Fast Facts

Country of Origin:Germany
AKC Group:Working Group
UKC Group:Guardian
Use today:Guardian
Life Span:10 to 12 years
Color:Fawn or brindle with a black mask. White markings not to exceed one-third of the coat.
Coat:Short, shiny, lying smooth and tight to the body.
Grooming:Brush weekly. Occasional grooming.
Size:Medium Dog Breed
Height:21.5 to 25 inches at the shoulder
Weight:Proportionate to height

The Boxer was developed in Germany as a medium-sized security dog. The breed combines the blood of a mastiff-type breed that was used for hunting, herding and protection with that of the Bulldog. The result is a smooth-coated, agile dog measuring up to 25 inches at the shoulder. Color may be shades of fawn or brindle with white markings, which must not exceed one-third of the ground color to meet the official breed standard. The breed was introduced to America after World War I, when it was brought home by returning servicemen. Since then, the Boxer's popularity has grown enormously. The breed is valued as a spirited pet and guardian of home and family. Its sleek coat is easily maintained; a weekly rubdown with a bristle brush keeps it clean. Strong and exuberant, this breed appreciates a couple of daily runs outdoors. As long as it gets plenty of exercise, the Boxer can adapt to most living quarters.

(Editor's Note: According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, Boxers of any color other than fawn or brindle or showing more than one-third white on its entire coat will be disqualified from the AKC show ring.)


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Bouncing Boxers

By Marry Sorensen

BoxerAll Boxer-owning households share one thing in common: laughter. Giggles slip out when Mr. Dignified suddenly drops to the floor and rolls on his back while grunting like a pig. Chuckles give way to tears as Ms. Geriatric rips through the house like a puppy, beginning by circling the table and ending with a hearty game of chase the tail. And what Boxer lover hasn't let out a hearty guffaw as a look Sir Pooch intended to be serious (read: "Yes, yes, yes. Give me a cookie!") turns silly when some excess upper lip curls under at the wrong time?

"If I was allowed just one adjective to describe the Boxer, it would be the clown," says Tracy Hendrickson, founder of the American Boxer Rescue Association in Tulsa, Okla., and a 42-year Boxer enthusiast who competes with her Boxers in obedience and agility events.

Adjective Overload

Luckily, there's no reason to place such unnatural constraints on singing the praises of this complex dog breed. Stoic but silly, protective but playful, the outgoing Boxer is an enchanting paradox. Though its clownlike tendencies prevail throughout life, the Boxer also earns tags as varied as alert, dignified, self-assured, independent, loyal, spirited, playful, deliberate and curious.

Perhaps the Boxer's most notable characteristic, though, is its desire for human affection. "If you can say a 75-pound dog is cuddly, Boxers are cuddly," says Shirley Bavilacqua, a private trainer and obedience competitor in Chico, Calif., who's worked with Boxers for 16 of her 40 years with dogs. "Boxers want to be wherever you are."

Toss a ball, and your Boxer is up for a game of fetch. Grab the leash, and your Boxer is ready for a walk. Go into the kitchen to cook dinner, and your Boxer is on your heels waiting for goodies that might fall on the floor. Sit down to watch TV, and your Boxer will be by your side ... or in your lap, depending upon how tolerant you are.

"There's no ignoring a Boxer," says Pam Rohr of Dreamweaver Boxers in Denton, Texas. Rohr was taken with this dog breed the first time she saw one and has bred the dogs for 13 years. "Boxers are people dogs. They're so sensitive and so vengeful. I always remind people that this is a social dog. If you ignore them, they'll get your attention. You can't throw these dogs out in the backyard and forget about them. They won't let you," Rohr says. When told to settle down after a raucous play session, Bavilacqua's Boxers let out loud sighs just as though they were disappointed children.

Children at Heart

Make that children who never truly grow up. From the long-sought-after Fountain of Youth to the dreams sold in pots and tubes at makeup counters across the country, legends of eternal youth abound in Western culture. In the Boxer, breed enthusiasts have discovered perhaps the closest thing to a wellspring of youth, or at least the spirit of youth. Not known for longevity, Boxers seem to make the most of each moment life offers. "Boxers always act like children, even when they reach senior citizen status," said Christine Stander, proprietor of Sentry Boxers in Garden City, Mich., and a Boxer breeder for 30 years. "Our Boxers are our kids."

