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Boxer

Square-jawed and muscular, the Boxer is the George Clooney of the dog world, a hunk with a sense of humor and an underlying sweetness.

Boxer Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Working Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
10 to 12 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


  • Overview

    Boxers are large, muscular, square-headed dogs who look imposing — that is, until you look into their eyes and see the mischief and joy of life reflected there. Because of their playful nature and boundless energy, they are sometimes called the "Peter Pan" of the dog breeds. Boxers aren't considered fully mature until they are three years old, meaning they have one of the longest puppyhoods in the world of dogs.

    The typical Boxer is intelligent, alert, and fearless, yet friendly. He's loyal to his family and loves to play with them, but he's also headstrong, especially if you try to use harsh training methods with him.

    With minimal grooming needs and legendary patience and gentleness with children, Boxers are great family companions, as long as you provide them with the physical exercise and mental stimulation they need. If you're willing and able to provide them with adequate exercise in the form of walks or runs, they can even adapt to apartment living, so long as they are able to be close to their beloved people.

    Boxers originated in Germany and were brought to the U.S. after World War I. Their short, shiny coats are striking: fawn or brindle with flashy white markings. All white or mostly white Boxers are not desirable because genetically, deafness is associated with white coloring.

    Many Boxers have docked tails and cropped ears. If the ears are not cropped, they will hang down. Many dog owners are opting to leave their Boxers' ears uncropped these days.

    Boxers are renowned for their great love of and loyalty to their families. They often are distrustful of strangers at first, but will not be aggressive unless they perceive a threat to their families. Boxers are so loving that they often think they are lapdogs and try to lie as close to you as possible.

    Boxer owners around the world take special delight in their beloved dogs' clownish behavior. Boxers are high-spirited, happy, and energetic. They often paw, cat-like, at their toys, food bowls, and even their owners. When they are excited, they often "kidney bean," a little dance that involves twisting their bodies into a semi-circle, similar to the shape of a kidney bean, and then turning in circles. Boxers also make a unique sound, called a "woo-woo," when they want something or are excited. It is not exactly a bark, but rather sounds as though they are saying "woo-woo," look at me!

    Watching a Boxer run is a delight. They are so exuberant, happy, and graceful, it's sure to bring a smile to your face, especially if they start jumping (something they love to do), twisting, and even turning somersaults to entertain you.

    But life isn't all fun and games for all Boxers. Because of their strength and courage, Boxers have a wide use in the military and the police, as well as search-and-rescue work. When specifically trained for guard work, Boxers are excellent watchdogs and will restrain an intruder in the same manner as a Mastiff. Boxers also excel in obedience, agility, and schutzhund (a demanding three-phase competition event that tests the dog's tracking, obedience, and protection abilities).

    Boxers should not be left outdoors for extended periods of time. Their short nose doesn't cool hot air efficiently in the summer, and their short coat doesn't keep them warm in the winter. Many Boxer people joke that their Boxers' range of tolerance is between 72 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit (21-22 degrees Celsius).

    Boxers aren't the breed for everyone, but if you like a big dog who likes to cuddle, don't mind a little drool between friends, want a dog that will delight you with his clownish antics and yet be gentle with your children, and most of all, if you are prepared to keep your Boxer physically and mentally stimulated, the Boxer just might be the right dog for you!

  • Highlights

    • Boxers are high-energy dogs and need a lot of exercise. Make sure you have the time, desire, and energy to give them the play and activity they need.
    • Boxers are exuberant and will greet you ecstatically.
    • Early, consistent training is critical — before your Boxer gets too big to handle!
    • Although they are large, Boxers are not "outdoor dogs." Their short noses and short hair make them uncomfortable in hot and cold weather, and they need to be kept as housedogs.
    • Boxers mature slowly and act like rambunctious puppies for several years.
    • Boxers don't just like to be around their family — they need to be around them! If left alone for too long or kept in the backyard away from people, they can become ill-tempered and destructive.
    • Boxers drool, a lot. Boxers also snore, loudly.
    • Although they have short hair, Boxers shed, especially in the spring.
    • Boxers are intelligent and respond well to firm but fun training. They also have an independent streak and don't like to be bossed around or treated harshly. You'll have the biggest success in training your Boxer if you can make it fun for him.
    • Some Boxers take their guarding duties a little too seriously, while others may not exhibit any guarding instincts at all.
    • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
  • History

