Why Do Boxer Dogs Box? (Veterinarian Reviewed)

boxer dog pawing at a ball
Picture of <a href="https://notabully.org/author/dr-nita-patel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">     <span style="font-size: 21px; color: black;">Fact Checked & Reviewed By: </span>     <strong style="font-size: 20px; color: black;">Dr. Nita Vasudevan Patel, DVM, MS</strong> </a>

Dr. Patel is a Florida-based veterinarian with over half a decade of experience.

Picture of <a href="https://notabully.org/author/dr-nita-patel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">     <span style="font-size: 19px; color: black;">Fact Checked & Reviewed By: </span>     <strong style="font-size: 19px; color: black;">Dr. Nita Vasudevan Patel, DVM, MS</strong> </a>
Fact Checked & Reviewed By: Dr. Nita Vasudevan Patel, DVM, MS

Dr. Patel is a Florida-based veterinarian with over half a decade of experience.

Boxers are great family dogs known for their playful and exuberant natures. It’s not unusual to see them engaging in a seemingly peculiar behavior, boxing. Their unique stances and playful jabs often leave us wondering why these charming canines display this behavior at all.

The main reason why boxer dogs box is because they’re trying to communicate something.

Pawing family members is a common way for boxers to get attention. Boxer dogs also box when they’re feeling playful. Additionally, as working dogs boxers are genetically predisposed to using their front paws for jobs.  

By the end of this article, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of these wonderful dogs and appreciate their boxing quirk even more. First, let’s delve into the history of this breed and the origin of the name to find out just why boxer dogs box.

Why Are Boxers Named Boxers?

One of the most intriguing aspects of boxer dogs is trying to figure out where they got their name from. There is some disagreement on the topic and there might not be a concrete answer.

Some people say that the name boxer is believed to be a derivation of the German word “boxl.” This would be a reference to their resemblance to the Bullenbeisser dogs in their early usage of bullbaiting.

Other people claimed that the name boxer comes from their tendency to “box ” with their front paws.

It wasn’t really until the late 19th century that the name boxer was officially adopted for the breed. These dogs grew in popularity around this time for their exceptional working and guarding capabilities. During this period, boxers were also used as military and police dogs. Their name was accepted as “boxer” to reflect their role as reliable and strong working dogs.

Although the boxing behavior of boxers may be unrelated to their name, it’s still an endearing and entertaining trait, that many boxer owners cherish. This behavior is an intrinsic part of their playful nature and is often seen during playtime, interactions with other dogs, or when they are excited.

Why Do Boxer Dogs Box?

So, why exactly do boxer dogs box today? This characteristic is fascinating and sets them apart from any other breed. This behavior is also known as pawing, and it involves a boxer using their front paws in a playful and comical manner.

If you’ve never seen this behavior in action, check out the video below for a slow-mo paw presentation.


Boxers are known for their strong desire to communicate and interact with their human family members. Pawing is one of the ways to express their feelings (including affection) and needs. Advising Veterinarian Nita Patel explains that “Pawing can be a form of seeking attention, affection, or play. When a boxer wants your attention, they may gently paw you to convey their desire for interaction. As they age, this may also be a signal to communicate urgency for needing to go to the bathroom or for expressing concern or feeling unwell.”


Boxers tend to have a playful disposition and enjoy engaging in various activities.

One of the reasons that boxers box is that they’re engaging in play. It’s not uncommon for a boxer to paw at their toys, or other dogs, or even paw at the air during bouts of excitement and joy.

Working And Training

Boxers are highly trainable and were used historically as working dogs in various roles. Boxers have been used in police work and search and rescue missions. This boxing behavior might have been encouraged or utilized during training exercises as a way to signal or interact with their handlers.


The last reason why boxers box is because they’re genetically predisposed to do so.

As we mentioned earlier, the boxer’s ancestors were bred for hunting and holding down large game, which required strong front legs and paws. This genetic legacy may explain the breed’s natural inclination to use their paws for various tasks and forms of communication.

How To Get Your Boxer Dog To Stop Boxing

While the boxing behavior of boxer dogs is endearing and often quite entertaining, there may be situations where you want to curb this behavior, especially if the boxing becomes overly exuberant or annoying. Here are some strategies to help you manage and control your boxer’s boxing tendencies.

Training And Discipline

It would be best if you focused on training and disciplining your boxer. A basic foundation of good training can help you communicate to your boxer when you want them to box and when you don’t want them to box. Teaching them “no” is another great way to tell them it’s not the time to play with their front paws.

Disciplining boxers can be difficult because this dog breed definitely has a stubborn streak. But, you can check out our article for tips and tricks on discipline boxers by clicking here.

Regular Exercise

Boxers might also be more active if they don’t have appropriate exercise or mental stimulation. Being an active breed that requires regular exercise to expend their energy. Boxers are also intelligent and need mentally stimulating activities like puzzle toys or training sessions to stay occupied.

Socialization And Redirection

Boxer dogs are social dogs and enjoy the company of other canines. Socializing your boxer with other dogs can help reduce the urge to box people as a form of play.

Additionally, your boxer might be boxing because they want to play. Redirecting their energy into something more structured, like a game of fetch, a good chew toy, or tug-of-war, can help. This way, your boxer doesn’t have the opportunity to paw you but can release some of their excitement,

Final Thoughts

Boxer dogs are a unique and beloved breed with a rich history and a distinctive name that stems from their past roles as working dogs. Their boxing behavior is typically a playful and endearing aspect of their personalities. Boxing is often driven by their desire to communicate or play. Plus, they’re genetically predisposed to using their front paws more than any other part of their body.

As with any dog breed, it is essential to understand and appreciate the individual personality and needs of your boxer. When treated with love, respect, and proper training, they can be loyal, devoted, and essential members of the family.

So, the next time your boxers start boxing with you, you can smile and know that it’s just their way of saying, “Let’s play!”

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