It is a common tendency for puppies to bite a little.
While it’s normal for a puppy to use her mouth to explore the world, biting is not a behavior you should tolerate in your Boxer, or allow to develop into a habit.
There are things you can do to encourage your little gremlin to use her teeth on appropriate objects instead of your fingers.
What To Do When Your Boxer Puppy Bites
Whenever your Boxer puppy engages in a behavior you want to discourage, like biting, it’s a chance to teach her what you’d like her to do instead.
With a very young puppy or an accidental bite, it may be enough to simply redirect: withdraw the fingers and replace with an acceptable chew object like a squeaky toy.
Put Your Puppy On Leash Indoors
If your puppy is doing more than the occasional bite of human hands, it’s time to keep her on leash indoors, to manage the behavior.
A flat collar with a leash gives you more control, and provides you a clear means of communicating with your pup.
Whenever your Boxer puppy bites your hand (or someone else’s):
- Remove the hand
- Give a little pop on the leash (nothing rough, just enough to startle her to stop what she’s doing)
- Use pressure on the leash in and upward and backward direction to prevent your puppy biting again
The moment your puppy calms down, petting can resume.
Cycle back between these two sets of actions and consequences — good behavior eliciting petting vs. biting causing withdrawal of interaction — and your pup will soon work out what behavior gets her a better result.
What Not To Do When Your Boxer Puppy Bites
It’s often thought that the right thing to do when a puppy bites is to react with a high pitched yelp or an “Ouch!”.
The theory is this is what a littermate would do, and it’ll let your puppy know the bite hurt.
Unfortunately, this kind of noise often only serves to excite a dog’s prey drive, exacerbating the biting.
When countering undesirable behaviors that come from nervous, misdirected energy, it’s important to give off the same energy you want to see in your dog i.e. calm and low key is the name of the game.
Speak quietly and slowly in a deeper tone and your pup is likely to chill out sooner than if you’re yelling and shrieking.
You don’t want to be saying “No!” or scolding a tiny puppy for biting.
It will just confuse her.
Remember, she hasn’t done anything naughty. She is just acting on healthy instinct.
“No!” has a place but this is not it.
Reserve this command for situations that require a stronger negative response.
It might come into play if the biting behavior persists or escalates. But at the moment it’s just a natural phase in puppy development rather than a deliberate bad behavior.
Never hit or physically punish your pup in any way. No rolled up newspapers, no taps on the nose.
All this will do is introduce fear into a relationship that should be about trust. To be on her best behavior, your pup needs to know she is always safe.
Always use positive reinforcement when training — give praise and rewards as incentives rather than dole out punishment as a deterrent.
Particularly with Boxers, harsh treatment will not work. It will cause a Boxer to shut down.
Boxers respond to consistency. Be firm but fair. Keep things upbeat if you want to hold a Boxer’s attention.
No Crate As Time Out
It can be tempting to confine your puppy to her crate as punishment if she is biting.
Though many owners might resort to using crates this way, this is not how crate training is meant to work.
The crate should be a refuge and a haven for your pup, a den. It should not be somewhere she is sent when she does something wrong.
You want all the associations your pup has with her crate to be positive ones, so she likes going there.
Susan Garrett’s Crate Games is a great resource for learning more about how to properly crate train your Boxer.
Why Does A Boxer Puppy Bite?
It’s important to understand why a puppy bites.
A puppy typically has all her baby or “deciduous” teeth by six weeks of age.
So, your Boxer shouldn’t be actively teething when she comes home at eight or more weeks.
Most likely she is just exploring the world in the way she is designed to do.
Mouthing her environment also helps a puppy develop her immune system, much the same way it does for human babies.
A dog can’t pick things up with her paws, so her mouth is her primary means of doing this.
Watch puppies interacting. They use their mouths an awful lot.
Chances are when your pup mouths your hand, chews and occasionally bites, she is just playing.
If a pup has been removed from her litter earlier than eight weeks old (ideally she stays with mom until 10 weeks), she might have trouble recognizing boundaries.
This is because she’s missed out on a key period of early learning and socialization that normally occurs with her mother and littermates.
