I’ve been a bit hesitant writing much about Boxers, since I’ve made my preference apparent practically from the moment I started this blog. I didn’t want to be seen as favoring one breed over another. I love big breeds though, and as far as I’m concerned, a Boxer is a lap dog. A big lap dog. A big, snuggly lap dog!
Anyway, I’m ready to admit that I do favor Boxers. In fact, I think that Boxers are just about the most perfect dogs in the entire world, and I think that from now on, I’m just going to blather on about them as much as I want. My blog, my rules. Anyone have a problem with that?
So, with that in mind, I’m going to devote this post to talking about what potential Boxer owners need to know before deciding to adopt a Boxer. My take on it is that it’s less important to determine if a Boxer is the right dog for you than it is to find out if you’re the right person for a Boxer. Boxers can be very sensitive, and need a human who understands their personality and their adorable little quirks. If you’re not the right human for a Boxer, then do the breed a favor and give it a pass.
If you think you are the kind of person who would fit well with a Boxer in your life, take a look at the following questions and answers. Then make your decision.
1. Are Boxers Good for First Time Owners?
Boxers have a reputation for being very loyal, fun-loving, and sometimes silly. They can also be stubborn. If you’re not a reasonably strong-willed owner, then a Boxer can easily run roughshod over you. They’re cute as the dickens as puppies, but once they grow up, they can be a handful, because you’re going to be dealing with a pretty big dog that can be hard to handle if the initial training has been neglected. And believe me, I speak from personal experience when I tell you that an adolescent Boxer can be a real handful.
The key here is to begin training very early on. As soon as your Boxer is able to distinguish you from everything else around him – as soon as he recognizes you as his human – start training. This can be as early as you bring him home when he’s 8-10 weeks old.
I don’t mean that you have to put a collar on him and attach a leash and train him to walk at heel. That can come later. What you should do, though, is make your Boxer aware that everything comes from you. Food, water, affection and so on. As soon as your Boxer puppy is on solid food, start doing things like putting your hand in the food dish. If he nips at you, take the food away. Give it back in a few minutes. If he nips again, take it away. Repeat as needed. Remember, your Boxer puppy is going to become a sizable dog, so deal with any food aggression early on.
Do the same thing with toys. You want to always be able to take something away from your Boxer, and the best way to start is when he’s small. This is something that could save his life if, later on, he grabs something that could hurt him, like a chicken bone. And believe me, it’s a lot easier to take something away from a Boxer puppy than it is to take something away from a full-size Boxer with a full-size set of teeth.
Boxers are very intelligent, and very willing to please, making them very easy to train. But please don’t think that training is something you can leave “for later.” When you have time. When he’s older. Come summer. And so on.
Even a first time Boxer owner will find training a puppy to be very easy, but even someone who has a lot of experience with dogs will find that overpowering a full-grown Boxer is problematic.
2. Are Boxers Needy Dogs?
Or, rephrased, “Is a Boxer a lap dog?” Yes. A Boxer can most indisputably be a lap dog. They have absolutely no idea that they’re too big to be lap dogs, so if you’re going to get in a panic when you end up with 70 or so pounds of dog in your lap, kissing your face, then the Boxer might not be the right breed for you.
Personally, I love having my Boxers, Janice and Leroy, in my lap. Well, sort of in my lap, LOL! They’re kind of able to get halfway up, with their front paws on my thighs (and sometimes my shoulders!) and then they just kind of lean into me. It’s sort of the Boxer equivalent of a hug.
If you don’t like that sort of behavior from your Boxer, you’ll have to stop it early on, when he’s a puppy. Always discourage jumping by pushing your puppy gently away (while he’s small enough) and delivering a firm “No.” Push him off gently, and give him a treat. That way, he’ll get the idea that when he’s not jumping in your lap, something good will happen!
Once your Boxer knows that it’s not okay to get jump or get in your lap, he’ll still happily follow you from room to room, just crashing out on the floor beside you wherever you decide you need to be. So yes, Boxers are needy, whether they’re lap dogs or not.
3. When Does a Boxer Stop Being a Puppy?
Boxers can be perennial puppies.My Leroy is 5 years old now, and still very much a puppy in his own mind. My big sweet doofus isn’t all that unusual – in fact, many Boxer owners report that their Boxers don’t exactly “settle” until they’re 3 or 4. Now, given their puppy-like nature, that also means that many adult Boxers have an incredible amount of energy in their early years. They need a lot of exercise. Sadly, a lot of Boxers end up in animal shelters because their humans simply have no idea of how much exercise they’re going to need. If you’re not willing to devote at least an hour a day vigorously exercising your Boxer, then it’s probably not the right breed for you.
