There are quite a few deal breaker questions you need to ask a Boxer breeder before deciding one of their pups is for you.
It’s a good idea to have this conversation on the phone, rather than in person, and to take notes you can review later.
Make sure you only go and physically visit breeders after they’ve passed the initial test.
There’s good reason for this.
Once you see a litter full of Boxer puppies running around, you’ll be hard pressed to walk out of there without one… even if the breeder has not tested the parents for genetic diseases or done everything they should have.
Why Research Is Important When Buying A Boxer Puppy
All Boxer puppies are adorable, but unfortunately not all will grow up to be healthy.
Doing thorough research before settling on a breeder can help you get a well reared puppy with no family history of things like heart disease or degenerative myelopathy.
There are no guarantees, but being as careful as you can will help avoid heartache down the track.
You want a puppy that is in perfect health, has a sweet, even temperament and conforms to what a Boxer should be, in terms of build and features.
Any breeder who does not welcome your inquiries, and provide detailed answers, is a breeder you should avoid.
Reputable Boxer breeders will have their own set of questions for you too.
After all, they want their dogs to go to the best possible homes.
1. What Health Testing Has Been Done?
Your breeder should have screened both parents for the full range of heritable diseases known to afflict Boxers.
- Arrythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC)
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
- Aortic and Sub Aortic Stenosis
- Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Corneal Dystrophy
Ask to see written or electronic proof of the test results.
Your breeder should talk knowledgeably about health issues affecting Boxers and be able to explain how they breed away from these conditions.
The best breeders may even have puppies evaluated by a board-certified cardiologist before they are released.
2. Can You Meet The Parents?
Most breeders will be happy for you to view not just pictures of the parents, but actually see the dogs in person.
It’s possible the stud dog doesn’t belong to their kennel and is not on site.
But you should at least be able to meet the dam.
This will give you a sense of the temperament of the mother but also lets you see the kennel and the conditions in which the dogs are kept.
Ask the breeder about the pairing, why they bred these two together.
A good breeder seeks to match a dog’s good points in a mate, and improve on any weaknesses.
It is an art and a science.
3. How Are The Grandparents?
Boxers are bred at an age younger than when many health problems show up.
So, the most accurate indication of your pup’s likely health outcomes long term is often not possible by looking at the parents, who are still young.
You need to look at the grandparents, and even great grandparents, ideally.
This isn’t foolproof, but at least these dogs will be older and will have had more chance for any problems to emerge.
Ask also about the siblings of the parents, and ideally siblings of the grandparents and so on.
Gather as much information as you can about the family history and the bloodline in terms of longevity and health issues faced.
Ask about previous litters from this mated pair and whether any of their puppies have ever experienced any health issues.
Breeders often have Facebook groups for the owners of their puppies.
Ask if you can join while you await the arrival of the litter, as this can be another way to get a sense of how this breeder’s dogs fare health-wise.
You might even want to reach out to some of the owners of the older dogs from many litters ago, to ask more detailed questions about their dog’s health and their experience with the breeder.
This way you’ll be able to find out things that mightn’t be apparent from just looking at the Facebook page.
4. What Are The Dogs Fed?
What you want to hear here is that the dogs are fed a raw, natural, species-appropriate diet.
That is, a diet based on raw meaty bones.
If the breeder utters the word kibble or canned or any other kind of processed commercial dog food, run a mile.
The pups should be weaned straight onto raw.
5. Are The Dogs Vaccinated?
Naturally-reared Boxers are still hard to come by, but they can be found.
Standard puppy vaccination schedules dictate that puppies are vaccinated four times between the ages of six and 16 weeks, with a further booster at 12 months.
Each injection contains not just one vaccine but as many as seven different vaccines in combination.
On the other end of the scale, some breeders have been avoiding vaccinations altogether for decades, without problems.
With increasing awareness of adverse vaccine reactions and toxic accumulation, holistic veterinarians now offer alternate protocols.
These protocols avoid non-core vaccines, minimize puppies’ exposure to multiple rounds of shots at very young ages and separate out the vaccines rather than giving all-in-one combination shots.
According to the Dr Jean Dodds protocol, puppy vaccines need only include distemper, parvovirus and rabies and no shots are given before 9-10 weeks of age.
Veterinary immunologist Dr Ronald Schultz recommends an even more minimal approach that includes just one vaccination for parvo, distemper and adenovirus at four months old.
It’s possible to request thimerosol-free vaccines, which avoid the heavy metal mercury.
