Leaving your Boxer home alone is a necessary part of life and something you need to equip your dog to happily handle. Even if you work from home, it’s a good idea to deliberately go out on a regular basis to give your dog experience spending time home alone.
But don’t just throw your dog in the deep end. Put in place all the conditions that will set her up for success.
If necessary, a Boxer can be left home alone for the average work day without any problems, but it requires careful planning and you need to gradually ease your dog into it.
To leave a Boxer home alone successfully, and without causing your dog distress, follow these 15 simple steps:
1. Start Young
If you are home 24/7 when your Boxer is a puppy and then suddenly go out to work for eight or more hours a day, it will be a tough adjustment. Get short absences into your puppy’s routine from the start so they’re a normal part of her life. By the time she’s an adult, she’ll hardly bat an eyelid when you say, “Gotta go out.”
2. Build Up To It Slowly
Do practice runs, gradually increasing the duration of your absences from 5 minutes at first, then 15 minutes and so on, so your dog has time to get used to the routine, and to understand you’ll always be back.
3. Tire Your Boxer Out Before You Leave
Make sure you have quality playtime and a long walk before you leave for work. If your Boxer is satisfied (and pottied) she’ll be more relaxed and happier to snooze the day away.
4. Give Your Boxer Fun Things To Do While You’re Gone
Your Boxer might even look forward to you leaving if she knows she gets to do something enjoyable when you go out. Stuffed kongs or puzzles or snuffle mats with hidden treats are very engaging and scent work tires a dog out faster than just about anything else.
5. Dog Proof The House
Go over the house, or the rooms your dog will have access to, with a fine tooth comb so your Boxer will be safe no matter what. Inspect things from dog-eye height.
Get anything hazardous out of reach including toxic plants, choking hazards. Anticipate worst case scenarios like counter surfing and don’t leave food out. Secure cupboards and trash cans so they’re unopenable, close toilet seats and shut windows that your dog could bust out of or fall through. To avoid poisoning, make sure medicine cabinets and laundry shelves are not accessible.
6. Ensure Good Ventilation
Shut up spaces can become stuffy pretty fast — or cold in winter. With their brachycephalic heads and short snouts, Boxers are vulnerable to heat stress and without much of a coat, can feel the cold too. Leave the air conditioner on if necessary.
If you are leaving your dog in the backyard, it’s imperative he has access to a spot that remains shaded all day long. It goes without saying but of course make sure your dog always has access to plenty of fresh, pure water.
7. Get A Dog Camera
Cameras are relatively inexpensive and fantastic for your own peace of mind. They’re the only way you’ll know for sure what your dog gets up to when you’re out and whether you have any issues to address. Most cameras connect to wifi and come with apps so you can supervise via your mobile phone. Many also have a speaker that allows you to deliver a well-timed “No” or “Uh uh” to nip misbehavior in the bud.
8. Make Sure Your Dog Has Natural Light
Light affects your Boxer’s mood as much as your own. A spot to lie in the sun will give your Boxer some pleasure. Don’t stick your dog in an unfamiliar, small or dark part of the house. No basements, laundries or windowless bathrooms. Your dog shouldn’t be banished to a corner of the house. You should leave your dog home alone in an area your dog has positive associations with and loves being in, like the lounge room. Just be sure to dog proof it first. Minimalist decor goes a long way when you live with a Boxer, or any dog.
9. Give Your Boxer A Room With A View
Boxers are born observers and can happily pass the time this way if you give them a good vantage point. But not if it triggers barking at everything that goes past.
10. Limit Access
As your dog is learning to be home alone, it can help to use a pen for a puppy or at least close doors or gate off areas so that she’s not roaming the whole empty house but has a safe, confined but not claustrophobic space.
Be sure to put your dog in the designated area more than a few minutes before you walk out the door and at other times too, when you’re home. This way she won’t associate the space with being left alone.
If you don’t want your dog on the couch, put upturned chairs on there so it’s obstructed. If your dog is not allowed on your bed, close the door to the bedroom or otherwise barricade the bed. This won’t be necessary for long, but just while your dog is getting into the habit of being home alone.
11. Come Home For Lunch Breaks
Not always an option but this breaks up the day for your dog if you can take her out for a short walk to release pent-up energy, and a potty break. You could have a family member your dog knows do this if you can’t. Or a trusted dog walker/pet sitter.
