Boxers are highly energetic dogs. While they are good-natured and like to please, an untrained boxer (like any untrained dog) can be unpleasant to live with, especially if there are frequent visitors who don’t appreciate having a 70-pound lap dog.
You may have heard that boxers are very hard to train. This could not be further from the truth. It is important, however, to keep a boxer interested at all times, or he will tune you out. Boxers also do not respond to harsh training methods. They have a high tolerance for pain, and can become stubborn as all get-out if the trainer expects them to learn by being jerked around
(see “Hard to Train?” by Suzanne Clothier).
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What is your dog’s temperament, really? Temperament testing “focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. The test is designed for the betterment of all breeds of dogs and takes into consideration each breed’s inherent tendencies,” according to the American Temperament Test Society. Visit the ATTS webpage to find out about how you can have your dog tested.
For the safety of your dog, and the enjoyment of dog ownership, it is important to give your dog at least the most basic training. Training to come when called can be one of the most difficult things to teach. It is certainly worthwhile to train the recall, but even a reliable recall in a training situation should not be trusted in an off-lead, unfenced situation. Boxers have a high prey drive, and a running squirrel or cat – even a child on a bicycle – can be so exciting that they will ignore commands to return to their owners. Training the drop on command can be more reliable to stop a running dog in his tracks, and may save his life if he is running toward a busy street. The most useful basic commands in order to have a dog you can live with are: come, sit, down (teach him to obey this one from a distance, also), stay, off and give-me-a-kiss (sorry – I had to throw that one in). It is also important, for his safety and your peace of mind, to teach him not to bolt through a door (house or car), and to walk on-lead without pulling.
Crate training can make the difference between giving up on a dog and having a wonderful companion. It is not cruel; dogs are ‘den’ animals, and given the opportunity will often choose to sleep in a crate, if the door is left open. A crated dog cannot chew your prized possessions, mess on the Oriental carpet, or chew through the computer’s power cord while you are away from the house. An untrustworthy dog left loose in the house will always be stressed when you come home, knowing that you will be unhappy with him for having made a mess. This stress will actually create even more ‘separation anxiety,’ and lead to more destruction. A crated dog knows you will always be happy to see him when you get home. Most dogs can eventually be trusted loose in the house, but some simply must be crated for their protection and that of your possessions. A crate-trained dog is also far less stressed if it is necessary to leave the dog at the vet’s for any reason.
While it is not difficult to teach a dog basic obedience at home, it is a very good idea to attend training classes. Socialization is probably the most valuable lesson your dog learns at class. Boxers can be dog-aggressive, so if you ever intend to have your boxer in public situations, you will want him to be socialized. Having other dogs around also provides good distractions, so that your dog will learn to obey even when distracted – something that is more difficult to test at home.
When choosing an obedience class, you should always visit a session or two before signing your dog up for classes. Observe how the instructor interacts with the dogs. Some instructors teach methods that can only be described as abusive – such as hitting the dog with any object, including the hand, or using the training collar to choke the dog as a correction. If you see any training methods that cause you to cringe or wince, that class is not the one for you and your dog (or any dog). Try a different training school!
A training method that is rapidly growing in popularity is Clicker Training, also called “Click and Treat” and “Operant Conditioning.” It is based on the teachings of B.F. Skinner, a prominent psychologist of his day, who proposed that all creatures will repeat behavior that is rewarded and not repeat behavior that is not rewarded. Clicker trainers use positive motivation, rather than traditional ‘pop the training collar correction’ training. As a matter of fact, clicker training is mostly done with no collar and leash at all. It is the exclusive training method for dolphins and whales at the sea parks, and is almost always the method trainers use for animals used in movies and television shows.
There are a number of excellent websites on clicker training, although it is sometimes difficult to find a clicker training class. Even if you use traditional training methods for basic obedience, clicker training is the way to go to train your dog to do tricks. The links below are just a start.
While boxers are tolerant dogs, you owe it to your dog to protect him from situations that can be stressful for him. Children (your own or others’) should never be allowed to tease or hurt your dog. There are many stories about boxers who will let children pull on their ears or ride them like horses. How unfair to expect any dog to put up with such abuse! And how dangerous not to teach the child that such behavior is entirely unacceptable! Your own children should always be supervised in their play with the dog, until they are old enough to be trusted to act responsibly toward him. If another parent does not control his/her child around your dog, you must step infor the protection of both dog and child – even if the other parent resents it.
Boxers are excellent with children, and a new baby is just one more child for your boxer to love. The arrival of a baby should never be the excuse to get rid of the dog or relegate her to the back yard. There are simple steps you can take to introduce the baby to your dog, and forge a lasting bond.
Boxers are usually friendly with strangers, especially when the dogs are not on their home territory. However, you need to know your own dog and how he reacts. It is not a sign of bad temperament if your dog does not welcome physical contact with strangers, or does not appreciate other dogs’ approaching him – it is an invasion of his personal space, and he should be allowed the dignity of preserving his privacy. It is the owner’s responsibility to understand the dog’s point of view and protect him from unwanted intrusion.
