That's a tough one. "Study the breed
standard" is always thrown around, but the breed standard is
pretty vague about some things. There is an illustrated
standard available through the ABC (and the pictures are on
the website), but it's of limited usefulness since it only
shows *correct* conformation. There is a new judges' booklet
coming out that sounds more promising. Barring that, I
recommend getting the Doberman Pinscher illustrated standard
along with the Boxer illustrated. Except for a few
differences, the Doberman standard is nearly identical to the
Boxer - and their illustrated has examples of correct and
incorrection conformation. The Boxer Blueprint by Daniel
Buchwald has illustrations of common conformational faults in
Boxers, but it does not have quite as many examples and is out
Also, go to as many shows as you can (Boxer
Specialty shows are very helpful, as there are a greater
number of Boxers in one place than you usually see at a
non-Specialty show). Watch the judging, and rank the dogs in
your mind (or in the catalog, in pencil, if you like). See how
close you get to what the judge chooses (you can mark this in
the catalog, too). Some judges will give you "clues" as to
what they're evaluating on a dog - measuring the angles of the
shoulders with their fingers, running their hands over certain
areas repeatedly, lining the dogs up facing them (looking at
fronts), moving the dogs several times, etc. "Overhear" what
conversations you can from ringside - but remember that the
information you receive may be based more on bitterness than
fact! Take everything with a grain of salt, but you'll
probably get a few pearls of wisdom you can hold on to. While
not everyone will agree with every judges' placements, once
you get to the point where you're fairly consistently placing
the dogs the way the judge does, you're doing pretty well. If
you can see and agree with *why* the judge made the placements
the way the did, you're doing even better!
to the breeders and exhibitors of the dogs you like (*after*
judging is completed!), find out their pedigrees, think about
what you do and don't like about them. Often you'll find that
the dogs you like come from the same lines, and that's where
you then start looking for a puppy.
Now, granted, you
may not get to this point before you get your puppy. That's
fine, as this is a lifelong learning process. But the better
you are at evaluating correctly what the judges feel meet the
standard, the better your chances of picking a quality puppy.
How do you select that show puppy?
need to know what it is you want from your puppy. Certainly if
you're looking for a show puppy you want one that has the
potential to become a finished Champion. But do you want more
than that? A Specials Boxer? Top Twenty? Do you want to breed?
Dog or bitch? These are things you should think about before
you even pick a puppy. A Specials-quality dog certainly won't
suffer from being a couch potato, but a couch potato dog will
certainly be miserable if you try to Special it. Of course,
there are no guarantees, but having a clear idea of what you
want will help you in your quest.
You should also
decide what you want from your breeder. A mentor is
invaluable, and typically the breeder you purchase your puppy
from will fill that role. That is not always the case,
however, especially if you purchase your puppy from a breeder
who is not in your area. It is usually more helpful to have a
mentor nearby, and many breeders will help out newbies even if
they have no connection to them. And, of course, there's no
reason you can't have two! Decide on what health
status/testing you will require for the
parents/relatives/ancestors of your pups (hips? heart?
thyroid? longevity?), what type of pedigree (linebred,
outbred? number of champions in the first three generations?
SOM/DOM/LOM status?) Think about what you're willing to agree
to in a contract (co-ownership? breeding with a puppy back?
Once you decide on the
breeder and litter you're interested in, you can pick your
puppy! There is a video called The Puppy Puzzle by Pat
Hastings - it goes over, in detail, how to evaluate puppies at
8 weeks of age to determine their conformation at maturity.
Also, your breeder will know how her lines mature, and should
be able to advise you in that regard. It's hard, of course, to
pick that Best in Show winner at 8 weeks of age, and there are
no guarantees. In Boxers, one thing that narrows the field a
bit is markings - plain Boxers, unfortunately at this time,
are generally harder to finish than flashy ones, and until
that changes it should be a consideration. You should be aware
that white on puppies typically shrinks as they get older.
Some book recommendations (in addition to the ones you
The Winning Edge: Show Ring Secrets by George
Born to Win: Breed to Succeed by Patricia Craige
Tips and Tricks: From Best Intentions to Best In
Show by Pat Hastings
The World of the Boxer by Rick Tomita
The New Boxer by Billie McFadden
Also the AKC Breed
Video is good to have.
Books are available at
www.sitstay.com, www.dogwise.com, www.amazon.com Pat Hasting's
book and video are also available at www.dogfolk.com (her
website). The AKC video is, of course, available through the
AKC (www.akc.org) but it may also be available at sitstay or
Puppies begin showing at 6 months, although
some matches will accept them at 4 or sometimes even 2 months.
Typically puppies don't do a lot of winning - really the point
is to get them used to the ring and to teach them that showing
= fun. There are some dogs that finish their championships
before they are a year old (in North America, anyway - in many
other countries a dog cannot become a champion until they have
won at least once at over 12 months of age).
can be expensive, but it really depends on what you decide to
do. Entries are usually about $20 per show (that's $20 each
day of a show weekend, whether it's 2, 3, or 4 days). If you
show the dog yourself, you won't have to pay handling fees
(but it may take longer to finish, until you get to the level
of proficiency needed). If you stay within a couple of hours'
drive time you won't have to pay hotel fees, but you might not
get to show as often as you'd like.