How to Discipline a Boxer

Boxers are very handsome, athletic dogs known for their loyalty, protectiveness, and goofy side with their families.

However, these dogs can sometimes be a handful.

So what do you do when its time to discipline your boxer?

Discipline for boxers should focus on plenty of positive reinforcement while setting clear boundaries. When your boxer isn’t following the rules or respecting boundaries, you’ll want to withhold your attention which is what your pup craves most.  When your boxer follows appropriate behaviors make sure to reward them with plenty of positive reinforcement! 

While boxers are very trainable and intelligent, they can be stubborn and sometimes test their boundaries which can really be a challenge for more inexperienced owners. Here’s what you need to know about how to appropriately discipline your boxer.

Be Gentle

Boxers are powerful dogs with an impressive appearance. Unfortunately, too often people get boxers for their looks and become frustrated with some of the behavioral issues that are common in the breed- like their world renowned stubbornness!

But despite their impressive looks, that has made them popular as guard dogs, boxers are actually very sensitive.

They do not respond well to too heavy of a hand, anger, or physical discipline. Most dogs don’t respond well to these sorts of things and even the giant Great Dane does best with a gentle approach

But with a boxer, physical-focused discipline can become dangerous. Boxers are protective by nature and when handled too roughly, they can sometimes become aggressive towards their owner. 

In order to achieve the best results in your boxer, provide consistent, gentle discipline and never react to your dog with anger. If you feel that you are having a difficult time controlling your temper with your boxer, it is best to separate yourself from your dog for a time and give yourself time to calm down before you attempt training again.

Start Early, Especially With “Four on the Floor”

It may not seem that your cute and cuddly boxer puppy needs a lot of discipline, but in fact, providing consistent discipline from an early age will set you up for success. True to their name, boxers have a habit of jumping up and punching with their front feet. 

This is a breed characteristic that the vast majority of boxers are likely to display. While this behavior may look very cute in a puppy, as your dog gets older, it can become very problematic. A boxer of a year or two of age that has not been taught to keep all four feet on the ground can result in a rambunctious young dog that can accidentally hurt people or knock them over with their punching. 

Therefore, along with the usual obedience training that you will likely want to teach any powerful, large breed dog, boxers particularly benefit from being trained to have the self-control to resist the urge to box. It is a good idea to train your boxer a command for standing up and punching out with the front feet and a command for keeping their feet on the ground. 

By training both behaviors, your boxer will understand exactly what it is you don’t want them to do. Furthermore, by attaching the command to the boxing behavior, you’ll be able to allow your boxer to display this behavior when it is appropriate. 

If your boxer jumps up and boxes at you, your family, or your guests despite being told not to, do not use often recommended techniques like kneeing your boxer in the chest when they jump up.

Boxers have a very high tolerance for pain and are unlikely to respond the way you’d like. Instead, use a tether or leash to prevent your boxer from displaying the undesirable behavior. 

What you don’t want is a boxer that considers this to be normal behavior with guests:

Be Consistent

Boxers take readily to training and are very intelligent. However, this is a dog that was bred to have a job to do, and they can occasionally get bored with training. It is not unusual for a boxer to challenge their owner either. 

Therefore, regular, consistent training is very important, especially for such a powerful breed. Set rules and stick to them. Make sure the entire family and anyone else who serves as a caretaker for your boxer also are very consistent in the rules. 

It is not as important what the rules are as that you stick to them. If your boxer isn’t allowed on the couch unless invited, it is essential that they never be allowed to jump on the couch without your invitation. A boxer that is allowed to get away with things sometimes will quickly learn that they can try to challenge the rules and do things they may or may not be supposed to. 

Consistency from the time your boxer comes into your home is absolutely essential. If your boxer misbehaves by being overactive, refusing to obey a known command, etc, it is important that they not be allowed to get away with the undesirable behavior. 

As always, removing your attention is a great way to give your boxer an opportunity to calm down and stop the undesirable behavior and discipline your boxer. 

Socialize With People

The average boxer is extremely good with their family. Boxers are especially known for being wonderful with children. They tend to be patient, tolerant, and protective of their family. They’re also very well known for being goofballs that keep their family laughing. 

On the other hand, when it comes to strangers, boxers are not necessarily as likely to get along well unless they are well-socialized from an early age. Boxers are naturally protective, and they often excel in attack work and as home and personal protection dogs. 

Therefore, your boxer may not understand when a new person is a threat and when they aren’t without appropriate socialization. A boxer that displays aggression to strangers shouldn’t be punished or disciplined, as this is a perfectly natural behavior that has generally been desirable in the breed. 

Introduce your boxer to new people frequently throughout their life. If your boxer shows aggression inappropriately, take your boxer out of the situation and calm them down by crating or tethering them. Boxers that show extreme aggression towards new people despite socialization will benefit from a certified trainer or animal behaviorist.

