Your dog looks like a boxer, but you don't have American Kennel Club registration papers or specific information on him. How do you tell whether you've got a full-blooded boxer or a mix of other breeds? You can compare him physically to known boxer dog breed characteristics or spend a moderate amount of money for genetic testing.
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Purebred boxer appearance
The boxer breed standard calls for male dogs to mature between 23 and 25 inches tall at the shoulder, with females slightly smaller at 21.5 to 23.5 inches in height. Although the breed standard doesn't specify a weight, adult boxers usually range between 65 and 80 pounds. Overall, the boxer should appear strong and muscular.
The boxer is a brachycephalic, or short-nosed breed, and an underbite is part of the breed standard. The top of his head bears a slight arch, and when his ears stand up, wrinkling appears on his forehead. The ears may be either cropped — so that when alert, they rise — or natural. If left in a natural state, they should normally lie flat near the cheeks, but "fall forward with a definite crease when alert," according to the breed standard.
The breed standard requires a docked tail. This is a leftover relic from when boxers were used as hunting dogs. Boxers took on some fierce animals at the time and their tail was shortened to avoid the potential for injury. This is no longer necessary, and you may choose to keep the dog's tail intact if you wish and don't plan on entering dog shows.
Boxer coat and colors
Boxers sport a short, easy-care coat. While the only acceptable colors in full-blooded boxer puppies are the breed standard fawn and brindle — the latter a brown base coat with black striping — solid or mostly white boxers are fairly common. White boxers are ineligible to show in American Kennel Club conformation classes, but they can compete in canine sports, such as agility. Breeders often sterilize white puppies to try and minimize white coats in the population.
A boxer is considered white when more than 30 percent of its fur is white in color. If your dog is white, you'll need to take some special precautions. Boxers in this color category can easily develop skin cancer and go blind due to UV damage. They're also more likely to be deaf. A little sunscreen can go a long way toward protecting against skin cancer, but it's more difficult to shield the dog's sensitive eyes. It's best to keep your boxer indoors or in the shade on bright days.
Boxer breed temperament
Perhaps surprisingly, given their dignified appearance, boxers are good-natured, affectionate, athletic, and happy canines. They're good with kids and often fine with felines. Other dogs may be another story — boxers are quite territorial. While smart, purebred boxer puppies are strong-willed animals who always aren't the easiest to train, but you'll get there with patience. Boxers make excellent watchdogs but don't tend to bark excessively.
Certain breeds, or crosses of breeds, may be mistaken for a boxer. These include American bulldogs and English bulldog mixes. While you'd never mistake a purebred English bulldog for a boxer, as the bulldog is far too short and squat, add in some taller canine genes and there's more of a resemblance.
DNA testing and confirmation
A simple DNA test can tell you whether or not your dog is primarily boxer or mixed with other types. Several such brands are on the market. Ask your vet which one she would recommend. In addition to providing information about your dog's heritage, a DNA test can also tell you whether he's prone to diseases common in boxers— and there's a lot of them. These include:
- heart disease, especially cardiomyopathy.
- degenerative myelopathy, a fatal neurological condition.
- certain cancers, including lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and hemangiosarcoma, a malignancy in the blood vessels.