Boxer Breed Highlights

Large Boxer dog standing proudly outside in a park

  • When a Boxer gets excited, you’ll get to see the amazing whole-body wiggle the breed is known for, paired with hopping, spinning, and all-around joy!

  • Boxers can be directly traced to a now extinct German breed called the Bullenbeiser, used for hunting elk and other large prey.

  • Brandy, a Boxer from the state of Michigan, holds the world record for the longest dog tongue ever, measuring a whopping 17-inches long!

  • Boxer puppies are naturally born with a long tail and floppy ears (unless they’re part of a breeding line of naturally bob tailed Boxers created through selective breeding). As docking and cropping have grown more unpopular in recent years, you’ll usually only see a Boxer with cropped ears and docked tail in the show ring in the US. In the United Kingdom, cropping and docking has been banned and Boxers can be seen there with the most wonderful wiggly tails.

  • Approximately 1 in 5 Boxers have a white (or mostly white) coat — and an estimated 18% of these white Boxers are deaf in at least one ear, if not both. The piebald gene associated with the white coat color is also associated with deafness.

  • Boxers were one of the first dog breeds used by German police and were later used by the German military during World Wars I and II as guard dogs and messengers.

Unique Physical Features

Boxer dog illustration - physical

  • Expressive eyes

  • Large, deep chest

  • Lots of jowls, which means lots of drool!

  • The underbite

  • Flat faces (brachycephalic)

Unique Personality

Boxer dog illustration - personality

You’ll always know how a Boxer is feeling! They’re expressive, fun-loving, and silly. But if they feel like their family is in danger, they’re excellent guardians and protectors. Full of energy and seemingly boundless joy, this breed is ready to go-go-go. They were bred as working dogs but make loving companions - quite adept at snuggling on the couch, many think they’re lap dogs. Though their medium size makes this a bit difficult, that doesn’t stop them from trying. As great contortionist, a Boxer will twist their body into a donut or pretzel shape and try their best to fit in your lap so they can be closer to you.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

dog energy level - high (tri-athlete)

With Kids

Icon - outline of a little boy and girl

Boxers do well with children, when properly socialized.

With Other Pets

Icon - cat and dog outline

They may not be the best fit for homes with other animals.

Environment

Icon - outline of a house

Boxers are beautiful athletes who need exercise and mental stimulation. They do best with space to run but can adapt to city living as long as their exercise needs are met.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

8 to 12 years

Average Size
(Range)

50 - 80 pounds

Breed Group

Working

Similar Breeds

  • English Bulldog

  • Bull Mastiff

  • Great Dane

  • Dogue de Bordeaux

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier

History of the Boxer

Two dark-colored Boxer dogs standing among little flowers

The Boxer breed was developed in Germany toward the end of the 19th century. They’re descendants of the Bullenbeiser, a breed used for hunting large game. The Boxer’s ancestry can be traced back even further to the Molossian dogs of 2000 B.C., who were the foundation for many European breeds like the Great Dane, Mastiffs, Bulldogs, and terriers. Molossians were a strong, large-headed breed used in Assyria for hunting and as war dogs. They made their way across the European continent over time, particularly during the Roman conquest. Over time, the Molossian breed evolved into the Bullenbeisser, which became popular in Germany and Belgium due to their versatility and skill taking down large game.

Changes Over Time

Before the Napoleonic wars, the Bullenbeisers were primarily kept by nobility who could afford to care for large packs of hunting dogs. But after 1800, these dogs began working for butchers and cattle drivers. Over time, they grew smaller in size and took on the role of family dog and guardian. In 1895, the first Boxer breed club was formed in Munich, Germany. This club created the breed standard and held the first dog show exhibiting the Boxer .

U.S. History of the Boxer Over Time

While the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1904, it didn’t gain popularity in the States until the mid-20th century. According to the American Boxer Club, Boxers bred in the United States can trace their lineage back to the “Four Horsemen of American Boxerdom,” four male Boxers imported from Germany named Sigurd, Dorian, Utz, and Lustig. One of Dorian’s descendants, named Bang Away, won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show in 1951 and the breed’s popularity in the United States took off. As a result, they’ve consistently ranked in the top 10 most popular dog breeds.

While not much has changed in the breed standard since the original was created in 1895, the cropping of Boxers’ ears when they are puppies has fallen out of fashion. The cropped ear is usually only seen in Boxers bred for the show ring, but in 2005 the American show standard began to allow the natural ear. More and more Boxer puppies are also being left with their full tail in Europe and around the world.

Boxer Behavior and Training

Boxers were bred as working dogs and have been used in a variety of roles over their history, from police dogs to therapy dogs. It’s important to provide them with appropriate outlets for their energy and give them the attention they crave. Boxers love being with their people and are known for being both guardian and comforter.

Boxers are a smart breed that might lose interest in training unless it’s varied, fun, and positive (which is better for human learners too!). The breed’s lineage includes mastiffs, bulldogs, and terriers, bred to be hard-working and able to think independently. It’s all about building solid, positive training habits from puppyhood and knowing your Boxer’s motivators.

Boxers do best with consistent positive reinforcement training. Many love working for food (who doesn’t?), but also find toys and play with their human very rewarding.

TRAINING MYTH

Many people describe Boxers as being a “headstrong” and tough-to-train breed, but this just isn’t true! It all comes down to knowing what motivates them and using it to your advantage. They’re descendants of the bulldog and terrier breeds, created specifically to work independently and not give up, so a little hard-headedness is to be expected. With positive reinforcement training methods and consistency, a Boxer is a joy to train and will be an excellent companion. Boxers can also be sensitive to harsh scolding or yelling. Punishments, whether verbal or physical, not only damage the relationship between a Boxer and their owner but also tend not to work in the long run. Often, it creates long-term behavioral issues. By focusing on teaching a Boxer what to do, rather than on unwanted behaviors, they’ll be well-behaved and happy dogs!

