Boxers are intelligent, playful, stubborn, strong, and highly-trainable. Our family obviously loves boxers because we’ve raised a couple of them these past fourteen years and they both have had a very active roll in my dog training and behavioral mod. business. The pics in this post are of Bosley and Rambo, my boxer boys.
Let’s assume you’ve been struck with Boxer Fever and are in search of this unique breed. Below are a few personal training tips and behavioral hacks I’ve employed while raising and professionally training my own boxers. They will help any current or wanna be boxer owners out there on the inter webs.
- Touch reveals much. The heart of all dog language (any and every breed speaks through touch) is based in a dog’s sense of touch and how their body acts and interacts with other bodies in the environment. This means touch your Boxer pup or dog all over whenever and wherever YOU want to. (And be sure to deny them touch back on your body IF they demand that you touch/pet them) Think as the mother or father dog would about their pup’s bodies and be sure to claim your dog as your own through touch. Beware of your dog reversing this technique on you over the many months you share together (dogs do this to most unwitting dog owners and they do it quite friendly and subtlety at first – until, one day, they no longer decide to control touch in a friendly manner and they may instead choose to growl at, snap toward, or bite you!) Set the tone in your relationship with your boxer at its earliest outset.
- Jumping up is rude. Boxers are known for it. Boxers are known for high energy and muscled thighs so they like to head skyward. Be sure and stop it. The easiest way is to identify when your boxer is going to attempt to jump up on you or a guest and, like Bruce Lee often suggested when facing an opponent, intercept the movement! To recognize this pre-jump phase look for when the dog is wiggling and dancing and squaring up in front of you or a guest (they often square up first and once they receive eye-contact the very next thing is jumping up!) You don’t need to go Karate Kid on your boxer and be off balance on one leg as you attempt to knee the dog or puppy…instead, a simple and direct stiff arm while moving forward will do in 95% of jumping cases. The other 5% will need the stiff arm and then usually a follow up collar grab from the owner in order to keep the dog in place and allow it to calm for a few heartbeats, control the head when doing this and don’t let the dog out of it prematurely. The most important thing in stopping jumping up is to make sure your human body is moving forward into the dog’s body and purposefully taking up the space. Take a large step forward or two. Imagine a fencer lunging forward to score a point with his foil. (Do not stab your dog with a sword 😉 Get your boxer to backpedal awkwardly by stepping into him/her and after a couple of days any and every dog will understand that IF they jump they simply lose ground. Then, after taking their space go back to ignoring them. If you only ignore them (as is the shoddy advice of many trainers and behaviorists) and don’t actively address the jumping with a stiff arm and direct forward movement as I’ve instructed then that ignoring of the dog will only work on approximately 40% of dogs and pups. In my experience the other 60% will simply jump on your back or your sides!
- It’s all about the Energy. I should know because I just may have the calmest boxer on the planet! Somebody call the Guinness World Record people. (Rambo is a fantastic dog) Boxers are known to be a high-energy breed. Unlike most pro trainers out there, I do NOT think we should just redirect that energy onto a toy or into a “job to do” by making the boxer perform obedience and tricks (even and especially if the dog excels at the job or obedience!). I think that is a shallow and short-sighted approach that lacks in genuine maturity and that is why just training a working dog to work or perform obedience often comes back to bite the owners down the road. Mainstream dog training masks little behavioral problems and poor social skills within a dog until those little problems become catastrophic and overwhelm the owner! In every mature creature we see, in every good parent in nature we find proper energy control and conservation. The very premise of dog training fails miserably in this regard because dog training is disappointingly all about performance and seldom concerns itself with proper canine language acquisition, normal canine social skills (like who is grooming or touching who, and how and when that touching and smelling occurs, who is claiming who or what, and a host of other critically important things to your boxer and to all canines) and normal human behaviors that readily occur in 2019. Boxer owners (and most all dog owners) do NOT want a hyper pet and yet the only place they have to go in search of behavior modification if they have a hyper pup or high energy dog is the dog training industry which is entirely devoid of trainers willing to help the dog reach maturity by way of naturally calming energy control! Do you see the problem? (My first book, Dog Myths, goes into this further) Seek to calm your dog’s energy naturally and spatially (My second book, So Long Separation Anxiety, goes into this further) and do not pacify it or redirect it with obedience or a toy. Animals have a way to calm, to self soothe, and it is incredibly important that your boxer learns this vital skill and learns it early during his life with you.
- “Play train” and your boxer will love you. Play training is when we have the dog perform his obedience (sit, down, stay, come, heel, et cetera) in exchange for time with us and a special toy or two. This is one of those rarest of times when I encourage the dog owners to raise their energy in a playful manner. This is when we play lots of tug o’ war or wrestle. This is when the frisbee comes into play. This is when we move quicker than we normally do as owners and make it fun. This is when we draw the boxer towards us and play backwards. And during these short, fun bursts of play training we slip in several quick training classics like sit and down and come. Strive to move very cleanly as your boxer is watching your movements even more than listening to your voice. Every dog prefers hand signals to verbal commands. Does this mean we don’t give verbal commands? Of course not, we still give them, but remember, every dog on the planet still prefers seeing over hearing as it pertains to communication with the human. In most cases the better you move the clearer your communication will be. If you addict or semi-addict your boxer to a tug or a favorite toy you will instantly have much more off-leash control by way of getting your dog’s attention at the park or afield – it can be a great supplement to your training as you work towards real maturity, a healthy relationship based in dog language, and the continued socialization and desensitization of your boxer. Make sure that special toy is never left out on the floor at home or in the yard. Your boxer’s special toy should be put away and only used in conjunction with you and with specific, playful concentration and energy.