Welcome to our Boxer Guide.
This informative guide is based on our experience with the wonderful boxer breed which we are glad to share and always keep in mind that we are not qualified (or claim to be) Vets, Nutritionists, Dog Trainers, etc . We have compiled it to help new owners make the right choices, from deciding if a boxer is the right pet for you to choosing your new best friend and then covering all the other important aspects such as nutrition, health, training and breeding. If in any doubt, always seek professional opinions especially regarding health issues.
Is a Boxer the right pet for you?
Boxers are happy, high-spirited, intelligent and full of energy. A lot of people owned by boxers say that they never really stop behaving like a puppy!
If you have children, a Boxer dog is a great choice, because they are known to be very patient, loyal, and eager to form a close bond with its "pack," i.e., you and your family.
They also make a good watch dog that will protect its territory and family very well. Boxers are considered as large breed canines with males being approximately 57-63 cms (221/2-25 ins) in height; bitches are slightly smaller at 53-59 cms (21-23 ins). Weight: dogs are approximately 30-32 kgs (66-70 lbs); while bitches are approximately 25-27 kgs (55-60 lbs).
A properly raised and socialized Boxer will usually get along with other dogs and household pets. An important thing to remember about a Boxer, though, is that he needs to be a part of your family - Boxer dogs do not like being left to sleep in a garage or doghouse, separated from everyone else.
Boxers enjoy a good romp, and regular exercise should be part of their daily routine. If you can't devote at least an hour every day to exercising with your dog, then a Boxer is probably not the best breed for you. Although a Boxer demands much attention and care, if you are willing to give a little, this wonderful breed will be worth it in the long run.
The FCI Breed Standard lists only three colours for boxers: Fawn, Brindle and White
Fawn may also be referred to as Red and means the pup is a shade of brown.They may also be called flashy fawn if they have some white makings.
Brindle is when the pup has brown (read fawn or red) coat with very dark brown stripes, to give you an idea, some say they look like tigers. Brindle may also be reversed, which means the main colour will be the very dark brown with lighter brown stripes. These can also be referred to as flashy brindles if white markings are present, or a sealed when no white markings are present.
The third colour is the White Boxer! According to the FCI Boxer standard, a boxer starts loosing points (for colour) in the show ring when it has more than 1/3 of it's coat white coloured. The more percentage of white coloured coat, the more points deducted. Completely white boxers cannot compete in confirmation shows but they can compete in agility and obedience shows.
There is a strong debate on breeding white boxers, mostly due to not enough studies being undertaken on the breed.
Our understanding is that white boxers have a double dose of the extreme piebald gene, which is directly linked (in other breeds such as the dalmation) to blindness and deafness. Even though a lot of white boxers aren't blind or deaf, the progeny have a much higher chance of being so. Otherwise, white boxers are just the same as their coloured siblings :)
What age should the pup be?
By maltese law, pups are only allowed to be sold (by definition this means leave the breeder's and go to their new homes) when they are atleast 8 weeks old, and rightly so!. At Bullen Boxers we recommend a minimum of 12 to 14 weeks. Why? you may ask; simple, the vast majority of puppies are not ready to leave their litter when they are 8 weeks old, apart from the fact that we firmly believe that puppies should have the best possible start to their lives which means spending as much tme as possible with their mother and with experienced handlers / trainers, together with being fully vaccinated and de-wormed prior to leaving our kennels. It is very easy for a puppy to get sick, and at that young age it could be fatal. We also find that by interacting with our older dogs and copying them in our commands they learn much quicker. In the end, it's all about preparing the puppies for their new lives with their new families, to help them be prepared for the transition from our kennels into their new homes.
What to look out for - All puppies are cute, but don't let this cloud your judgement.
There are many people that consider themselves breeders, in reality it doesn't take much to breed, but only a few really care about their dogs/pups and their breed. Is the breeder someone who has a bitch and just wanted to breed her? Do they know what health issues the stud dog might have had? What about his temperament? these can all be inherited. Always find out as much informaton about both parents as you possibly can and always note how he handles his dogs, are they terrified of him? they should'nt be!
What price should i pay for a puppy?
The quality of the puppy and both parents are major factors in the price of a puppy.
