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With their affectionate, energetic natures and lovable personalities, boxers make great family pets. Some boxers are also working dogs, serving as guard dogs, police dogs, or even seeing-eye dogs. These pups are very versatile in their abilities.
But what about hunting? Can boxers make good hunting dogs?
Boxers have a long history of hunting and a powerful build that allows them to excel in the tracking, chasing, and capturing aspects of hunting. But they’re a poor choice when it comes to retrieving, especially in the water. They can also be a little difficult to train compared to other breeds.
So while it is possible to train boxers to hunt, they shouldn’t be your first choice in most cases. They’re best equipped for hunting large game, including the dangerous sport of hog hunting but there are still other breeds like pit bulls that may be better suited.
Before we dive deeper into the pros and cons of boxers out in the field, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with what a hunting dog does.
Types of Hunting Dogs
There are dozens of different game to hunt and even more ways to do it. With so much variety to hunting, it’s no surprise that there’s just as much diversity to the roles that dogs fill.
But the most basic roles people consider when they think of hunting dogs are tracking prey, capturing prey, or retrieving prey that the hunter shot. All of these jobs require a powerful nose to find prey in the first place but also a strong drive to pursue prey as well.
These instincts are all part of something called prey drive. Even though we often think of it as one thing, the folks at Dogster point out that prey drive is actually a five-part sequence: the search, the eyestalk, the chase, the grab bite, and the kill bite.
Dogs bred for hunting, or any other job, usually have a focus on one aspect of this sequence or at least have a stopping point. For example, the fastest dog breeds are bred for the chase while others like the pit bull are bred to bite, grab and not let go. Still, others are bred for swimming with webbed feet and protective double coats. Beagles and scent hounds are bred for the search and so on.
Boxers are most similar to their bully breed cousins, like the pit bull, and were bred to capture prey and wait for hunters to arrive.
Do Boxers Have A History Of Hunting?
Boxers actually do have hunting in their history and they’re considered a part of the hunting mastiff family.
Boxers were originally bred in the mid-1800s in Germany and are the direct descendent of the now extinct Bullenbeiser breed. The Bullenbieser was bred to capture large game like deer and hogs by biting and not letting go. In fact, the name Bullenbieser translates to “bull biter” which is a pretty accurate description of what these dogs would do. This focus on biting and holding large game is common across most bully breeds since it’s a part of bull-baiting.
It’s dangerous work and as a result, is a lot less common today.
Over time, boxers found a new job as protection pups and many even worked in slaughterhouses to control cattle. Boxers finally arrived in America in the early 20th century, where they quickly became popular household pets.
These days, boxers are the 14th most popular breed in the United States which is pretty amazing considering that they got a late start in America compared to most other breeds.
Why Might A Boxer Be A Good Hunting Dog?
We know that boxers have a history of working as hunting dogs but what else makes these brave pups a good fit for the field?
They’re A Team Player
Boxers are good team players. Not only will they listen and work with you well, but they’ll also cooperate with other dogs. In situations where a hunting dog is used to track potential prey, hunters will frequently use several dogs in order to track the prey.
It’s important that the dogs can work well together to track. As long as your boxer is properly socialized around other dogs, you should have no problem pairing them with other dogs to hunt.
They’re Strong, Muscular But Agile
Boxers are hardy, healthy, and athletic dogs that are well equipped for the hard work of hunting. Even with all that muscle, boxers are still quite agile and many actually excel in the sport of canine agility. Just check out this handsome boxer showing off his agility training:
Overall, boxers have a great balance of power without sacrificing speed. That means they’re strong enough to stand up to larger game but still fast enough to hunt smaller faster prey too.
They Have Tons Of Energy
Owning a boxer is a commitment because of their high energy needs. They need to have plenty of physical exercises as well as mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. This can honestly make living with these dogs a bit of a challenge for some folks as boxers are always looking for something to do.
That’s great for hunting since it requires a high level of fitness and plenty of energy. Hunting is also a great outlet for all that extra energy since it will not only keep boxers physically active but will also wear them out mentally.
What Will A Boxer Struggle With While Hunting?
There’s a reason that boxers aren’t the most popular breed for hunting and while there’s a lot they excel at they also have some significant limitations.
They Can Be Stubborn and Difficult To Train
Boxers are notorious for being headstrong and this trait will definitely come out when they’re undergoing training. If you’re using your boxer for anything other than the very specific purpose of hog or deer hunting, your boxer will need extra training.
Other breeds, like the Rottweiler, can excel as hunting dogs because of their eagerness to learn and please their owner but that’s not the case for a boxer.
Sure, boxers are still loyal and want to please but not to the level of some dogs. According to canine intelligence expert Stanley Coren, boxers are on the low side of intelligence. They’re in the same category as famously stubborn pups like Malamutes and according to Coren this category of dogs can be expected to understand new commands after 25 to 40 repetitions and are likely to obey commands roughly 50% of the time or better.
Compare that to the Rottweiler that can generally obey commands 95% of the time and you can see the issue here.
That doesn’t mean boxers can’t be trained, far from it. Just look at the agility video above for proof of how well these dogs can be trained. But it does mean that the process will be a little more difficult compared to other dogs.
They’re Not Great Swimmers
Even though there are many boxers that enjoy the water, they’re not natural swimmers. They can certainly be taught how to swim, but boxers don’t have natural features such as webbed feet, long tails, or a water-resistant coat to help them swim. On top of that, because of their solid, muscular build, boxers don’t float well in the water. A boxer-friendly life jacket can help, and is a great option for recreational swimming, but it still won’t make them experts in the water.
That makes them a bad choice for any kind of retrieving work.
They Aren’t Very Weather Resistant
Boxers are a brachycephalic breed, which means they have a shorter face. It also means that panting as a means to cool themselves down is less efficient compared to other breeds and as a result boxers can be at greater risk of heat-related illnesses.
But they aren’t much better in the winter either with a short, single coat that doesn’t do much to keep them warm.
So regardless of what season you’re hunting in, boxers may need a little help to regulate their body temperature.
Do Boxers Like To Hunt?
Yes, boxers will enjoy hunting! Even though boxers aren’t always well equipped for every type of hunt, they’ll still be more than happy to try it and it’s a great way to get the physical and mental stimulation that your boxer needs!
Do Boxers Need To Be Trained Differently As Hunting Dogs?
Are you ready to start training your boxer to be a hunting dog? There are a few things you should keep in mind.
Be A Leader
Because boxers can be stubborn and headstrong, they need a strong leader who knows how to help them listen. Boxers are smart, so they can figure out how to be crafty in order to get their way. Make sure you’re ready for this.
Use Lots Of Encouragement
Boxers do NOT respond well to punishment or negative reinforcement. They can get defensive, and you’ll quickly lose their trust and interest.
Instead, use lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement when your boxer does something well. Boxers respond very well to verbal praise, so that’s a great way to reward your boxer when they follow your commands.
Remember, turning a non-traditional dog into a hunting dog takes advanced training. Make sure your boxer is good at basic commands before you move on to the more detailed commands your boxer will need to know as a hunting dog.
With a history of hog hunting and bullbaiting in their bloodline, boxers can excel at the chase and capture side of hunting. But with any other type of job, boxers may have some trouble.
While they’re athletic enough to handle just about any job, they may not always be willing. They’re also not the easiest dogs to train which means teaching them non-traditional roles can be difficult.
What do you think? Are you going to take on the challenge of teaching your boxer to hunt?