This training includes bite inhibition.
As a result, biting behaviors may be more pronounced in a pup that’s been sold at six weeks, as sometimes unfortunately happens.
In this case your role becomes even more important in teaching your pup what’s acceptable.
If you have an older Boxer puppy that’s biting a lot, it’s probably because she’s teething.
Between three and six months of age a dog’s baby teeth are falling out and the permanent teeth erupting.
During the teething period your pup will flat out need to chew on things to relieve the discomfort.
Make sure you are providing safe things to chew on — ideally lots of raw meaty bones.
What To Give A Boxer Puppy That’s Biting A Lot
Providing more interesting things to bite and chew is a great strategy for managing the biting phase of puppyhood.
Raw Meaty Bones
A lamb neck is a great recreational bone for a young Boxer to really get stuck into and delivers a heap of health benefits as well as the psychological satisfaction dogs get from bones.
Bully sticks (bull penis) may be acceptable. Make sure the ones you buy are dehydrated and not cooked and that no chemicals or preservatives are added during processing.
Chews Not To Give Your Boxer
Never give a Boxer raw hide or pig’s ears. These are full of chemicals and can cause intestinal blockages because they are highly indigestible.
Antlers and goat horns are so hard that they run the risk of cracking teeth. They’re also less appealing to most dogs.
Avoid artificial chew toys and plastic bones.
See also: Can Boxers Eat Bones?
How To Handle Biting In An Adult Boxer
Biting is more problematic if it’s occurring in an adult Boxer.
If your dog is a rescue, this may reflect some interruption of early socialization.
As a starting point, apply the same techniques of reacting, redirecting and replacing as used in a puppy.
If this doesn’t work, add a “No!” and remove yourself from the dog whenever she bites.
Stamping out established behaviors in an adult dog is more difficult than preventing the behaviors taking hold in the first place.
Be gentle but persistent and you will get there.
For trickier cases, you may need to reevaluate the overall way the dog is being managed in the household.
Has she been allowed to rule the roost? Is she running riot more generally? Does she get on furniture and barge through doors or does she politely wait until invited.
Changes to the house rules might be necessary in order to reset the dynamics and reinforce your Boxer’s place in the pecking order.
With clear boundaries, consistently applied by all family members, problem behaviors will usually settle.
Mental And Physical Exercise
A tired Boxer is a well-behaved Boxer.
In many cases, it may be as simple as your Boxer is not getting enough mental and physical stimulation.
Boxers are high energy dogs and need plenty of opportunities to run around and leap about. Throw a ball or frisbee for your dog. Go to the beach and let him dig to China.
For mental activity, practice some obedience, teach your Boxer tricks, do some nose work games, use snuffle mats or hide treats in puzzle toys.
Tasks that require your Boxer to think and problem solve will tire her out faster than pure physical exertion alone.
This doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Five or ten minutes here and there will make a huge difference.
Afterwards, your Boxer will be happy to curl up for a snooze.
Biting will be the furthest thing from her mind.
See also: 5 Tricks To Teach Your Boxer
What To Do If Your Boxer Puppy Is Growling And Snapping
Growling and snapping is part of normal boisterous play for a Boxer puppy.
First time Boxer owners can find the roughhousing surprisingly fierce.
It’s important to distinguish between normal but full-on play and actual aggression. The latter will almost never be the case.
However, if you have children in the household and are uncomfortable with the style of play, don’t let it reach that point.
Apply the same principles as for stopping biting.
In other words, stop the play before it gets totally wild and remove yourself (or the kids) from the dog.
You can redirect pup’s attention to something else. Replace human hands with a tug toy, for instance.
Tugging is excellent for releasing a dog’s aggro in a way that actually builds engagement and strengthens the bond between dog and owner.
Plus, tugging uses just about every muscle in a dog’s body.
To protect your dog’s neck make sure you are pulling in a horizontal plane at your dog’s height, rather than yanking her neck upwards. Let her make any jerking movements.
Is Your Boxer Puppy “Out Of Control”?
There’s a tendency amongst some Boxer owners to regard the breed as wild or out of control.
