The Boxer is a beautiful, streamlined breed of dog, and one you’re particularly fond of. For years, you’ve enjoyed having a Boxer in your life. Lately, you’ve had the idea of entering them into an agility competition, but you’re just not sure if you should. Are Boxers well-suited for agility?
Boxers can indeed succeed at agility events, but you do have to train them a little harder since they can be stubborn. Also, make sure you keep things interesting. A bored Boxer may decide to slack off, including during an agility competition. Their brachycephaly from their head shape may also pose a problem.
In this post, we’ll talk extensively about the Boxer breed, including their history, their personality, and their best and worst traits. We’ll also give you some tips for teaching your Boxer to master agility. Keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it!
The Boxer: A Background Of The Breed
As promised, we’ll start by diving deep into the special breed of dog that is the Boxer.
Hailing from Germany, Boxers have existed since 1895. It was then that they debuted in Munich at the St. Bernard’s dog show. The first Boxers came from a combination of Bullenbeisser and Old English Bulldog breeding. Both dogs no longer exist.
The Bullenbeisser, once called the German Bulldog, looked a lot like the Spanish Bulldog or Alano Espanol, especially the Dogo Argentino. By crossbreeding the Bullenbeisser too often, the dog became extinct.
As for Old English Bulldogs, they were known for their muscular frames, broadness, and small bodies. That made them perfect for dog fighting, which they participated in often. Although this became illegal in 1835, not all dog fighting stopped that year. In the effort to breed a dog that fights especially well, the Old English Bulldog was eventually rendered unnecessary.
Boxers have retained some traits of their ancestors, namely, they can bite very hard due to their amazing jaw strength.
Considered a medium-sized or large dog, the Boxer may weigh 65 to 75 pounds for males and 55 to 70 pounds for females. Those females may reach a height of 21 to 24 inches while males are taller at 22 to 25 inches.
The dog has a long, lean, muscular body with a bobtail, a type of shorter tail that’s natural in some dog breeds. A Boxer’s head is part of the dog’s trademark, as are the facial folds. These begin at the dog’s nose and continue towards the muzzle on either side. Their lower jaw sticks out more than their upper jaw and also has an upwards curve. This is lovingly referred to as an undershot bite.
Besides the jaw, the facial shape of the Boxer is also interesting. This breed is brachycephalic, meaning the dog’s skull is short yet broad. Boxers share this characteristic with Boston Terriers, English Mastiffs, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Chow Chows, Chihuahuas, Shih-tzus, and more. Brachycephalic dogs may have breathing difficulties at times, experiencing inverted sneezes from things like allergies, eating too fast, or inhaling strong scents.
A Boxer’s fur color can be all white, another color with white markings, brindled, or fawn. Brindled fur includes colorful stripes or streaks, almost like tiger stripes, but not quite. Fawn fur varies from dark deer red to pale tan.
What Is A Boxer’s Temperament And Personality
With that history lesson out of the way, let’s talk more about the Boxer’s personality and temperament.
Boxers need a lot of attention. It’s not a great idea to leave the house for hours at a time if you have one of these dogs at home. When your Boxer is left to their own devices, they can get destructive if they’re lonely. Make sure you can stop home during your lunch break or some other time to give your Boxer some hugs and love.
In fact, Boxers do best in homes where someone is always there. This breed doesn’t mind big families much, as there are more people around to give them the attention they crave. Boxers can get along well with children, but it may take some time and acclimating before this relationship should blossom. Even still, don’t leave young children alone with a dog.
Given their brachycephalic face shape, Boxers are prone to snoring and snorting loudly. Although not every dog in the breed does this, drooling is a problem among some Boxer owners. It’s a trade-off, though, as Boxers don’t tend to bark much. This doesn’t mean they’re mute, as the breed likes to growl to communicate.
If you live in a part of the world where the weather is almost always hot, it’s best to rethink owning a Boxer. This dog does not really like warm weather, as they can overheat easily due to their large size. A coat or sweater is necessary when venturing outdoors in the winter, as the Boxer’s own coat is not very long.