    The Boxer's ancestors were the German Bullenbeisser (a dog that descended from Mastiffs) and the Bulldog. The Bullenbeisser had been used as a hunting dog for centuries to hunt bear, wild boar, and deer. Its task was to catch and hold the prey until hunters arrived. Over time, Bullenbeissers lost their jobs on estates and began to be used by farmers and butchers to guard and drive cattle.

    The Boxer we know today was developed in the late 19th century. A Munich man named Georg Alt bred a brindle-colored female Bullenbeisser named Flora with a local dog of unknown origin. In the litter was a fawn-and-white male that was named Lechner's Box. This is believed to be the start of the line that would become the Boxer we know today.

    Lechner's Box was bred to his dam, Flora, and one of the litter was a female called Alt's Schecken. She was registered as a Bierboxer or Modern Bullenbeiser. Schecken was then bred to an English Bulldog named Tom to produce a dog named Flocki, who became the first Boxer to be entered in the German Stud Book after winning at a Munich show that had a special event for Boxers.

    Flocki's sister, a white female, was even more influential when she was mated with Piccolo von Angertor, a grandson of Lechner's Box. One of her pups was a white female named Meta von der Passage, who is considered to be the mother of the Boxer breed even though photographs of her show that she bore little resemblance to the modern Boxer. John Wagner, author of The Boxer (first published in 1939) said the following about her:

    "Meta von der Passage played the most important role of the five original ancestors. Our great line of sires all trace directly back to this female. She was a substantially built, low to the ground, brindle and white parti-color, lacking in underjaw and exceedingly lippy. As a producing bitch few in any breed can match her record. She consistently whelped puppies of marvelous type and rare quality. Those of her offspring sired by Flock St. Salvator and Wotan dominate all present-day."

    In 1894, three Germans named Roberth, Konig, and Hopner decided to stabilize the breed and put it on exhibition at a dog show. This was done in Munich in 1895, and the next year they founded the first Boxer Club.

    The breed became known in other parts of Europe in the late 1890s. Around 1903, the first Boxers were imported into the U.S. The first Boxer was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1904, a dog named Arnulf Grandenz. In 1915, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the first Boxer champion, Sieger Dampf v Dom, owned by Governor and Mrs. Lehman of New York. Unfortunately, there weren't many female Boxers in the U.S. to breed to him, so he didn't have much influence on the breed.

    When Word War I broke out, Boxers were enlisted into the military, serving as messenger dogs, carrying packs, and acting as attack and guard dogs.

    Boxers started becoming popular in the U.S. in the 1940s when soldiers coming home from World War II brought their Boxer mascots with them. Through them, the breed was introduced to more people and soon became a favorite companion animal, show dog, and guard dog.

    The American Boxer Club (ABC) was formed in 1935 and gained acceptance by the AKC in the same year. In the early days, there was a lot of controversy within the club about the Boxer standard. In 1938, the club finally approved a new standard. The latest revisions of the standard were in 2005. Today, the Boxer ranks 7th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the AKC.

  • Size

    Males typically stand 22.5 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh about 70 pounds. Females typically stand 21 to 23.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 60 pounds.

  • Personality

    The Boxer is described as a "hearing" guard dog, meaning he's alert and watchful. When he's not clowning for you, he's dignified and self-assured. With children, he's playful and patient. Strangers are greeted with a wary attitude, but he responds politely to friendly people. He's aggressive only in defense of his family and home.

    Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.