Show quality (dogs who regularly place in shows, not just have taken part in a dog show) will demand premium prices, but you will have a boxer that is bred to match as closely as possible the international breed standard. Also take into consideration what else is offered with the pup, will the breeder be there for you when you need help and guidance?
Apart from the initial cost of both parents, rearing puppies properly is not cheap. The following is guideline list of what goes on 'behind the scenes' whenever we have a litter. (ps. actual litter requirements vary):
- Sire stud fee (whenever we branch out and use a male from another kennel, no fee if using our own dogs)
- Health test and general checkup for both Sire and Dam prior to mating
- Health checkup for the Dam during pregnancy (around the 7th to 8th week, routine checkup)
- Ultrasound to determine quantity of puppies in litter (we use this to determine if all the puppies are born during delivery)
- First vaccination, de-worming and health test for all the puppies
- Second vaccination, health checkup used as a followup.
- Third vaccination, Microchip and second de-worming.
Together with the above, you can add the time a breeder spends with each pup; cleaning, grooming, training, etc. (pups usually take us a total of around 30 to 45 mins each daily from the 5th week).
Could that cheaply priced puppy you saw advertised have had all the above attention? Are you sure you're getting such a bargain?
Don't be shy or afraid to ask questions and information from the breeder, the more interest you show, the happier the breeder will be believe me. Knowing that our pups (our babies) are going to good loving homes is our top priority so be prepared to spend some time at the breeder's, and if need be, which is usually the case, go more than once, spend as much time as you can with the pups, and parents, so you can get a feel about the whole thing, see if you like what you see and hear. This is a decision that will change your life for the next decade or so, please choose wisely.
Like all canines, boxers must be properly vaccinated when young before they meet any other pups/dogs or venture outdoors. this usually entails two to three vaccinations (depending on brand used), with 4 weeks in between each vaccination. A yearly booster vaccination is required from then onwards. Although a pup may be fully vaccinated, be wary of other dogs that may be unvaccinated or by letting the pup close to an area where there are other dog's excrements around as the vaccination immunization builds up slowly during the pups first year. When pups are born they may carry worms from their mother or else develop them through the milk. It is a must to properly de-worm pups before they come in contact with other people/children, worms may be contagious. De-worming is easy, usually it's a tablet split into two halfs and given within a period of one week. This is usually given around the time of the first vaccination at 8 weeks of age.
Genetic Health Issues
Cardiomyopathy - A disease of the heart muscle (the myocardium) without malformation of the heart or its valves. The heart works harder to compensate for the loss of contractility, eventually leading to congestive heart failure. The abnormalities in the heart muscle cells give rise to irregular heart rhythms which may cause sudden death.
Hip Displasia - The hip joint is a "ball and socket" joint: the "ball" (the top part of the thigh bone or femur) fits into a "socket" formed by the pelvis. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket (subluxate). With time, as this occurs repeatedly, other degenerative changes in the joint occur (also called osteoarthritis) and your dog will become painful, lame and weak in the hind end. This disease is progressive; that is, it gets worse with time.
We are what we eat! The same rule applies to our canine friends. There are loads of different brands and types of dog foods available, but how do you choose whats best for your pup/dog? First off you need to check the ingredients against what is good for your pup/dog and what isn't. Good quality dog food is by no means cheap, but, what would you prefer? spending your money on good quality food, or at the vet? I know what We prefer!
A good quality dry food must be grain free. Why? grains are used as fillers in dog food without any health benefit whatsoever, really they aren't healthy at all and can be detrimental to your pup/dog's health. Allergies, skin problems, temperament, etc. are all associated with grains in low quality dog food. Also be very careful of the quality of meat used in the food. Steer clear of by-products and derivatives!
What do we feed our dogs?
We use Prince Premium grain free dry food (consisting of Chicken, Fish, Fruits and Vegetables, all fit for human consumption before being processed into dog food) as a base diet. In the mornngs we always add something different to the dry food. The following is a selection of what we add; Prince Premium wet dog food (also made with fit for human consumption ingredients), natural and unsweetened yogurt, fish, chicken or pork liver, Prince miracle oil (a mixture of 9 fish oils including cod liver oil), extra vergin olive oil, hard boiled eggs, spinach, carrots, pumpkin and raw minced red meats. These add-ons are used separately and daily. In the evening we give them plain dry food. As treats or rewards during training we use chicken breast, liver, burgers or pork/beef sausages. It may sound a bit pricey, but believe us, it's nothing compared to vet bills!