These owners appear to almost delight in the misbehavior of their dogs or wear it as a badge of honor.
They recount the inedible objects their Boxers have eaten — rocks, socks, TV remotes — with seemingly no awareness of the potential for bowel obstruction and surgery.
They describe how their Boxer’s whole face swelled up and their body was covered in welts after eating a bee ..and then say their dog was back chasing bees the next day because “sky raisins are tasty”.
As if the owner has no say in any of this.
This kind of Boxer owner will tell other owners that all manner of destructive behavior is par for the course.
Don’t buy it.
Boxers are lively, active dogs. Yes, they get the zoomies. You will have to work to contain their exuberance so they can walk on a leash without pulling, not jump on strangers and come when called in all situations.
Like any dog, they can exhibit problem behaviors if allowed to become lonely or bored.
But things like ripping up couches, chewing off door frames, destroying the back yard and aggressive biting are absolutely not the norm.
Boxers are a well behaved and very trainable breed that wants to please.
If a Boxer is out of control, it’s more likely a reflection of a chaotic home environment or one that is failing to meet some of her basic needs.
Related Article: 13 Reasons Your Boxer is Hyper
Misbehavior, including biting, is not something you ought just put up with until your pup “grows out of it”.
Nor is it cause to despair and think about rehoming your Boxer.
Misbehavior is a cry for help.
And it’s your job to provide it.
What To Do If Your Boxer Becomes Suddenly Aggressive
If an older Boxer becomes suddenly aggressive, several different things could be going on.
Your dog could be in pain or suffering from an underlying health problem.
Boxers are wonderful with children. But not all dogs have had the chance to get used to the ways of small humans.
Is your dog unfamiliar with kids but suddenly being forced to contend with them?
Are children behaving inappropriately, pulling ears or tails or pestering your older dog?
Neutering or removing a dog’s hormone-producing sex organs amounts to taking out a quarter of a dog’s endocrine system.
It is known to increase the incidence of behavior problems including noise phobias, fear of storms and aggression.
So, some of this may be operating at a physiological level somewhat beyond your dog’s control.
This doesn’t mean nothing can be done about it, but it does mean you need to give your dog some understanding.
Behavior modification techniques will be paramount.
A change in living arrangements or daily routine can be stressful for a dog.
Any one of these things can have a Boxer feeling out of sorts, insecure or otherwise threatened:
- moving house
- going on holiday
- a new baby brought home
- a grandparent moved in
- another pet added to the family
- the death of a companion dog
Avoid medicating your dog as a substitute for identifying and dealing with the source of the problem.
Behavior management, proper training and patience is always the answer.
If your dog is vying for dominance, it’s time to go back to square one.
Somewhere along the way your dog has detected a leadership vacuum and she has felt the need to fill it.
In order to be a good follower dog, your Boxer needs to clearly understand YOU are the top dog.
Furthermore, she needs to know that every human in the family is above her in the “pack” hierarchy — including children and babies.
This can be reinforced by doing things like: feeding her last, having children put down the food bowl, and not allowing her to sleep in human beds.
Sleeping together is what littermates do. In dog speak, it conveys equality. Your Boxer needs to know her place and that place is not as a leader or an equal.
This is not a put down. A secure Boxer who knows where she fits can relax, knowing it is not up to her to call the shots.
Another thing you can do to reestablish order is to play the “Nothing for free” game.
Have your Boxer ask for permission or offer certain behaviors in order to earn every privilege. It might be sitting and shaking hands for dinner or giving you eye contact and waiting for an “okay” before she walks through the front door.
These small tweaks can add up to a big difference in your dog’s behavior.
A passing phase of gnawing on human hands or getting a bit “mouthy” is part of puppyhood.
During teething, the urge to bite and chew is so strong as to be a biological need — one that is perfectly met by feeding raw meaty bones, as nature intended.
However, putting teeth to human flesh is something that should be discouraged.
And if your Boxer’s behavior is part of a broader problem, it’s time to look at the bigger picture of how you’re managing your dog in the home.
In all likelihood, a little more exercise and regular mental stimulation will sort it right out.