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A list of the most common farm dog breeds most likely wouldn’t include boxers. Boxers make great family pets and watchdogs, but people don’t commonly think of them as farm dogs.
Boxers were hunting dogs for most of their history but it might surprise you to find that they also have a short history of helping manage cattle within the slaughterhouse. Not exactly herding work but still something similar.
But what about farm work? Can a boxer be a good farm dog?
Boxers are an all-purpose breed that’s capable of learning just about anything including many jobs on the farm. They’re too rough for highly specialized jobs like livestock guardian work but they can be taught to herd along with a long list of other general farm jobs.
For proof of just how versatile these pups really are, check out this awesome documentary about herding with boxers!
What Does A Farm Dog Do?
There’s a huge variety to the type of work that happens on a farm and just as much diversity in the jobs that dogs fill. You’ve got purely agricultural farms, livestock farms, and everything in between.
Some jobs are extremely specialized like the role of the livestock guardian dogs which essentially become part of the flock or herd they’re protecting. That kind of work doesn’t make sense for boxers who may not be able to resist their hunting instincts.
But other jobs, like guarding, basic herding, and controlling pests are all common canine farm jobs that boxers can handle.
So while we consider whether or not boxers are good on the farm, it’s important to think about what kind of farm we’re talking about and all the different jobs that are available to our handsome pups!
The History Of Boxers
Boxers started out as a hunting breed and like many other bully breeds, they’re considered a catch breed. These are dogs that would track down and bite large game like deer or hogs and hold them down until the hunters could arrive.
It’s as dangerous as it sounds and required that boxers and their now extinct ancestor the Bullenbeisser be fearless, fit, and honestly a bit stubborn. When it comes to life on the farm, these qualities can be a bit of a mixed bag.
Still, boxers demonstrated their versatility when they finally made their way to America around the time of World War I. They worked as messenger dogs and even helped control cattle in slaughterhouses. Some were even trained for herding and droving although that was a lot less common.
In short, boxers have done a little bit of everything. This flexibility can perfect for the farm but in some cases, their instinct to hunt large game may cause some problems.
Why Might Boxers Be Good On The Farm?
Even though they may not have an extensive farm-specific history, let’s look at a few of the qualities that make boxers great on a farm.
Eager to Please & Flexible
Boxers are eager to please their humans, even if they can be a little stubborn. That means you’ll almost always have their full attention, even if they try to play it cool!
But once you get the hang of training you’ll find that these dogs can be incredibly flexible in the type of jobs they’ll perform.
Bravery & Loyalty
Like many other bully breeds, there’s no shortage of bravery in the boxer. Similar to Rottweilers, that makes them a great choice for protection work since they won’t hesitate to let potential threats know that they mean business.
Boxers have filled the role of protector throughout their history and while they may not be a good choice as a dedicated livestock protection dog, their bravery makes them a good option for protecting the farm as a whole.
Energetic & Athletic
Boxers are very enthusiastic about life, and they seem to have endless amounts of energy! They love to play and depending on their age, they need around an hour of exercise every day.
Not only do boxers have the energy required for tough farm work but they’re also muscular, hardy dogs that are well equipped for the work. Farm dogs are busy most of the day with various jobs, and boxers won’t have any trouble keeping up with the extreme exercise demands.
What Farm Jobs Are Boxers Good At?
With their history of being around large animals and protecting property, there are several jobs boxers may be good at.
Herding Large Livestock
When you think of herding dogs, you probably bring to mind a classic Australian shepherd or a border collie. However, boxers also have the potential to be herding dogs.
With a little training, boxers can be good at herding large livestock, such as cattle. Since their history was focused on hunting and not herding, boxers won’t have the same finely-tuned instincts as other traditional herding dogs like Bordier Collies but they can still do the job.
Boxers would be best suited to farms where herding is a part of what they do but probably not the only job they fill.