Plays Well with Others?

  • Boxers are natural guardians, making them somewhat cautious and reserved when meeting new people. But once you’ve become a friend, they’re much more comfortable showing you their goofy side. Due to their protective nature, proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for their socialization skills.

TRAINER TIP

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Boxers are a frequent breed choice for families with children. They’re playful, protective, and can tolerate the physical handling of young kids when properly socialized. Their medium to large size might be a bit overwhelming for small children, and their exuberant Boxer nature could lead to the occasional knock down. Introducing your Boxer to children as a puppy will help set them up for success. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

  • When it comes to animal buddies in the home, it’s once again, all about socialization. Boxers can enjoy and benefit from the companionship of other animals. But be aware, they’re high-energy, rough-and-tumble players that can overpower and scare other dogs. They also have prey instincts that can make it difficult to pair them with cats or smaller animals. Start teaching proper play behaviors while your Boxer is a puppy. And it’s important to always supervise play between a Boxer and other dogs to keep it fun for everyone.
Graphic - bouncing red ball image

Exercise Requirements

Daily exercise is so important for this bouncy working breed. Boxers need more than just a daily walk. They make good jogging partners. Just be cautious with exercise in warmer temperatures or high humidity, and provide lots of breaks and water. Boxers, like all flat-faced breeds, should always be monitored for heatstroke symptoms, which often include: heavy panting, drooling, bright red tongue or gums, rapid pulse, and wide, panicked eyes.

Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate exercise for a Boxer puppy. Until they are full-grown (bone growth plates typically all close by around 12 to 18 months of age), avoid jogging or running beyond what they would do on their own. This helps minimize risk of damage to the growing bone and cartilage, which can cause pain and future joint issues.

VETERINARIAN TIP

While a tired dog might be a good dog, puppy exercise shouldn’t be forced or “pushed” in any way. Follow your puppy’s lead in the amount of activity they are able to do. If they’re slowing down, and certainly if they stop and sit down, it’s time for some rest and recovery. In some cases they might have FOMO (fear of missing out) and try to “keep up” with you or another dog in the family. Keep a watchful eye and make sure to not let them push too far or over-exert themselves.

Mental Enrichment Needs

A variety of mental enrichment is essential for a happy and well-behaved Boxer. They are always looking for what to do next. It’s important to keep their focus on acceptable behaviors, otherwise, they might decide digging up your backyard or chewing a hole in your wall is a great idea.

You can work their brains by teaching new tricks, attending obedience classes, joining a dog sport, and providing dog puzzles and interactive toys. Boxers are athletes and love to play fetch — tap into their strengths and sign up for Flyball!

Activities Boxers Enjoy

Boxer puppy illustration for Trupanion dog breed guide

  • Flyball

  • Agility

  • Nosework

  • Therapy Dog

  • Rally Obedience

  • Search and Rescue

Boxer Coat Type

Boxers have a short, smooth, single-layer coat that’s easy to maintain. But this short fur doesn’t provide much insulation, so it’s a good idea to bundle them up with booties and a sweater or jacket when it’s cold. They come in fawn (ranging from red to tan), brindle, or white colors and patterns. White Boxers are more likely to be deaf, as the same piebald gene that causes white coloring is also linked to congenital deafness.

Shedding Level

dog shedding level - 2 of 5 piles of fur

2 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Low Maintenance

Boxers need weekly brushing, which helps evenly distribute the natural oils in their coat and remove any dirt and shedding fur. Regular bathing is recommended for this breed as well, with special care to keep their face wrinkles clean and dry, which keeps the yeast and bacterial populations in check and prevents uncomfortable and recurrent infections. Introduce your puppy to the grooming experience from a young age to create a positive association and make lifelong grooming easy for everyone.

Best Brush for a Boxer: Bristle brush, rubber curry brush

Famous Owners of the Boxer

  • Justin Timberlake & Jessica Biel (Singer, Actress)

  • Kate Upton (Model)

  • Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart (Actors)

  • Billie Holiday (Singer)

  • Jennifer Lopez (Singer/Actress)

  • Greg Biffle (Race Car Driver)

  • Chelsea Handler (Comedian)

  • Bette Davis (Actress)

  • Tom Hardy (Actor)

  • Luke Perry (Actor)

Famous Boxers

Punch and Judy were a heroic duo who received Dickin Medal awards for saving British officers during World War II.

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Boxer Breed

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for Boxers. Every Boxer is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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dog-loving members say about Trupanion

Trupanion member Kelly

Kelly

Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

- Lori

Trupanion member Axl

Axl

Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

The Trupanion policy paid: $2,084.01

"At two, our German shepherd Axl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Trupanion took care of all our financial concerns. At four, his hip issues led to pain medications, rehabilitation and rest, which all resulted in improved pain-free movement. I’m so grateful that we chose a plan that not only covers the cost of his treatment but also any physical therapy or rehabilitation he may need."

- Nanette K.

Trupanion member Bella

Bella

Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

The Trupanion policy paid: $15,283.83

"Bella was treated for Cushing’s disease and a pituitary tumor with radiation therapy. Had we not had insurance for her, the decision for her medical care would have been more difficult, as each treatment was expensive. However, because we have Trupanion, these decisions were easier. Rather, we could focus our attention on her treatment and recovery instead of the financial impact these procedures would have on our family."

- Jason P.

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