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The Boxer: A Family Guardian
The first impression of a boxer may be one of strength and intimidation. In fact, the breed and its ancestors were used for holding down bears and other large animals during hunting. During war time, the boxer has been used as an attack dog and a guard dog. Yet, there is a loyal and lovable side to this intelligent breed, earning it legions of fans.
The boxer is much more than brute strength. Its strength of character and devotion contributes greatly to its significant role as both family guardian and service dog. Since the breed’s development in Germany in the 1800s, it has grown in popularity in many countries, eventually becoming one of the top ten most popular breeds in the United States.
The boxer derives from the Molosser category of dog. These dogs all come from a common ancient ancestor and generally exhibit a strong, sturdy body, a well-muscled neck, and a short muzzle. In the boxer’s case, the breed was developed by mixing one of these Molosser breeds – specifically, a bullenbeisser – with a bulldog. Both of these ancestors of the boxer had been used as working hunting dogs for centuries. Their dangerous task was to hold the bear, wild boar, or deer until the hunter could arrive. Thus, their strength, strong jaw grip, and determination were extremely useful.
Because of its working origins, the boxer breed was rarely consistent in appearance. However, by the late 1800’s, a group of German enthusiasts decided to try to stabilize the breed. They formed the first boxer club in 1896 and wrote the official breed standard in 1902. The breed standard has changed very little in more than 100 years.
The Name Game
Most people assume that the boxer takes its name from its tendency to sit back on its hind legs and use its front paws to “box” when playing. While this idea may be the most charming, many have begun to question its veracity. Other ideas suggest that perhaps it’s a derivative of boxl, a general name used for the Brabant bullenbeisser, one of the boxer’s ancestors.
Another theory is that the name comes from one of the first boxers to be bred, Lechner’s Box. A bullenbeisser was bred with a dog of unknown origins, simply called Boxer, and the result was a dog by the name of Lechner’s Box. Boxer was already a somewhat common name for a dog, so this unknown dog may have contributed both his name and some of his genes to the breed.
Appearance and Build
Boxers are a medium-sized breed, reaching as tall as 2 feet at the shoulder. They typically weigh in around 60 to 70 pounds. The body is square and has well-defined muscles under taut skin. The head is solid and proportional with a short, square muzzle. The proportionality of the head is considered extremely important. The length of the muzzle in relation to the whole of the head should be a ratio of 1:3. Another feature of the boxer is a slightly upturned nose, which typically allowed the breed to breathe more easily while maintaining its grip on its prey.
For show purposes, boxers are either fawn or brindle. However, many boxers are known as white boxers, although they are not allowed to compete in conformation shows. White boxers are rarely pure white. They are still fawn or brindle boxers, but their white coloring exceeds more than 30% of their body.
The range of colors in the fawn category is fairly extensive. They can be light tan or yellow, reddish tan, dark honey-blonde, or mahogany. Brindle boxers are dogs with black stripes on a fawn background. Fawn and brindle boxers may have white areas on the body, typically on the chest, neck, face and paws. These white areas are known as flash, and dogs with these areas are called flashy.
The boxer may trace its origins to bull baiting and hunting wild animals, but its loyalty and devotion to its family is beyond reproach. The boxer is an excellent family pet. Boxers are playful and affectionate with their family, but will vigilantly protect the family members from harm. Despite a history of serving as a guard dog, boxers usually crave their family’s attention. Furthermore, they do not handle heat well, so they are much happier to be with their family than left outdoors alone.
Boxers are playful and active, so they do need daily exercise and mental stimulation. Their high level of intelligence makes them trainable, although they can also be stubborn. They tend to do best with training that emphasizes positive reinforcement and gives them opportunities to think independently and come up with their own solutions.
The boxer’s strength and intelligence make it an impressive working dog, but its playfulness and devotion make it an ideal and loving companion dog.
- Boxers are best as indoor pets, because their short coat and short nose make it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature during hot and cold weather.
- The boxer was used in war time to carry messages and serve as pack carriers.
- Boxers are now used as therapy dogs, guide dogs, and work in police K9 units.
- In the breed’s early years, it was used to help control cattle.
- Boxers are exuberant and mature slowly, maintaining puppy enthusiasm for many years.