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Protective Boxer -A Training/Behavioral Question 

Background: Boxer Named Revvy, Male, Almost 4, Not neutered, 80 pounds

Fara writes:

I have a male boxer, (almost 4). He is my second boxer and is so great all the time except when children/people knock on the front door. He is a ferocious protector. He listens so well with all his commands but when someone comes to the door, he gets so protective. Once the person or children come into the house he is fine, but jumps on them to greet them. He is 80 pounds of muscle so he often knocks them over. My other boxer never jumped up unless we called him up. Help! What can I do? I don't want to yell at him about barking and such, because I want him to be protective, but I don't want him jumping on the door and window like he is going to attack the person standing on the other side. What can I do about the jumping? I have tried having our guests turning around and ignoring him. He typically doesn't jump on me because he knows I don't tolerate it. I'm very small so when I trained him I made him aware that he could not do that to me. I tell him "4 on the floor! Down!" And he listens for me, but when it is someone else he will not listen. Please help! I hate that I have to put him in my room when guests come over and if someone comes to the door unexpectedly, he goes crazy. He is not neutered. (I know, I should and will probably have it done by the end of the year).  To be honest, there is not much that startles him except when the kids are getting in trouble. He is very sensitive and goes to the closet. Or his crate. He started the aggressive barking behavior just last year. We moved and stayed with our in-laws until we found a house. They have a dog who is nearly blind and barked at everything. He learned how to be a protector from him. He has only gotten more aggressive since. I am the Alpha in the house. He listens so well to me with everything and we truly have a connection I have never before felt. I was very close to my other boxer and loved him so much. This boy, Revvy, there is something so unique about our connection. I really can't explain it, but I think you know what I mean.  I do have the time to train him and my husband and children have been taught to use the same commands I use so they will be on board too. Thank you so much for any help and advice you can provide!

Daily Boxer responded:
I think you can address the barking and jumping simultaneously.  He needs to be corrected every single time he jumps or barks.  And he needs to be positively reinforced each time he behaves appropriately (quiet or on all 4's).  Treats as a primary reinforcers (food) to start then move to secondary reinforcers (verbal) like positive praise. You may need some friends and family to help you at first to artificially create someone at the door.  Have them knock or ring the bell like usual- let him react, then use a sound or phrase (like a shhh or quiet) and remove him from the area. Leave him behind a gate or in another room until you can positively reinforce quiet behavior.  Once this happens let him out.  If he barks or jumps, use the sound or phrase again and remove him until you can reinforce the quiet behavior.  The more you do this, the faster he will learn that what he is doing will only get him removed from his people.  Most boxers are pretty stubborn so once he figures out what you are doing, he will challenge it.  At this point, you must stay consistent (everyone must do the same thing).  Eventually like every other command he knows, it will become automatic. I don't think this is a quick fix so it might take some time.  It took him time to learn the barking behavior and for him it has been reinforced every time he does it. Kind of like breaking an old habit.  You should start seeing a change within 2-3 weeks.  Again the more exposure and opportunities you can give him to practice the better. In addition, I don't think that correcting the barking behavior will cause him not to protect your home, if the need to protect presents itself and he picks up on your fear, it will happen automatically. Also, in regard to the jumping.  He is in an excited and heightened state of mind from the barking- so it's natural for him to physically react (jumping).  I think the barking behavior might be feeding the jumping behavior.  By removing him from the room, it gives him a chance to calm his excitement and it will give you time to regroup and address the jumping behavior when it occurs. One more thing about the jumping, I used the turn away correction for Daisy and it worked like a charm.  When I had to use it for Rosco, he just thought it was a game and continued to jump.  I used the removal technique and told everyone who entered that if he jumped they were to ignore him and I would remove him.  After 2 weeks he no longer jumped. He wiggled away so much that he'd knock you down with his butt (ha-ha). Remember, he should only be removed for the time it takes him to quiet down.  The second he is quiet, positively reinforce the quiet behavior and try again.  In addition, don't avoid the behavior by putting him in another room or away before he exhibits the behavior.  Wait until he is barking and jumping, then remove and reinforce.

Since 80 pounds of boxer barking and jumping can be overwhelming to get under control, I recommend using a nylon collarHere's the link.  I only used mine for training purposes and my dogs don't need or use it any longer.  This will help you get more control.  I'd recommend getting one (leaving it on) and get a short leash that you can leave by the door.  It should fit snug and be pulled as close to the ears as possible.  This will allow you to gain control and move him away from the door.  To get it off of my boxer, I have to tuck his ears through, one at a time and squeeze it over his head.  And you can see in my picture, it's not pulled tight and I still have room. Also, keep your emotions in check and stay calm -otherwise Revvy will pick up on it and it will excite him more. Use a very stern and matter-of-fact voice.  Revvy shouldn't think you are mad at him. Remember YOU are the Alpha. The other thing I want to make note of, is that Revvy has gone through a lot of changes in the past year.  Boxers are resilient and adjust fairly easily.  However, the move out of your old home, in to and then out of your in-law's home, and then into your new home could also have him on alert.  Based on your relationship and connection with Revvy, I can understand some of the "out of character behaviors" your are observing especially based on the changes you mentioned.  Even more so- you, your children, and family all have different feelings about all these changes and Revvy is clearly very attuned to them. Think of emotions as energy, regardless of whether you let them out or hold them in- it's still dictates or at the very least influences how you respond and behave. Dogs in general, pick up on these emotions by observation and they do it much better than people.  Revvy is a sweet, empathetic soul and your connection with him only amplifies his loyalty.  I have no doubt that eventually he will follow your lead and you will be able to keep him in check and change the behavior. Keep us posted on your progress and Good Luck!
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