How to Break a Bad Habits of Boxer Dog
Boxers are generally great with other dogs and children, making them wonderful family dogs. They require plenty of exercise, including both physical and mental exertion. Make sure that a high energy dog that requires a strong alpha is right for your lifestyle before bringing one home. Obedience training techniques can offer effective solutions if your Boxer dog has bad habits, such as stealing food or going to the bathroom indoors. Train your Boxer dog to understand that you are the alpha, and learn how to think like it does in order to teach it what habits are unacceptable. If home training is ineffective despite your persistence, consider hiring a professional trainer.
Nailing Training Basics
1. Start training as early as possible.
If you have just acquired a Boxer puppy, begin training immediately. Start practicing command words, such as sit and stay, and get your puppy on a set eating and bathroom routine.
- Socialize your puppy early by exposing it to other dogs, children, and crowds of people. Let it get used to being around different sights and sounds by taking various routes when you walk it.
- Keep training sessions short and try to make them fun when you are just starting to train a puppy.
- Adult dogs are more difficult to train than puppies. It will take more persistence and time, but start training your new adult dog as soon as you bring him home.
2. Begin with basic command words.
Whether you are training a puppy or adult dog, you should start with basic commands, such as sit, come, and heel. Break up treats into small pieces to use as rewards. Say the command word, and reward your dog immediately when it follows the command. You will have to repeat the process around twenty times when you are training your dog so the behavior becomes automatic.
- Training your dog is an important step in breaking bad habits. You have to show your dog that you are the alpha in order to stop it from marking its territory, begging food or stealing scraps, being aggressive, or engaging in other bad behavior.
3. Practice the sit command.
To make your dog sit, hold a treat in your hand while standing in front of him. Then, use the treat as a lure to get your dog to sit down. Move the treat over head of your dog in an arc so that he will naturally sit down to keep following the treat with his eyes. As butt of your dog hits the ground, say Sit to mark the behavior. Make sure that you reward your dog with the treat right after he sits as well.
- If your dog does not naturally sit, you can place gentle pressure on his bottom to guide him into a seated position.
- Repeat the process for a few minutes every day and then start to phase out the treat. For example, you might just raise your empty hand in an arc to get your dog to sit, and then reward him with some praise and a belly rub.
4. Train your dog to come.
Teach your dog to come by holding position five steps away from it, saying Come and holding a treat out in your hand. When it comes to you, give it the treat and use happy expressions and words to offer positive reinforcement. Repeat the process twenty times, and gradually step back to farther distances.
5. Teach your dog to heel.
When you walk your dog, make sure it walks beside or slightly behind you. Your dog should not pull the leash or walk uncontrollably in front of you. Say Heel when the dog is right beside you as you walk, and give it a treat if it stays there.
- If it rushes out in front of you, stop walking and wait a minute to reset the routine.
- Make sure to offer other forms of positive reinforcement when your dog walks beside you. Say, Good heel! Good job! and offer happy expressions.
6. Be consistent about rules.
If you want to break bad habits of your Boxer dog, you need to be consistent about the rules you enforce. For example, if your dog has a problem with chewing, do not offer it an old shoe or sock and expect it not to go after a newer article of your clothing. Your dog will not know the difference between old and new shoes.
- If you do not want it to beg for table scraps, never offer it human food, and tell your guests not to offer it any food.
- In general, never be soft on any of your rules, and do not make any exceptions. It will just confuse your dog.
7. Use discipline only the exact moment you catch your dog doing something wrong.
If you come home and find your Boxer dog went to the bathroom inside or chewed something, do not yell or discipline it. You will only confuse your dog, and it will not know exactly why you are yelling.
- If your dog got into the trash or went to the bathroom inside hours before you discipline it, it will not be able to make the connection between the bad behavior and your response.
- Alternatively, if you see your dog doing something it is not supposed to, say Hey! in an authoritative voice to get its attention, and interrupt it from doing whatever it is doing.
Breaking Bad Bathroom Habits
1. Spay or neuter your dog before it reaches maturity.
If you have a Boxer puppy or juvenile, consider spaying or neutering it before it becomes fully mature. Intact males are particularly notorious for marking their territory by going to the bathroom where they should not.
- If your dog is too old to be spayed or neutered, or if you prefer to leave it intact, you will need to double down on training and obedience routines to keep marking at a minimum.
- Use regular command word training, especially with your intact male, to show that you are the alpha and that your house is not territory of dog.
2. Keep your Boxer dog on a schedule.
Put your puppy or dog on a strict eating and bathroom schedule as soon as you bring it home. Take it outside first thing in the morning, several times during the day, and a half hour before bed. Feed it in the morning and evening, and take it out for a walk fifteen minutes after it eats.
- If you have a puppy, you will need to take it outside every 30 minutes for training purposes. Two hours is the maximum time that a puppy can hold its bladder. It is also important for you to praise your puppy after he goes potty outside.
- If you have an intact male Boxer dog, do not let it mark its territory when you are out on walks. Say Hey! when it raises its leg, or pat its leg down and pull along to get it to continue walking if it does not respond to a verbal command. Do your best to only let it relieve itself if it actually needs to use the bathroom, and to look for your permission to go.
- Making the dog feel the need to defer to your judgment when using the bathroom will cut down on marking territory indoors or other undesirable places.
3. Clean up urine immediately.
Use an enzymatic cleaner, such as store-bought pet odor eliminating cleaner, or vinegar and lemon juice. Clean up urine or feces as soon as you notice it, and be on the lookout for urine marks, especially if you have an intact male or puppy. If you ignore or miss a urine stain, your dog will be more likely to remark that spot and continue to use the bathroom inside.
