Boxers can be friendly and gentle companions who welcome new friends and are kind towards children. However, boxers are high-energy dogs who require plenty of exercise to remain calm. Without exercise, they may become hyper or aggressive. Similarly, without proper training or socialization, boxers may exhibit fear-based aggression, particularly with strangers and children. Early intervention is key for preventing aggression from escalating out of control, and if your dog is already exhibiting signs of aggression, you should seek the help of a qualified dog trainer who uses reward-based, positive training methods.
Begin socializing your puppy as soon as you bring them home. Dogs are most easily socialized between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks. Expose your dog to a variety of people, including children, and ensure that the experience is a positive one by clicking your training clicker and giving your dog a treat for each new interaction. You should allow your dog to meet new people in a variety of settings on a daily basis during this critical window of socialization.
Teach your dog a "Watch" or "Focus" command. Do this by encouraging your dog to look at you in low-stress situations, then clicking the training clicker and giving the dog a treat. Your dog must be very good at this trick for it to work to prevent aggression, so practice numerous time a day in a variety of circumstances. Then begin practicing in progressively more stressful situations. When you see an aggression trigger, such as a dog or person approaching, tell your dog to watch you. Each instance of aggressive behavior teaches a dog to be more aggressive, so teaching your dog to watch you when an aggression trigger approaches helps the dog avoid aggression and prevents the behavior from becoming fully entrenched in your dog's personality.
Use a muzzle when socializing adult dogs who already have aggression problems. The process of socializing already aggressive dogs is called counter-conditioning because the focus is on teaching the dogs to develop positive associations with strangers. Determine the distance at which your dog begins to react to a stranger. For example, if your dog begins growling when a person is 10 feet away, start by getting no closer than 11 feet.
Give your dog treats when strangers approach and ask people to toss treats to your dog. Repeat this exercise daily, decreasing the distance between your dog and strangers by one or two feet every week. As your dog becomes more comfortable with new people, encourage the new people to slowly approach your dog, continuing to toss treats. If your dog begins to react aggressively, ask the person to back up and continue practicing at that distance for another week or two. This process can take several months and the exercise should be repeated at least once per day.
Put your dog in a crate when strangers visit. Crates provide dogs with safe spaces of their own, and are especially useful with hyper boxers. Ask your guests to give your dog treats through the doors. When the dog calms down, open the door but do not force your dog to come out of their crate. Do not allow your dog out of the crate while people are visiting if they have ever bitten a stranger.
Provide your dog with at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. Simply playing in the backyard is insufficient for most boxers. These dogs need brisk walks or runs to burn off their considerable energy. A high-intensity game of fetch is also an excellent way to exercise your dog. If your dog continues to seem restless, increase the daily exercise to one hour. Many dogs become markedly calmer with sufficient exercise.
Tips & Warnings
- Spaying or neutering your dog can help prevent aggression, particularly when the procedure is done prior to the age of six months.
- If your dog is severely aggressive, several prescription medications are available that can help ease your dog's anxiety and make training safer as you work to correct the behavior.
- Your dog's socialization experiences with people -- particularly when you are working to correct aggression -- must be positive and highly controlled. Don't take your dog to busy public parks when you're practicing counter-conditioning. You may need several cooperative friends to properly perform this training technique.
- Never yell at or hit your dog. This can create anxiety and fear that may lead to aggression and biting.
- Training clicker
- Dog treats
- Dog crate