General Appearance

Important First Impression

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The ideal Boxer is a medium-sized, square-built dog of good substance with short back, strong limbs, and short, tight-fitting coat. His well-developed muscles are clean, hard, and appear smooth under taut skin. His movements denote energy. The gait is firm yet elastic, the stride free and ground-covering, the carriage proud. Developed to serve as guard, working, and companion dog, he combines strength and agility with elegance and style. His expression is alert and his temperament steadfast and tractable. The chiseled head imparts to the Boxer a unique individual stamp. It must be in correct proportion to the body. The broad, blunt muzzle is the distinctive feature, and great value is placed upon its being of proper form and balance with the skull. In judging the Boxer first consideration is given to general appearance and overall balance. Special attention is then devoted to the head, after which the individual body components are examined for their correct construction, and the gait evaluated for efficiency.

This is the perfect Boxer - medium size, square, powerful, smooth but muscular, with a ground-covering stride and confident, tractable temperament. Squareness relates to a plumb-line dropped from the top of the withers to the ground ? this distance should be the same as a line drawn from the point of the forechest to the rear projection of the upper thigh. The dog should appear "square" at first glance.

The Boxer's head is unique, unlike that of any other breed. As you will see, great care is taken to illustrate the perfect head. A Boxer who lacks proper head type lacks an essential of breed type as well.

Here we are reminded that general appearance - that of the square, balanced dog, all individual parts contributing to a pleasing whole, is given first consideration when judging the Boxer. Color and style can contribute to this appraisal, but they are not the most important concerns. Special attention must be paid to a correct head. Individual parts of the body are examined in detail, as well as efficiency of movement ? but only after the judge has formed an opinion of the overall dog.

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Click on the photos below to learn more about the Boxer!

Head: The beauty of the head depends upon the harmonious proportion of muzzle to skull. The blunt muzzle is 1/3 the length of the head from the occiput to the tip of the nose, and 2/3rds the width of the skull. The head should be clean, not showing deep wrinkles (wet). Wrinkles typically appear upon the forehead when ears are erect, and are always present from the lower edge of the stop running downward on both sides of the muzzle.

Expression: Intelligent and alert.

All of the components of the head contribute to the Boxer's unique quality of sweet expressiveness - never sharp nor harsh.

Eyes: Dark brown in color, frontally placed, generous, not too small, too protruding, or too deep-set. Their mood-mirroring character, combined with the wrinkling of the forehead, gives the Boxer head its unique quality of expressiveness. Third eyelids preferably have pigmented rims.

The eyes of the Boxer are notable in that their mood-mirroring qualities give the Boxer " a unique quality of expressiveness". They should be DARK brown, affording a gentle expression. Hazel or light brown eyes are not desirable. The eyes should not be round nor oblique (slanted), but generous and full without being pop-eyed. They should be frontally placed, contributing to the soft, gentle, almost human expression. Lower eyelids should not be loose. Ideally, the third (innermost) eyelid will be rimmed with dark pigment.

Ears: Set at the highest points of the sides of the skull, the ears are customarily cropped, cut rather long and tapering, and raised when alert. If uncropped, the ears should be of moderate size, thin, lying flat and close to the cheeks in repose, but falling forward with a definite crease when alert.

For the first time, the Standard makes allowances for uncropped ears. Judges may have a preference for cropped or uncropped, but should not penalize either variation.

Skull: The top of the skull is slightly arched, not rounded, flat, nor noticeably broad, with the occiput not overly pronounced. The forehead shows a slight indentation between the eyes and forms a distinct stop with the topline of the muzzle. The cheeks should be relatively flat and not bulge (cheekiness), maintaining the clean lines of the skull as they taper into the muzzle in a slight, graceful curve.

Muzzle and Nose: The muzzle, proportionately developed in length, width, and depth, has a shape influenced first through the formation of both jawbones, second through the placement of the teeth, and third through the texture of the lips. The top of the muzzle should not slant down (downfaced), nor should it be concave (dishfaced); however, the tip of the nose should lie slightly higher than the root of the muzzle. The nose should be broad and black.

Viewed from the front, the muzzle is 2/3 the width of the skull, and from the side, 1/3 the length of the head from the occiput to the tip of the nose. It is imperative that the tip of the nose, viewed in profile, should lie higher than the stop - so that the dog could breathe when he held a mouthful of skin and fur while hunting. Otherwise, he would not have been able to do the work for which he was bred. This "tip up" is essential to a correct expression as well.

Bite and Jaw Structure: The Boxer bite is undershot, the lower jaw protruding beyond the upper and curving slightly upward. The incisor teeth of the lower jaw are in a straight line, with the canines preferably up front in the same line to give the jaw the greatest possible width. The upper line of the incisors is slightly convex with the corner upper incisors fitting snugly in back of the lower canine teeth on each side. Neither the teeth nor the tongue should ever show when the mouth is closed.

