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Book Review
The Boxer: Family Favorite
by Stephanie Abraham

Review by: Kate Connick, June 2003

Stephanie Abraham's The Boxer: Family Favorite is a delightful celebration of boxer dogs. Richly illustrated and warmly written, this book belongs on any boxer lover's shelf.

The typical "breed book" is a colossal bore - illustrated almost exclusively with black and white conformation ring poses and containing content of little interest to anyone other than a diehard breed ring fanatic. Not so with this book.

Yes, Abraham does discuss the breed's history, the standard, the American Boxer Club, and a number of big names (famous dogs, kennels, and individuals) important in the breed's formation. But the content is never so esoteric as to alienate the regular pet owner and boxer lover. For example, although she discusses dog shows at some length, she explains things in a way that any reader can understand. She discusses such things as the way in which an animal earns points, whether or not one needs to hire a professional handler, and the advisability of baiting a dog in the ring.

More than simply focusing on boxers as canine beauty pageant participants, Abraham truly fulfills the book's title as she discusses the essence of the breed and its aptitudes in her wonderfully warm, friendly, down-to-earth writing style. To her credit, she tends to avoid a sermonizing tone, instead relaying what has and has not worked for her over the years. The approachability of her manner is among the book's greatest strengths.

Abraham discusses boxer temperament in realistic terms, capturing the spirit of its joyful disobedience, exuberance, and ability to completely entrance its owners nonetheless. Clearly the author loves boxers, but she does not pretend that they are totally obedient, docile, easy dogs. She is forthright about the boxer's tendency to jump all over people, play keep away with objects, scrap with other dogs, shed surprisingly tenacious little hairs, respond to commands with frustrating inconsistency, and be prissy about extremes of weather. And yet, she stresses the breed's ability to perform any task, especially those that they enjoy.

The author includes helpful, basic husbandry recommendations (e.g., use a crate, feed good quality dog food, etc.), ideas on how to find a boxer puppy, and a thoughtful section on whether or not to breed. Medical clearances prior to breeding are discussed, as are some common health conditions that affect the breed. Happily, the author makes positive remarks about white boxers and rescue dogs. I was pleased that an entire chapter is devoted to care of the senior boxer.

Keep in mind that this book is intended as a quick introduction to boxers and their care and is not an all-encompassing manual. The book will recommend that the reader attend obedience classes, but it will not attempt to give detailed instructions about obedience training, for example. The author sensibly recommends relying on the advice of mentors, veterinarians, and other experts where appropriate.

The best part of the book is probably the photography, which illustrates boxers in a variety of contexts. Among my favorite photographs are the black and white shot of WW1 hero, Stubby; the before and after shots of the same brindle boxer at ages 2 and 12 1/2 years; the fawn boxer firmly holding a soccer ball in his big mouth; and the photo of 11 boxers decked out in sun hats, swim trunks, flippers, and life vests as they gather around a speed boat. One will also find standard conformation poses, puppy shots, and pictures showing boxers in all forms of activity from schutzhund, agility, and obedience to snuggling with kids, cats, and bunnies.

This book is well-organized and easy to read, as well as informative. You won't find a better primer on the boxer breed, so it makes an ideal gift for anyone who loves boxers, has a boxer, or is thinking of getting a boxer.

The Boxer: Family Favorite by Stephanie Abraham.
Published by Howell Book House, 2000. ISBN: 1582451273

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