Boxer Dog FAQ

The boxer is a German breed, developed in the late 1800s from mastiff-type dogs known as bullenbeisers (bull-baiters). The brabant bullenbeiser is generally accepted as being the most immediate ancestor of the boxer. These dogs were selectively bred for hunting and holding prey – and the independent thinking ability required for that task remains a feature of the breed today.

The modern boxer is a medium sized dog, short haired, energetic and muscular dog. Males stand between 57-63 cm (23-25 inches) tall and weigh around 30-32kg (66-70lb), and females 53-59 cm (21-23 inches) weighing around 25-27kg (55-60lb).

The boxer is a brachycephalic breed – meaning that it has a very short muzzle with the lower jaw extending beyond the upper jaw (undershot). While this gives the dog a very secure ‘bite’ (remember the breed was first developed for hunting and holding prey) it also means he has difficulty in regulating body temperature, and does not do well in very hot or cold conditions – he may also snore.

You can read more about the boxer at, and view the breed standards (blueprints) from around the world at

What colours do boxers come in?

Copyright Thea DymottBrindle, fawn and white. Technically speaking, there are only two colours – brindle and fawn. Boxers may or may not also have white markings (known as "flash")and the white boxer is simply a fawn or a brindle with very extensive white markings covering the whole or most of the coat . Fawn boxers have a solid fawn colour coat, in shades ranging from pale tan to deep deer red. Brindle boxers have the same fawn ground colours, overlaid with various degrees of dark striping. The correct term for any brindle is brindle - but depending on the fawn ground colour, concentration of striping and local terminology, they can be variously described as "light", "golden", "fawn", "red", "mahogany", "dark", "reverse" or "seal" brindle. Visit our coat colour genetics page at to learn more about coat colours and their inheritance.

Black boxers do not exist – the colour gene responsible for black coat colour does not exist within the boxer breed (much as brindle does not exist for labradors, or harlequin for rottweilers). If you “see” a black boxer, it must either be a very dark brindle or a mixed breed.

What does "flashy" mean?

Flash refers to any white markings on a boxer. A plain or classic boxer has little white, generally confined to the feet and chest. A "flashy" boxer is one with more extensive white markings, extending some distance up the legs, on the face and possibly on the neck. Depending on the extent of the white markings, dogs are sometimes described as "flashy" or "semi-flashy". Flash is actually lack of pigmentation and is due to the dog having one copy of the extreme white spotting gene. A dog with two copies of that gene will be predominantly or completely white (ultra flashy!). 

What health risks is the boxer prone to?
Boxers are prone to a number of health conditions:

  • Aortic stenosis/subaortic stenosis (AS/SAS)
  • Boxer cardiomyopathy
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Demodectic mange
  • Cancer
  • Bloat
  • Allergies

Some of these are genetic in origin and, with devastating consequences, it is important that all breeding stock are properly screened for these diseases. You can read more about these diseases and the health screening that needs to be performed on potential breeding stock by visiting our health pages at

What should I look for in a breeder?

The very first thing you should look for in a breeder is one who breeds only properly health tested stock. The boxer breed is prone to several serious genetically-inherited health conditions that need to be screened for prior to breeding. These are: aortic stenosis, boxer cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia. Testing for corneal dystrophy is also appreciated, and a dog that has ever developed generalised mange must not be bred. Remember that these are serious health conditions that will severely impact on the quality and length of life of any affected puppies. While health screening of breeding stock can’t absolutely guarantee a puppy won’t be affected, it substantially reduces the risk. Your breeder should be able to provide you with hard copies of the satisfactory test results for both parents. If they can’t (or won’t), find another breeder.

Your breeder should also offer a minimum of 1-year written guarantee against genetic health conditions, preferably 2-3 years.

Copyright Thea Dymott

A good breeder should also (successfully) show their breeding stock. Conformation showing isn’t some elitist beauty pageant, it is exists for the purpose of assessing potential breeding stock. If you’re going to buy a purebred boxer, you want a boxer that looks and behaves like a boxer! Well, conformation showing is about the independent assessment of how much a dog looks like a boxer is supposed to and, to a lesser extent, how closely it’s temperament matches that which a boxer is supposed to have.