Protecting The Property
Boxers can also be very good at protecting the farm. They have plenty of history as protection dogs and their loyal natures and strong familial bonds are critical to success in protection work.
They’re also brave, athletic, and smart, so they’ll be able to face any threat that may come to the property. You’ll need to take your boxer’s natural instincts to be a watchdog and teach them how to properly protect the property and alert you if something is wrong.
Where there are farms, there are pests, and handling them is a classic job for any farm dog. Again, there are breeds better suited to this role and any pup from the terrier family will probably run circles around a boxer.
But boxers can still help in this area are agile enough to catch most small pests.
What’s Holding Boxers Back?
Even though boxers can find success with some farming jobs, there are still some things holding them back.
They Have A Strong Prey Drive
With a long history of hunting, boxers have a powerful drive.
But not just any prey drive, remember boxers are specifically bred to catch large game which means biting and not letting go. While traditional herding breeds are focused on the eye stalking stage of the hunt, boxers are more likely to take things further to the capture stage. Especially in the case of larger animals.
Because of this instinct, boxers may have trouble remembering which animals they’re supposed to protect (like farm animals) and which animals they’re allowed to go after (pests like rats, moles, or groundhogs).
This is going to vary between individual dogs but with training, you can also help your boxer manage this instinct. Still, it’s usually not a good idea to leave your boxer unsupervised around the farm animals until you’ve had a lot of time to see how they react.
They’re Not Great In The Heat…Or Cold
Many farm dogs spend all day every day outside on the farm. However, your boxer may run into trouble here, especially during the summer since they don’t do well with the heat.
Boxers are a brachycephalic breed, meaning their head and noses are shaped in such a way that their air passages are restricted. With their short noses, they can have trouble staying cool since panting is less effective. That makes them more likely to overheat and suffer from heat-related illnesses.
But the cold isn’t much better for the boxer. With a short single coat, they don’t have the insulation required to endure long stretches in cold weather.
That means boxers will need somewhere cool to stay during the summer and warm during the winter and are better suited to a role as part indoor pet and part farm dog.
They’re Not Suited For Livestock Guardian Work
Even though boxers have a history of being around large livestock, they may not make the best natural guardians of livestock. Their natural protection instincts are more commonly directed towards humans than livestock and there’s always the temptation to fall back into their catch dog instincts.
A good guardian of livestock needs to be absolutely trustworthy around the animals 24/7, even without a human around, and boxers aren’t the best dog for the job. They do much better when they’re able to take directions directly from a human.
Plan For Success When Bringing A Boxer Home To Your Farm
If you want to bring a boxer home to your farm, there are a few steps you should take in order to make sure your boxer can become a good farm dog.
Socialization, especially from a young age, is vital for any future farm dog. Not only should your boxer be exposed to new people and dogs, but they’ll also have to get used to a variety of other animals as well.
As soon as possible, teach your dog how to act around animals such as chickens, cows, goats, or hogs. They’ll also need to get used to big pieces of farm equipment. You’ll want to make sure your boxer knows to stay away from those potentially dangerous implements.
Before your boxer can undergo any advanced training, they’ll need to have a basic understanding of commands such as sit, stay, come, and down.
Farms can be dangerous, and in order to protect both your boxer and your livestock, your dog needs to know basic commands and how to follow them as soon as they’re given. Once your pup has mastered those, you’ll be able to move on the training that a farm dog needs.
In order for your boxer to be successful on the farm, you’ll need to give them plenty of training for whatever job you want them to do, whether that’s herding, guarding, or hunting down pests.
You’ll especially need to help your boxer understand that small farm animals, such as chickens, ducks, or rabbits, need to be protected, not hunted down like prey. Remember to keep a close eye on your boxer around these small animals.
With their history of controlling large animals and protecting property, boxers can make great farm dogs. They’ll need additional training in order to be able to overcome their prey drive in order to thrive on a farm, but as long as they’re used for jobs like herding or protecting property, a boxer could be a great asset for your farm.