While Boxers are known for their happy go lucky, playful and very energetic behavior they are also known to be rather independent, headstrong and very intense both in training and in exercise requirements. They are a dominant type of dog by nature, and will require an owner that can be positive, firm and consistent or else this very intelligent dog will soon be running the household and will see his or herself as the leader. This can happen very easily as the Boxer actually learns which people he or she has to listen too and which people can be ignored within the family. In addition their energy levels can sometimes make training a challenge, especially if the Boxer is confined during the day to a kennel or inside of the house.
The first steps in training a Boxer to be a well behaved, highly social dog needs to start immediately as the Boxer comes to their new home. Ideally the owners need to a have a space and place for the Boxer puppy that includes a bedding area or crate, food and water dishes and lots of different types of very durable toys. Boxers have very strong jaws and love to chew, so if you don't provide appropriate types of chew toys this is one breed that will demolish your home in an attempt to find something to chew on. Rubber and nylon toys such as the larger puppy sized Kongs or Nylabones are durable enough to last.
Typically stuffed toys will simply be destroyed and they may pose significant choking hazards since a Boxer will swallow the smaller sections. It is important to get the Boxer started on recalls or the "come" command as soon as possible. Many Boxers, from their hunting traits, are difficult to teach this command once they are engaged in something else. Owners of Boxers often complain that the dogs simply don't come back until they decide that it is time for them to return. Needless to say this can be very frustrating for the owner and potentially dangerous for the dog. Teaching the recall or come command right from the first few days in the new home will start your Boxer on the right track with regards to responding to your voice.
The second issue that needs to be consistently addressed with Boxers is the way that they greet people and play. The name Boxer absolutely suits this breed as they do tend to rear up on their hind legs and use their front feet to get your attention and bat at you in play. While this may be cute when the puppy is small, it is a very problematic habit when the dog reaches 60 plus pounds at maturity. Typically Boxers that are not trained early to stay down in greeting end up being dogs that are turned in to rescues and shelters as they owners simply cannot control the dog's boisterous behavior and someone ends up getting hurt. This is particularly important if there are children in the family or children visiting the house that can be easily knocked to the ground by this type of jumping behavior.
Teach the Boxer to sit to greet people and never reward the Boxer with attention for jumping up on you in greeting. It is also important not to engage in any rough types of play that encourage physical domination until the puppy is fully trained and understands a "stop" or "enough" command. As a dominant breed games that test strength such as tug of war or wrestling can actually encourage the dog to be more dominant and aggressive, especially if they see themselves as bettering the humans in the family.
Teaching the Boxer to work on a leash will also be an important part of early training. Many Boxers are prone to pulling on the lead, however once trained to heel and work on a leash they are outstanding dogs. Using a gentle correction collar or working with a trainer familiar with Boxers is the best way to start the dog out right. Since a harness, without the appropriate corresponding training collar can actually increase the change of pulling, they are not generally recommended in the early lead training sessions with this breed. Their short muzzle also makes halti or halter controls less effective, however some can work well with the Boxer.
Obedience classes for puppies that combine both behavioral training as well as socialization are highly recommended for this breed. The earlier this training starts the better, with most training programs for puppies starting at 12 or so weeks of age. Work with a trainer that has experience with Boxers and dealing with their potential stubborn streak. Unlike most dogs, Boxers are not solely motivated by food, especially if what they are doing is more rewarding to them than a little treat offered by the owner. Once, however, the Boxer is trained they make prize winning agility, obedience and even schutzhund dogs, which only shows their athletic ability and intelligence.
Working a Boxer in an off-leash dog area can be an issue for some dogs. Since they are naturally a dominant breed they may be much more dominant in play than other dogs are comfortable with. Their athletic ability and the "boxing" type actions they use can be seen as a threat to other dogs and may result in hostile and aggressive behavior occurring, which the Boxer will react too. Generally it is recommended to socialize your Boxer very early and encourage interaction with other calm, well socialized large breed dogs. Smaller dogs are often very intimidated by the Boxers rambunctious play and this is not always a good match.
Socializing the Boxer with cats is essential when they are young. Since the Boxer is a hunting breed trained and developed to chase down prey, they do have a high prey drive in most instances. Boxers that are raised with house cats can be good companion pets, however they are intelligent enough to chase non-family cats and can be very likely to kill small animals they catch. Boxers are not recommended for households with birds or small rodent type pets because of their prey instincts. They can do well with smaller breeds of dogs however it is important that they be well supervised initially to prevent any possible dominance and aggression issues on the part of the Boxer or other canine.