Never punish a boxer for showing aggression by yelling at them, striking them, or handling them roughly. This kind of behavior is most likely to result in an escalation of the negative behavior since your boxer will learn that there really is something to be feared from the new person. 

Generally, the best way to get a boxer to accept new people is to give them lots of positive reinforcement like affection and plenty of treats when there are new people nearby. You can also encourage strangers to give your boxer treats as they’re being socialized so that they come to associate new people with good things. 

Many people find that training their boxer in protection work is another good way to teach them when aggression is appropriate and when it isn’t. This may be especially useful for dogs that begin showing aggression despite regular socialization.

Socialize With Other Animals

A well-socialized boxer is typically tolerant of other dogs and animals. However, aggression may come out even in well-socialized boxers. Boxers may tend to be more likely to show aggression towards same-sex dogs, so when choosing a companion for your boxer or when picking out playmates for your pup, choosing dogs of the opposite gender is a good idea. 

Historically, boxers were bred to hunt big game like bear, wild boar, and bison. Boxers also were used for dog fighting until this activity was made illegal. They have also served as cattle dogs. This means that boxers may sometimes show prey drive towards large animals like livestock and aggression towards other dogs. 

Boxers are less likely to behave inappropriately with livestock or other dogs when they are socialized with them from a young age. However, aggression can come out even in well-socialized dogs. 

It is always best to socialize boxers with other animals to set them up for success in preventing prey drive from coming out and causing aggressive behavior. For boxers that do develop aggression towards other dogs or animals despite socialization, self-control training is extremely important. 

Your boxer needs to learn to be in the same area as other animals without showing aggression. Never punish your boxer for showing aggression towards other animals. Punishment may cause your boxer to repress their aggressive behavior, only to have it come out unexpectedly when you may not be able to control your dog.

Punishment can also increase frustration, making animal aggression worse instead of better. Instead of punishing your boxer for aggression, take them out of the situation and slowly reintroduce them to it when they have calmed down. Reward your dog for calm behavior at a distance from the trigger and gradually move closer and closer to other dogs or animals, rewarding along and along, until your boxer can be calm in proximity to other dogs or animals. 

Not every boxer will be able to be trusted loose with other dogs or animals. This is a breed that may not end up doing well at dog parks or loose with livestock. Each boxer is an individual, so carefully observe your boxer as they get older to see what kind of instincts are likely to come out in them. 

What to do When Your Boxer Misbehaves

Knowing how to discipline your boxer in any given circumstance can be a challenge. Here’s what you need to know about how to discipline your boxer when they do specific things:

Jump up and “box” with their front paws Give your command for “four on the floor” and immediately reward your boxer when they comply. If they ignore your command, separate yourself from your boxer or tether them so they are unable to perform the behavior.
Refusing to comply Boxers can easily get bored with repetitive training and are known to sometimes challenge their owners as well. If your boxer refuses to comply with your command, resist the urge to keep repeating the command or punish your boxer for misbehavior. Instead, give your boxer some time in a crate or on a tether with a chew toy before asking them to behave again. But make sure that the crate or tether are never seen as punishment and simply a break. 
Aggression towards people or other animals Remove your boxer from a situation in which they are showing inappropriate aggression. Slowly reintroduce them to the trigger, maintaining a substantial distance and rewarding them for calm behavior. Gradually increase the proximity to the trigger. For situations involving severe aggression, seek out the help of an animal behaviorist.
Over-excitement Boxers tend to be very energetic dogs, and especially when they are young they may not seem to have the self-control to handle their own excitement levels. If your boxer behaves in an overly excited manner, crate or tether them until they are able to behave calmly. Using a flirt stick is a great way to help your over-excited boxer learn self-control. 
Testing boundaries It is normal for all young dogs to test their boundaries and see which commands are rock-solid and which they may be able to push. If your boxer is pushing boundaries like getting on the couch when they shouldn’t, bolting through doors when they know they should wait, etc, the first step is to talk to your family members to see whether everybody is complying with the rules consistently. If they are, make sure your boxer is always supervised in these situations and firmly control their ability to misbehave in these ways by using a leash, baby gate, or some other control. Never allow your boxer to get away with inappropriate behavior. Instead, firmly but gently stop your boxer from performing the behavior and redirect them to something appropriate like a toy.

Enjoy a Well-Behaved Boxer

A well-behaved boxer is truly a joy to live with. It can take some time to train your boxer since they tend to be a bit late to mature.

But once you and your boxer get the hang of it, there’s almost nothing these dogs can’t do. From agility work to hunting boxers are ready for almost anything.

Keep in mind that boxers have some innate behaviors which you will need to work with, such as jumping up on their hind legs and “boxing”  and potentially showing aggression towards strange people or animals. However, with consistency and appropriate discipline, you will be able to enjoy your well-behaved boxer.

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