Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
Photo of adult Boxer

Boxers are medium sized, loyal, playful and happy dogs which were originally bred for hunting in Germany. In the First World War, they were also used by the army but today they are largely kept as companions, and can do well in agility and as service or guard dogs. They should have a noble look to them and be powerful and strong. The Boxer has a short, easy-to-care-for coat, which does not require any specialist grooming.

The Boxer is an energetic dog and should not be aggressive, but is often protective of its family. Boxers are well known for being good with children, although they should be properly socialized with other dogs from a young age to ensure good manners. Generally, they are good-natured, however, the breed can be boisterous without proper training and sufficient mental stimulation. The Boxer is a good worker and, therefore, quick to learn, which means training is not usually a problem. The Boxer can suffer from some health issues so selecting a responsible breeder is important.

About & History

The Boxer is a medium sized dog that belongs to the working group of dogs. It originates from Germany where the breed was initially developed by crossing the Bullenbeisser, literally meaning ‘bear biter’ with the Bulldog. The Bullenbeisser was a working breed used for hunting, which was used to hold the prey during a hunt until the huntsmen arrived. To do this job properly these dogs needed wide jaws and teeth, which enabled them to bite and hold the prey. At this time, dogs which were used for breeding, were chosen for their working ability. The Bullenbeisser is now extinct and selective breeding has led to a modern Boxer, which has a much more distinctive head and face than its ancestors. Around the end of the 1800’s and beginning of 1900’s, three breeders worked to determine a more specific breed standard for the Boxer to establish it as a breed of its own. There are several theories as to where the breed got its name.

In the First World War, the Boxer was used by the army and fulfilled multiple purposes; as a guard, messenger and pack dog. After the Second World War, the Boxer become better known in other countries and soon became a popular companion. Today the Boxer remains a popular choice for companion and family pet but the breed also does well in agility, as service dogs and as guard dogs.


Boxer Large Photo

The Boxer can be registered with the UK Kennel Club in numerous different colour varieties. These include:

  • Black Brindle
  • Black Brindle & White
  • Brindle
  • Brindle & White
  • Brindle Black Mask
  • Dark Brindle
  • Dark Brindle & White
  • Fawn
  • Fawn & White
  • Golden Brindle & White
  • Light Brindle
  • Light Brindle & White
  • Red
  • Red & White
  • Red & White Black Mask
  • Red Black Mask
  • Red Brindle
  • Red Brindle & White
  • Tiger Brindle
  • Tiger Brindle & White
  • White

The Boxer is a medium dog that should have an overall square appearance, measuring between 53 and 63 cm to the withers. They should weigh between 25 and 32 kg and females should be slightly smaller than males. The depth of the chest should be half the overall height to the withers.

The Boxer should have an arched, rounded medium-length neck with no excess skin. This should lead to long, sloping shoulders, and a relatively long upper arm. The front legs should be strong and straight with elbows sitting near but not touching the chest wall. The chest should be deep, but not barrel-shaped. The back should be broad and muscular, whilst at the same time, being short and straight leading to a strong back end. Back legs should be muscular and powerful. The tail should be carried high.

The breed has a distinctive head. It should be not be overly muscled, apart from having powerful cheeks and it should have a broad, deep muzzle. There should not be excessive skin on the head. It is a brachycephalic breed and this means that the length of the skull is short in relation to its width. If this is over-exaggerated, it can lead to breathing and other health problems. The length of the nose should be half the overall length of the head. The bottom jaw is typically undershot, giving the impression of an obvious chin, but neither the teeth nor tongue should be visible when the dog has its mouth closed. The bite should be powerful and teeth should not be misplaced. The nose should be black with wide nostrils. The eyes are rounded and of medium sized, but should not protrude. Ears are also medium sized and thin and should be set far apart, folding over forwards and lying flat against the skull.

The Boxer has a gait which is lively and energetic and gives the impression of strength and power when it is moving. Covering ground whilst being driven by the back legs.

Character & Temperament

Boxers are fearless, devoted dogs, which are playful and self-confident. They are loyal and protective of their own families and households but can be suspicious of strangers. They are generally happy, playful dogs, but have a courageous side if a situation where they feel they need to protect their owner arises. Boxers are widely regarded as a good dog for families with children, as they are trustworthy and playful and tend to be protective towards them.