However, there is no avoiding the chemical adjuvants and preservatives including MSG, aluminium and formaldehyde that are contained in all vaccines.
The adjuvants are intended to “irritate” the immune system in order to stimulate an exaggerated immune response — without them the vaccine won’t achieve its effect.
The problem is this heightened response has also been blamed for triggering autoimmune disorders, allergies, cancer, thyroid and digestive conditions and joint disease.
Educate yourself and talk to prospective breeders well ahead of time to see whether they are willing to let you handle the vaccinations.
6. Is The Litter Chemically Wormed?
Chemical wormers including many popular brands have been associated with serious side effects up to and including seizures and death.
Boxers feature not infrequently in these grim tallies.
Natural rearing breeders use natural approaches to parasite control.
Also ask your prospective breeder whether flea and tick treatments are administered.
7. Does The Breeder Dock Tails Or Crop Ears?
Many breeders still dock tails when pups are a few days old.
Most now leave decisions on ear cropping to the owners.
Both these practices are hangovers from the earliest days of the breed and are still reflected in the official breed standard.
Ear cropping and tail docking are cosmetic procedures that cause pain to the dog, despite the various justifications put forward in their defence.
Both procedures are now banned in many countries, on animal cruelty grounds.
Find out what your breeder does with ears and tails and make sure they are willing to leave both natural upon request.
8. Do They Remove Dew Claws?
This once-automatic procedure, done at a few days old, was thought to prevent dew claws catching on things and tearing later in life.
However, many Boxers with dew claws have no problems.
As a result, some natural rearing breeders leave dew claws intact.
Research it for yourself and then discuss with your breeder to make sure you’re on the same page.
9. Does The Breeder Microchip The Puppies?
Microchipping involves implanting a rice-sized glass bead between a dog’s shoulder blades, containing a radio transmitter, antenna and computer chip.
Though common, this is not without safety concerns.
Microchips can cause foreign body reactions, migrate to the neck or belly, and there have been cases of tumors forming at the injection sites.
Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and likelihood of being separated from you, the risks may outweigh the benefits you and your dog will ever get from it.
Find out whether your breeder automatically microchips puppies.
Perhaps s/he will be willing to leave this choice up to you, as the pup’s owner-to-be.
10. Is The Breeder AKC Registered?
Understand that registration is no guarantee of quality.
If a pup is AKC-registrable, all it tells you is that both parents were AKC registered as being Boxers.
It tells you nothing about the puppies’ structural soundness, health or temperament.
The breeder still may have done no health testing and know nothing about how to select appropriate mates.
Far better to find a breeder through the American Boxer Club or a local member club.
A serious Boxer breeder will be involved in showing their dogs (at least in performance if not conformation) and will be able to tell you of the titles their dogs have won.
Most importantly, legitimate breeders will have an understanding of canine genetics and be actively selecting mating pairs to enhance desirable qualities and diminish undesirable traits.
This is what’s meant when breeders talk about the “betterment of the breed”.
It’s something owners who casually breed their pet Boxers overlook, with potentially disastrous results.
11. Is There A Puppy Contract?
Breeders may ask you to sign a contract stipulating that they will forcibly reclaim the dog if you fail to meet certain standards of care or become unable to care for her.
The flipside to this is to find out whether the breeder will be happy to take the puppy back upon your request if something drastic and unforeseen happens.
12. How Long Have They Been Breeding Boxers?
Most serious Boxer breeders will have devoted a lifetime to the betterment of the breed.
Sometimes the kennel will have been passed from generation to generation.
Their lives will be steeped in Boxers and probably revolve around their dogs.
Experience is invaluable.
But equally, younger breeders may have more modern stances on things like cropping, docking and natural rearing.
13. At What Age Are The Pups Weaned And How?
Best case scenario is that puppies are weaned at a time of the dam’s choosing.
If they’re forcibly weaned, this shouldn’t be done before about six weeks.
Pups should be weaned onto raw meaty bones, minced at first.
Within about 10 days of weaning, Boxer pups can handle whole chicken wings and necks.
14. How Many Previous Litters Has The Mother Had?
The best breeders often have litters available infrequently.
You may have to go on a waiting list.
For the health of mother and young it’s important not to have too many pregnancies and to have plenty of time between litters.
15. At What Age Do The Puppies Go To Their New Homes?
A proper breeder will not send puppies to their new homes until they are at least eight weeks old.
