Boxer Dog Breed: Health, History and Care

The trim and athletic Boxer is both powerful and intelligent, but they are also devoted family dogs. These versatile dogs originated as a Molosser-type hunting dog in the Middle Ages. They were used for dog fighting at one time, and have been used for military and police work. They have even been used as seeing eye dogs. Today they are an enormously popular pet and they make a loving and devoted family dog. They are particularly good with children.

Boxer dog image

History of the Boxer Breed

Historically, the Boxer is related to other Molosser-type dogs who were known throughout Europe. Ancestors of the Boxer in the 16th and 17th century were used for bear, boar and stag hunting. They are likely related to the Dogue de Bordeaux and the Tibetan Mastiff.

The Boxer as we known him was developed in Germany in the 19th century. The original Boxer was bred from the old Bullenbeisser dogs (extinct now) and Bulldogs from Britain. Terriers were possibly added to the mix, too. The Boxer was first shown at a dog show in 1895 and the first Boxer club was founded the next year. The American Kennel Club recognized the Boxer in 1904. The breed was used for military work during WWI, working as a messenger, a pack animal, a guard dog, and as an attack dog. Soldiers took the dogs home with them after the war and the dogs started to become very popular all over the world.


Boxers have an average lifespan of about 9 years and 8 months, which is a little short for a dog of this size. The leading cause of death for Boxers is cancer, and then old age, followed by heart problems, and then by gastrointestinal issues.

Boxers seem to be more prone to cancer than some other breeds. They can also have heart diseases such as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy and Aortic Stenosis.

Hypothyroidism can occur in Boxers, along with hip dysplasia. Degenerative myelopathy (a spinal cord problem), and epilepsy can also be issues. The breed is also prone to bloat or gastric dilatation volvulus which can occur in large, deep-chested breeds. Allergies can also appear in the breed. Entropion, an eyelid problem, can also occur.

Boxers can also be prone to some digestive difficulties such as Pancreatic Endocrine Insufficiency, or the problem of the dog not producing enough digestive enzymes. Boxers are also sensitive to veterinary sedatives such as acepromazine which should be avoided with these dogs.

Boxers have a brachycephalic head (short-nosed) and you should exercise care with this breed in hot, humid weather.

Although there are many conditions which may affect Boxers, some of these conditions are extremely rare and it is very unlikely that your dog will be affected by them. Before getting a Boxer puppy or dog you should talk to a breeder and ask questions about what kind of health testing and genetic screening they do. Many health problems can be eliminated by good breeding, though there are never any total guarantees.

Temperament and Training

Boxers are usually suspicious of strangers and they will make a naturally good guard dog for your home, but they are not aggressive dogs in any way. With their family, the Boxer is gentle, active, devoted, and very loyal. They are playful and friendly. They usually get along well with other dogs. However, they can have problems getting along with other dogs of the same sex. According to some sources, female Boxers don’t always get along with each other.

Boxers are very bright and they are easy to train. Dr. Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs ranked them at number 48 on his list of intelligent breeds, though Boxer lovers were unhappy with this ranking. This placed the breed in the category of “average working/obedience intelligence.” They contend that a good trainer can get excellent results when training a Boxer. It is important to use positive reinforcement with a Boxer as these dogs don’t respond well to any kind of harsh training method. But that’s true for most breeds.

Because this is a large, powerful breed, it is a good idea to socialize these puppies from an early age and make sure that they enjoy being around people. Take them places, encourage people to pet them, and let them see lots of new things. This will only make them happier and more confident when they are adults.


Grooming a Boxer is not difficult. They have a short, dense coat that should be brushed about once a week. They are seasonal shedders. You should brush them more when they are shedding to prevent hair from covering your house.

Clean your Boxer’s ears once a week to prevent ear infections.

Trim your Boxer’s nails about once a week to keep them short. Trimming once a week is the best way to avoid cutting the quick or hurting your dog. Just remove a small amount of nail each week.

Special Needs or Care

If you are getting a Boxer puppy or dog then be sure to talk to the breeder about the health issues in the breed. The breeder may suggest that you have certain tests done on your puppy or dog later in life to screen for any possible health problems before they show up.

Also, remember that the Boxer is a brachycephalic breed (short-nosed). Be careful with your dog in hot, humid weather as these dogs have shorter airways and their breathing can become compromised. Boxers may also have trouble learning to swim for this reason, so don’t assume that your Boxer can swim if you are going near the water. Be sure he has a life jacket and you start off in shallow water, teaching him to swim.

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Tatiana is a Los Angeles, CA based dog care and behavior counselor with 26 years of experience working with dogs and their families. She holds a M.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in Animal Behavior.