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Loose Skin

When a Boxer Has Loose Skin


The issue of noticeable loose skin on a Boxer puppy comes up a lot; owners of puppies may start to notice this after the sale is final or the pup has been in the home for several months. 

Some fear that it points to a fault and worry sets in about what the Boxer will look like as he matures into an adult.

Some even hesitate to talk about it because the loose skin worries them that perhaps the dog is not a purebred. 

One may wonder if there is another breed somewhere in the bloodline such as the Shar-pei with his large skin folds, the Bulldog with wrinkled jowls or the French bulldog with his moderately wrinkled shoulders.
This section will cover answer the question if it is normal for a Boxer to have loose skin. The short answer is yes; in 99.9% of instances it is completely normal. The longer answer will help you understand this in detail. 
We are going to look at the reasons why skin may be excessive on younger Boxer dogs and even older, seniors and at what age the skin will tighten. 
Boxer puppy with face wrinkles
Bella, 8 weeks old
Photo courtesy of owner Lyndell D.

How the Breed Standards Around the World Can be Hugely Misleading 

The reason why loose skin on a Boxer puppy can be concerning is due to the wording of the breed standards from all reputable and respected kennel clubs from around the globe.

Let's look at the AKC standard. There are 3 snippets that we can look to that show what is expected regarding the tightness of the skin:

1- General Appearance- The ideal Boxer is a medium-sized, square-built dog of good substance with short back, strong limbs, and short, tight-fitting coat. His well-developed muscles are clean, hard, and appear smooth under taut skin.

2- Neck, Topline, Body: Neck - Round, of ample length, muscular and clean without excessive hanging skin (dewlap).

3- Coat - Short, shiny, lying smooth and tight to the body.
Let's look at the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) standard. There are 4 snippets that reference the skin:

1- General Appearance- The Boxer is a medium-sized, sturdy dog, of square build with short back, strong limbs, and short, tight-fitting coat. His musculation, well developed, should be clean, hard and appear smooth (not bulging) under taut skin

2- Coat and Colour - Coat short, shiny, lying smooth and tight to the body.

3- Head - The head should be clean, not showing deep wrinkles. Folds will normally appear upon the forehead when the ears are erect.

4- Neck- Round, of ample length, not too short; strong and muscular and clean throughout, without dewlap, with a distinctly marked nape and an elegant arch running down to the back. Faults: Dewlap.

Note: The dewlap mentioned here is referred to loose skin hanging down around the Boxer dog's neck.

Next, we come to the UK (The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom). We'll look at 4 snippets from this one:

1- General Appearance - Great nobility, smooth-coated, medium-sized, square build, strong bone and evident, well developed muscles

2- Head and skull - Skull cleanly covered, showing no wrinkle, except when alerted. Creases present from root of nose running down sides of muzzle.

3- Neck - Round, of ample length, strong, muscular, clean cut, no dewlap

4- Coat - Short, glossy, smooth and tight to body.

And now let's look at the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard which over 80 member countries, keeping in mind that it is describing the German Boxer line. There are 3 snippets that refer to the expected tightness of the dog's skin:

1- General Appearance - The Boxer is a medium sized, smooth coated, sturdy dog

2- Head - It should be clean, not showing any wrinkle. However natural folds are formed in the cranial region when alerted.

3- Skin- Dry, elastic without any wrinkles.

In addition, if you read the entire standard texts, the word 'muscle' or musculature' comes up 9 times in the AKC wording, a variation shows 10 times in the CKC document and 7 times with the FCI.

What This All Means

This leads one to believe that if a Boxer met standards, he would be exceptionally strong looking with a super tight coat and almost no wrinkles at all (folds on the forehead/ cranial region are mentioned in both CKC and FCI and creases from nose to muzzle are mentioned in the UK's document).

But that doesn't describe the typical Boxer that you'll find in homes throughout the States, Canada, the UK and other locations.

We must keep in mind 2 things:

1) These are the standards for the ideal Boxer dog. The perfect dog does not exist; but if he did, the above wording would describe him.

2) These explanations of ideal appearance are geared toward the adult Boxer even though younger dogs may enter.

The age that a Boxer dog is eligible to enter a conformation show varies depending on the county that is hosting the event. For example, in the US, with the AKC a dog must be 6 months old to enter a conformation show event. In the UK, a dog must receive 3 Challenge Certificates (CC) from 3 different judges to be able to receive the title of champion which is given to dogs over the age of 1 year old. Some counties have 'puppy' or 'junior' classes.

So, even though a Boxer puppy may be shown, the physical traits of having a lean, sleek yet muscled body does refer to older adolescent and adult Boxer dogs.

It should also be noted that the American lines tend to sometimes have marginally tighter skin than the UK or European lines, however many Boxers are a mixture of these types and loose skin cannot be attributed to the Boxer breed type. It is simply an issue of age.

The Transition from Puppies with Loose Skin to Adults with Tight Skin

From birth until about 1 year old, it is normal for the Boxer puppy to have some loose skin. It is most apparent around the neck area. It may become tightened as the dog looks up and then be more visible when the pup looks down. You may not even notice it until you grab at the scruff and come to find that the skin can be manipulated off the body and pliable.
There are some Boxers that also have loose skin over the body, including the back. You may be able to slightly lift it and when you let it go, it will settle back into place. If it does not, this is a sign that the dog may be dehydrated.  

With the skin - and the neck area in particular - being like this, you may wonder why in the world it is not tight as the standards tell us it should be. This is completely normal; as the Boxer matures and grows he will grow into his skin.

As his frame widens and his muscles become developed, the skin will become more taunt, giving the coat that tight, shiny look. 

We must remember that puppies have a rounded, softer appearance and adults have a sleeker, leaner physique.
Boxer dogs with loose skin
Vesta and Sienna
Photo courtesy of owner Nancy
It takes some time for a Boxer dog to have his/her adult build. By the age of 1 year old, you'll really start to see a change, with less loose skin. By the age of 2, most of the skin will be tight.
For many pet quality Boxer dogs, there will be some loose skin around the neck. And for all - show dogs included - there will be some folds on the forehead.

Boxers have thick jowls and those without cropping have floppy ears - this gives us a dog that does not have a super tight, pulled in face. The Boxer dog's face is going to be 'floppy' and pliable.


Older Boxers may appear to have loose skin and this is more a matter of losing some muscle mass, which is perfectly expected with senior dogs. As the body ages, the Boxer is less active and over time there will be a gradual decrease in muscle definition which will cause there to be some sagging to the skin.

Skin-Fold Pyoderma

Owners should be aware of a bacterial skin infection that can occur where there are folds in the skin. The areas of loose skin can hold in moisture and that moisture can come from anywhere, but most often from drooling water accumulation from when the dog drinks, and from when the folds are not completely dried after bath time.

  • There will be an obvious bad odor 
  • The skin may be red or irritated 
  • In some cases, there will be a discharge that is released from the skin 

The affected loose skin will need to be kept dry and clean. The skin may be washed with shampoo containing benzyl peroxide. In most cases a combination of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication is used to treat the infection. Owners will need to be diligent in keeping the skin dry and even with extreme care, a Boxer may have a recurrence.
You may also be interested in:

Boxer dog skin problems - This breed is prone to drying issues, acne and contact allergies that may manifest as hot spots on the skin.
Boxer dog acne - While this can develop on a dog of any age, it most typically occurs during the adolescent phase when hormone levels are changing.  While this is temporary, it must be kept under control to avoid scarring. 
Boxer dog grooming - A good overview of all needed grooming tasks including baths, brushing, shedding issues, paw, nose and nail care. 
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