The upper jaw is broad where attached to the skull and maintains this breadth, except for a very slight tapering to the front. The lips, which complete the formation of the muzzle, should meet evenly in front. The upper lip is thick and padded, filling out the frontal space created by the projection of the lower jaw, and laterally is supported by the canines of the lower jaw. Therefore, these canines must stand far apart and be of good length so that the front surface of the muzzle is broad and squarish and, when viewed from the side, shows moderate layback. The chin should be perceptible from the side as well as from the front. Any suggestion of an overlip obscuring the chin should be penalized.

The jaw should be broad to accommodate the large, strong teeth. The lower incisors should ideally be placed in a straight line across the lower jaw. The chin should be visible from both the front and the side, and must curve slightly upward to accommodate the proper bite. Flews should be generous without being overly pendulous, and the lips must meet evenly, the top lip resting comfortably above and just touching the lower lip. The upper lip should not obscure the chin (overlip).

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Neck: Round, of ample length, muscular and clean without excessive hanging skin (dewlap). The neck should have a distinctly arched and elegant nape blending smoothly into the withers.

An elegant, arched neck contributes greatly to the dog's overall appearance. When evaluating height, be aware that a beautiful neck may give the ILLUSION of excessive height in a taller animal where no such fault exists.

Back and Topline: The back is short, straight, muscular, firm, and smooth. The topline is slightly sloping when the Boxer is at attention, leveling out when in motion.

The topline should be straight, and slope just slightly from the withers to the tail. The boxer's back should not lie on a level plane, like a table-top. Nor should there be a noticeable "dip" behind the withers, or any suggestion of a "roach." On the move, the topline should remain firm, with a high set tail. Side gait is often a very telling measure of a boxer's topline.

Body: The chest is of fair width, and the forechest well-defined and visible from the side. The brisket is deep, reaching down to the elbows; the depth of the body at the lowest point of the brisket equals half the height of the dog at the withers. The ribs, extending far to the rear, are well-arched but not barrel-shaped. The loins are short and muscular. The lower stomach line is slightly tucked up, blending into a graceful curve to the rear. The croup is slIghtly sloped, flat and broad. The pelvis is long, and in females especially broad. The tail is set high, docked, and carried upward. An undocked tail should be severely penalized.

A natural athlete, the Boxer is designed for speed and endurance when required, reflecting his origins as a hunter, as well as his modern roles of guard and companion dog. While an elegant appearance, especially in the show ring, is attractive and often desirable, he must not be "weedy". Never must there be anything less than an impression of real "substance" -- the natural consequence of strong bone and superbly conditioned muscle. The deep chest and spring of rib allows ample room for the heart and lungs and aids endurance during extreme physical activity. The Boxer carries his tail upward at almost all times unless he is afraid or unhappy. A tail at half mast or clamped down is usually indicative of a temperament issue.

Forequarters:The shoulders are long and sloping, close-lying, and not excessively covered with muscle (loaded). The upper arm is long, approaching a right angle to the shoulder blade. The elbows should not press too closely to the chest wall nor stand off visibly from it. The forelegs are long, straight, and firmly muscled, and, when viewed from the front, stand parallel to each other. The pastern is strong and distinct, slightly slanting, but standing almost perpendicular to the ground. The dewclaws may be removed. Feet should be compact, turning neither in nor out, with well-arched toes.

Ideally, the shoulders should be "laid back" at an angle approaching 90 degrees. However, it is unusual to see such an exhibit in the ring. Straight shoulders may be the most consistent fault in Boxers today. Well laid back shoulders, in balance with rear angulation, foster a smooth, ground covering stride with ample reach and drive.

Hindquarters: The hindquarters are strongly muscled, with angulation in balance with that of the forequarters.

The thighs are broad and curved, the breech musculature hard and strongly developed. Upper and lower thigh are long. The legs are well-angulated at the stifle, neither too steep nor over-angulated, with clearly defined, well "let down" hock joints. Viewed from behind, the hind legs should be straight, with hock joints leaning neither in nor out. From the side, the leg below the hock (metatarsus) should be almost perpendicular to the ground, with a slight slope to the rear permissible. The metatarsus should be short, clean, and strong. The Boxer has no rear dewclaws.

The hindquarters of the Boxer must always be strong and well-muscled. They allow the dog to exhibit explosive force on the move, and must have sufficient angulation to afford maximum propulsion. However, they must not be excessively angulated so as to render turns difficult and sloppy. The Boxer must be able to twist and turn at high speed with relative ease, as befitted his purpose as a hunter of fleeing game.

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Short, shiny, lying smooth and tight to the body. Smooth, tight-fitting coats are ideal. Coarse coats are cosmetically.


The colors are fawn and brindle. Fawn shades vary from light tan to mahogany. The brindle ranges from sparse but clearly defined black stripes on a fawn background to such a heavy concentration of black striping that the essential fawn background color barely, although clearly, shows through (which may create the appearance of reverse brindling).

