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Book Review
The Boxer Handbook
by Joan Hustace Walker

Review by: Kate Connick, Sept. 2003

Joan Hustace Walker's The Boxer Handbook is a colorful, little paperback that contains a good overview of boxers and boxer ownership. It would make a nice gift for an inexperienced person contemplating the addition of a boxer to his life.

The author briefly examines the breed's history before presenting the current AKC standard and contrasting that with German expectations. White boxers, ear cropping, and tail docking are mentioned as controversies currently facing the breed.

Walker's discussion of boxers as companions is nicely rendered, as she explores both strengths and drawbacks of the breed. Throughout the book, she repeatedly emphasizes the need for training, neutering, and crating.

The author discusses the relative pros and cons of acquiring a puppy or adult boxer from various sources. She gives a summary of what to expect of a boxer by life stages and addresses basic preparation and care. Some of the advice is not necessarily boxer-specific, but that doesn't really make it any less useful to a novice.

Some of the recommendations seem peculiar and inadvisable, such as lining a puppy's crate with newspapers. Other content appears contradictory, such as stating that one "want(s) the training methods to be strictly through positive reinforcement," while accompanying photos illustrate a dog being trained on a pinch collar. A pinch collar can certainly be useful with a powerful dog like a boxer, but it doesn't really qualify as a positive reinforcement device.

Nonetheless, most of the content is quite good, albeit simple. The simplicity of presentation is an asset, however. This book is readable by adult or child, and it isn't full of show-dog jargon that will alienate a regular pet owner. Health information, particularly regarding boxer-specific issues, is nicely presented. The tone throughout is warm, helpful, and practical.

Color photos enhance the text. One particularly striking photo shows a formerly brindle boxer that appears nearly snow-white from age-related graying. Other photos show boxers of various ages and colors involved in a range of activities from agility to counter-surfing. Given that this book is intended for the novice, the 2 photos showing boxers eating meals in adjacent dishes seem poorly chosen. In the average household, and among typical boxers, that sort of husbandry would set the stage for dog fights.

Overall, this is a helpful and fun, comprehensive yet basic book about boxers. It gives a nice overview of boxer history, personality, and care, as well as a sense of what's involved in dog ownership in general. The book emphasizes the need for training, commitment, and responsible ownership. As with many of the Barron's books, the photography and design also make it a very attractive book. All in all, it is palatable, informative, and makes a good guide for a potential or new boxer owner.

The Boxer Handbook by Joan Hustace Walker
Published by Barron's Educational Series, 2000. ISBN: 0764112449

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