The Boxer is a medium-sized, short-haired breed of dog, developed in Germany. The coat is smooth and tight-fitting; colours are fawn or brindled, with or without white markings, and white. Boxers are brachycephalic (they have broad, short skulls), have a square muzzle, mandibular prognathism (an underbite), very strong jaws, and a powerful bite ideal for hanging on to large prey. The Boxer was bred from the Old English Bulldog and the now extinct Bullenbeisser which became extinct by crossbreeding rather than by a decadence of the breed. The purpose of the crossbreeding was the wish to eliminate the excessive white color of the breed, and the necessity of producing thousands of dogs for one of the most popular breeds in the world. The Boxer is part of the Molosser group. This group is a category of solidly built, large dog breeds that all descend from the same common ancestor, the large shepherd dog known as a Molossus. The Boxer is a member of the Working Group.
The first Boxer club was founded in 1895, with Boxers being first exhibited in a dog show for St. Bernards in Munich the next year. Based on 2013 American Kennel Club statistics, Boxers held steady as the seventh-most popular breed of dog in the United States for the fourth consecutive year. However, according to the AKC's website, the boxer is now the eighth-most popular dog breed in the United States.
The head is the most distinctive feature of the Boxer. The breed standard dictates that it must be in perfect proportion to the body and above all it must never be too light. The greatest value is to be placed on the muzzle being of correct form and in absolute proportion to the skull. The length of the muzzle to the whole of the head should be a ratio of 1:3. Folds are always present from the root of the nose running downwards on both sides of the muzzle, and the tip of the nose should lie somewhat higher than the root of the muzzle. In addition a Boxer should be slightly prognathous, i.e., the lower jaw should protrude beyond the upper jaw and bend slightly upwards in what is commonly called an underbite or "undershot bite".
Boxers were originally a docked and cropped breed, and this is still done in some countries. However, due to pressure from veterinary associations, animal rights groups, and the general public, both cropping of the ears and docking of the tail have been prohibited in many countries around the world. A line of naturally short-tailed (bobtail) Boxers was developed in the United Kingdom in anticipation of a tail docking ban there; after several generations of controlled breeding, these dogs were accepted in the Kennel Club (UK) registry in 1998, and today representatives of the bobtail line can be found in many countries around the world. However, in 2008 the FCI added a "naturally stumpy tail" as a disqualifying fault in their breed standard, meaning those Boxers born with a bobtail can no longer be shown in FCI member countries. In the United States and Canada as of 2012, cropped ears are still more common in show dogs, even though the practice of cosmetic cropping is currently opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association. In March 2005 the AKC breed standard was changed to include a description of the uncropped ear, but to severely penalize an undocked tail. The tail of a boxer is typically docked before the cartilage is fully formed, between 3–5 days old. This procedure does not require any anesthesia or sutures when performed at this young age.
Coat and colours
The Boxer is a short-haired breed, with a shiny, smooth coat that lies tight to the body. The recognized colors are fawn and brindle, frequently with a white underbelly and white on the feet. These white markings, called flash, often extend onto the neck or face, and dogs that have these markings are known as "flashy". "Fawn" denotes a range of color, the tones of which may be described variously as light tan or yellow, reddish tan, mahogany or stag/deer red, and dark honey-blonde. In the UK and Europe, fawn Boxers are typically rich in color and are often called "red". "Brindle" refers to a dog with black stripes on a fawn background. Some brindle Boxers are so heavily striped that they give the appearance of "reverse brindling", fawn stripes on a black body; these dogs are conventionally called "reverse brindles", but that is actually a misnomer—they are still fawn dogs with black stripes. In addition, the breed standards state that the fawn background must clearly contrast with or show through the brindling.
The Boxer does not carry the gene for a solid black coat color and therefore purebred black Boxers do not exist.
Boxers with white markings covering more than one-third of their coat – conventionally called "white" Boxers – are neither albino nor rare; approximately 20–25% of all Boxers born are white. Genetically, these dogs are either fawn or brindle, with excessive white markings overlying the base coat color. Like fair-skinned humans, white Boxers have a higher risk of sunburn and associated skin cancers than colored Boxers. The extreme piebald gene, which is responsible for white markings in Boxers, is linked to congenital sensorineural deafness in dogs. It is estimated that about 18% of white Boxers are deaf in one or both ears, though Boxer rescue organizations see about double that number.
In the past, breeders often euthanized white puppies at birth. A 1998 study of Boxers in the Netherlands showed that 17% of Boxer pups were euthanized because they were white. Previously, the American Boxer Club "unofficially recommended euthanasia for these animals." Reasons for euthanizing white pups includes the view that it is unethical to sell a dog with "faults" and the perception that white Boxers are at higher risk of ending up abandoned in rescues. Today, breeders are increasingly reluctant to euthanize healthy pups and may choose to neuter and place them in pet homes instead.