If they say 10 to 12 weeks old that is a very good sign that they care about the early development of the pups and are not concerned about moving them out quickly to reduce costs.
Extra time with the breeder allows the pup to benefit from an important period of socialization with its mum and littermates.
During this time your Boxer will learn important lessons about how to be a dog, including bite inhibition.
Pups removed earlier than this — say, at six weeks — can exhibit behavioral and health problems.
Some states have laws against puppies being sold younger than seven or eight weeks.
16. Can You Visit Before You Take Your Pup Home?
Within reason, most breeders will be happy for you to visit several times.
It’s worth visiting once before the litter is born, when choosing a breeder, again to meet the litter and choose a pup and then once more to see your pup before he’s old enough to come home.
During the final weeks before bringing your pup home, be sure to check you have all the necessary equipment you’ll need to raise your Boxer right.
Not sure what you need? See our 21 Things You Need Before You Bring Your Boxer Puppy Home.
17. Can You Choose Your Own Pup?
Sometimes breeders like to have a hand in matching puppies to owners, so make sure you know the rules.
After all, you will be the dog’s owner.
You will want to interact with the litter and have a choice between the available puppies rather than having one allocated to you.
Any decent breeder will respect this.
18. What Socialization Does The Breeder Do With The Litter?
Good breeders will expose the litter to as many different situations as possible as part of early socialization.
Find out whether the litter is raised in the kennel or in the home.
Are there babies and young children in the household? This will be a bonus in exposing your pup to kids early.
Does the breeder have a cat? Horses? The more the merrier.
19. Does The Puppy Come With A Health Guarantee?
Breeders will usually guarantee the health of the pup up to and including a first vet check, or up until a certain age.
Good breeders will take a huge interest in the health of their pups and will not hesitate to offer health guarantees.
20. Do They Sell Pups Online?
It goes without saying: never buy a Boxer puppy online, from pictures or sight unseen.
This is the modus operandi of a puppy scammer.
No responsible breeder will operate this way.
Think twice, too, about a breeder willing to fly dogs cargo to their new homes.
Boxers have died this way and many airlines now refuse to fly them due to the risk.
21. Can You Call The Breeder For Help?
Your breeder should invite you to call them if you need help with your pup at any stage — for the life of the animal.
With his wealth of knowledge, don’t hesitate to make use of this invitation whenever necessary.
22. Do They Enforce Neutering?
Sometimes breeders enforce neutering of puppies sold to pet homes to prevent their dogs being bred by others.
While you probably have no intention of breeding your Boxer, you may be aware that neutering increases the incidence of many serious diseases including mast cell tumors, hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament tears, behavioral problems and endocrine disorders like Cushing’s.
Make sure you can reach an agreement that allows you to keep your dog intact for health reasons, while satisfying the breeder.
23. Will They Insist On Breeding Rights To Your Dog?
Sometimes breeders sell females to pet homes but retain breeding rights.
On the upside, this indicates you have a dog of breeding quality.
However, it also means you forfeit a degree of control over your Boxer’s life trajectory.
If and when the breeder chooses, you can be forced to allow your dog to have a litter.
Usually this means your dog will have to go and live with the breeder during the final weeks of pregnancy and for up to three months until the pups go to their new homes.
All of this — including the mating process itself — is not without risks to your dog’s health and wellbeing. Even experienced breeders can lose mothers during whelping or to complications afterwards.
There will also be stress involved for your dog when she’s removed from the family home and returned to the breeder for the birth and rearing of the puppies.
You will of course be without your dog during all this time, too.
Consider carefully before agreeing to take a pup on these terms because it can be quite onerous.
24. Is The Breeder White Boxer Friendly?
Not so long ago Boxer breeders euthanized puppies born white.
This was not done because of any health problems associated with being white, but because white Boxers did not (and still do not) conform to the technical breed standard.
This standard states that white markings must exceed no more than a third of a Boxer’s body.
White Boxers do have a five to eight per cent chance of being completely deaf and a 13% chance of being deaf in one ear.
However white Boxers are no more likely than other colors to be blind, despite popular misconceptions.
Ask your breeder their view on white Boxers.
Almost all now happily sell them to pet homes, usually at lower prices than their fawn and brindle littermates.
The way your breeder answers this question will help you get to know them better.
Don’t rush the process of selecting a breeder for your Boxer puppy.
Remember your choice of where to buy your Boxer puppy will affect you and your dog for the next 10 to 15 years.