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There’s a story that nicely sums up the Boxer breed. One morning at the dog park, a group of neighborhood dogs were playing as their owners looked on. The life of the party was a male Boxer. With all the boisterous enthusiasm of a pup, the big fawn-coated bruiser was cavorting and careening, bouncing and bounding, and generally playing the fool for his audience, both human and canine. He got his biggest laugh of the day by getting down in a play bow and wiggling his stub-tailed butt as a pair of small terriers circled him in a game of ring-around-the-Boxer.

The Boxer’s owner rolled her eyes and sighed. “I don’t know what to do with him,” she said. “He’s such a clown.” Standing next to the Boxer mom was the dog park’s resident know-it-all, who reassured her. “Don’t worry, they grow out of it,” he said with authority. “He’ll settle down by the time he’s 3.”

The Boxer owner smiled weakly and replied, “He’s 5.”

The Boxer’s AKC breed standard stresses the words “noble” and “dignified.” And, yes, the sight of a well-made Boxer standing at high alert, his ample muscles rippling under a tight coat, his brow furrowed with concern, an intelligent gleam in his dark brown eyes, is the very picture of nobility and dignity. These traits are seen in many of the AKC’s big working breeds. What sets Boxers apart, and what has put them among America’s most popular breeds for so many decades, is the delightful juxtaposition of majesty and goofiness that dwells within the mighty Boxer heart.

The breed’s courage is proverbial. Boxers have been known to take on animals twice their size while guarding their adored family, and a human intruder up to no good will be met by an imposing show of strength and spirit. These are sociable, people-oriented dogs with a “deep sense of community responsibility,” as one expert put it. Protecting home and hearth, no matter the odds, comes naturally to them. Yet, even their fabled bravery is tempered by an eccentricity that can be set off by the silliest things.

“Almost human” is a phrase that comes up constantly wherever Boxer lovers gather. The humanlike expression in his soulful eyes, the way he has of cocking his head and wrinkling his forehead as though he understands every word you say, “his honest approach to us and his willingness to forgive our every fault … his supreme and perpetual sense of humor,” as the American Boxer Club’s Stephanie Abraham has put it: All these traits can convince you that a Boxer is something more than a dog.

Just like humans, a Boxer will do odd things that must make perfect sense to himself but are incomprehensible to others. Just like humans, a Boxer can be noble or naïve, intelligent or innocent, stouthearted or just plain stubborn—all inside a single hour. And just like us, when the labors of the day are done and all is well beneath God’s good heaven, there’s nothing a Boxer enjoys more than a blissful trip to dreamland.

For a look at one of the greatest Boxers of all time, Bang Away, click here.

– Bud Boccone.

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