Like a child, a happy Boxer has an assortment of toys strewn throughout the house and yard and rarely puts them away when done playing. Tennis balls, chew toys and stuffed animals in the house are replaced by chewed-up soccer balls, Frisbees and ropes in the yard, where a crew of Boxers can stay entertained for several hours by romping, tossing and tugging.

"A Boxer is a busy dog," Bavilacqua says, warning that it takes time and thought to channel that energy. "If they feel like they have a job to do, you are going to have less trouble with them. Retrieving a ball could be a job to them. It burns off energy and lets them be with you. If you are a person who works 12 or 15 hours a day and comes home tired, this breed is not right for you. They're willing to be alone for several hours, but afterward you have to be willing to devote some time to them."

The big, active Boxer may enjoy little more than a romp in the great outdoors, but don't mistake it for an outdoor animal. Breeders insist this ultra-clean dog must be kept inside. "They're family dogs that don't like to be outside," says Lois Trist of Escondido, Calif., a Boxer breeder for more than 25 years. "This is no Arctic breed. Boxers don't like to be cold. They don't like to be uncomfortable. They love to sleep with you or hang out on the couch. They like their comfort. If you're not willing to make a place for them in the house, don't get a Boxer."

Boxers tend to thrive in active family environments and are known for their affection for children. Although adult Boxers are typically gentle around kids, breeders usually warn new Boxer owners that puppies can't always be trusted to show good sense around toddlers. Dashing and wiggling its way throughout the house, an exuberant Boxer may frighten or even injure a small child by knocking it over accidentally, Bavilacqua warns.

Boxer loungingA Sensitive Side

Most well-socialized adult Boxers are astute, respecting a child's small size and cuing in to its owners moods. " Boxers read people very well," Hendrickson says. "When my mother was dying of cancer, my first Boxer slept right next to me licking the tears from my eyes. They are really keyed into your emotions, and they want to please really badly."

Ironically, to read the Boxer's history, one might expect a ferocious beast to have emerged. With possible links to ancient Tibetan fighting dogs and Assyrian warring Molossians, the Boxer may also be distantly related to the French Dogue de Bordeaux and almost certainly has connections to the German Bullenbeissers, or bull baiters. The only ancestral ties known with any certainty was the formation of the Boxer Klub in Munich, Germany, in 1895. Outbreeding is suspected to have occurred with English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, English White Terriers, English Black and Tan Terriers and Great Danes.

From its early days as a fighting dog and bull baiter, through careful breeding the Boxer has evolved into today's much-loved companion. It has maintained the best qualities of its ancestors, breeders say. Perhaps it is this varied background that explains how a Boxer can change gears seemingly without effort. Not a big barker, the Boxer's guarding tendencies emerge as a stranger approaches or when it senses a threat to its property or family. Always alert, a Boxer can switch from playful companion to watchful guardian with the twitch of its expressive wrinkled brow. Such flexibility made this dog breed one of the first to be used as police dogs in Germany.

Like many dogs, Boxers are known for same-sex aggression and require socialization to be reliable around other dogs and pets.
Breeders and enthusiasts agree that Boxers are not born perfect. They are trained perfect. An owner must work with a dog to direct its energy and ensure it grows into a reliable companion. " Boxers need a lot of obedience training," Bavilacqua says. "It may not be formal obedience training, but they certainly need to know to come, sit, down and so on. That's true of any dog, but Boxers have a tendency to jump fences and to run. "

Many Boxers that do not get training early in life end up in shelters. "The Boxer is a very loyal dog, very willing to please," Hendrickson says. "Sometimes, though, Boxers are smarter than their owners and, honestly, that's what gets a lot of them in trouble. Owners don't know how to properly correct a dog getting into the trashcan or onto the countertop or digging in the backyard. We then get the disposable dog."
For those who invest the time in training and early socialization, there is no other dog breed like the Boxer in terms of companionship and nonstop entertainment and none with such a sense of humor about its own antics.

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