Boxer
Just as in humans, maternal nutrition plays a major role in preventing or predisposing disease in the unborn puppies.
A dam needs to be in prime condition, so you are probably already well-versed in the benefits of feeding a fresh, natural, raw meaty bone-based diet.
Gestation usually lasts about nine weeks. In the final few weeks, and up until the puppies are weaned, your girl will need a lot more food to support lactation. She might eat as much as three times her normal amount.
You will need to monitor your dog 24/7 as her due date approaches.
Make sure you organize:
- an experienced breeder to be present, or close by, during the birth
- your vet to be on call, including after hours, in case of problems during the labor
Even experienced breeders have dogs die due to complications during delivery.
- Do you know how to tell when mom is in trouble?
- Can you resuscitate a puppy?
- Do you have money set aside for an emergency C-section?
- Are you prepared to lose your dog and all of the puppies if something goes wrong?
- Would you recognize if your dog developed eclampsia?
Caring For A Litter Of Boxer Puppies
Once the pups are safely born, you will need time off work to be with them 100 per cent of the time for at least the first week or so.
Especially with a first time mother, things can go wrong.
Some dams accidentally roll on their pups and crush them. They have even been known to kill and eat them.
Puppies can get caught in blankets and smothered.
If mom dies, rejects her puppies or fails to produce milk, it will be even more demanding. In that case you will need at least a month off work.
Pups need two-hourly feedings around the clock in order to double their weight in the first week of life.
- Do you know how to recognize the signs of mastitis?
- Can you tell if a puppy is fading and do you know what to do about it?
- Will you let mom decide when to wean or enforce a set timeline?
- Do you know how to wean puppies onto a fresh, raw meaty bone-based diet?
You will need to make informed decisions about elective procedures including:
- tail docking
- ear cropping
- dew claw removal
In the case of tail docking and dew claw removal, if done, it needs to happen in the first week of life.
Socializing the litter is a key task.
The puppies need to be exposed in the right way to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells, animals, people and situations.
What a breeder does or fails to do in the first weeks of life will show in the temperament of the puppies later on.
Homing Boxer Puppies
Most dogs that end up in shelters come from “one time only” breeders.
Some questions to consider include:
- Do you know how to effectively screen potential owners?
- Are you able to keep the puppies until suitable homes are found, no matter how old they get?
- What will the terms of your contract be?
- Are you willing and able to take dogs back if they get sick or their owners relinquish them?
- Are you prepared to field calls from the owners for the life of the puppies?
- What will your puppy guarantee be? Usually breeders offer a guarantee of one to three years against genetic disorders
As a breeder you ought be aware of how critical it is to not remove puppies from their mom and littermates prior to seven weeks and to ideally keep the family together as late as 10 weeks.
Some states have laws mandating pups must stay with their mother until 8 weeks.
There are very good reasons why the breeding of pet Boxers by owners is frowned upon by professional breeders.
Breeding Boxers can be a joy, but it’s not something to go into unprepared.
For the sake of the dogs, it’s important to educate yourself thoroughly first.
Above all, know the risks, how to manage them and proceed only with the guidance of an experienced mentor.