    Like every dog, Boxers need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Boxer puppy grows up to be a well-rounded, outgoing, friendly dog and stays that way. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.

  • Health

    Boxers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Boxers will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Boxers, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).

    • Cancer. Boxers are especially prone to the developing mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and brain tumors. White Boxers and Boxers with excessive white markings can be sunburned and may even develop skin cancer. If your Boxer is light-colored, apply sunscreen on his ears, nose, and coat when he goes outdoors.
    • Aortic stenosis/sub-aortic stenosis (AS/SAS). This is one of the most common heart defects found in Boxers. The aorta narrows below the aortic valve, forcing the heart to work harder to supply blood to the body. This condition can cause fainting and even sudden death. It's an inherited condition, but its mode of transmission isn't known at this time. Typically, a veterinary cardiologist diagnoses this condition after a heart murmur has been detected. Dogs with this condition should not be bred.
    • Boxer cardiomyopathy (BCM). Also called Boxer Arrythmic Cardiomyopathy (BAC), Familial Ventricular Arrhythmia (FVA) and Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC). BCM is an inherited condition. The dog' heart sometimes beats erratically (arrhythmia) due to an electrical conduction disorder. This can cause weakness, collapse, or sudden death. Because it is difficult to detect this condition, it can cause an unexpected death. Boxers who show signs of this condition should not be bred.
    • Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors. Treatment ranges from supplements that support joint function to total hip replacement.
    • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone and may produce signs that include infertility, obesity, mental dullness, and lack of energy. The dog's fur may become coarse and brittle and begin to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be managed very well with a thyroid replacement pill daily. Medication must continue throughout the dog's life.
    • Corneal Dystrophy: This refers to several diseases of the eye that are non-inflammatory and inherited. One or more layers of the cornea in both eyes are usually affected, although not necessarily symmetrically. In most breeds, corneal dystrophy appears as an opaque area in the center of the cornea or close to the periphery. This usually isn't painful unless corneal ulcers develop.
    • Demodectic Mange: Also called Demodicosis. All dogs carry a little passenger called a demodex mite. The mother dog passes this mite to her pups in their first few days of life. The mite can't be passed to humans or other dogs; only the mother passes mites to her pups. Demodex mites live in hair follicles and usually don't cause any problems. If your Boxer has a weakened or compromised immune system, however, he can develop demodectic mange. Demodectic mange, also called demodicosis, can be localized or generalized. In the localized form, patches of red, scaly skin with hair loss appears on the head, neck and forelegs. It's thought of as a puppy disease, and often clears up on its own. Even so, you should take your dog to the vet because it can turn into the generalized form of demodectic mange. Generalized demodectic mange covers the entire body and affects older puppies and young adult dogs. The dog develops patchy skin, bald spots, and skin infections all over the body. The American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology recommends neutering or spaying all dogs that develop generalized demodectic mange because there is a genetic link. The American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology recommends neutering or spaying all dogs that develop generalized demodectic mange because there is a genetic link to its development. The third form of this disease, Demodectic Pododermititis, is confined to the paws and can cause deep infections.
    • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), also called Bloat or Torsion: This is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs like Boxers, especially if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Some think that raised feeding dishes and type of food might be additional factors. It is more common among older dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid itself of the excess air in its stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen, is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak with a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. There is some indication that a tendency toward GDV is inherited, so it's recommended that dogs that develop this condition should be neutered or spayed.
    • Allergies: Boxers are prone to allergies, both environmental allergies and food-related allergies. If you notice that your Boxer has itchy, scaly skin, have him checked out by your vet.
    • Deafness: White Boxers are especially susceptible to deafness. About 20 percent of white Boxers are deaf, and white Boxers should not be bred because the genes that cause deafness in white Boxers can be inherited. Additionally, Boxers that carry the extreme white spotting gene can increase the incidence of deafness in the breed.
  • Care

    Boxers are housedogs. Their short noses and short coats make them unsuited to living outdoors, although they'll enjoy having a fenced yard to play in.

