Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
Boxers are an adorable dog breed, excellent as pets and guards. However, many people perceive them as aggressive.
But is it true that they are aggressive without reason, or is this a misconception?
Boxers are predisposed to display aggressive behavior. However, they’re far less aggressive if adopted as puppies from the right breeder and appropriately trained. On the other hand, lack of exercise, socialization, training, traumatic experiences, and health challenges can make them aggressive.
In this article, we will separate fact from fiction, and you’ll find a few more reasons to love this dog breed.
You’ll learn the signs that they are about to become aggressive and what to do when they display this unwanted behavior.
So, keep reading to learn more.
Are They Aggressive to Humans?
Boxers can be aggressive to humans they are not used to seeing. Generally, well-trained boxers aren’t aggressive to people. They have a friendly temperament and can become best friends with humans.
Boxers aren’t aggressive to family members they are acquainted with.
Like other dog breeds, they will assume a defensive position and become protective when they see their parents with strangers.
These breeds of dogs aren’t aggressive to babies within the household they grew up in as puppies.
However, their training and breeding can influence aggressive behavior towards babies.
They won’t see babies as a threat if you train them to socialize with just anyone and recognize friendly behaviors.
Consequently, it’s best to adopt these pets as puppies and train them to cohabit with babies.
Boxers are great with toddlers and bond better with them if they grow up in the same household.
However, you should monitor the interaction between boxers and toddlers.
The child is still too young to read the cues from the dog thoroughly, and the dog may still be learning to interact with the child.
Older kids and boxers get along very well. Naturally, these older kids are more developed and can be trusted to relate well with dogs.
The jovial temperament of boxers makes them great companions for older kids, especially when raised as puppies in the same household.
It’s rare to find boxers displaying aggressiveness toward adult family members.
They are familiar with these adults in the home. Familiarity over time tends to reduce any tensions.
On the contrary, if the adults in the family are unfriendly toward dogs, you can expect your boxer to be hostile toward them.
These breeds will defend themselves if they feel threatened rather than cower.
Boxers react negatively and become protective when strangers appear at your front door.
It’s an instinctive behavior that changes with exposure to more friendly interactions.
Lack of exposure as puppies makes them suspicious of everyone besides their parents.
In Your Home
Boxers will perceive strangers at your home as a threat until you diffuse the situation by petting or playing with them to show that you’re fine with the stranger.
They will try to protect you if they feel you are in danger. They display their loyalty through aggression.
This aggression can either be mild or intense and is a factor dependent on their training and level of exposure to people.
They can either bark and retreat or attack the stranger in rare cases. If you ever experience the latter, you need to hire a canine trainer.
Guests will receive a similar treatment to strangers showing up in the house.
However, boxers trained to be social when they were puppies will be friendly to anyone, including guests.
Nonetheless, nature and nurturing play vital roles in the behaviors of dogs, and this affects how they treat humans.
When nurtured by trainers and confident pet parents, they can adapt to new traits that are friendly to even guests.
Boxers don’t take kindly to intruders. They often display severe hostility in this situation.
This aggression could escalate to attacks if you trained the dog to be a guard rather than a pet.
In this case, they are only friendly to family members and will defend their territory whenever a strange face shows up.
On the contrary, boxers bred and trained as pets will only bark and rarely attack.
Training can make them friendly towards family and friends and hostile to intruders or burglars.
Outside Your Home
Boxers are not suited for the outdoors. They can exhibit territorial dominance, extreme aggression, disobedience, and wild behaviors that are difficult to contain by pet parents.
The best place to keep boxers is within the home.
If there’s any need for them to be outside, you must put them on a leash.
Most boxers require additional training to behave well outdoors.
Are They Aggressive to Other Animals?
Many boxers exert dominance and aggression over other animals. In extreme cases, this aggressive behavior will have them killing, fighting, or hurting others. Breeding, training and lack of socialization as puppies influence the level of aggression shown toward other animals.
Other Animals in the Household
Boxers are aggressive to other animals, including other dogs within the house.
You can correct this trait through training from an early age so they can learn to cohabit with other pets.
When it comes to cats, birds, rodents, and reptiles, boxers have strong instincts to hunt them, owing to their genetic makeup.
Germans bred them for hunting, and this trait will linger until they have undergone intensive training.
Animals They Encounter Outside
Outdoors, this breed may show hostility toward other animals, including other dogs.
They may also show friendliness depending on their mood and other factors like health issues, lack of exercise, social anxiety, and training.
Boxers that are trained to be friendly or social with other animals, and people will not show aggression outside unless they perceive a situation as threatening.
If your pet is always aggressive, a visit to a veterinary doctor and then a pet trainer can be the start of a rehabilitation process.
Are Female or Male Boxers More Aggressive?
Male boxers are generally more outgoing and aggressive than their female counterparts. This outgoing nature can make them exert dominance over their territory and become confrontational.
Conversely, females are most aggressive when nursing their puppies and when they spot other females within their territory.
They are more introverted and prefer the indoors.
However, both genders are playful, fierce, and affectionate.
As a pet parent, frequently observing your boxer for excessive displays of aggression is a good idea since underlying health challenges, lack of care, exercise, and other factors can influence such behavior.