Many people ask, “How can I train my boxer to protect me and my family?” Protection training is not to be taken lightly. A protection-trained dog must first be absolutely reliable in obedience, sociability and control. Trying to train a dog to be ‘mean’ is entirely counter-productive. An aggressive dog is not a protective dog, it is merely dangerous, and totally unsuitable as a family pet. Almost any boxer will protect its family from a threat, with no training whatsoever. The best way to protection-train a boxer is to make him an integral part of the family and give him unlimited love. Then, if a member of his pack is genuinely threatened, he will protect!
Because they are gregarious and gentle, boxers are excellent Pet Therapy dogs. Most communities have a number of Pet Therapy visitation programs. Usually, the only requirements are basic obedience and control, a stable temperament, and a clean, parasite-free dog. Some facilities require certification of some sort – usually either an AKC Canine Good Citizen title (CGC) or certification by the Delta Society or Therapy Dogs, International. Check with local obedience schools and your local humane society to see if they have Pet Therapy groups you might join, and what their requirements are.
The AKC’s Canine Good Citizen title is one any purebred dog could aspire to, with some minimal training. There is a little obedience work involved, but it mainly tests the temperament and self-control of the dog. The CGC is required by some facilities for dogs doing Pet Therapy work, and it is the basis of the TDI and Delta Society Therapy Dog Certification. A non-purebred dog, although not permitted the AKC CGC title, is still eligible for Pet Therapy certification. A Canine Good Citizen is also a good pet, so any pet owner should look at the CGC requirements as a good guideline for basic training and socialization.
If you intend to participate in Obedience competition, be forewarned that boxers are well-known as the clowns of the ring! They absolutely do have a sense of humor, and are most likely to exhibit it by stopping to lick the face of a ringside child rather than returning directly to you on a recall, or by taking two or three jumps instead of one. Spectators love to watch boxers in the Obedience ring – they never know what a boxer will do! There are three levels of AKC Obedience – Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) and Utility Dog (UD).
Agility is a fairly new sport in the United States, and is great fun for owner and dog. In Agility, the dogs have to get past certain obstacles – a seesaw, tunnels, an A-Frame, jumps, etc. – in a pre-set course. The dogs move around the course on voice commands and hand signals only. Boxers are seldom at the top of this competition heap (that honor usually goes to border collies, who are smaller and extremely quick), but they can – and do – perform very well. Obedience training is a prerequisite, but if the owner enjoys working with the dog (and if both are in good physical condition), there are few other sports that offer as much enjoyment for both. AKC has several Agility titles that can be earned
Flyball is another fun sport. The dog runs to a flyball box and steps on a pedal that launches a ball into the air. The dog then brings the ball back to the handler. In competition, there are teams, and the dogs compete in relays over hurdles. Competitions are exciting to spectators and participants alike. Flyball is still pretty rare, and it may be difficult to find a flyball group in your area. Check with your local obedience clubs.
People usually don’t associate boxers with tracking – the hounds are the usual dogs one thinks of. However, boxers are excellent trackers, and it is a sport that is rising in popularity for them. It is virtually a necessity to work with a tracking club or group, so contact your local obedience clubs to learn where you can join in!
This is the newest AKC sport. Dog and handler follow a pre-set, 10-20 station course, and perform the skill described at each station. Much more casual than Obedience competition, the handler is permitted to use verbal encouragement, thigh slaps, hand claps, etc., as long as she does not touch the dog, who is off-lead. According to the AKC, the basic objective of Rally “…is to produce dogs that have been trained to behave in the home, in public places and in the presence of other dogs…”
One of the most helpful websites for any behavior problem is Dr. P’s Dog Training. There, you will find numerous links to training and rehabilitation for almost any imaginable problem.
Aggression in dogs, whether against other dogs or people, is not a pretty sight, and cannot be tolerated. People-aggression is not only dangerous, it can leave the dog owner vulnerable to cancellation of home insurance and ultimately even a devastating lawsuit. Sometimes, aggression can be the result of fear; sometimes medical problems, and sometimes just natural behavior for that dog. Often, the dog simply cannot be rehabilitated. For others, however, there can be hope. If your dog lunges for other dogs on your walks, or shows aggression toward unfamiliar people,
check out the Aggressive Behaviors in Dogs list. More than 180 dog trainers are willing to help the aggressive dog’s owner modify the dog’s behavior.
FEAR OF LOUD NOISES
Fear of thunderstorms, fireworks and other noises – even people – can make your dog’s life miserable. There are ways to defuse that fear and modify fearful behavior. Check out the Shy-K9 list, where trainers and other professionals will help with suggestions.
CHEWING AND DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR
Chewing is a natural and necessary behavior in a puppy. Often, a chewing problem can be improved by being sure the puppy has toys of his own that he enjoys chewing, and that the house is ‘puppy-proofed’ except for his toys. But what if it is an older dog, or one that wants to chew the legs of furniture? Or what if the dog only destroys things when he is left alone? No, he’s not mad at you for leaving him, and he’s not chewing out of spite. He is stressed. The best solution, in almost every case, is the crate.
Barking, like chewing, is a natural canine behavior, but it can be a very annoying problem, both for you and your neighbors. Pet owners owe it to their neighbors not to allow their dogs to disturb the peace. But what can be done? Here are links to sites that offer different solutions, one or more of which surely will be successful.