Boxer – Brilliant Boxers!

Breed facts: Working group

In association with the Kennel Club, Dogs Monthly provides you with all you need to know about the Boxer. Familyorientated and great fun to be with, see if one of these happy, all-purpose dogs could be your new best friend.

Affectionately known as the ‘clown of the canine community’, Boxers are renowned for their sheer love of life, exuberance, all-round ability and lovable, loyal nature. Of those that have had Boxers before, few will choose another breed – once a Boxer lover, always a Boxer lover.


The Boxer originated from the now-extinct German Bullenbeiser (‘bull biter’), which in turn was derived from the ancient Molosser-type of dog bred hundreds of years ago for bull baiting and to bring down and hold hunted prey. In the latter part of the 19th century, Bullenbeisers were being crossed in Germany to form other all-purpose breeds of different sizes still useful for hunting and other sports, yet a loyal and faithful canine partner to their owners.
Generally it was the bigger Bullenbeisers that evolved into Mastiffs and Great Danes, with the smaller ones creating Boxers and, in the UK, Bulldogs. Prior to World War One, a few Boxers found their way to the UK, brought back by travellers and soldiers, and the British Boxer Club was founded in 1936 by a handful of enthusiasts. But it wasn’t until after World War Two that the Boxer breed in the UK really took off: many dogs were imported from previously German-occupied countries by British servicemen who had found them abandoned by retreating German forces. Boxers were a popular choice of the German Army as guard dogs, fleetfooted messengers and stoical pack carriers and British soldiers, impressed by their friendliness and loyalty, adopted dogs left behind and brought them home. Today the Boxer stands at number 10 in the Kennel Club’s 2008 top 20 most popular breeds. A Boxer has never won the Best in Show title at Crufts – but maybe 2009 will be its lucky year?

Boxer tails
Traditionally the Boxer was docked, but this cosmetic practice was banned in the UK from 6 April 2007, so any dogs docked after that date cannot be shown in this country. A great enthusiast of the breed, geneticist Dr Bruce Cattanach trialled breeding Boxers with naturally short tails. Says Dr Cattanach: “I did a single cross with a naturally shorttailed Pembroke Corgi and then back-crossed with Boxers over generations.” Some of the resulting puppies (euphemistically termed ‘Borgies’) had short tails, while others didn’t – but Dr Cattanach’s experiment proved it was possible to breed for short tails. Says Tim Hutchings, secretary of the Cotswold Boxer Club: “These days all the younger age classes at UK shows are now full of tails but all the older dogs are docked. Thankfully in Boxers our show entries and registration numbers have held up very well since the docking ban. Our experience is that once you own a few Boxers with a full tail you quickly get used to it – and a Boxer is still a Boxer, tail or no tail.”

Medium to large size   Fantastic all-rounder   Loyal & affectionate    Ideal family dog    Quick to learn    Can be stubborn   Town or country living   Medium to high exercise requirement    Low-maintenance coat    Good with children ? Keen guard and watchdog   Good temperament   Loves people

KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARD Thinking of getting a Boxer? Here’s what to look out for:

A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website (www. for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.

Great nobility, smooth-coated, medium-sized, square build, strong bone and evident, welldeveloped muscles.

Fawn or brindle: white markings acceptable not exceeding one-third of ground colour. Fawn: various shades from dark deer red to light fawn. Brindle: black stripes on previously described fawn shades, running parallel to ribs all over body. Stripes contrast distinctly to ground colour, neither too close not too thinly dispersed. Ground colour clear, not intermingling with stripes.

Lively, strong, loyal to owner and family, but distrustful of strangers. Obedient, friendly at play, but with guarding instinct.

Equable, biddable, fearless, self-assured.

Head & skull
Head imparts its unique individual stamp and is in proportion to body, appearing neither light nor too heavy. 

Dark brown, forward looking, not too small, protruding or deeply set. Showing lively, intelligent expression. Dark rims with good pigmentation showing no haw.

Moderate size, thin, set wide apart on highest part of skull lying flat and close to cheek in repose, but falling forward with definite crease when alert.

Undershot jaw, canines set wide apart with incisors (six) in straight line in lower jaw. In upper jaw set in line curving slightly forward. Bite powerful and sound, with teeth set in normal arrangement.

Round, of ample length, strong, muscular, clean cut, no dewlap. Distinctly marked nape and elegant arch down to withers.

Shoulders long and sloping, close lying, not excessively covered with muscle. Upper arm long, making right angle to shoulder blade. Forelegs seen from front, straight, parallel, with strong bone. Elbows not too close or standing too far from chest wall. Forearms perpendicular, long and firmly muscled. Pasterns short, clearly defined, but not distended, slightly slanted.

