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Hyper

How to Calm Down a Hyper Boxer

Overview

There are many dog breeds that are described as active and the Boxer is one of them. With a strong, powerful body and plenty of energy, this breed can be quite active at times. 

The issue at hand however, is what to do if a Boxer is hyperactive and won't calm down. Let's dive into this topic and discuss all relevant issues. 

Normal Hyper Levels of Boxer Puppies and Dogs

Puppies do 3 things exceedingly well: Sleep, eat, and play. When a young puppy is not running around, he is recovering from acting hyper and napping so that he can get up and do it again. 
Boxer dog playing
Jax, 1 year old
Photo courtesy of Manny &Yami Araguez
The issue that is most commonly seen is that most owners fully expect new puppies to be hyper, but find that as the Boxer reaches the one year mark or a year and a half and is almost close to adult size, he still acts that way. 

And this is because despite his size, the 12 month or 18 months old is still indeed a pup.

He has the mentality of a pup and his actions reflect that. Boxers are officially adults at the 2 year mark; and this does not mean that on his/her 2nd birthday the dog will suddenly calm down. So you have a rather large dog of 45 to 55 pounds (20.4 to 24.94 kg) running around and as playful as a 6 month old.

The size of Boxers can fool owners. Since Boxers almost (but not quite) reach their adult weight by 18 months but have puppy-like tendencies for some time beyond that, owners can sometimes expect too much from a puppy that is beginning to take on the appearance of an adult. 

Stages of activity levels to expect with Boxers:

8 weeks to 4 months old: This is the 'new' puppy stage. Boxer puppies can be very hyper but owners often do not need to help them calm down because they'll plop down when they tire out, which is quite often. At this age, a Boxer can be running around one moment and asleep with his head in the food dish the next. This is a time of exploring and curiosity… the energy level is like a roller-coaster.

4 months to 9 months: Things are a bit more organized now. You'll want to have a solid schedule in place so that a hyper Boxer puppy has more structure to his day. A Boxer will still get a lot of joy from playing and often craves tons of attention from his owners… this is a good thing… that interaction is a big part of proper bonding and instilling proper hierarchy that will lead to a well-behaved dog. 

9 months to 1.5 years: Boxers have a good amount of energy and are usually sleeping really good at night. Daytime naps are much less at this point, so having a Boxer awake most of the day can lend to feeling as if the dog is always on the go… or at least is restless if you are not available to get him outside and on the go!  

1.5 year to 2 years: This is the most typical age when owners wonder if their Boxer's hyper levels are normal and are looking for ways to calm a Boxer down. At just about 80% of his/her adult size, the dog is large but still acting like a puppy in many ways. By this time, all commands should have been taught and the dog should have a good schedule of releasing his energy in burst of exercise… and if this has not been done or if the Boxer is home alone much of the day and has no release, they'll be some behavioral consequences of that. 

2 years: With the right set up, appropriate exercise and mental stimulation, a Boxer is usually much calmer than his younger counterpart. Generally Boxer dogs begin to calm down by the age of 2 years old, though it is a gradual process, as you'll note from above. The maturing pup learned some structure…his growing size allowed him to exercise more… learning commands helped him reign in some of his young adult or 'teenage' rebelliousness… and if owners have instilled the ever so important Alpha/Beta hierarchy, this helps to calm down a dog as well. 

Issues can arise if these elements are not in place, however it is never too late to take charge and we will go over some steps owners can take to reel in a hyper Boxer dog. 

2 to 8 years old: This is the adult stage of a Boxer. Most will indeed act like adults, but this does not mean that you will have a perfectly behaved dog that can handle any situation with grace and refinement. Boxers are as intelligent as a human toddler, hyper aware of their environment and subject to acting hyper or in most cases very restless if healthy methods of releasing energy are not available or encouraged.

The adult may have trouble with separation anxiety or may become agitated or overly clingy if he is not offered both physical and mental workouts. 

8 years and older: Making a transition into the senior years, a Boxer dog will typically be very passive and calm. He relaxes quite a bit but can still be engaged to take walks, explore and even take on new challenges. Problems of restlessness can arise if the dog has health issues that interfere with his sleeping or if some disrupts his environment. 