To keep that coat looking its best, brush it often and bathe the dog every few weeks or months (you can read our article on “How to bath a dog safely“). By maintaining the Boxer’s diet, you’ll also add to its coat health.
While a Boxer’s temperament can vary, the breed generally is quite loyal. If they sense a threat, that’s typically when they’ll bark. They’ll also go out of their way to protect their favorite people, you and the rest of your family.
Boxers enjoy playing and getting exercise often. They can live in apartments or larger homes and everything in between if you take the time to get them outside for running around daily.
Can Boxers Succeed At Agility Training
Agility events, as we’ve discussed on this blog (5 Traits That Makes A Good Agility Dog), are competitions where a dog shows off its mettle in an obstacle course. A course may have as few as 14 obstacles and as many as 20. Some of these obstacles are pause tables, seesaws, tire jumps, weave poles, tunnels, and more.
The American Kennel Club says on their website that,
“all dogs, including mixed breeds, can participate in agility – from the smallest to the largest of dogs.”
That means even your Boxer can excel if you and your dog put in the time, hard work, and effort.
How do you know if your dog is right for agility events? Here are some pointers.
They’re In Good Health
Whether your Boxer is in good enough health for agility competitions is a question only your veterinarian can answer. You’ll want to schedule an appointment with your vet so your Boxer can get a checkup.
One issue that may pose a problem is the dog’s brachycephaly. As we’ve mentioned, this can cause breathing issues. Unfortunately, brachycephaly is incurable as it’s caused due to the shape of the dog’s head.
Other health problems may preclude your Boxer from joining future agility events as well, such as underlying, previously undiagnosed health conditions.
They’re Two Years Old Or Older
If your dog passes their veterinary exam, they still might not quite be ready for agility, at least not yet. You should wait until your Boxer is a year or two old before entering them into any competitions. Previously we’ve touched up on this in the following article: “At What Age Can Dogs Start Agility Training? And How?“
By this point, their bodies are fully grown and thus able to withstand the rigorous training and physical demands of agility events.
Does your Boxer do well around other dogs? Unless they’re practicing agility alone in your yard, then eventually, once they enter the competition level, there will be more dogs they compete with. If your Boxer growls, barks, or otherwise displays aggressive behavior towards these dogs, they could quickly be disqualified.
Boxers are very social with humans, and they can get along with many household pets as well, even cats. That said, sometimes the breed is known to chase the cat around the house or apartment. Boxers may also show dominance over another male dog if they’re male or female. The Boxer’s stubborn streak, pride, and sensitivity could make them hard to acclimate to other dogs, but it’s not impossible.
If your Boxer is not yet socialized, it’s very much worth taking the time to get them to that state before you sign them up for any agility events.
They Know the Training Basics
How well-trained is your Boxer? Do they know the basics such as sit, lie down, shake, and roll over? Can they show off more complicated commands when you request them? If not, then how are they supposed to master the physical skills needed to succeed in an agility course? You have to get the basics down before moving on to more complex concepts. Read our article on “The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Train A Dog For Obedience“.
They Love Exercise
Agility courses demand a lot of excellence out of any dog attempting to complete one. Those dogs that can’t get enough of physical activity may have more moxie that can drive them to complete an agility course when less physically gifted dogs would quit.
Luckily, your Boxer loves nothing more than a nice romp, making them especially well-suited to tackling a tough agility course.
What Problems Do Boxers Have In Agility Training
While Boxers are generally a great dog breed to consider for agility, there are some downsides we have to talk about. These issues are not insurmountable by any means, but they will make training a little more difficult.
A stubborn dog does things on its own time if it does them at all. It doesn’t matter how many times you shout a command at him or her, it won’t happen if the dog doesn’t want to. Even if you try gently coaxing a breed like this into action, it doesn’t always work.
Boxers are indeed known to be stubborn dogs. They may look like they’re absorbing the commands you teach them. Then you ask the dog to repeat the command and they don’t do a thing.
If your Boxer is only a little stubborn, then putting some serious hours into training them for agility ought to help you two work better together. However, if your Boxer’s bad behavior persists after enough training sessions, then you may want to put a pin in agility for now.