In profile square, length from forechest to rear of upper thigh equal to height at withers. Chest deep, reaching to elbows. Depth of chest half height at withers. Ribs well arched, not barrelshaped, extending well to rear. Withers clearly defined. Back short, straight, slightly sloping, broad and strongly muscled. Loin short, well tucked up and taut. Lower abdominal line blends intocurve to rear. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Very strong with muscles hard and standing out noticeably under skin. Thighs broad and curved. Broad croup slightly sloped, with flat, broad arch. Pelvis long and broad. Upper and lower thigh long. Good hind angulation; when standing, the stifle is directly under the hip protuberance. Seen from side, leg from hock joint to foot not quite vertical. Seen from behind, legs straight, hock joints clean, with powerful rear pads.

Front feet small and cat-like, with well arched toes, and hard pads; hind feet slightly longer.

Previously customarily docked [until 5 April 2007]. Docked: set on high and carried upward. Undocked: set on high and carried gaily, not curled over back. Of moderate thickness. In overall balance to the rest of dog. Gait & movement Strong, powerful with noble bearing, reaching well forward, and with driving action of hindquarters. In profile, stride free and ground covering. Coat Short, glossy, smooth and tight to body.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

Temperament & family life

Such is a Boxer’s courage that an old well-known quote (author unknown) about the breed states: ‘Boxers fear neither death, nor the devil himself.’ While this is true, there is also no doubt about the breed’s devotion to, and love of people. He is prized as a family pet, being known to be especially good with children and other pets once properly introduced to and supervised with them. The Boxer Breed Council states: ‘The character of the Boxer is of the greatest importance and demands the most careful attention. He is renowned from olden times for his great love and faithfulness to his master and household, his alertness and fearless courage as a defender and protector. ‘The Boxer is docile but distrustful of strangers. He’s bright and friendly in play but brave and determined when roused. ‘His intelligence and willing tractability, his modesty and cleanliness make him a highly desirable family dog and cheerful companion. He is the soul of honesty and loyalty. He is never false or treacherous, even in old age.’ Says Boxer expert, author, judge and breeder Tim Hutchings: “Boxers are ideal family dogs. They love being part of the home environment and while they suit people of all ages they are particularly good with children. Ideally their owners should be at home for at least part of the day and Boxers are certainly not suited to flat living. Prospective owners should have a decentsized fenced garden.”

Says Tim Hutchings: “Until 12 months of age, a regular romp round the garden and a short road walk for socialisation purposes once a day is more than enough. When mature, a short constitutional in the morning and a half-hour walk later in the day, to include some free-running, is sufficient.” Adds Dawn Nicholls, who runs the Lincs, Essex & Trent Boxer Rescue, and is considered to be ‘a godsend to Boxer rescue countrywide’ by Boxer people: “Boxers are not a breed you can bring to the park on a Sunday morning and forget about the rest of the week, unless you have huge space at home – at least half an acre. If you live in an average urban area with an average size garden you must commit yourself to 45 minutes minimum a day.
“In general Boxers will sleep more in winter months: once it gets dark they tend to go to bed, so in the summer months you might have to ‘top up’ with a short walk in the evenings as well to break up the monotony of the day for them. If you work and have to leave the dog for part of the day it is important he gets a run before you leave, and this is the secret to managing him. “Feed him after his walk and you’ll find the combination of exercise and food means he will actually sleep a good deal of the day and not expend energy digging up your garden and causing a nuisance of himself.”

Care & training
According to Tim Hutchings, Boxers can be a bit stubborn at times and are not the sort of breed to blindly follow instructions. “They are too clever for that,” explains Tim, “but as long as you make it clear from day one that you are in charge and you stick to your guns you will find them willing pupils. The KC breed standard asks for them to be biddable and most are. “The Boxer was originally bred as a guard and a companion, and they are outstanding at this.
As a loyal, easy-going family pet he has no equal and while you will not often see the guarding side, I can assure you that the Boxer has a strong sense of what is right and wrong and he will fearlessly protect his own if the genuine need arises.” Says Dawn Nicholls: “Boxers love to be part of the family and hate to be shut away in a kennel. More than most breeds, Boxers are very people-friendly and tend to rush up to strangers to say hello, so it is vital they are trained to recall otherwise they will only cause annoyance to others, fuel complaints and leave you feeling you can’t let your dog off the lead. “Like children, Boxers need to know their boundaries and must learn these from day one. Don’t ever engage in rough and tumble play sessions with your Boxer, otherwise it makes it harder to train him not to jump up on people.”

