Boxer (or any dog) Training Tips

Training your Dog on the Bike Tow Leash

Remember to always wear a safety helmet.
Always pick up after your dog.

The first steps of training your dog will depend on it's disposition and whether or not he/she has ever been exposed to a bicycle.  My dogs had never seen one up close and they had also never been jogging with me (bad knees), so I started the training from very basics.

  • Put a harness or check choke collar on your dog.  Do not use a chain type choke collar or a pinch collar.  You could end up really hurting your dog.
  • Attach a regular leash to the collar and hold it in your hand while you hold the handle bars of the bike.
  • Ask your dog to heel and walk the bike along a sidewalk, path or street that is not busy. Encourage the dog to walk beside the bike and praise him/her for keeping up with you.
  • If the dog is skittish, for example he/she jumps when you hit a bump, do not give praise or call the dog's name.  Simply correct the jumping or avoidance behavior by making a tsh sound or snapping your fingers. Keep moving slowly along.
  • End this session while the dog is exhibiting good walking behavior and is not biting at the bicycle or pulling away.  When he/she is walking perfectly; stop and praise dog for being an excellent walker.
Don't go too far in this first session.  You can increase your distance on each successive session.  Wait until you think your dog is ready, ie, they are used to the sounds and feel of the bicycle.

  • After a few walking sessions, attach the dog to the bike tow leash and continue with walking.  You may increase you distance a little.
  • When your dog is ready, get on the bike and ask him to heel.
  • Take off slowly and encourage your dog to heel and remember to give lots of praise when they are walking perfectly.  Don't forget to correct (not using the dog's name) when they try to pull, bolt or walk into the bike.  If your dog can't settle into moving very slowly while you ride the bike, go back a step in training until they are more comfortable.
  • Do not go very far on the first riding session.  End on a good note with your dog walking along right beside you and praise him/her for being a great walker. End this session and play.
Now you are ready to start off with your dog a bit faster.
  • Ask your dog to heel and start pedaling.  Don't go really fast yet, but you can pick up the speed a little.  Monitor your dog to make sure he/she is following you and is not in any kind of stress.
  • Do short sessions and go a bit further and a bit faster on each one.  Always monitor your dog.  
Now that you've mastered it; get out there and ride!  It'll be great for you.  It'll be great for your dog.  Always keep water for your dog and scooper bags and a leash with you at all times.  You will want to stop and give your dog a rest once in a while.

Stop That or I'm Getting 
the Fly Swatter!

As much exercise as I give my dogs, (and I don't care WHAT Cesar Millan says!), they still mis-behave at the door and especially when guests come over. I've hired trainers to come over for $80 bucks and hour.   I've tied them to chairs.  I've put them on leashes.  I've gotten out the REALLY GOOD treats. I've bribed friends to come over and stand at the door and ring the bell.    Doesn't matter.  Door bell rings.  Some one knocks.  A person walks by on the street.  Dogs go crazy.  They feed off of each others energy and go REALLY bonkers.  They charge the door and then each other.  It takes at least 10 mins. for me to actually greet my guests when they come over.  All are taught NOT to ring the bell or knock.  Just come in quietly.  Don't give eye contact, or touch or talk to the dogs until they are calm.  I still have trouble.  Although, lately, Nessie the monster is really being good about ignoring the two young ones.  She rarely goes up to the door now.  I mean does it really take 9 years for a Boxer to behave at the front door???????

And then I talked to my good friend and fellow dog lover, Cheryl.  Where's your fly swatter?  she asked.  I told her how nasty they were and I wasn't about to go 'round beating my dogs with a fly swatter.  She made me go get it anyway.  All she did was hold it out as though it was an extension of her arm.  She didn't wave it around.  She didn't even touch the dogs with it.  She used it as part of her arm and pointing the head of it as if it were her finger at the dog if it started to approach.  She didn't have to say one word.
She just pointed at the dogs with the fly swatter.  They ran away from her.  They were soooooo afraid of it!  It was amazing!

So I went a bought a bunch of new, clean ones and have hung them on the front door handle and have some stashed in the umbrella holder.  You have to be in control of your emotions.  Be calm.  Be firm.  The dogs will behave.  So there you go.  Half Cesar Millan, half Cheryl.  Use clean fly swatters......I still think they're nasty.  But I'm all over it!  It works.  .................Until it becomes a game.  So don't use it for everything.

Still Working on How
Not to Lunge at
Other Dogs

So.  After my 'break-down' last week, Laura and Kim (two very good trainers at my dog club) gave me a lot of very good advice.  I mean, I guess is was good advice.  What do I actually know anyway?  I'm at the point to try anything.  The flyswatter works on certain occasions when I need my arm to be longer to block the dog, but it doesn't really help in the "Please don't lunge at every other dog you see" department. 

