The Boxer wants to meet you, your children, and other members of your family The Boxer’s most notable characteristic is his desire for human affection. Though his spirited bearing, square jaw, and cleanly muscled body suggest the well-conditioned middleweight athlete of dogdom, the Boxer is happiest when he is with people–especially children, watching protectively over their play. His short smooth coat, handsome chiseled head, and striking silhouette never fail to excite comments from passersby as he trots jauntily by your side with neck arched and tail held erect. He is truly a “dog for all seasons,” suiting the need for household guardian, attractive companion, and children’s playmate and loyal friend.
Origin: The Hunter
The Boxer’s historical background begins in feudal Germany. Here, a small, courageous hunting dog with mastiff-type head and undershot bite was used to secure a tenacious hold on bull, boar, or bear— pending the hunter’s arrival. He became a utility dog for peasants and shop owners. His easy trainability even found him performing in the circus. In the 1880s, descendants of this type of dog were bred to a taller, more elegant English import, and the era of the modern Boxer had begun. Imported to America after the first World War, his popularity really began in the late 1930s. His appeal in the show ring led to four “Best in Show” awards at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club between 1947 and 1970.
The Boxer is a medium-sized dog ranging from 21 1/2 inches high at the shoulder in a smaller female up to 25 inches (sometimes taller) in a large male. Adult weight may reach 65-80 pounds in the male, with females about 15 pounds less. There are no miniature or giant varieties. The short, close-lying coat is found in two equally acceptable and attractive basic colors-fawn and brindle. The fawn may vary from a tawny tan to a beautiful stag red. The brindle ranges from sparse, but clearly defined black stripes on a fawn background, to such a heavy concentration of black striping that the essential fawn background color barely, although clearly, shows through (which may create the appearance of “reverse brindling”).
White markings should be of such distribution as to enhance the dog’s appearance, but may not exceed one-third of the entire coat. It is not uncommon to have a totally white Boxer born in a litter. An all-white coat, or a predominantly white background (known as a “check”) may occur. In order to retain the beauty of the fawn and brindle colors, American Boxer Club members are pledged not to use white boxers for breeding. They may be AKC registered on the Limited (non breeding) option, and they are eligible for all performance events (Obedience, Agility, Rally, etc).
Breed Characteristics: “Beauty and Brains”
The Boxer’s official classification in the “Working Group” of dogs is a natural. His keenest sense, that of hearing, makes him an instinctive guard dog, always alert. Although always vigilant, the Boxer is not a nervous breed, and will not bark without cause. He has judgment, and an uncanny sense of distinguishing between friend and intruder. One of the delightful qualities that sets the Boxer apart is the unique expressiveness of his face. The skin furrowing of the forehead, the dark, “soulful” eyes, and at times almost human attempts to “converse,” make his replacement by another breed difficult for one who has owned a Boxer. He mimics the mood of his master and A DOG FOR ALL REASONS!
What About Obedience, Rally, or Agility Training?
Many Boxers are great successes in performance events. However, that same innate intelligence that makes him quick to learn also gives the Boxer a mind of his own. The trainer must be purposeful and patient. The well-trained Boxer is a glorious picture going through his paces in the Obedience ring, or joyously rushing through the Rally or Agility course, such trials usually being held in conjunction with dog shows. You will quickly find that your Boxer has quite a sense of humor, and may invent the most unexpected games in the course of his training and performance. Occasionally, Boxers are successful in Lure Coursing, Tracking, and other performance pursuits.
Boxers make wonderful service dogs—therapy dogs to brighten the days of shut-ins, guides for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, even seizure alert dogs for those who suffer from epilepsy. They were used as guards and couriers during war time, and perform beautifully as narcotics detectors, police dogs, and in search and rescue operations. The Boxer has an innate desire to help those in need.
CARE OF YOUR BOXER
Should he be confined?