How to Deal with a Hyper Boxer and Calm Him Down

The best method to calm a puppy or dog down is to have a routine that preemptively combats hyperactivity before it reaches an uncontrollable level.

It is much easier to avoid this state of frenzied behavior than it is to reverse it.

Do keep in mind that very young puppies (up to about 4 months old) cannot really be reined in; they are all over the map and will have short energy bursts followed by deep sleep; it's a temporary stage that will gradually even out.
Here are some ways to encourage a calm demeanor:

1) Have the proper confinement method. 

Until a Boxer is 100% housebroken, he should not have full access to the entire house when owners cannot keep an eye on him. 

The confinement method that you use to keep him in one spot will have a big impact on his behavior.

If the area is too small, a Boxer can develop overwhelming feelings of being pent up and this can make him very hyper and agitated. It's very stressful for a dog of any age to be confined to a small space. This breed also can have some claustrophobic issues more than others, so this only adds to the issue. When made to stay in a tiny area with not enough room to move around, there are often issues of developing restlessness and anxiety. It can be difficult to calm a Boxer down after he has been let out. 
hyper Boxer dog
Lolah, 2 years old
Photo courtesy of Lina & Larry Lepore
On the flip side of the coin, if the area is too large, this just gives the Boxer too much freedom to get into things he shouldn't and he can leave quite a mess in his wake of activity.

If a dog is stressed that he is alone or even if he is just bored, quite a bit of damage can occur as he roams the house, looking for an outlet. 

Puppies do best with a sectioned off area of a room; the kitchen or living room is often best as they should be close to their humans and not feel as if they are too isolated. Another option for Boxer puppies is an appropriately sized indoor canine playpen. 

Older Boxer dogs that are housebroken often do best with one room, not having full access to the house. There is just too much that can go wrong in regard to a Boxer chewing on non-food objects (you may want to read about the Boxer that swallowed a roll of tape and had a string of operations to save his life, AKA the $4500 Boxer dog). 

And for those with separation anxiety, being alone in a large empty house if often more stressful than being alone in just one room that has all the needed supplies to keep him safe, happy, fed and occupied. 
2) Have a set routine for walks and exercise. 

One of the biggest mistakes that owners make is taking a Boxer out once he shows signs of needing to get outside. 

If you're sitting on the couch, binge watching Games of Thrones and after 3 shows you realize that your Boxer is acting hyper (he really doesn't have much interest in whether or not Daenerys will ever actually get Drogon under control) and then you say, "Oh, my Boxer could probably use a walk", it's often too late. 

At that point, the walk will only help a Boxer release the frustration that built up as opposed to the walk being an outlet for a normal level of activity requirements. He will be a bit calmer, but not as calm as he would be had you taken him out in advance of the building agitation. 

So, the best thing that you can do is to set up a schedule of when you'll engage with your Boxer dog and really try to not miss any sessions or delay them. If there are others in the house, this can be split up between those who are going to be involved with caring for the puppy or dog. 

There are 3 activities that you'll want to do on a regular basis:

Walks - The importance of these are often understated. It may seem as if your Boxer is just ambling along, perhaps even just going along for your sake but this is not true at all. 

The Boxer is a strong breed that was built for action; he needs to work his muscles and experience the liberty of movement. Super young pups should have all puppy shots before being taken out. For most Boxers, regardless of age, two walks per day are best. The daily amount should 45 minutes for pup and 1 hour for those 1 year and older. 

These can be broken up in any way that suits your own schedule and time availability. For example, with a goal of 60 minutes, you can do 30/30, 40/20 or even 20/20/20 if that's what works for you. 

Cardio - Just a 15 minute bout of high intensity action such as Frisbee or fetch once per day can make a huge difference in a Boxer's demeanor, keeping much more calm and happy when he is back in the house. 

Some owners mistake a Boxer's indifference at seeing a Frisbee as not wanting to engage. However, it is often the level of enthusiasm that an owner displays that will directly impact a Boxer's desire to run.