White markings, if present, should be of such distribution as to enhance the dog's appearance, but may not exceed one-third of the entire coat. They are not desirable on the flanks or on the back of the torso proper. On the face, white may replace part of the otherwise essential black mask, and may extend in an upward path between the eyes, but it must not be excessive, so as to detract from true Boxer expression. The absence of white markings, the so-called "plain" fawn or brindle, is perfectly acceptable, and should not be penalized in any consideration of color.

Disqualifications: Boxers that are any color other than fawn or brindle. Boxers with a total of white markings exceeding one-third of the entire coat.

While there may be individual preferences for fawns or brindles, both colors are equally acceptable. Likewise, reverse brindles are no more or no less acceptable than the "red" brindles—those dogs with relatively few stripes. In general, breeders prefer the shades of fawn tending toward red, rather than pale or "washed out" variations.

White markings are often attractive but must not exceed 1/3 of the entire coat (disqualification). There is no requirement that the Boxer have white markings. The preference of many breeders and judges is for the "flashy" look that appealing white markings convey, but overall quality of the dog is much more important than whether or not he has a white collar or high white stockings or any significant amount of white markings at all. Indeed, too much white on the face often has a deleterious effect on proper Boxer expression. Likewise, white up the thighs, over the hocks, or in other inappropriate locations is unattractive and distracting.

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Viewed from the side, proper front and rear angulation is manifested in a smoothly efficient, level-backed, ground covering stride with a powerful drive emanating from a freely operating rear. Although the front legs do not contribute impelling power, adequate reach should be evident to prevent interference, overlap, or sidewinding (crabbing). Viewed from the front, the shoulders should remain trim and the elbows not flare out. The legs are parallel until gaiting narrows the track in proportion to increasing speed, then the legs come in under the body but should never cross. The line from the shoulder down through the leg should remain straight although not necessarily perpendicular to the ground. Viewed from the rear, a Boxer's rump should not roll. The hind feet should dig in and track relatively true with the front. Again, as speed increases, the normally broad rear track will become narrower. The Boxer's gait should always appear smooth and powerful, never stilted or inefficient.

The balance of front and rear angulation of the bones allows the Boxer to cover ground with an effortless stride, while maintaining a firm topline. He must have adequate reach to prevent interference of the front legs with the driving rear. This essential structure of front and rear is designed to give the Boxer maximum power to chase and maneuver. If there is an imbalance of front and rear angulation, the efficiency of the gait will be greatly compromised, and the dog will be forced to make some accommodation to avoid striking his front and rear legs on the move. This may manifest itself in sidewinding, "straddle stepping" -- moving very wide behind --- or in a crabbed, shortened stride.

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These are of paramount importance in the Boxer. Instinctively a hearing guard dog, his bearing is alert, dignified, and self-assured. In the show ring his behavior should exhibit constrained animation. With family and friends, his temperament is fundamentally playful, yet patient and stoical with children. Deliberate and wary with strangers, he will exhibit curiosity, but, most importantly, fearless courage if threatened. However, he responds promptly to friendly overtures honestly rendered. His intelligence, loyal affection, and tractability to discipline make him a highly desirable companion. Any evidence of shyness, or lack of dignity or alertness, should be severely penalized.

The character and temperament of the Boxer make him unique among dogs. He should be bold, accepting of strangers, and fearless. Obvious displays of shyness or misplaced aggression should not be tolerated by judges. Please do not award points to such exhibits, though some reasonable allowance for inexperienced puppies may be made. Aggression towards other dogs may be tolerated so long as the dog is under control and stands quietly for examination.

The foregoing description is that of the ideal Boxer. Any deviation from the above-described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.

This sentence was added and ratified by the membership in 1998, and approved by the AKC in February of 1999. Its intent was to give judges a yardstick by which to measure the severity of faults - in other words, dogs should be faulted only to the degree to which they deviate from the ideal. IE: slightly loaded shoulders should be faulted less than severely loaded shoulders.


Boxers that are any color other than fawn or brindle. Boxers with a total of white markings exceeding one-third of the entire coat.

Some boxers are alleged to be solid black. If so, this is a disqualification. However, the majority of so-called "black" boxers are instead reverse brindles, with such heavy striping that the fawn base coat is barely visible. Reverse brindles are perfectly acceptable. Likewise, while judges may have individual preferences, all degrees of brindling are equally allowable. It is sometimes problematic to determine if a particular dog is more than 1/3 white - after all, we have no precise measure. However, animals with full white collars, white stockings to the elbows, white up the thighs, white up the rib cage, and generous white on the face, are undoubtedly over the limit - especially if one notes that these same animals, if theoretically pinned on their backs, have full white stomachs beneath. Practically speaking, many judges are loath to disqualify an animal who may be 'borderline'.

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