We are getting better and better about "NO BARK" when in the house.  They like to bark at every person who walks by and heaven forbid if they are walking a dog......  We've been working on the word 'LOOK' for that.  Some people use 'Watch', whatever you are comfortable with, just make sure you are consistent.  When they turn their head to look at me, they get a treat.  EVERY TIME.  Every time right now.  When they begin to do this behavior on their own, they will start getting just praise and a treat once in a while to reinforce.  I've always worked on 'LOOK', but never to this degree.  I am actually boiling pieces of chicken breast to give for 'LOOK' treats.  I give them frozen from my freezer.  This advice came from several people though out my dog training life, but was really reinforced by the book,  Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog .

But, while this will eventually help with lunging at other dogs, it's not helping me right now.  What can I do?  Laura and Kim are pretty smart......or they've just been through it enough times.  Kim went and got a squirt bottle and put water in it.  She dialed the squirt-er to stream and zapped McKenzie right between the eyes when she lunged.  CRAP!  She didn't do that again!  I then used it on Malcolm in Agility class that night.  He only tried it once.  And the great thing about it?  It doesn't hurt and it's refreshing!'s fun for me! 

I've heard about using squirt bottles forever but I didn't know that I wasn't doing it right.  USE THE STREAM....not the SPRAY MIST.  Try to find a squirt bottle that will squirt like it means it.  I used it on Malcolm this morning while riding the bike and the Yorkie remained un-aware that a big slobbery crazy Malcolm wanted to pounce on him.   We just simply rode by......................

The water bottle also became a game.  They began displaying behaviors that they KNEW would get them squirted.  And Malcolm might not be anywhere in the vicinity of the crime and if he heard the water bottle coming out, he was pushing and shoving his way into a front seat so he could get squirted.  Plus, I have expensive wood floors, so I quite using this a long time ago.

I am finding that the more and more we practice and the older we get, Malcolm is lunging much less than he ever used to.  Still, as soon as I let my guard down, he's at it again.  Last night, (August 2012) he laid down next to a Chihuahua/Papillon mix and was fine.  But I didn't ignore him.  I made sure he was not allowed to stare at the other dog.  He still has the tendency and I will always, I'm afraid, have to remain vigilant.  I am noticing a lack of confidence in new situations and I feel that this might have a lot to do with it.  He does not lunge at large dogs, though.  Just itty bitty ones, which makes me think he's a bully.  (Because how could be possibly be scared of a tiny dog?)

How to Curb Barking at the Window

I have cookies in pretty containers (with lids) all over the house.  Especially in the kitchen (close proximity to the front window) and in the Master Bath.  I started using boiled chicken pieces.  At first, you have to use the REALLY GOOD TREATS.  Some people use hot dogs, some use cheese.  Just cut them up into tiny training treat size bites.  I'm back to common hard cookies now, but I started with chicken.   Teach your dog to 'LOOK'.  Every time it turns it's head toward you when you say LOOK, give up the goods.  Let your dog look elsewhere, then give the command and be ready with the treat.  Do this while your on the computer or watching TV or  cleaning house or anything else you do all day.  Randomly say LOOK and give the treat immediately.

Now that you've practiced and mastered that, say LOOK in the same voice you've trained in when your dog is barking.  If he turns his head to you, get the treat out and make him come to you to get it.  After a while, he might start barking just to hear you say LOOK so he can get a treat.  

Next step is to catch him running to the window to bark just for you to say LOOK so he can run back and get a treat.  Fool him.  Don't say LOOK this time.  Say, UH-Uh.  NO BARK.  And immediately follow with GOOD NO BARK.  and go get a treat.  Now you have to be consistent.  You can use LOOK to get their attention and you can use NO BARK to quiet the barking.  It is especially useful if you say NO BARK before the barking starts.  Reward each and every time he gets it right! Then, later, you can wean them off the cookies and reward randomly.  You will know when your dogs "gets it".  That's when to wean them off the cookies.  But be sure to randomly throw out a REALLY GOOD TREAT every once in a while.  That way, your dog never knows what he might be turning down if he fails to follow your command.

Mastering this, just like the lunging thing, will take time and consistency.  But I find that especially when I'm getting dressed in the Master Bath, I can stop the 2 girls from running in to join Malcolm in a game of "Who can Bark the Loudest".  They stop in their tracks and sit for treats.  AND, Malcolm gets tired very quickly of barking to space with no one listening and he comes to the bedroom to find out he's missed out on cookies.  Bummer.