4. How Bad Do Boxers Shed?
Oh, don’t even get me started! Sometimes, people adopt Boxers thinking, “This is a short-haired dog, so I won’t have to worry all that much about shedding or grooming.”
I am speaking from personal experience here when I tell you that Boxers shed like crazy. In fact, every day, Janice and Leroy drop enough hair that I could probably stuff a pillow out of what I sweep up, or knit a sweater, or even manufacture a good-size puppy. Boxers aren’t all that high-maintenance, but if you think that they’re not going to shed, you’re very much mistaken. They’re not “seasonal” shredders, meaning that they don’t shed out in the spring and again in the fall – they just shed all year round.
Fortunately, Boxers are very easy to groom. You don’t need a lot of tools. Their short coat means that you’re not going to have to worry about matting, like you would with a long-haired dog, or the tangling that can be a problem with curly-haired dogs. A daily (or even weekly, if you’re busy) pass with a comb and a soft brush will do a lot to cut back on the inevitable shedding. A bath from time to time also wouldn’t hurt. There are actually shampoos out there that are specially formulated for breeds like Boxers, and they can do wonders to help with your dog’s shedding!
If you have upholstered furniture, though, I would recommend using furniture throws. Any cloth surface is going to attract a lot of soft, fine, hair, and it’s considerably easier to just shake out a furniture throw and then toss it in the washer than it is to vacuum up a ton of hair on a regular basis.
Hint: For really hard-to-remove dog hair, wrap some masking tape around your hand, sticky side out. Then press down on the surface that’s covered in dog hair and lift up. Replace the masking tape as need. This method is often a lot more effective than vacuuming.
5. Are Boxers Good Family Dogs?
Up until now, I suppose I’ve been telling you what’s not so great about Boxers. So now, let’s talk about something that’s really good. Boxers are incredibly kind and gentle, and good with small children and seniors. Boxers seem to know that these are fragile people, and they react accordingly. They’re not like some large breeds that can bowl over kids and old people out of sheer rambunctiousness – although I should add, as a caveat, that there’s always an exception, and some will.
Most of the time, though, Boxers just seem to instinctively know when a member of the family needs to be treated gently. A Boxer will happily wrestle and rough house with a younger member of the family, and yet treat a fragile grandmother with the utmost respect.
If you’re looking for a dog that’s just right for any member of your family, of any age, you could do a lot worse than a Boxer.
6. Are Boxers Protective?
Well, Sometimes. Sort Of.
Most of the time, Boxers are very protective when it comes to their families, and actually, most of the time, Boxer owners can feel safe simply because of the sheer size and intimidating appearance of the dog. A Boxer is a lot like other large breeds in this regard – a Boxer doesn’t have to be aggressive – it just has to be there.
That said, though, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest getting a Boxer because you think he’s going to be a good guard dog or watchdog. There’s a huge difference between a dog, a guard dog, and an attack dog. Just speaking for myself, Janice is pretty aloof, but not aggressive. If someone were to come in and rob the house while I was away, she’d probably just look on and do nothing. I suppose I could attack train her, but why would I bother – she’s a big dog, and that’s intimidating enough.
Leroy, on the other hand, would lead a burglar to anything valuable, help said burglar carry the loot to his car, and then look up with his big, soft, brown Boxer eyes as much to say, “Will you take me for a drive, new best friend?”
So, if you’re looking for a guard dog, a Boxer is likely not what you want. Boxers are incredibly intelligent and loyal, but they don’t have the protective drive that you’d find in something like a Rottweiler or a Doberman.
Personally, I think that a dog that loves you and respects you does not have to be attack trained – he’ll look after you. True attack training is a complex procedure, and most of the time it’s best left to the professionals.
Think of it this way. You have a .357 Magnum hand gun with all chambers loaded, and the safety off. It’s not in a gun safe. It’s just out there, sitting on your kitchen table. Anyone could grab it and set it off.
That’s kind of like what you have when you have an attack trained dog.
How does the dog know what is and isn’t a threat?
Is the dog’s safety on?
Do you really know, for absolute certain, that the dog is going to know that the postman isn’t a threat? That the friend who hugs you isn’t trying to kill you? And that you can pull the dog back if the dog gets it wrong?
Now, what if the dog does get it wrong, and the person he injures or kills isn’t really a threat? Are you going to take responsibility for your dog being seized and put down as a dangerous animal? Is that fair to your dog?
These are things to think about.