Quantity of Food
Puppies need feeding three times a day while adults require two daily feeds. We find that it is important to remove any unconsumed food after about 30 minutes, it's hygenic and the pup/dog will look forward to it's next meal, and you will be providing it. This will further enhance the special bond you will have with your companion. Read the label on your dog food for guidelines on quantity of food vs dog wieght, this may vary depending on the dog's apetite. If you follow the above, you may notice that the pup/dog is eating all the food provided fairly quickly, don't be encouraged to give more immediately after it has just fnished, but add more gradually with every feed. Don't stray too far from the recommended quantity though as over feeding isn't healthy at all
Start them young!
Always remember that training your pup/dog is something you do whenever you are with it, not when you 'spend time' training it.
Basic commands should be the same between any family members so as not to confuse the pup/dog. We highly recommend attending a dog training theory course organised by professional dog trainers, these will instruct you on the proper way to train your pup/dog and will also help you understand how a pup/dog thinks, which makes it very much easier to train!
As a guideline, dogs love routines, try to set one up with your pup and stick to it as much as possible, you will gradually notice that it's as if they have an inbuilt alarm clock!
This is up there with the most desirable training new owners want. This is a process that will take it's course, with length of time required depending on a lot of factors, especially your method. Remember, no shouting, just change your tone to slightly angry. Praise the pup/dog whenever it does it's business where it's supposed to. Always be firm where the pup/dog is allowed in the house and where it is not, enforced in the same by any other family members. Our method consists of taking the puppies out very frequently, every hour or so, and telling them what they are doing so they associate the words with what you want them to do. Remember that not all dogs are the same and some do not learn as quickly as others, but perserverance is the word. It is very important not to leave food freely available throughout the day as the pups will eat and do their business all day long with no routine whatsoever. Just remember that pups need to be fed three times daily.
Daily exercise is a must for boxers. From experience it's ideal to take your boxer out for a walk twice a day, for a minimum of atleast half an hour each time. We try to take them out once for a good run off the lead in the morning, and for a relaxed walk in the evening. The reason for the off the lead run in the morning is so that they use up a lot of energy and it's more fun for all of us cause we get to play while exercising. Obviously not everyone can do that everyday, but atleast try and slot it into your schedule now and again, you won't regret it!
Confirmation, Obedience and Agility Show Training
There are various methods of training your dog for show, we are more set towards the Confirmation Show Training. This requires the pup/dog to confirm to the international set Boxer standard. All our pups start confirmation training from the tender age of 5 weeks with very short sessions lengthening the session gradually depending on age and interest of each individual pup. We teach our pups basic obedience training, which apart from the requirements of the Confirmation training, consist mainly on collar/lead training/manners, basic commands such as stand, stay and sit, together with other commands required around the house.
We currently do not purposely train our pups for Agility Show Training so we cannot guide you on this. But, we do some basic agility training for our older pups. We use this type of training as a fun 'off lead' type of training and as an addon to the obedience training.
The more you expose your pup/dog to different dogs, people/children, noises and environments the better. Always start off slowly and gradually increase the exposure, and remember to praise and encourage your pup/dog frequently a long the way. A lot of phobias in older dogs are caused by the lack of socialization when they where young, and the older the dog the more hard it is to correct!
Boxers are people dogs and love to be with us. They most definately do not enjoy their time apart from us and is something you must train your boxer for gradually, otherwise expect problems along the way. Slowly slowly start training your pup/dog to spend time apart from you. The cage/kennel area mentioned in the 'where will the puppy sleep?' section, if properly taught, is a good way of starting off.
Grooming your Boxer
Breeders should slowly start pups on grooming, at first it's cutting nails every other day till the pups stop whelping (stop drinking mother's milk). During this time their nails grow at an alarming rate!
After this the pups are groomed slightly daily as a routine, face cleansing, nails checking/cutting, soft brushing etc. all to get the pup used to the routine. It is recommended that you take up this routine to avoid unnecassary drama when you really need to groom your pup. Always make it enjoyable for you both and try to talk to your dog telling him/her what you are doing in short, like 'nails' when you are checking/cutting the nails, etc..