4. Offer plenty of positive reinforcement.
When your Boxer dog uses the bathroom outside, say Great job! I am so proud of you! Use exaggerated, happy expressions, pet it, and use whatever other positive gestures you use to show your dog how happy you are that he is used the bathroom correctly.
- All dogs naturally want to please their owners. Positive reinforcement is typically much more effective than yelling or other forms of discipline.
5. Rule out other bathroom-related problems.
If bad bathroom habits of your Boxer dog seemingly came out of nowhere, it might be suffering from a urinary tract infection or other incontinence issue.
- If you are concerned about a possible UTI, take a sample of urine of your dog to your vet, or ask your vet to take the sample for you.
- Ask your vet about anxiety-related causes, especially if your Boxer dog shows signs of anxiety such as excessive whimpering, keep its tail between its legs, and using the bathroom when the doorbell rings, if you turn the television on, and in response to similar sights and sounds.
Stopping Aggressive Behavior
1. Stop aggressive behavior around food.
Do not set your Boxer dog up for failure: eliminate the opportunity and try not to leave any scraps or easily accessible food unattended. Never give it table scraps or human food, and if you have people over, instruct them not to feed your dog.
- Practice extinction conditioning: if your dog begs, ignore it completely. Do not look or speak to it at all, and be prepared to continue ignoring even if it barks louder or starts to act up. Eventually it will learn that begging will not result in a reward.
- Even offering human food to your dog once will teach it that it can beg for food or try to steal food, so avoid getting soft on your rules. If you are inconsistent and treat it like a lottery system, your dog will just get more persistent.
- Consider giving your dog a toy or treat to keep it busy just before you sit down for dinner. If you get through dinner without your dog begging or trying to steal food, reward him afterwards with a treat and positive reinforcement.
- Remember that scavenging is a powerful natural instinct, so do not get too impatient with your dog if you can not stop it from stealing food. If the problem persists, avoid having any food out in front of it, and consider restricting its access to the kitchen using baby gates.
2. Stop excessive barking.
When dogs bark at doorbells, knocks, telephone ringing, or other sounds, they typically think they are doing you a favor by letting you know what is happening. If your Boxer dog barks excessively at the doorbell or phone, try training it to go to a designated area whenever it hears that particular sound.
- First, use command word training to teach it to go to a mat (or another designated area). Say Mat! and physically guide it over to the mat, then offer a treat and positive reinforcement. Repeat this process to teach it what the word means. Gradually set the mat farther away from the dog before giving the command as it begins to understand what the word means.
- Once you have taught your dog how to go to its mat, add the command word to the sound of the doorbell, knock on the door, or phone ringing. Start with the dog away from the mat, give a quiet knock on the door, and say Mat! Give your dog a treat if it goes onto the mat.
- Use a command word like Sit instead of Mat if you find it is easier.
- It will take some time, but repeat the process at least twenty times. Practice every day, continuing to say Mat! in conjunction with the sounds that typically cause your dog to bark.
- Eventually, substitute the command word for the sound entirely, and be sure to offer plenty of positive reinforcement when your dog goes to its mat at the sound of the doorbell or knock.
3. Curb bad behavior by increasing exercise of your Boxer dog.
If your Boxer dog is acting up, it might need more exercise. Decide if the behavior seems more playful than aggressive, and make sure it is not accompanied by growling, barking, snarling, or showing teeth.
- Increasing and varying its exercise if your Boxer dog is acting up in a non-aggressive way. Just letting a Boxer dog outside to use the bathroom is not sufficient exercise. It needs one to two hours a day of brisk exercise that involves both physical and mental exertion.
- Play frisbee with your dog, play fetch, take it swimming, and incorporate command word training into your play, such as having your dog sit before going to fetch a ball or stick.
- If your Boxer dog starts to act up or act aggressively, such as when passing another dog on a walk, redirect its attention. Say What is that? and point in the opposite direction, then continue on your walk. Give the leash a tug to let your dog know it is time to move on, especially if it did not respond to your verbal command and pointing.
4. Keep your dog from jumping on people.
Boxers are energetic dogs and love to jump, but you should never let your dog jump on you or other people. When your dog jumps, do you best to completely ignore its behavior. Do not make eye contact, push it off, or touch it.
- Try to simply step away without making any other acknowledgment.
- Your dog does not know what No get down! means, and if you push it off, it will probably think you are playing with it.
- Not giving your Boxer dog any attention at all is more of a punishment than yelling or hitting it, and will teach it that jumping is unacceptable behavior.
- Consider the amount of exercise it gets and increase or vary if necessary.
5. Avoid high-arousal games like tug of war or chasing.
If your Boxer dog is starting to develop aggressive habits, do not encourage it with aggressive play. Do not play games that are high arousal or teach your dog to be possessive with a toy, such as tug of war.
- All games involving fetching should end with you getting the toy in the end. If your dog will not drop the stick or ball when you say Drop! then stop playing and ignore it.
- Do not harass your Boxer dog by staring into its eyes for extended amounts of time, abruptly awakening it, hugging it tightly, or placing your arm over its shoulders, which is a sign of dominance and aggression.
6. Consider training classes if your dog is aggressive.
Find a trainer if your dog engages in aggressive behavior and does not respond to command training, ignoring, or other measures you take on your own. Talk to your vet or local humane society about finding a reputable trainer.
- Find a licensed behaviorist by searching the Animal Behavior Society: http://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/index.php
- Ask friends or family for a referral to trainers they might have hired.
- Contact your local pet store and ask if they have dog training classes. Ask if they have classes for dogs and their owners so you can learn more about how to curb aggressive behavior.