The Boxer requires relatively little care, but ownership of any dog is a definite responsibility. Your Boxer should NOT be allowed to run loose. Exercise within a fenced area or on a leash should be adequate. It also prevents a potentially unpleasant encounter with a neighbor’s dog or an overly effusive greeting that may frighten the small child who may not have had the chance to know how instinctively tolerant the Boxer really is. Death from automobiles, poison, or many other causes may await the Boxer who runs loose in the neighborhood. Remember, too, that improperly protected screen doors are a common mode of unexpected house exit. So-called invisible fencing is fine, but while it may keep your own dog in his yard, it will not keep other dogs out—which can be a problem in the case of overly aggressive visitors. It is also a sad but true fact of life that your Boxer may easily be confused by many with the much maligned Pit Bull, often with tragic consequences for the Boxer. You must be your dog’s best advocate and protector—a strong leash and a good fence are musts for the conscientious Boxer owner.
What about a crate?
A crate is an invaluable asset to your puppy’s training and well-being. It is not a prison. A crate is a safe haven for the puppy when his owners go to work or the store, a place where his owners don’t have to worry about his chewing of electrical cords or furniture. Be sure that the crate does not allow your boxer to slip his head through any wire mesh, as he may not be able to retract it. Since a puppy is loathe to soil his crate, it is a great aid in housetraining. If you leave the crate door open, you will find that the puppy will probably enter the crate voluntarily when he wants to rest. Be sure to put the crate in a warm place. The Boxer is sensitive to temperature extremes and does not enjoy drafts, summer heat, or cold. He should not be kept outdoors, but inside the house as a cherished member of the family.
Collars are always appropriate when going for a walk with the owner. However, be aware that your Boxer should not have any collar left on him when he is unattended. Even simple buckle collars can and do get caught on the most unexpected objects. They can also be twisted in the jaws of any playful doggy companion, with the potential for choking a very real danger. As a conscientious owner, you must beware. Always microchip your dog in case they slip a collar or get out without a collar on!
How Much Grooming?
The Boxer requires very little grooming, and it can easily be done by the owner. Nails must be trimmed regularly unless naturally worn down on a hard surface. An occasional currycombing and/or bath should suffice—the Boxer has a natural tendency to keep himself clean. His neat and tidy coat does not unduly attract dirt. Tartar may have to be removed from the teeth periodically, especially as the Boxer grows older. You can learn to clean the teeth yourself, or use the services of your veterinarian.
You will want to consult with your veterinarian as to the most current vaccination protocols for your Boxer. Some practitioners are recommending fewer so-called ‘booster’ shots than were formerly commonplace (every 3 years versus every year). You will also need to comply with your state laws regarding Rabies vaccinations. It is wise NOT to give multiple vaccinations on the same day, but to space them a few weeks apart so as not to challenge your Boxer’s immune system unnecessarily.
Heartworm has unfortunately become rather commonplace throughout the USA. You will need to protect your Boxer from acquiring this parasitic disease, spread by the bite of the simple mosquito. Once-a-month preparations are the most commonly available. Consult your veterinarian.
The Ubiquitous Flea
The annoying, persistent and fast-multiplying flea is a bloodsucking insect. It carries disease and acts as an intermediate host to the tapeworm.
There are no easy solutions to controlling fleas. In addition to the dog, his environment must be treated. But remember, almost all flea products contain certain toxic chemicals and must be used with caution. So-called natural preparations may be equally toxic. Always consult your veterinarian for professional advice, and pay particular attention to the safety of treatments for young puppies and adults alike.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS AFFECTING THE BOXER
Boxers do sometimes suffer from conditions to which the breed seems to be predisposed. In many instances, diagnosis and treatment will effect a cure or symptomatic relief.
Like many breeds of dogs, Boxers are subject to heart ailments. These include congenital anomalies as well as acquired disease later in life. Boxer heart disease usually falls into two important categories: subaortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy.
Sub Aortic Stenosis
This is a congenital condition, a narrowing or constriction of the outflow tract from the left ventricle to the aorta. It can be detected as a systolic murmur by your veterinarian in young puppies and older dogs. Sometimes the murmur will not show up until the dog reaches enough physical size for the constriction to become evident.
This murmur must be distinguished from other types of murmurs, often so-called innocent flow murmurs that disappear as the puppy grows. There is no practical surgical treatment, and if the condition results in arrhythmias, antiarrhythmic therapy is usually instituted. Mild forms of the anomaly may go undetected and are not incompatible with a normal life span.