A good brush like the one pictured on the left is an essential part of the grooming routine. Apart from removing all the dead hair, this will help massage the coat and skin, aiding in better circulation. Dogs really love this brushing, and will look forward to it every day. At the same time you will minimise the amount of hair shedded inside the house.
For the ears we use a solution available from your vet. We just add a drop into the ear (careful as they don't like anything in their ears) and then just massage it in. Preferabbly do this outside, as the dog will start shaking his head to empty his ear. Then after a half hour or so we get a clean cloth and wipe the outer ear from any loose deposits. This ear cleaning process is done once every three weeks as they really don't need to be done more frequently unless there is some underlying health issue, like an infection etc.
Nails are often very difficult to cut if your dog isn't trained/used to it. If he isn't used to it, introduce it slowly into your daily grooming routine, even simply mimicking helps. Just use a proper dog nail clipper close by his nails, then slowly start by doing just one nail. Steadily increase the quantity of nails you cut. The picture on the left gives you an indication what to cut. The white part of the nail is marked with a yellow line to mark the ideal spot to trim the nail to. The pinkish (it's called the quick of the nail) part is where there is blood in the nail, you should never trim up to there as it's very painful for the dog and bleeding will occur. Dark coloured nails are a bit of a pain as you will not see the quick at all, but will have to go instictively, remember if in doubt always cut less then needed. The longer the nails are left, the longer the quick will get, but if you trim the frequently the quick will start to receed.
We clean our dog's teeth twice to three times a week. It is essential to use a proper dog toothpaste (available from your vet) that is harmless to dogs if swallowed, as they will swallow every last bit of toothpaste you use on their teeth. Together with the brand of toothpaste we use, we get a tooth brush similar to the one in the picture (make sure it's rubbery as it will get crunched a bit on). Just slide it on to your finger, put a very small, pea sized amount of toothpaste and start gently brushing. We generally use one pea sized amount for one side (above and below) and another for the other side. The dog will need some getting used to teeth cleaning, so if you want you can help by mimicking (again), use the tooth brush but without toothpaste.
Washing your dog
Washing can be done up to once weekly (if really necessary), more frequently with just water, sort of a wipe down. We always use a medicated puppy shampoo for all our dogs as normally puppy shampoos are made as mild as possible. The one we use has some herbal extracts that are good for itchyness and dry skin, not that they have those problems, but we find it really good for their coat... and it makes them smell a whole lot better :)
Always talk to your dog while grooming, even though he doesn't understand all you say, your voice is very soothing for them and will calm them down. Explaining to them what you are doing helps too, as they associate the words with what you're doing. We say let's make nice for brushing and then continue saying oh what a nice dog whilst still brushing. Let's see your pretty teeth, then followed by oh they're so clean and white. Can I see your nails please? oh how long, we better trim them up a bit, what do you say? and so on.
I know it sounds a bit silly, but it's these little silly things that help a lot in training :)
Why breed your boxer?
We have heard many reasons for breeding; from the dog/bitch needing to atleast mate once for optimum health and character, to making money from selling pups. These are all misguided and misinformed reasons.
Let's explain breeding and how it's properly done. A responsable breeder will decide to mate two dogs after assessing their health, temperaments and confrmation to the international breed standard. Out of this mixture from these two dogs he will have puppies with certain traits that the breeder thinks have the best probability of developing into good show material. The rest of the litter will then be up for sale. This most definately does not mean that the rest have any defects, but that the ones showing the best promise of becoming champions will remain in house.
Our five golden rules on breeding
1. Knowledge - Always inform yourself about every aspect of breeding.
2. Age - Dogs must be atleast 24 Months old and Bitches have to be over their third cycle (usually over 24 months) before mating.
3. Enhance - Always breed to enhance the breed by carefully selecting for health, temperament and structure.
4. Health Testing - Both dog and bitch prior to mating, and another health test for the bitch during pregnancy.
5. Ethical Breeding - Bitches need to skip a heat cycle in between breeding and never be bred when 6 years or older.
If you would still like to go ahead and breed your boxer, please inform yourself as much as possible before hand on what is involved and what to do when things go wrong. Also keep an emergency vet's phone number handy. And finally the most important part: bring up the puppies as if you where going to keep them all and please try to find them good forever homes!