Most love to run and stretching and working the muscles in this way is a great method to keep a Boxer dog in good shape. That hyper and restless activity that you witness when a Boxer is in the house can be channeled into a short session of action that leaves the dog satisfied and both physically and mentally ABLE to be calm. 

Commands - We going to dive into this a bit more ahead, however taking 15 to 20 minutes a day to work on commands has a triple benefit: 

1. You work toward having a well-trained dog which in and of itself is a huge plus.

2. It helps a Boxer learn self-control. Focusing on learning to sit, come or go down on command requires focus… and a big part of this is the action = reward sequence. When a dog discovers the element of focus and purposely learning, he is then able to self-regulate and this itself can help the dog calm himself down. 

3. It helps to establish hierarchy, with you as the clear leader. For any dog to behave well, this is a must. 

3) Provide mental stimulation. 

While it is true that Boxers will be much calmer if they have a physical outlet, stimulating the mind plays a huge role as well. Very detailed studies have proven that canines in general have the emotional capacity of 3 year old humans. 

This is quite telling. Do you have kids? Or have ever spent even an hour with a toddler? 

They are super hyper, highly inquisitive and importantly are never happy just 'being' for long periods of time. Dogs are the same. Boxers can become hyper if they have nothing to focus on. Just left to 'be', they can get bored and have trouble knowing what to do, so they run around… they quite literally can end up bouncing off the walls in an overly hyper state with no real tools to calm themselves down.

Now, if you take that same hyper Boxer dog and he is taken out for walks twice per day, plays one-on-one with his owner once a day AND is given indoor task that require him to use his canine senses, he'll be a much happier and calmer dog. 

The mention of canine senses is rather vital here…. Dogs have urges to use their sense of smell… to sniff… to explore with their noses…. It's the way it has been for thousands of years and it's a canine urge that is not going to go away no matter how pampered or spoiled a life a dog lives. 

So dogs have this innate craving to sniff after scents that builds up each day if not allowed to really use this, it can cause a dog to become frustrated.

So, an indoor game that involves a Boxer using his sense of smell along with a task that requires focus is often an integral part of preventing hyper behavior and giving a dog a feeling of accomplishment that can work with the other elements to keep him calm.  

You might be thinking that you'll have to invest in some sort of intricate canine version of Sudoku. Not at all. 

This is as easy as hiding some treats in the house and encouraging your Boxer dog to find them. As with cardio mentioned earlier, the energy level and enthusiasm of the owner plays a huge part in how eager a Boxer will be to follow through. 

Speak with in an animated voice and encourage your dog to seek out the hidden treats. Start with easy to find hiding places and then work up to much more difficult sessions. Once a dog learns that it's time to play the game, he often will not give up and will search until he finds his treasure. 

Advanced sessions can include having the reward be deep in a cardboard box under layers of old towels and safe odds-and-ends and be sure that the treat itself has a strong scent; a good choice is a strip of bacon (grease blotted out) because most dogs won't bother to move much for a food that they will receive at any rate. 

Be sure to use a command word such as 'Find' or 'Go Get' and a word to end the session such as 'Good, Find' or 'Good, Get' to establish when this begins and when this ends. You don't have to do this every day; 2 or 3 days a week is usually enough to make a Boxer dog happy and work in conjunction with the other methods to keep hyper behavior at bay and encourage a more calming atmosphere when you just want your dog to settle down. 
4) Have the right collection of toys for your Boxer. 

Are you guilty of walking out of a dollar store with an armful of cheap dog toys? If so, you may very well then be an owner who wonders why the heck your Boxer isn't just happy having all those toys and would rather run, jump and spin around the house like a hyper nutcase. 

When a dog is bored he will do one of three things: Sulk and act depressed, bark or otherwise have disturbing behavior or express agitation.

When you invest a few more bucks to obtain sturdy, quality toys that encourage independent play, this can make a huge difference in a dog's general state of mind and his ability to keep himself occupied. 

Think of someone giving you a paper and pencil compared to paper and a 500 piece Crayon box. Give your Boxer rawhide alternatives that allow him to happily gnaw away or treat-release toys that motivate him to work to gain his reward. 

5) Teach commands. 