The character of the Boxer is of the greatest importance and demands the most solicitous attention. He is renowned from olden times for his great love and faithfulness to his master and household. He is harmless in the family, but can be distrustful of strangers, bright and friendly of temperament at play, but brave and determined when aroused. His intelligence and willing tractability, his modesty and cleanliness make him a highly desirable family dog and cheerful companion. He is the soul of honesty and loyalty, and is never false or treacherous even in his old age.
— 1938 AKC Boxer breed standard
Boxers are a bright, energetic and playful breed and tend to be very good with children. They are patient and spirited with children but also protective, making them a popular choice for families.They are active, strong dogs and require adequate exercise to prevent boredom-associated behaviors such as chewing, digging, or licking. Boxers have earned a slight reputation of being "headstrong," which can be related to inappropriate obedience training. Owing to their intelligence and working breed characteristics, training based on corrections often has limited usefulness. Boxers, like other animals, typically respond better to positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training, an approach based on operant conditioning and behaviorism, which offers the dog an opportunity to think independently and to problem-solve. Stanley Coren's survey of obedience trainers, summarized in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, ranked Boxers at #48 – average working/obedience intelligence. Many who have worked with Boxers disagree quite strongly with Coren's survey results, and maintain that a skilled trainer who uses reward-based methods will find Boxers have far above-average intelligence and working ability.
The Boxer by nature is not an aggressive or vicious breed. It is an instinctive guardian and can become very attached to its family. Like all dogs, it requires proper socialization. Boxers are generally patient with smaller dogs and puppies, but difficulties with larger adult dogs, especially those of the same sex, may occur. Boxers are generally more comfortable with companionship, in either human or canine form.
Leading health issues to which Boxers are prone include cancers, heart conditions such as aortic stenosis and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (the so-called "Boxer cardiomyopathy"), hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy and epilepsy; other conditions that may be seen are gastric dilatation volvulus (also known as bloat), intestinal problems, and allergies (although these may be more related to diet than breed). Entropion, a malformation of the eyelid requiring surgical correction, is occasionally seen, and some lines have a tendency toward spondylosis deformans, a fusing of the spine, or dystocia. Other conditions that are less common but occur more often in Boxers than other breeds are hystiocytic ulcerative colitis (sometimes called Boxer colitis), an invasive E. coli infection, and indolent corneal ulcers, often called Boxer eye ulcers.
About 22% of puppies die before reaching 7 weeks of age. Stillbirth is the most frequent cause of death, followed by infection. Mortality due to infection increases significantly with increases in inbreeding.
According to a UK Kennel Club health survey, cancer accounts for 38.5% of Boxer deaths, followed by old age (21.5%), cardiac (6.9%) and gastrointestinal (6.9%) related issues. The breed is particularly predisposed to mast cell tumours, a cancer of the immune system. Median lifespan was 10.25 years. Responsible breeders use available tests to screen their breeding stock before breeding, and in some cases throughout the life of the dog, in an attempt to minimize the occurrence of these diseases in future generations.
Boxers are known to be very sensitive to the hypotensive and bradycardiac effects of a commonly used veterinary sedative, acepromazine. It is recommended that the drug be avoided in the Boxer breed.
As an athletic breed, proper exercise and conditioning is important for the continued health and longevity of the Boxer. Care must be taken not to over-exercise young dogs, as this may damage growing bones; however, once mature, Boxers can be excellent jogging or running companions. Because of their brachycephalic head, they do not do well with high heat or humidity, and common sense should prevail when exercising a Boxer in these conditions.
Boxer are very energetic even at old ages. They need plenty of exercise which means their diet should be high in quality calories. The main source of these calories should be lean animal protein, which include lean chicken, turkey, lamb and fish.
Boxers are also prone to dental problems, increasing their susceptibility for bad breath; dry dog food that is large and difficult for them to chew improves the likelihood for plaque removal. Plaque can also be removed by crude fiber in kibble, which has a flexible structure that increases chewing time. Polyphosphates are often coated on the outside of dry dog food, which further reduce plaque buildup by preventing calcium production in saliva. Odor production from the boxer's mouth is likely to be reduced if its teeth and oral cavity are kept in healthy conditions.
Boxers are friendly, lively companions that are popular as family dogs. Their suspicion of strangers, alertness, agility, and strength make them formidable guard dogs. As puppies, Boxers demonstrate a fascinating combination of mood-mirroring expressions, energetic curiosity, flexible attention spans and charming characteristics. They sometimes appear at dog agility or dog obedience trials and flyball events. These strong and intelligent animals have also been used as service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs, police dogs in K9 units, and occasionally herding cattle or sheep. The versatility of Boxers was recognized early on by the military, which has used them as valuable messenger dogs, pack carriers, and attack and guard dogs in times of war.