The Breed Report: The Boxer
Bob Downey has been the executive director of the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, Nebraska, for 22 years. He lives with two boxers, Gracie and Arnold, and has previously owned six others over the last 25 years. Downey has found boxers to be “big babies,” “incredibly devoted,” and a “great dog for active families.”
Marita Rossmueller is the founder of HOBO Care Boxer Rescue in Denver, Colorado. She has been involved in rescue for 30 years. While she currently focuses on boxers, she has also rescued Doberman pinschers, Great Danes, and pit bulls. She admits that she’s not an impartial judge of dogs: Boxers are her favorites.
Origin: In ancient Greek mythology, a hunting dog named Laelaps was so fast that he always caught his prey. Originally a gift from the god Zeus to Europa, Laelaps had several owners over the course of his life. Laelaps’ final owner decided to use the dog to hunt the Teumessian Fox, a giant animal so fast that he could never be caught. This chase perplexed Zeus: both animals were so fast that the chase would never end. To solve this problem, Zeus simply turned them to stone.
Before he met his stony end, Laelaps supposedly sired a number of dogs who came to be known as Molossians: large, mastiff-types frequently used to fight in wars around 2000 BC. While this origin of Molossians may be mythical, written history shows that sometime between the 11th and 17th centuries, smaller Molossians were bred into bull biters, a group of working dogs which later split into several breeds, including boxers. The first boxer club was formed in Munich, Germany, in 1895, and the American Kennel Club registered the first boxer in 1904.
Average Height: 21–25” at the withers
Average Weight: 55–75 lbs.
Average Life Span: 10 years
Appearance: Boxers are medium-sized dogs with a square, muscular build. They have a wrinkled forehead and an undershot bite. Like pugs or bulldogs, boxers are a bracycephalic breed, meaning they have a short muzzle. They’re short-haired, and their colors range from fawn to dark brindle with some white markings on the head, chest, muzzle, throat, and legs. You may see all-white boxers in the shelter, but not at dog shows (their coloring disqualifies them).
Genetic problems: hip dysplasia, cardiomyopathy, hyperthyroidism and an undershot bite.
Boxers aren’t meant for temperature extremes. Their short coats make them susceptible to the dangers of cold winters, and during the summer months, heat can cause them breathing difficulties because of their short muzzles. They also gain weight easily, so it’s important to monitor their diets. Adopters should be warned about the dangers of table scraps!
Grooming: The boxer’s grooming needs are few and simple. As short-haired dogs, boxers need only basic brushing. It’s important to trim their nails regularly and bathe them once every few months.
Children: “Boxers tend to be gentle with children and can make good playmates for them,” says Downey. But since boxers can be bouncy and exuberant, it’s important that they are always supervised with small children—a good guideline for any dog/toddler relationship.
Other People: When the boxer’s ancestors transitioned from working dogs to house dogs, they naturally fell into the role of family protectors. Their appearance is intimidating to some, and they may enjoy serving as indoor, family watch dogs. Some boxers may be initially suspicious of strangers but will quickly respond positively to friendly gestures.
Dog-to-Dog Introductions: Rossmueller suggests that boxers will behave better during canine introductions when they are introduced off-leash. Being on a leash creates a sense of territorialism in some dogs, and boxers tend to do better with other pooches if they can move around freely during these all-important meet-and-greets.
Boxers may not be considered traditional working breeds like the border collie or German shepherd, but they are intelligent, energetic dogs, and training is important for them. “If you are a wuss, the dog will rule your life,” Rossmueller says. She also notes that boxers are sensitive dogs—and that firm but gentle training is ultimately the best approach for them.
Surrender: Downey and Rossmueller agree that boxers often end up in shelters because of a lack of attention from their owners. “They’re big chewers and if you leave them alone for long periods of time, they’ll become destructive,” Rossmueller says.
Shelter Life: Boxers can easily become overwhelmed and overstimulated by the hectic shelter environment. A stressed-out boxer can be identified by hyper or repetitive behaviors such as frequent jumping, spinning, or attempts to escape. Some dogs might try to climb out of their runs, while others may dart past an unsuspecting volunteer. Staff and volunteers need to be prepared to thwart the escape attempts of these dogs.
While every dog is unique, knowing that one breed likes to herd and another likes to lap-nap may help caretakers provide a better temporary home—and locate the ideal permanent one.
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Adoption: Boxers are playful dogs. “They need daily exercise and love to run,” says Downey. “A happy dog will jump and dance.” Potential adopters should be made aware of a boxer’s exercise needs. Rossmueller notes that boxers are athletic dogs, and a yard with a six-foot-high fence is a great asset for adopters.
Potential adopters should understand the boxer’s energy level, especially that of a younger dog. Boxers’ liveliness, coupled with their genuine need for companionship, can make them very needy dogs. But adopters with the time and energy to commit to a boxer will find a great companion.