There are two huge benefits of teaching a Boxer all basic commands: he will respect you as the true leader and you will have control over his behavior. 

While a hyper puppy definitely still needs to be walked, engaged and given tasks to stay busy…and a puppy cannot be expected to remain calm all day… when you take the assertive position to give a 'Sit' command that is listened to without hesitation, this can really come in handy if your Boxer is acting hyper around company or when out in public in a store or other area where you really need him to act calm. 

It's never too early or too late to start working on this. 

Training for the basics of Sit, Come, Stay, Down, Get (or Fetch) and Give can start when a Boxer puppy is 8 weeks old and can be taught to older dogs as well. In addition to this, teaching a Boxer to Heel is always advantageous and not only will keep him calm when out on a walk around the neighborhood but will also keep him appropriately by your side in high energy situations where a dog can become hyper just by picking up the vibe of an event. 
6) Expand Your Boxer's World.
The size of a dog's world is exactly the size that an owner allows it to be. Dogs that are not used to seeing cars and people walking about will often bark like mad when they do actually see them. Dogs that are not used to being out in public will act inappropriately because they have not been exposed enough to know how to stay calm. 

Dogs that rarely see a visitor to the house will often jump and act overly excited on those few occasions that someone new enters into their territory.  

Boxers should be gradually exposed to the many situations, places, people and other pets that exist in the world. 

If you stayed inside your home… only venturing into your yard and nowhere else for years and were suddenly plopped down in to Times Square, you wouldn't be so calm either; that's how dogs feel if they are isolated and not given the opportunity to slowly learn about the world and all that is in it.

Go to parks, bring your Boxer along to run errands, bring him hiking, change up the walking routes, take the time to say hello when you pass by another owner with his dog, have him outside with you while you wash the car, bring him to the beach… unless there are big signs saying 'no dogs allowed' bring him along and let him experience the sights and sounds of the world. 
Boxer active outside
Sasha, 5 and 1/2 months old
Photo courtesy of Anna & Tony Collier

Health Conditions that Can Cause a Boxer to Be Hyper

There are some health conditions that can cause a dog to behavior hyper, however it should be noted that this is very rare.  

Hyperkinesis - Being clinically hyperactive is often misdiagnosed. Most dogs simply need the physical and mental releases as we discussed above. However, for those with clinical cases of hyperkinesis, there are also somatic symptoms including increased heart rate, rapid breathing and/or poor muscle tone. 

These highly sensitive dogs can be set off into a frenzy by everyday simple noises such as microwave beeping or normal household events such as someone zipping down the staircase.

For these rare cases, thorough testing must be performed, which should include a 2 to 3 day stay at an veterinary hospital where vitals are monitored, both heart and respiratory rates, when both at rest and when stimuli is introduced. If this is diagnosed, stimulants similar to those that are given to humans with ADHD can be helpful as are vet supervised changes to the diet and possible supplements of L-theanine, GABA and valerian root.

Senior Issues - In some cases, a senior dog will be unable to stay calm and this is often related to either cognitive decline, health issues that are causing discomfort or a combination of the two. Older dogs that have trouble seeing and/or hearing may be restless and on edge. Physical discomfort often associated with arthritis can cause a dog to have trouble resting or sleeping.  

Food Allergies - While we have not seen any studies showing specifics, veterinary medicine claims that canines may have food allergies that can lead to abnormal behavior including acting hyper and having an inability to calm down. With all the high levels of chemicals found in many manufactured foods, it's easy to believe this could be the case. 

When a dog is constantly ingesting artificial coloring, artificial flavoring and all kinds of chemical preservatives, this is not good for physical health and it's not a huge leap from there to a dog's mental health as well. If this is suspected, a change to home cooked food or a switch to a quality commercial brand without these elements should be considered. 

Summary

Boxers are animated, able to express emotion and are great companions. This is not a lazy breed or one that is content to sit alone just 'being'. 

Expect your Boxer puppy to be hyper and for a Boxer of any age, follow the guidelines for providing proper care which will help your dog channel his energy in a health way. With our dogs, we often get what we give. The attention and time that you take to interact with your Boxer will pay off, giving you a happy and healthy dog.
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