First, get your dog some behavioral training. Then, when they’re a little more willing to listen, you can resume your agility prep.
You had to know this one was going to come back up again. Your Boxer can’t help its face shape and structure, but it may make physical activity difficult at times. We say “may” because it varies by Boxer. Some might like activity in shorter bursts while others can run free for hours without any breathing troubles.
Once you learn what triggers these issues in your Boxer, make some lifestyle changes to avoid most future bouts of reverse sneezing.
Do you remember your younger days of school sitting in a classroom? In a particularly boring class you didn’t care about, you’d listen to the teacher droning and barely be able to keep your eyes open.
It’s the same case for your Boxer. When you keep drilling in the same command over and over again, they grow tired of the repetition. Their willingness to listen also decreases. You’re much better moving on to something else or giving up on that task for the day.
The Boxer’s playful streak is part of what makes this dog breed so loveable. That said, this playfulness can also cause you trouble both in training for agility and during the event itself.
If your dog decides it’d be more fun to run around an obstacle course rather than go through it, that’s going to seriously hurt your Boxer in the competition. If they’re not outright disqualified, they could be given low marks that will prevent him or her from winning.
How To Train Your Boxer For Agility
Now that you’re aware of the upsides and downsides of working with your Boxer for agility, you can decide if you’d like to proceed with training. If so, here are some tips to maximize the success of your training sessions so your Boxer can excel in agility contests!
Decide Whether To Train Your Boxer Yourself Or Do it Professionally
There are plenty of agility training classes that can get your Boxer in tip-top shape for their upcoming competition. In enrolling them in one, you can take a hands-off approach to training. You save time also in that you don’t have to go through the trouble of making your own makeshift agility course.
Some owners opt for professional training and others decide to do it themselves. This give you more you money but not time. Considering that you have to run through the course while your Boxer competes, it’s a good idea that you train yourself, too. By practicing together, you can do just that.
You have a tough choice to make here, so take your time.
Recreate An Agility Course
If you do go forth in training your Boxer yourself, then they need an agility course in which to practice. Don’t bankrupt yourself trying to recreate obstacles like those seen at real contests when homemade works just as well. This agility set is inexpensive and includes everything you need to get started, such as a rounded, open tunnel, a square pause box, weaving poles, and a high jump you can adjust. If money is less of an issue and you can buy the real obstacles, then of course that’d be to your benefit. It’s just not necessary.
Make sure you have all the obstacles your Boxer would use during an agility event, including seesaws, tables, tunnels, and tubes.
Avoid Training In The Heat
As you recall from earlier in this article, Boxers and the heat do not get along. Spending enough time in the hot weather could trigger a bout of inverted sneezing in the dog, leaving them unable to breathe for seconds at a time.
In the spring and summer, plan your training sessions accordingly. The same applies if you live in a muggy part of the country. Early in the morning before the sun comes up, the temperature and humidity may be lower. The same is true after sundown.
Limit Training Session Length
Even when keeping your Boxer out of the hot weather, you still don’t want to push them too hard during training.
To avoid exhausting your dog, limit your training session length. You might train for 30 or 40 minutes, take a break for a few hours, and then go back out for another 30 or 40 minutes in one day. If your Boxer gets sufficient rest in between and it’s not too hot outside, this schedule should work beautifully.
Change Up The Training
Your Boxer seems restless, so they’re probably bored. Take heed of what you’ve been commanding the dog to do. If it’s been the same thing for the past 20 minutes, you need to introduce something new.
In the future, change up your lessons. Maybe spend 15 minutes on the seesaw and then another 15 minutes on tunnels. Then, the next time you train on seesaws and tunnels, you do tunnels first and seesaws second. This will keep your Boxer guessing.
Boxers, like almost any other dog breed, are welcome to compete in agility competitions. Their lean bodies and love of exercise make them a great candidate for agility. That said, take care of your dog’s brachycephaly and make sure they’re not bored or behaving stubbornly. Best of luck!