    Boxers love to play. To keep their muscles toned and satisfy their need for exercise, plan on playing with them or walking them at least twice a day for half an hour. Play fetch, take him for long walks, or get him involved in dog sports such as agility or flyball. Giving your Boxer plenty of daily exercise is the best way to ensure good behavior. A tired Boxer is a good Boxer.

    Training is essential for the Boxer. He's so big and strong that he can accidentally hurt people by knocking them over if he doesn't learn to control his actions. The Boxer's temperament plays a role in his trainability. He's happy and excitable, bouncy, and a bit of a mischief-maker. Getting him to take training seriously requires starting early and using firm, fair training methods and positive motivation in the form of praise, play, and food rewards. Be consistent. Your Boxer will notice any time you let him get away with something, and he'll push to see what else he can get away with. Before you head to training class, settle him down a little with an energetic walk or play session. He'll focus better once he's got his ya-yas out.

    Patience is the key to housetraining your Boxer. Some are housetrained by 4 months of age, but others aren't reliable until they're 7 months to a year old. Take your Boxer out to potty on a regular schedule and praise him wildly when he does his business outdoors. Crate training is recommended.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 2 to 3 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

    NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    Keep your Boxer trim by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Boxer, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    Boxers have a sleek, short coat with tight skin over their athletic bodies. They come in two colors: fawn or brindle, with or without white markings. Fawn ranges from light tan to mahogany. Brindle is a striking tiger-striped pattern of black stripes on a fawn background.

    White markings usually appear on the belly or feet and shouldn't cover more than one-third of the coat. When the white extends onto the neck or face, the color is called flashy fawn or flashy brindle. Boxers without any white are referred to as plain Boxers. On the face, the Boxer has a black mask, sometimes with a white stripe, or blaze, running up the muzzle between the eyes.

    Boxers don't carry the gene for a solid black coat color, so you won't ever see a black Boxer. In the United Kingdom, fawn boxers are typically rich in color and are called "red."

    White markings covering more than one third of the body is a disqualification in the show ring. That's because excessive white markings in Boxers make them more susceptible to health conditions such as skin cancer and deafness. Reputable breeders don't want to pass on those genes. In the past, breeders often euthanized white puppies at birth, but today most breeders place them in pet homes. While white Boxers can't be shown in conformation and shouldn't be bred, they can compete in obedience and agility, and of course, they still have the wonderful Boxer personality that makes them such great companions!

    The Boxer coat requires minimal grooming. Boxers are clean dogs and have been known to groom themselves like cats do. Boxers can shed quite a bit, but weekly brushing with a bristle brush or hard rubber grooming mitt will help keep hair under control. You can enhance the natural sheen of your Boxer's coat by rubbing it down every now and then with a chamois cloth. If you decide to use a shedding blade, be careful when using it around your Boxer's legs so you don't injure him. Bathe as needed.

    Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Boxer's teeth several times a week to help remove tartar and bacteria. Daily is best if you want to prevent periodontal disease.

    Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and prevent your legs from getting scratched when your Boxer enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Begin accustoming your Boxer to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

    As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.

  • Children and other pets

    Boxers love kids and are great playmates for active older children. They can be too rambunctious for toddlers, however, and can accidentally knock them down in play.

    Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

    Boxers can get along well with other dogs and cats, especially if they're raised with them.

  • Rescue Groups

    Boxers are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Boxers in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Boxer rescue.

  • Breed Organizations

    Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Boxer.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Sometimes

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Extremely

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • Less than average

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Sometimes

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Moderate

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Extremely

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Very

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • Very high

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • Very high

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Usually

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Not particularly good

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Sometimes

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • High

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • Very high

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Very

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Very High

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Very high

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • High

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • Low

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • High

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Large

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • High

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Poorly

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Poorly

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Very poorly

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Moderate

    Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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