Always keep your vet doctor on speed dial or a trainer even if your pet is healthy.
What Can Cause Aggressive Behavior?
Some factors that can cause aggressive behavior in boxers include breeding history, tendency to exert dominance over their territory, socialization, and training.
Germans originally bred boxers to be aggressive and strong. It’s in their DNA to hunt, guard, and fight.
However, times have changed, and modern breeds are no longer vicious.
They are now domesticated and serve as companions to humans while also playing the role of guards.
When sourcing boxers, go for breeds that just got out of their litter and are between eight to ten weeks old.
It’s easier to train such young dogs to be more friendly, and it’s easier to repress most of their aggressive genes.
When picking a puppy, ensure you go for one who isn’t the most submissive or dominant in the litter.
The most submissive will be too weak, and the most dominant will be challenging to tame.
Having boxers that fall right in the middle of the dominance scale makes training easier.
It’s easier to train such dogs to adapt to any behavior you prefer as a pet parent with consistent playtime, care, and training.
Aggression can be a product of social anxiety and fear. You can avoid this by bringing in the dog as a puppy and exposing them to different social situations.
Adult boxers with anxiety issues will require more time to unlearn fear-inspired aggression, but it’s possible.
If they display hostility toward other dogs, that’s their pack instinct coming to the fore.
You can tackle this with training and by taking them to doggy daycare and off-leash dog parks where they can learn to be in packs and interact freely with others through the help of trainers.
Dogs are intelligent by nature. They can learn and unlearn many concepts, but you must be conscious of your chosen teaching approach.
Even if you’re not, they’ll still learn from you in several ways.
However, that’s leaving their potential behavior to chance.
The proper training can influence positive behaviors in them and curtail aggression.
Conversely, a lack of adequate and responsible training can encourage aggressive behaviors.
Is Your Boxer Being Aggressive or Protective?
Sometimes, pet parents can’t tell when their pet is being aggressive or protective.
Boxers are aggressive if their prey instinct has been activated, they haven’t been socialized or appropriately trained, and they lash out at other animals or people. They are protective if they think someone is trying to hurt their parents or puppies or invade their territory.
Your boxer is being protective when:
- They react to and focus on new changes like sounds and sights in the environment.
- Bark at perceived threats.
- Stand in between you and the perceived threat.
- Maintain their usual composure when the threat turns out to be harmless.
On the contrary, they are aggressive when they:
- Bark continuously even after a perceived threat is averted.
- Growl and display their teeth aggressively.
- Assume a rigid and battle-ready posture.
- Display readiness to advance toward the threat.
Learn To Recognize the Signs That Your Dog Is About To Get Aggressive
There are warning signs that boxers display before they go aggressive.
Identifying these signs can help prevent them from going wild on strangers, other animals, and family members.
The signs include the following:
- Raised furs
- Yawning or lip licking
- Avoiding eye contact
- Tail tucking and rapid wagging of the tail
When you notice these signs, try to calm them down, relocate, or find a way to distract them.
Treats can come in handy as a distraction.
What To Do During an Aggressive Episode
When boxers become aggressive, they are out of control, and you can’t tame them.
However, you can find out why they are being aggressive.
Is it the introduction of a threat to the environment? Or is it social anxiety when in contact with other animals and people outdoors?
These two are common causes of aggression, and you can either take them out of the triggering environment or eliminate the perceived threat.
In social anxiety situations, the boxer is nervous.
Moving away from the environment is best, but never punish a boxer for displaying aggression.
You will only worsen the problem. There are other ways to discipline boxers.
When To Get Professional Help?
If boxers are out of control, are aggressive in everyday situations, were never known to be aggressive, or are overly aggressive without reason, it’s time to seek professional help. Health challenges, lack of exercise, stress, and many other factors may be behind their strange behaviors.
A dog trainer or veterinarian is in the best position to help you discover the underlying problems and offer solutions.
The rehabilitation process begins with the therapist evaluating the boxer physically.
As the pet parent, you will answer a series of questions to help the therapist assess the psychological challenges of the pet as well.
This will lead to a therapy and rehabilitation process tailored to the specific needs of the boxer.
The therapy sessions will feature a collection of behavioral adjustment programs.
Boxers are a popular dog breed believed to have originated in Germany.
They have it all – aggression, energy, loyalty, and cheerfulness, hence their popularity.
Originally bred to hunt, guard, and fight, they have aggression hard-wired into their DNA.
However, if they are adopted from a reputable breeder as puppies and appropriately trained, they are notably less aggressive.
Adult boxers can also undergo intensive training under professional canine trainers to become better-behaved and friendlier.
- The Smart Canine: Are Boxers Good With Children? – A Guide to Raising Boxers and Kids
- Street Directory: Aggression in Boxer Dogs
- The Spruce Pets: Why Your Dog Is Aggressive and How to Stop It
- Boxer Dog Diaries: 12 Causes Of Aggression In Boxers (And What To Do About It)
- Not a Bully: How to discipline a boxer
- Boxer Dog Diaries: Can A Boxer Dog Live Outside?
- The Spruce Pets: Social Anxiety in Dogs
- The Spruce Pets: Doggie Daycare Information
- German Culture: German Dog Breeds: Boxer
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society