Warning signs – be very suspicious of any breeder who:

  • Does not or cannot produce hard copies of health testing carried out on the parents of a puppy you’re considering. Just don’t buy from this person.
  • Does not provide a written guarantee against genetic disorders.
  • Does not show and title their dogs. Not all dogs need to be shown and titled, but if a breeder doesn’t show any of their dogs or none of them are of sufficient quality to gain a title, find a better breeder.
  • Employs lots of phrases and buzzwords such as “champion lines”. We don’t want to see one titled great-grandparent in a pedigree, we want to see titled parents and grandparents.
  • Allows, or asks you to take your puppy home before it is at least 7, and preferably 8, weeks old (note that 8 weeks is the legal minimum in many places).
  • Tries to sell you are “rare” colour such as white (not rare), reverse brindle (not rare) or black (does not exist in a purebred boxer). Also beware of a breeder who presents a black puppy, calling it “reverse brindle”, especially if it is also “rare”. Backyard breeders have caught on that boxers can’t be black and some are now marketing black mixed breed puppies as reverse brindle. Very dark brindle boxers do exist, but the fawn striping should still be clearly visible especially in good light. See our colour genetics page for more information on coat colour and inheritance.
  • Charges more for “papers”. The AKC prohibits charging for registration papers. What is a breeder going to do with those papers anyway – use them for another dog or sell them to someone else to do the same? Don’t laugh, it does happen. Steer clear of anyone engaging in this practice.

You can read more about what are and aren't acceptable reasons to breed boxers (and how to go about learning to do things the right way!) at

What is the difference between a show quality and pet quality puppy?

Copyright Thea Dymott Very little! If you buy from a reputable breeder, that is. The difference between a show quality puppy (or more correctly, a show potential puppy) and a pet quality puppy may be as little as different, more evenly or attractively placed markings. A reputable breeder breeds every litter for the best quality healthiest puppies possible, with the aim of producing dogs that closely fit the standard, or blueprint, for the breed. What makes one puppy a better show prospect than another is a matter of judgement (and some guesswork!) as to which will develop the best structure, markings and personality to make it in the showring and ultimately to breeding the next generation.

There may be a price difference between show prospect and pet puppies, but this should be minimal as all puppies in a litter have required the same investment in time, money and health testing. White puppies may be sold at a lower price than their coloured littermates as the Code of Ethics of the American Boxer Club prevents the sale of white puppies at a price above the breeders’ cost. Again, this is likely to be minimal – a white puppy costs the same to produce and raise as it’s coloured littermates.

But I just want a pet, I don’t have money for a show dog…

Copyright Thea Dymott Do you have money for vet bills to support a sickly dog instead? Ask the cost in money and heartbreak of anyone who’s had to deal with the tragedy of treating generalised mange, severe allergies, crippling hip dysplasia or the waiting game for death to occur after cardiomyopathy is diagnosed… Few people who’ve had that experience would begrudge an extra couple of hundred dollars upfront to avoid a repeat of those experiences.

The prices charged by reputable breeders reflects the time, money and health testing invested in producing a healthy litter of puppies that are free (with the greatest certainty possible) of genetically inheritable conditions. Those conditions can severely impact the quality and length of life of your dog and cost a great deal in vet bills to treat. Health screening cannot provide an absolute guarantee that your dog won’t get sick – but it substantially reduces the risk. Reputable breeders will also provide a health guarantee against congenital and genetic conditions, so you have some recourse in the event such conditions develop.

Backyard breeders do not perform health tests on their breeding dogs (a once-over or annual check-up by a non-specialist vet does not count – we’re talking genetic problems here) and these problems are not rare! Most of the time, backyard breeders are breeding dogs that should never be bred – they are of dubious quality structurally (you want a boxer that actually looks like one, don’t you?), temperamentally and genetically - since none of these things have ever been tested. Don’t support that type of breeding practice, especially financially. Buy your puppy from a responsible breeder instead.

