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The Boxer is a breed that is well known for loyalty and steadfast determination when it comes to family. Boisterous and full of energy, as a puppy the Boxer is a fantastic family dog and can be trained to be the perfect companion and pet. As a result, the Boxer is often raised to act as a guard dog for the family home, barking warnings when strangers approach the door, keeping an eye out for trespassers, and maintaining an intimidating presence for any who may get the idea of entering your home without permission.
Training a dog to act as an effective guard is nothing to be taken lightly, especially due to there being a distinct difference between cautious and aggressive behavior. Boxers are medium to large sized dogs with the capacity to do some damage if handled inappropriately. For your Boxer puppy to become a guard dog and still maintain good behavior around the family, you will need a discerning eye for the behavior that you want to reinforce.
Keep in mind, there is a difference between a guard dog and a dog that is trained for protection. A guard dog simply keeps watch and alerts for potential threats using barking or howling. There is no physical aggression or attacking involved.
Training your Boxer puppy to be a guard dog can start as early as eight weeks, but you should be prepared to continue this training through the next few months and even sometimes into early adulthood, if necessary. It will take some practice and observation to capture the right behaviors to reinforce while also maintaining your puppy’s other needs.
To begin, determine if your Boxer puppy is a puppy that will actually bark. If he doesn’t, the chances of him being an effective guard dog are very slim. Guarding means being able to alert in some way, and a bark is generally the easiest form of that. If he is timid or doesn’t seem to make a lot of noise, you may want to reconsider this choice of work for him.
If he is prone to barking, then get some treats together to mark the behavior at the right times. Remember to never punish your puppy for performing the wrong behaviors. You want to reward the right ones, instead. If you choose to use a clicker for this training, then be sure to get one or two of them to have in your home.
The Clicker Method
Adjust to the clicker
Get a clicker that is loud enough for your puppy to hear. Start clicking and treating to associate the sound with a reward. Do this a few times throughout the day.
Learn the ‘speak’ command
Find a time when your puppy is likely to bark. Use the word ‘speak’ to give the behavior a name as he does it, click the clicker to mark it, and reward. Repeat several times until he masters the command.
Learn the ‘quiet’ command
Now catch the moment after his bark where he is quiet. Mark this behavior with a click and the word ‘quiet’. Reward for maintaining quiet. Alternate between ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’ commands until he understands the difference between them. This may take a few days to perfect.
Let him look out the window
Keep him in an area where he can see what’s happening outside. Boxers are generally indoor dogs, but they enjoy looking out. Your puppy should be in a position to know what’s happening around your home in order to properly alert.
'Speak’ when strangers approach
If you see someone nearing your home that you are unfamiliar with, ask your puppy to ‘speak’. Try to make this association to the person outside. Click and reward when he performs.
‘Quiet’ when you say so
When you’ve been alerted to the presence of the stranger, ask your puppy to be quiet. Click and reward when he obeys.
Repeat for different strangers
Any time you see someone unfamiliar near your home, practice the 'speak' exercise. Be sure to do it where your puppy can see the stranger and do not ask him to speak otherwise. Build the association that a stranger’s presence means he should bark. Repeat for several weeks while clicking and rewarding for any progress he makes towards barking on his own at the strangers.
The Instinct Method
Observe your puppy’s behavior
Some Boxer puppies are naturally cautious to strangers. Keep an eye on how your puppy behaves when there is someone approaching your home.
Always respond to a bark
Any time your puppy barks, rush to her side. This will help train her to know that you will come running when she barks.
Reward for barking at the right things
Offer treats or toys when your puppy barks at strangers near your home.
Work on obedience
At other times, be sure to teach your puppy the normal obedience tools she will need to behave in the home.
Continue to reward the right behavior
Relying on your puppy’s instinct means keeping a sharp eye out for the behavior you want to continue. Keep your her where you can watch and observe how she will behave naturally and be quick to reward what you’d like to continue.
The Helper Method
Find a helper
Enlist the help of someone unfamiliar to your puppy. They will act as the ‘stranger’ in the scenarios you set up to help your puppy practice.
Determine a routine
Figure out how often this helper can come visit. Make sure that it’s regular to provide your puppy plenty of opportunities to practice.
Let your puppy bark
Once your helper comes near your home, allow your puppy to bark at them. Reward the barking with treats to reinforce the behavior.
Teach him when to stop
Use a command like ‘calm’ or ‘okay’ to teach your puppy when to be quiet or settle down. Draw his focus away from the stranger and reward when he is calm.
Turn routine into random
Once your puppy can bark at your helper routinely, switch it up. Have them come at random times during the day or even on random days. Reward your puppy when he can still bark at them, regardless of when they come over.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021