12. Leave Out Pee Pads
If your Boxer doesn’t have access to the yard through a dog door, make sure you give her an acceptable place to pee and poop so she’s comfortable, and teach her to use the pee pads long before she’s left home alone.
13. Low Key Exits And Entrances
This is hugely important. Don’t transfer your anxiety to your dog by giving lingering farewells or having big reunions. Be calm, casual, matter of fact. Nothing to see here is the message you want your dog to get. When you come home, mosey around for a while before giving your dog your attention. Get a drink, change clothes perhaps.
Definitely don’t reward your dog for frenetic behavior. It’s easy to inadvertently reinforce your dog’s perception that it’s a big deal when you go out, by rewarding wild behavior upon your return. Everyone likes to be welcomed home, but it’s most helpful for your dog if you make the transition between you being there and you not being there as seamless and uneventful as possible.
14. Soothing Sounds
Leave on some calming music. Through A Dog’s Ear by Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector is a wonderful compilation of classical music composed specifically for dogs and available on Spotify. Even leaving on a TV or radio at low volume can help your Boxer feel less alone — but make sure the programming remains appropriate all day long. No heavy metal or argumentative talk shows to disturb your dog’s vibe.
15. Companion Toys With a Heartbeat
These fluffy toys with a simulated heartbeat could be worth a try if your dog is not responding to the other methods. Be sure your dog is not likely to tear the toy apart because the mechanism could then become a choking hazard.
All these strategies work best in combination. It will be no one thing that makes your Boxer cool with being home alone, but many measures used together will have a powerful cumulative effect.
It won’t take long for your dog to get the drift if you follow the above steps. Teaching your Boxer how to chill at home without you will set you both up for a much easier life together.
A Boxer who copes well when home alone will avoid damage to your house and property and even more importantly, it will prevent injuries to your dog from ingesting a corn cob out of the trash, chewing the tires off your car or disemboweling your sofa.
You also won’t have to worry about noise complaints from neighbors. Boxers are quiet dogs and won’t be making any noise as long as you’ve eased them into the routine.
Bee Stings: Leaving Boxers Alone Outside
Far too many Boxers end up with bee stings each Spring and Summertime.
The breed’s inquisitive nature, playfulness and healthy prey drive means Boxers are quite likely to investigate and even chase and catch flying insects like bees and wasps.
Some owners laugh it off as catching the “sky raisins”.
But bee stings can be very serious, even deadly. Just because a dog has gotten away with no reaction to a sting once or twice, doesn’t mean it will be that lucky every time.
Many vets direct owners to treat bee stings with Benadryl but this antihistamine medicine is best avoided unless it’s an absolute emergency. Using Benadryl on a regular basis is highly inadvisable.
Bites and stings can cause breathing difficulties and develop into anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal condition requiring emergency veterinary intervention. Given how serious the consequences can be, prevention ought to be taken seriously.
You want to do everything you can to a) teach your Boxer to “leave” flying insects, and b) control and monitor your dog’s access to areas where bees might be, especially during the middle of the day and when it’s sunny, prime bee weather.
This may mean your backyard is a safe place for your unsupervised Boxer only in Winter and Fall, but that he’s left inside in the middle of the day during the warmer months.
Bees and wasps can and do fly in windows too, and can be especially attracted by fruit bowls on the bench or dirty dishes in the sink. Another reason to consider closing unscreened windows when your Boxer is home alone.
Consider whether and where you should plant flowers that are likely to attract bees to your Boxer’s environment.
Do Boxer Dogs Need A Companion?
Another Boxer can help your dog be happier when you’re not home, but having two Boxers is a huge responsibility and no guarantee.
Multiple dog households present their own challenges including the possibility that the dogs will fight. This can particularly happen with two dogs of the same sex. Some Boxer rescues avoid placing female Boxers in homes where there is already another female Boxer because they see this problem so often. Even if your dogs get along famously, there may well be a period of adjustment initially or later and you will need to exert strong leadership to establish a harmonious pack order.
Getting a second Boxer to solve a behavioral problem with the first can be a bit like having a baby to save a marriage. It might work, but it might also backfire, creating even more upset for all involved.
See also: Should I Get A Second Boxer?
Boxer Dog Separation Anxiety
Although separation anxiety often involves destructive behaviors, it’s a lot more than being naughty due to boredom.
