Boxers are friendly, lively companions that are popular as family dogs. Their suspicion of strangers, alertness, agility, and strength make them formidable guard dogs. As puppies, Boxers demonstrate a fascinating combination of mood-mirroring expressions, energetic curiosity, flexible attention spans and charming characteristics. These strong and intelligent animals have also been used as service dogs, guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs, police dogs in K9 units, and occasionally herding cattle or sheep. The versatility of Boxers was recognized early on by the military, which has used them as valuable messenger dogs, pack carriers, and attack and guard dogs in times of war.
The Boxer is a breed of medium-sized developed in Germany. Their coat is smooth and tight-fitting; colors are fawn or brindled, with or without white markings, which may cover the entire body, and white. Boxers have broad, short skulls, a square muzzle, an under bite, very strong jaws, and a powerful bite ideal for hanging on to large prey.
Boxers are a short-haired breed, with a shiny, smooth coat that lies tight to the body. The recognized colors are fawn and brindle, frequently with a white underbelly and white on the feet. These white markings, called flash, often extend onto the neck or face, and dogs that have these markings are known as “flashy”. “Fawn” denotes a range of color, the tones of which may be described variously as light tan or yellow, reddish tan, mahogany or stag/deer red, and dark honey-blonde. “Brindle” refers to a dog with black stripes on a fawn background. Some brindle Boxers are so heavily striped that they give the appearance of “reverse brindling”, fawn stripes on a black body; these dogs are conventionally called “reverse brindles”, but that is actually a misnomer—they are still fawn dogs with black stripes. The Boxer does not carry the gene for a solid black coat color and therefore purebred black Boxers do not exist.
Boxers with white markings covering more than one-third of their coat – conventionally called “white” Boxers – are neither albino nor rare; approximately 20–25% of all Boxers born are white. Genetically, these dogs are either fawn or brindle, with excessive white markings overlying the base coat color. The extreme piebald gene, which is responsible for white markings in Boxers, is linked to congenital sensorineural deafness in dogs. It is estimated that about 18% of white Boxers are deaf in one or both ears.
Boxers are a bright, energetic and playful breed and tend to be very good with children. They are patient and spirited with children but also protective, making them a popular choice for families. They are active, strong dogs and require adequate exercise to prevent boredom-associated behaviors such as chewing, digging, or licking. Owing to their intelligence and working breed characteristics, training based on corrections often has limited usefulness. Boxers, like other animals, typically respond better to positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training, an approach based on operant conditioning and behaviorism, which offers the dog an opportunity to think independently and to problem-solve.
The Boxer by nature is not an aggressive or vicious breed. It is an instinctive guardian and can become very attached to its family. Like all dogs, it requires proper socialization. Boxers are generally patient with smaller dogs and puppies, but difficulties with larger adult dogs, especially those of the same sex, may occur. Boxers are generally more comfortable with companionship, in either human or canine form.
Leading health issues to which Boxers are prone include cancers, heart conditions such as Aortic Stenosis and Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (the so-called “Boxer Cardiomyopathy”), hypothyroidism, hip dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy and epilepsy; other conditions that may be seen are gastric dilatation and torsion (bloat), intestinal problems, and allergies (although these may be more related to diet than breed). Entropion, a malformation of the eyelid requiring surgical correction, is occasionally seen, and some lines have a tendency toward spondylosis deformans, a fusing of the spine, or dystocia. Other conditions that are less common but occur more often in Boxers than other breeds are hystiocytic ulcerative colitis (sometimes called Boxer colitis), an invasive E. coli infection, and indolent corneal ulcers, often called Boxer eye ulcers.
Boxers are known to be very sensitive to the hypotensive and bradycardiac effects of a commonly used veterinary sedative, acepromazine. It is recommended that the drug be avoided in the Boxer breed.
As an athletic breed, proper exercise and conditioning is important for the continued health and longevity of the Boxer. Care must be taken not to over-exercise young dogs, as this may damage growing bones; however once mature Boxers can be excellent jogging or running companions. Because of their brachycephalic head, they do not do well with high heat or humidity, and common sense should prevail when exercising a Boxer in these conditions.
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