One thing kennel owners will tell you is that certain breeds have particular behaviors that are almost always consistent throughout their lives. Boxers are great family dogs as long as you can provide lots of exercise and training to help control their rambunctiousness when they are young. They are brachycephalic which means that they have broad, short skulls with flat noses which can lead to respiratory issues in situations of overexercise, stress and heat. Boxers are animated and playful when young but often have severe separation anxiety due to their very social nature. As they mature, they become very dignified, calm and loyal companions for the rest of their typically shorter lives.
Young Boxers need vigorous, daily romping and playing due to their high-energy dispositions and some can actually display rather dominant or aggressive behavior towards other dogs of the same sex, so they can be a little challenging for Doggy Daycare owners. More than many other dog breeds, they need strong leadership. Boxers can be seen with a play style that mimics “boxing” – stand on their hind legs and use there forepaws as though they are boxing. Their heritage is that of a strong-minded working dog, so you must handle them in an upbeat, persuasive way, not always easy to do in a group play environment. They can be stubborn, sensitive and very proud and will actually sulk and pout and refuse to cooperate unless its their idea to do something. However, they make loyal watchdogs who passionately love their owners and if you leave them overnight at a kennel, the results are not always what you would expect from a 40 pound dog.
One of the many boxers that attended our daycare was a dog named Champ. We saw him grow up over several years from a rather skinny puppy to a buff, mature male. As he got older, Champ’s behavior changed from playful to almost aggressive and he also developed some rather nasty habits. Before he left us, we learned that the owners often chained him to a tree in their back yard and left him for hours at a time instead of having to deal with him when they were busy on the weekends. We often wondered if the decline in his social behavior occurred as a result of these actions.
Early on, Champ would display explosive bouts of stomach problems. Inevitably, when he arrived in the mornings, he would relieve himself – often indoors – several times. Staff would dread his arrival and it was all due to his excitement of joining the “pack.” As he grew older, he would often “hog” tennis balls that were meant for the entire group to play with. This ultimately led to us discouraging balls in a general population playgroup although he was by all means not the only culprit. Many times Champ would be observed on the play ground with as many as four tennis balls in his mouth at any one time and acted aggressively when either a human or another dog would try to take one. Even when using a ball as big as a grade school kickball, he would always manage to get it in his mouth and immediately puncture it when trying to keep it in his possession.
When stressed, Champ would eat the pea gravel that lined our playground in the early years. We subsequently went to artificial turf because we later found that several dogs early in our history liked to eat the stuff! Champ was a prolific eater of the gravel and we would scold him every time we caught him doing this dirty deed. He soon wised up, however, and would hide out behind our outside play equipment to dine on this favorite item undetected. Fortunately, what goes in also comes out in most cases and, in Champ’s case, often accompanied his bowel issue mentioned above. In one instance, when he stayed overnight, upon our arrival the next morning, we were greeted with enough to fill two plastic grocery bags of the lovely stuff. While we were lucky with Champ and his culinary exploits, one of our fellow kennel owners who had two boxers of her own and while on vacation, ate pea gravel from her play yards and required emergency surgery to remove the blockages caused by the rocks that would not pass.
As mentioned above, Champ’s stress levels seemed to escalate at the daycare as he got older. This is a problem we saw on a few occasions as dogs matured. Sometimes it was due to the health of the animal changing and never appeared to be breed specific. It seems as though they enjoyed less and less of the social structure in a open daycare setting and became more territorial. In any event, Champ would get so stressed when kenneled during lunch break he would bend and bite the wires of the fronts of our kennels until they were no longer useable for other dogs.
Amidst all of the problems, Champ was a smart guy and was quite lovable. My most memorable “good” behavior was when he learned how to ring the buzzer next to our back door. The buzzer was used as a signal when a staff member was outside and needed a break or to ask for help or a question about a dog. When Champ was in the mood to go in, you could often hear the buzzer being pushed by him multiple times until he got someone’s attention!