7. How Much Time Do I Need to Spend With My Boxer?
Boxers are very prone to separation anxiety. They’re extremely dependent on their humans for companionship, and are definitely not meant to be left unattended for long periods of time. If you leave your Boxer to his own devices, there’s a good chance that he’ll dig, chew, destroy your belongings, and become the scourge of the neighborhood with his incessant barking.
The thing about Boxers is that they do very well in almost any setting. A senior citizen can keep a Boxer in an apartment, and the dog will do just fine, provided that he is walked a couple of times a day and not separated from the person he loves. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Boxers are perfect protectors for seniors living on their own – they’re very adaptable.
Left alone, though, a Boxer is a very unhappy dog. This is a breed that craves human contact even more than dogs of other breeds. All that a Boxer wants is a human to love, and to be with all the time. If you’re going to adopt a Boxer, then you should plan to spend a lot of time with him.
So, how much time do you need to spend with your Boxer? A lot.
8. Does My Boxer Understand Me?
Boxers are so in tune with the feelings of their humans, it’s almost uncanny. It’s like they’re natural empaths. If you’re sad, your Boxer will know, and snuggle up next to you. If you’re happy and want to play, he knows that too. Because of their compassionate nature, Boxers make great therapy dogs. In fact, Boxers are often taken to seniors residential complexes because of their sweet nature.
9. Is a Boxer an Expensive Dog to Keep?
Okay, now we’re back to what’s not so good. Simply stated, a Boxer can bankrupt you, because they are very prone to certain health issues.
If you’ve decided that the Boxer is the breed for you, you should probably invest in pet insurance, or at the very least sock away some money. They’re very to many health disorders.
- Heart Disease
Aortic stenosis is an obstruction beneath the heart’s aortic valve. This condition can cause death instantaneously – in other words, your Boxer might appear to be perfectly fine, and the next minute he might collapse and be near death. The condition can be diagnosed by means of X-rays or electrocardiograms, and can be controlled by medication. The problem is that you might not be able to catch it soon enough Boxers are also prone to dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to the body.
As is the case with many large breeds, Boxers are prone to various types of cancer. The most common cancer in the Boxer is lymphatic. Boxers are alsso prone to mammary cancer, brain, spleen and thyroid cancer. If there’s any good news here, it’s that in the case of mammary cancer, most dogs reach a good old age and die with it, not of it.
If you have a Boxer, you should check the dog regularly for any lumps that look suspicious. Also, make sure that your dog sees the vet at least once a year for a checkup. As is the case with humans, early detection of cancer in dogs is the essential if a cure is to be possible.
The endocrine disorder hypothyroidism occurs frequently in the boxer. It may manifest itself as skin disease or hair loss, weight loss, depression, exercise intolerance and lethargy. A normal boxer is alert and active. If your dog appears constantly tired and in poor condition, take him to the vet for an analysis. Medication can help relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism. Since hypothyroidism appears primarily in middle-age dogs and older dogs, don’t assume a change in a level of activity or personality is just age-related.
- Gastrointestinal Conditions
The scary and often fatal condition known as bloat often occurs in boxers. Bloat causes gases trapped in the dog’s stomach to twist the organ. As a precaution, feed your boxer small meals several times a day rather than one large meal, and limit water and exercise before and after he eats. Boxers are also prone to genetic histiocytic ulcerative colitis, or inflammation of the bowel. Dogs with this incurable condition experience lifelong diarrhea rather than normal bowel movements.
Signs of bloat include a distended stomach, anxiety, pacing, and repeated unsuccessful attempts to vomit. If your dog seems to be trying to throw up, but all that’s coming up is saliva, he could be suffering from bloat.
This condition has to be identified and acted on immediately. If untreated, bloat can ill your dog. If you even remotely suspect bloat, ask yourself this – “If I don’t take my dog to the vet, and I end up being wrong, can I live with myself?”
I can’t put it any more succinctly than that.
- Hip Dysplasia
Boxers are one of several breeds of dog genetically prone to hip dysplasia. The boxer may suffer from early degenerative disease in this joint, eventually losing the use of it. Your vet can prescribe medication so your dog moves more comfortably; surgery is an option in severe cases.
- Neurological Disease
As a boxer ages, he may develop degenerative myelopathy, a neurological disease. As it affects the spinal cord and the nerves in the hind end, the dog eventually becomes incontinent and unable to walk. It does not affect the dog’s brain, so he remains alert and does not appear to be in pain. While many owners opt to euthanize their pet, if you purchase a custom-made cart your dog can regain a certain amount of mobility for the rear legs.
