How to Tell If a Boxer Is a Full Breed

By Jane Meggitt

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 he's a full-blooded boxer or a mix of other breeds? You can compare him physically to purebred boxers or spend a moderate amount of money for genetic testing.

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 60 and 70 pounds.

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.

Overall, the boxer should appear strong and muscular. The breed standard requires a docked tail.

Coat and Colors

Boxers sport a short, easy-care coat. While the only acceptable colors in the breed standard are 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. The standard does permit white markings that don't exceed one-third of the boxer's coat.

White-coated boxers are prone to sunburn, so keep your primarily white dog indoors or out of direct sunlight in hot weather.

Boxer Temperament

Perhaps surprising given their dignified appearance, boxers are good-natured, 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, these strong-will animals aren't the easiest to train, but you'll get there with patience. Boxers make excellent watchdogs but don't tend to bark excessively.

Often Mistaken for ...

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

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.