Working Boxers
Despite the breed’s undoubted abilities in guarding and protection, detecting various substances (such as drugs) and as assistance dogs, as proven in other countries such as Sweden and Norway, the British do not tend to ‘work’ their Boxers – yet the breed has so much to offer. Says Linda Näslund, a top Swedish breeder and breed expert: “Sweden’s first certified service and therapy dog is a Boxer [see page 40], and, last year, two Boxers were certified as pyrotechnic search dogs. They search stadiums before football games, and when the supporters are allowed in they stand in the entrance and search their bags for pyrotechnics [such as fireworks]. “Last year also, two Boxers were certified as search and rescue dogs in Norway and a few more are in training. “At the moment Sweden has two police Boxers in service with officers Robert Lindström (his third police Boxer, called Nitro) and Maria Eriksson (her first Boxer, Caliber). Robert is involved with educating police handlers in Sweden and intends to train Nitro to search for drugs.”
While, Boxers may not be at the forefront of ‘employed’ service in the UK, they certainly prove their worth, and give their owners lots of fun, in various activities such as showing, agility, obedience, gundog tests, triathlon (performance in any three of aforementioned disciplines), racing, and, of course, Good Citizen tests (comprising Kennel Club training schemes). So there’s an awful lot you can do with a Boxer, apart from him being just simply a fantastic companion! The British Boxer Club holds a ‘Working Day’ every year which is hugely popular with owners. And there is a special class for white Boxers too. For more details, contact the club.

5 Boxer facts Feeding Advises breed expert Tim Hutchings: “Boxers tend to be good doers but their stomachs can be a bit sensitive. The key is to find a formula that works for you, probably recommended by your pup’s breeder, and stick with it. “We feed complete food and find that some of the cheaper brands are just as good as the more expensive ones. If ever we do get a ‘dicky’ stomach, we find that a few days on the ‘sensitive’ variety of our preferred food quickly sorts it out.” Lifespan Says Tim Hutchings: “I always tell people that 10 is a young age to lose a Boxer and anything after 12 is a bonus. One of the great advantages of the breed is that they have a comparatively short ‘old age’, retaining their zest for life well past 10 years.” Health The Boxer does suffer from heart problems comprising cardiomyopathy (BCM; erratic heartbeat) and aortic stenosis (AO; heart murmurs). The latter is present in most Boxers, but, says breed expert and geneticist Dr Bruce Cattanach, the majority have no significance on health or performance. The former condition is inherited and is presently being dealt with by the Boxer Breed Council in an effort to stamp it out in all Boxers.
Cancer is the other major cause of death in Boxers, as it is in people, but is generally an ‘old age’ disease. Says Tim Hutchings: “In my experience, Boxers are pretty uncomplicated healthwise. You do hear of certain conditions that crop up from time to time; but as long as you buy from a responsible breeder, who follows the breed control schemes on heart problems, you should have a good expectation of a trouble-free pet. More information on Boxer health can be found on the Boxer Breed Council website (see ‘useful contacts’ on page 42). Grooming Boxer coats must be among the simplest in the dog world to look after and all they need is a weekly rub down with a stiff grooming glove and an occasional bath. Height & weight Ideal height at withers: dogs: 57-63cm (22½-25ins); bitches: 53-59cm (21-23ins). Ideal weight: dogs: approximately 30-32kgs (66-70lbs); bitches: approximatel25-27kgs (55-60lbs).

Usefull Contacts
Anglian Boxer Club Mr Dave Rushton (secretary), tel. 0114 288 1079.
British Boxer Club Mrs Marion Seeney (secretary), tel. 01235 835207.
Broadland Boxer Club Mr Green (secretary), tel. 01508 522929.
Cotswold Boxer Club Mr Tim N Hutchings (secretary), tel. 01453 511755.
Essex & Eastern Counties Boxer Club Mrs Nadia Maddocks (secretary), tel. 01702 206683.
Irish Boxer Dog Club Mr James Gardiner (secretary), tel. 02891 453612.
London & Home Counties Boxer Club Mrs Ruth M Hughes (secretary), tel. 01372 458325.
Mancunian Boxer Club Mrs Sandra Jump (secretary), tel. 01606 889043.
Merseyside Boxer Club Mrs Marion McArdle (secretary), tel. 0151 531 6361.
Midland Boxer Club Mr Nigel J Rallings (secretary), tel. 01827 872064.
Northern Boxer Club Mrs Vikki Van-Beck (secretary), tel. 07836 325125.
Scottish Boxer Club Mrs Sharon McCurdy (secretary), tel. 01776 860620.
South Wales Boxer Club Mrs Gill Davies (secretary), tel. 01269 870960.
South Western Boxer Club Mrs Glenda Tibbotts (secretary), tel. 01278 785071.
Trent Boxer Club Mrs Judy Alton, tel. 01773 810630.
Tyne Wear & Tees Boxer Club Mr Mick Gordon (secretary), tel. 01205 362647.
Boxer Breed Council Lincs, Essex & Trent
Boxer Rescue Mrs Dawn Nicholls, tel. 01406 490350;

Thanks! Special thanks to Tyne, Wear & Tees Boxer Club & Mick Gordon, South Western Boxer Club & Glenda Tibbotts, Cotswolds Boxer Club & Tim Hutchings, Lincs, Essex & Trent Boxer Rescue & Dawn Nicholls, and Linda Näslund for information provided for this feature.