Boxers are also generally good with other small pets, but may be confrontational with other larger dogs if not appropriately socialized from puppyhood. The breed enjoys company, so, like all dogs, can suffer from separation anxiety if they are left alone for long periods of time. It is important that they have plenty of mental stimulation, as they can be prone to developing destructive behaviours when they are bored. The Boxer makes an excellent guard dog. It is large enough to be physically imposing and has a natural guarding instinct to protect its family.


Photo of Boxer puppy

Boxers are fairly intelligent and willing to please. They are usually good workers and, therefore, with proper instruction from a young age can be easily trained. The Boxer can be boisterous and unruly if not trained properly from puppyhood, so it is important to be consistent with training and encourage good manners.

Training recall is not usually a problem as the breed is quick to learn, but if not provided with enough mental stimulation, Boxers may be disobedient and look for their own entertainment. When given regular access to outside space, Boxers are usually quick to learn and house-training is not normally difficult.


The Boxer has a lifespan of around 10 to 12 years. It is currently classed as a Category 1 breed by the UK Kennel Club with no specific points of concern. That said, it is still a brachycephalic breed and this can lead to problems related to breathing. Although not mandatory, the UK Kennel Club strongly recommends that breeders participate in the following health schemes for conditions, which can affect the Boxer:

Health Schemes Recommended for UK Kennel Club Breeders

Hip Dysplasia

This condition in the Boxer is where one or several different developmental abnormalities in the hips can contribute to joint problems when dogs are older. Dogs over a year old are x-rayed and the hips are given a score using established criteria by experts.

The higher the score, the more signs of hip dysplasia there are with a maximum score of 106 for both hips combined. Both genetic and environmental factors can play a part in hip dysplasia.

Heart Testing

The Boxer Breed Council in the UK requires dogs over 12 months old to be screened by listed veterinary cardiologist. They are then assigned a grade. This test is looking for a condition called aortic stenosis, which causes heart murmurs and affects blood flow, subsequently causing signs such as weakness, breathing difficulties, fainting and possibly even death. Murmurs are graded according to their severity:

  1. Grade 0: Indicates the dog does not have a heart murmur and is free from signs of aortic stenosis. Ideally, only these dogs should be used for breeding.
  2. Grade 1: Murmurs are mild and are considered acceptable for breeding.
  3. Grade 2: Murmurs are more serious and these dogs should not be used for breeding.

Boxers can also suffer from the following conditions:

Brachycephalic Syndrome

This is found in dogs with the characteristic shortened length of skull and can lead to BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome), where limited space for internal structures can lead to breathing difficulties. The effects of this condition are more likely to be seen in hot or stressful conditions. If a dog does have problems breathing, care should be taken not to exercise it when it is hot, and ensure it is not in stressful surroundings.

Progressive Axonopathy

This disease is a rare neurological disease which causes a loss of coordination and does not have any known treatment. It can develop in puppies as young as one month old and has a guarded prognosis, although many affected dogs are still able to walk and can lead a reasonable quality of life as pets.

Juvenile Kidney Disease

As the name suggests, this disease occurs in young dogs which have signs of kidney failure. It is thought to be caused by the abnormal development of the kidneys. Survival depends how much of a reduction of kidney function there is. There is no cure but a specially formulated diet that is lower in protein may help decrease the strain on kidneys.

Boxer Cardiomyopathy

This condition is otherwise known as arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). It can cause a loss of rhythm in the heart and this can affect the circulation of blood and oxygen around the body, which can affect the brain.

Electrocardiograms and echocardiography are used to diagnose the condition and antiarrythmic drugs are usually used to treat it. Dogs suffering from Boxer Cardiomyopathy should not be used for breeding.


All breeds of dog can suffer from cancer, however, the Boxer is one of the breeds which has been found to have a higher incidence than others.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Boxers are fairly active dogs and need around an hour and a half to two hours of walking a day. As they are energetic some of this time should ideally be spent off the lead to properly tire them out. Plenty of physical and mental stimulation is essential to help prevent Boxers developing boisterous and mischievous behaviours or becoming destructive at home due to excess energy.


The Boxer should have a short, smooth coat, which sits close to the body and is shiny to touch. It does shed, particularly during seasonal changes, but not excessively. Only occasional brushing is necessary to keep it in good condition and professional grooming is not necessary.

Famous Boxers

Despite the breeds popularity as a companion and pet there are few examples of Boxers in popular culture:

  • Wilson from the film, Good Boy!
  • The Boxer from the film, The Human Factor
  • Buster from the John Lewis & Partners' 2016 Christmas advert


There are many different Boxer crossbreeds, some of which include:

User comments

There are no user comments for this listing.