Cardiomyopathy (Boxer Cardiomyopathy or ARVC – Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy)
Cardiomyopathy is an electrical-conduction disturbance, a condition of the heart muscle itself causing abnormal electrical impulses to disrupt the heart’s normal rhythm. This arrhythmia may lead to sudden death or heart failure. Symptoms include weakness and/or collapse. Arrhythmias can be brought on by certain poisons, infections (notably parvovirus), severe uremia, diabetes, and heatstroke. However, in Boxers they most often occur due to no known cause. Heredity undoubtedly plays a key role. Boxer breeders around the world are frustrated that there is at present no way to diagnose the propensity for this condition in asymptomatic dogs. A 24 hour Holter monitor, recording the heart’s activity for this period of time, may be needed to diagnose and treat the potentially life threatening arrhythmia’s.
Boxers are at risk for a variety of cancers. These include benign and malignant skin lesions as well as cancers affecting the brain, thyroid, mammary glands, testes, heart, spleen, blood, lymph system (lymphoma), spleen(hemangiosarcoma) and other organs. Benign skin tumors usually respond to simple surgical excision under local anesthesia.
Malignancies require treatment specific to the cancer itself, and vary widely. As in humans with cancers, dogs are treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation. Great advancements have been made in treatment protocols and survival times, but there is no way to predict whether your Boxer will develop cancer in his lifetime. It is prudent to be alert to any unusual growths or medical developments, especially as your Boxer ages. Consult with your veterinarian immediately if you notice anything suspicious. Early detection is important to long term survival.
Of recent years, incidences of Degenerative Myelopathy have been widely reported in Boxers of middle and advanced age. DM is a neurological disease affecting the spinal cord and nerves coordinating the rear quarters. Over time, dogs lose the ability to walk, become incontinent, and are most often euthanized at this point. DM is a sad disease in that the patient remains mentally alert; there is no pain; and yet, keeping such an animal happy poses special challenges There are custom carts designed to allow some patients to regain a degree of mobility. Research suggests that certain medications and herbal supplements may retard the progression of the disease.
Hip Dysplasia is a developmental disease of the hip joint that affects many breeds of dogs. The head of the femur (thigh bone) and the acetabulum (hip socket) become incompatible; the joint weakens and loses proper function. Reluctance to engage in strenuous physical activity, lameness and pain are all possible signs of dysplasia, usually manifested between the ages of 4 months to 1 year.
X-rays are definitively diagnostic and will show evidence of abnormal joint laxity. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms of pain and includes drug therapy and/or surgery. Hip dysplasia is thought to be hereditary, but other factors such as diet and conditioning cannot be ruled out. Dogs older than 2 years can have their x-rays evaluated and may be registered free of the disease by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) in Columbia, Missouri (www.offa.org).
This condition may be caused by thyroid tumors or a primary malfunction of the thyroid itself. The deficient thyroid may have an effect on many organ systems, including the heart. Symptoms may include excessive hair thinning, obesity, anemia, infertility, and lethargy. Diagnosis is confirmed by a complete thyroid panel blood test. Oral doses of thyroid hormones will alleviate most symptoms and will probably need to be given for the duration of the dog’s life. Luckily, thyroid therapy is relatively inexpensive and effective.
Remember, many Boxers can and do live long and healthy lives. Nonetheless, it is important for owners to be alert to ills that may befall their beloved pets, so as to institute treatment as soon as possible and/or wise. Your veterinarian is your best ally, and it is important to choose a practitioner that has a good knowledge of any breed-specific ailments that may be encountered.
Some Boxers do not fall into good hands and end up in need of Rescue. Volunteers all over the USA are organized at the local level to take in those unfortunate dogs that need special care and placement. Sometimes, the Rescue organization spells the difference between another chance at a good life and euthanasia at a shelter.If you know a dog in need of Rescue, have one to surrender, or want to adopt, visit The Boxer Map web site at www.boxermap.com. Follow the links to your area.
Staying in Touch
It is very advisable to maintain a relationship with boxer knowledgeable people like the boxer rescue group you adopted your boxer from or by joining an email group. These people can be an invaluable ally to you throughout your Boxer’s life, and can advise you about care and health matters that are unique to the breed.
Bringing a dog into your home and your life is a major decision. It brings with it responsibility and commitment, but it also renders supreme joy, laughter, and sadly, but inevitably, tears. No one of us who has ever shared his life with a Boxer would have it any other way.