Never, ever buy a puppy from a petstore, or worse still, from the internet. At best these puppies come from backyard breeders, and more likely from puppy mills. Every dollar you give these people means another dog subjected to the appalling conditions of puppy mill life until it is too worn out to produce more offspring and is discarded.

Where can I find a reputable breeder, who does health testing?

Your local boxer club is the best place to start. They should be able to point you in the direction of a breeder who does proper health testing and may have a litter coming up. Dog shows are also a good place to meet breeders and to get a first-hand look at the sorts of dogs they produce. You can find a list of boxer clubs (by country) at

What is the right age to take a puppy home?

Puppies are ready to leave their mother and littermates by 7-8 weeks of age, and should not leave sooner. In some countries and several US States, animal welfare legislation makes it illegal to re-home a puppy before 8 weeks and few responsible breeders will allow puppies to leave sooner. The period 6-8 weeks is an important developmental one for puppies, and this is the time a puppy learns how to play, about bite inhibition and also how to accept discipline!

Be very wary of any so-called breeder who allows or asks new owners to take their pups home earlier than 7 weeks at minimum. Even if a bitch has stopped feeding her pups, they will learn important socialisation lessons if allowed to remain with their mother and/or littermates.

Visit our puppy pages at for more information on developmental stages and puppy raising.

How often should I feed my puppy?

A puppy should eat a minimum of three meals a day until about six months old, when you can reduce to two meals a day if you choose. Baby puppies (8-16 weeks) will usually do better on four or even five small meals a day.

Puppies can be fed a high quality kibble (dry food) or raised on a natural raw diet. Visit our food pages at for more information on what to look for in choosing a good quality food for your puppy.

When can I start training my puppy?

Right away! An 8 week old puppy is quite capable of starting to learn basic commands such as sit, down, come, and to fetch. Remember to keep training sessions very short though, as puppy attention spans are fleeting, and to use only positive reward-based training methods. Training should be fun, for you and your puppy! By 10-16 weeks, your puppy is ready to attend his first puppy kindergarten class and every attempt should be made to do so – it is a great socialisation and learning opportunity for your puppy. Visit for more information.

What should my puppy weigh, how big will he get, and when will he finish growing?

In general, boxers will grow in height until around 12-15 months of age and then continue to fill out until they are two or three years old. The growth plates will not fully close until 18 months though, so be very careful to avoid over-exercising your puppy until this age. 

Boxer puppies grow at remarkably varying rates, so it is impossible (or at least meaningless) to try to estimate what a puppy should weigh at any given age. Bigger puppies don't always mean bigger adults though. Remember the big kid in nursery school who towered over everyone else, but suddenly stopped growing midway through high school? Well, it's the same with boxer puppies. The final size a dog will reach is determined by genetics, so the best indication of how large any particular puppy will become is the size of his parents, any older siblings, and other close relatives.

My puppy needs something to chew on, what's safe?

Puppies do need to chew. From about 4 1/2 months, you puppy will begin teething and will have a serious need to chew. The best thing you can give your puppy is raw bones - preferably the slightly soft brisket (sternum) bones that a puppy can chew right through, but any recreational raw bone will do. NEVER give your puppy cooked bones (that includes smoked, sterilized and boiled bones) as dried out bones like these can splinter. If you can't bear the thought of raw bones, then buy a non-edible nylabone instead. Chewing is a great stress reliever for dogs, and an activity they will enjoy throughout their lives - so don't stop giving bones just because your pup has finished teething!

Dogs should not be given rawhides, pigs ears or any other dried body part to chew on. These are a terrible choking hazard and many dogs have choked to death on raw hides. Rawhide has to go through several rounds of chemical cleanings in order to remove all the hair from the hide. These tend to not be rinsed off fully and the chemicals thus get ingested by the dog. Dried body parts (essentially leather) are also a bacteria hazard. Dogs' digestion systems are designed for fast processing of meat and bones, and that speed is their natural defence against bacteria. But dogs don't digest rawhide, it sits around in their stomach for some time before being passed in the same state as it went in. This can result in food poisoning, the mildest symptom of which is diarrhoea and vomitting.