It’s extreme mental and physical distress, akin to a human panic attack. A dog with separation anxiety is suffering a full blown meltdown. She will exhibit uncontrollable panic or terror and frantic behavior. The condition is considered a form of clinical anxiety.
If your Boxer has separation anxiety it will usually happen every time you leave.
Vets and dog behaviorists don’t know why one dog develops separation anxiety and another doesn’t, but it’s thought to be more nurture than nature. That is, it’s more likely caused by the situation and the environment and how the dog is being managed, than due to something in-built within the dog. This is great news, because it means there is a lot you can do to prevent it — or to reverse it, if it’s already happening.
Signs of separation anxiety in a Boxer dog can include:
- intense barking, whining, howling
- change in mood when your dog realizes you’re preparing to go out
- frenzied greetings
- need to be in same room when you’re home
- literally bouncing off the walls, clawing at gates, making escape attempts
- injuries to dog and damage to house
- destructive chewing (different to bored chewing, much more uncontrolled) particularly of exit points like doors and windows or personal items like clothing, pillows, TV remote control
- accidents inside despite being house trained
- possible eating of own faeces (coprophagia)
- appetite disturbance
- not wanting to exercise or play
- trouble relaxing
- unable to sleep
- hypersalivation / excess drooling
- repetitive behavior like pacing or circling
It’s important not to punish a dog for things she’s done while experiencing separation anxiety. Not only are the behaviors out of her control, punishment will only increase her anxiety.
Separation anxiety does not result from your Boxer loving being around his family or being spoiled when you are home. It is not a sign of devotion to her owners. It’s a disorder that causes a lot of distress to the dog.
It can develop at any age, even without any changes in routine. It can even start in senior Boxers, especially if they’re experiencing vision and hearing loss which can exacerbate feelings of vulnerability.
Integrative veterinarian Dr Karen Becker warns owners that hypothyroidism and rabies vaccinosis can cause behaviors that look similar to separation anxiety so if there’s any doubt, you might want to consider whether other health issues are in play.
There is a lot you can do to set your Boxer up to never have this problem. Help prevent separation anxiety with proper socialization, to create a secure Boxer that’s not overly attached to her human/s. Training during puppyhood should include regular time spent home alone.
If separation anxiety arises, it can be addressed with behavior modification including counter-conditioning and techniques that desensitize the dog and reverse negative associations with things like picking up your keys and other departure cues. You may want to seek some direction from an experienced dog behaviorist.
As with any dog behavioral or health issue, it’s most effective to take a holistic approach: a Boxer with a full, active life will be a more well-adjusted, self-assured dog. For instance, it may seem unrelated to behavior, but incorporating raw meaty bones into your dog’s diet delivers psychological as well as nutritional benefits. Carnivores have been scientifically shown to derive relaxation from chewing on raw meaty bones. A generally contented Boxer is far likelier to be calm and comfortable in all situations, including when she’s left home alone.
Read more about the benefits of raw meaty bones for Boxers here.
How Not To Use Crates With Boxer Dogs
It’s not a fair thing to leave a Boxer, or any dog, alone or in a confined space for lengthy periods of time.
Dogs are den animals and crate training has a rightful place. Susan Garrett’s Crate Games is an example of crates done right. But a crate is not there just to stop your dog destroying your house when you’re out. A crate is not where a Boxer should spend anywhere close to most of her day.
According to the rescue organization Save The Boxers, crates are also not appropriate for dogs with separation anxiety.
“Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety will not solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he may injure himself in an attempt to escape from the crate.”
Confining a dog can actually escalate anxiety. Fixing separation anxiety requires addressing the causes of the dog’s distress and breaking the circuit.
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Boxers And House Fires
There are stickers that you can put on your door or window in case of fire, to alert firefighters that there is a dog inside that needs rescuing.
Something like this will do the trick:
Final Thoughts On Leaving Boxers Home Alone
In any household, even one where someone is present most of the time, a Boxer needs to be able to happily spend time home alone.
All dogs prefer to be with their people as much as possible. If you’re a workaholic or a social butterfly who’s never home then you probably don’t have a dog-friendly lifestyle in the first place.
But, with a little thought and planning, being alone on her home turf is one of the easier life skills you can teach your Boxer.