- Eye Disease
Boxers may suffer from refractory superficial corneal ulcers on one or both eyes. SIgns of this disease include watery eyes, with the dog exhibiting pain. Topical antibiotics and surgery can aid this condition.
10. How Important is Training for Boxers?
Obedience training is valuable for any breed of dog, but pretty much essential for Boxers. They’re very strong dogs, and they need capable handlers. An out of control Boxer can be a menace.
Fortunately, Boxers learn quickly. In fact, you might find that if your Boxer has learned a command, like “sit” or “down,” he’ll become annoyed if you want to repeat it. He’ll be like, “Okay human, that’s fine, I got this, now show me something new!” If you get that reaction from your Boxer, just do it – move on, and teach something else. Continue to challenge your dog.
11. Do Boxers Chew Much?
All puppies are going to chew, and Boxers are no exception. In fact, there was a point in my life when I was debating changing Leroy’s name to “Shredder.”
The trouble with Boxers, though, is that they’ll often carry it on into adulthood. That means that your shoes, your furniture, your electronic devices, and just about anything else that you leave laying around is going to be fair game for your Boxer. Provide him with lots of toys and rawhide chews to keep him entertained, and your belongings will probably be safe.
12. Are Boxers Aggressive?
Often, people perceive large dogs as being naturally aggressive. I don’t believe that this is true. I’ve dealt with this issue in other posts, and my take on the issues is that although there are some breeds that can be very dominant and assertive, any aggression is the fault of the owner – every single time.
Boxers are not typically assertive. In fact, they’re pretty laid back, and they’re more than happy to let you be the leader, and they’re also usually good with humans, and with other dogs as well. However, it’s worth pointing out that it’s always best, in a two-dog household, to have dogs of the opposite sex, or if not of the opposite sex, then to have both neutered. This is simply so that they don’t give in to their natural inclination to fight over breeding rights. Sometimes dogs of the same sex will get along well, but it’s the exception, not the rule.
13. Could I End Up With a Bad Boxer?
Yes, you could end up with a bad Boxer, and I’m saying this in the context that Boxers have, lately, become a very desirable breed. And what that means is that more and more puppy mill operators are breeding Boxers (see 5 Reasons Why Puppy Mills Must Be Stopped for more information). If you’re thinking of buying a Boxer puppy, insist on seeing the mother. View the father as well, if you can. Assume, before taking your puppy home, that you can visit the kennel any time you want, and if the breeder tries to put you off, take that as a red flag – something is off.
A breeding kennel should always be clean, always open to you, and the breeder should always be willing to let you see not just your puppy, but any other puppies and dogs that are part of the breeding program. If you can’t see the mother, then you should run, not walk, to another breeder. Not seeing the father isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, since often breeders take bitches to an outside stud. If you can’t see either parent, though, that’s a red flag. You’re probably dealing with a puppy mill if you can’t see either parent.
Many of the Boxers who end up in shelters and rescue facilities come from puppy mills, or are adopted by people who simply aren’t suited to the breed – in other words, there are no bad Boxers, just bad (or inept) Boxer owners. If you’re not sure that your lifestyle is suited to the breed or if you’re not sure you’re buying from a good kennel, back off. This isn’t a decision that you can make and then say, “Oh, well, I changed my mind.” It’s a forever choice, and you need to be sure that you’re up to it.
You’re not just renting a Boxer, you’re adopting one. So, make sure you really do want to adopt. Changing your mind later on is unfair to the dog.
The Final Word
I can’t imagine my life without Janice and Leroy. They are the most wonderful dogs in the world, and I’m grateful every day that they came into my life. But I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that deciding whether or not to adopt those Boxer lap dogs was easy. I thought long and hard before bringing them home – I wanted to be sure that I was really ready for two rambunctious dogs. I wanted to be sure that the dogs were right for me, and that I was right for them.
How did I finally make the decision?
Honestly, with hindsight, I’ still not sure how I did it at the time. But I made it the same way I make all the decision in my life. I asked myself “If I don’t do it, will I be sorry later? Will I wish I’d done something different?” Will I look back later and say damn, I wish I’d taken those Boxers?”
My answer was “Yes, if I don’t take these dogs, I will be sorry later,” and I proceeded accordingly. It might not be that easy for you. If it is, great! If it’s not, though, think long and hard. Boxers are not disposable. If you’re not sure that you’re ready for a Boxer, it might be best to pull back, regroup, and think a little more.
If you’re sure that you really are ready, though, then all I have to say is, welcome to the club! My Boxers and I welcome you, and may you and your Boxer enjoy many years of happiness together.