Of all the breeds of dogs that enjoy considerable popularity, the Boxer is perhaps one of the most contentious. Specifically, even while Boxers are friendly, energetic, and a great family dog that is protective of you and yours while also being intelligent, responsive, and wholly trainable, Boxers are considered by some to be dangerous dogs. The truth of the matter, however, is that it is not the breed itself that is dangerous, but rather the neglect and ignorance of some owners who take on the responsibility of owning and raising a dog without using the appropriate training techniques that would shape that dog into a friend for life.
Problematically, while many smaller or less powerful breeds might simply be ill-mannered and obnoxious owing to poor training or abusive behavior on the part of the owner, larger dogs like the German Shepherd, the Pitbull, or the Boxer naturally have considerable strength and speed, with an aggressive streak that serves them well in guarding and law enforcement capacities as well as in their capacity as a protector of your family. When these breeds do not receive appropriate training, they can be dangerous to others, which is why they have developed such a bad reputation in some circles: it only takes a few poorly trained dogs to give the entire breed a bad name.
Dog training is perhaps one of the most common ways in which our modern understanding of psychology is applied in a practical, understandable manner. Dogs have been with us as a species for centuries if not millennia, after all, and in that time a variety of different approaches to how best to train one’s dog have arisen. Perhaps the most classic example of dog training, however, is that of Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov’s experiments on dog psychology involved training dogs to salivate at the ring of a bell by developing a positive association between the bell and food.
While this may not seem immediately relevant, the experiment illustrated the power of positive association: the way in which our brain creates connections between one experience and another, thereby learning that particular behaviors create particular rewards. By encouraging the desired behavior in a dog, you can begin to create an association between, say, a command like “Sit!” and the act of sitting by quickly associating that act and the command with the ever-desired treat that dogs are always keen on!
One popular way of training dogs, and a method that Boxers are particularly responsive to, is “clicker training.” This is not a misnomer; you use a clicker, a small device that you can press to create a “click” sound, to create an association between the treat, the behavior, and the click. Eventually, the click and treat are cycled out and replaced by the command itself.
The idea of clicker training is to make the reward or praise that tells the dog in question that their behavior was the right one as quickly as possible. The trouble, you see, is that communicating to your dog that they have behaved correctly must be very quickly and successfully done after the desired behavior is successfully engaged in by the dog. Otherwise, they just don’t make the positive association in time, and they can become confused about what you want them to do. As you can imagine, this can frustrate both you and the dog! With the right training, however, a dog can be intelligent, responsive, and a wonderful friend.
+Neil Kilgore is a dog owner, dog lover and the Jack (Russell) of all trades at Greenfield Puppies in Lancaster Pa. He regularly blogs about puppies, breeders and dog care advice on the Greenfield Puppies website.