Call us: 555-555-5555

Wont Listen

When a Boxer Dog Won't Listen

Stubborn and Strong Willed Boxers


It can be very frustrating and distracting to the entire household if a Boxer puppy or older adult dog is not listening to his owner. Many owners assume that their dog will naturally and instinctively listen to them; however, this is not always so.

And when a Boxer dog stubbornly disregards you, this can affect everything from being able to properly walk your dog, having him eat where you wish, being able to groom him, knowing he will come when you call and even such things as him moving out of the way when you want to sit on the sofa. 
With the Boxer being a good sized dog (typically 55 to 70 lbs.) as an adult, resolving the issue of disobedience is crucial. In many cases, a Boxer that does not listen believes that he is in charge and it is an issue that will not fix itself. 

This section will cover:
  • Alphas VS Beta and how this pertains to listening
  • Age exceptions
  • Signs that your Boxer thinks he is the leader (dominant dog)
  • Exact steps to take, in order for your Boxer dog to start listening to you
  • Maintaining authority
Boxer dog and other dog paying attention
Titus (10 mths) with big brother Odin (4 years), photo courtesy of Ash & Ronnie

Alphas VS Beta and How This Pertains to Listening

To a dog, his family is his pack and the house in which everyone lives is their den. Every pack has a leader. This is the Alpha. It can be no other way. 

In households with more than 1 adult human, there can be shared leaders. Those that fall under the Alpha are the Betas. When a Boxer dog understands proper hierarchy, he is a Beta. And as such, due to strong canine instinct, that Boxer will always listen to his human.

However, there are many things that can go wrong. Proper hierarchy, with the dog listening to his human is not a given. You may assume that you are the leader and deserve this level of respect and obedience; however, even small mistakes can inadvertently ‘teach’ your Boxer that either he himself is the leader or that he has a chance of taking on that role (if he perceives the leadership as being weak).

In either of these 2 cases, the Boxer will not listen to his owners. He may appear to listen some of the time; however, do not let this food you… in these cases, it is often a matter of the Boxer taking action when he feels like it, which happens to correspond to the human’s command coincidentally. 

Notes Regarding Age

Before you take on the training needed so that your stubborn Boxer will start listening to you, it is important to take note of some age related scenarios. 
Puppies – Teaching hierarchy takes time and you cannot expect a new puppy to understand his place during his first couple of months in the house. Most puppies have limited focus, bouncing from one thing to another. Curiosity and exploration is high. Memory is limited. 
Many Boxer puppies will appear to listen from Day 1, however in most cases this is a matter of the pup responding to your vocalizations in a search for comfort. Therefore, your commands of ‘Come’ and so forth are being listened to, but not in the way that you’ll want as that Boxer matures.

It will be important to follow hierarchy guidelines so that they are understood during the puppy stage, leading to having an adult Boxer that listens well. Any bad habits established at a young age can become very ingrained.

It is much easier to teach correct behavior and action to begin with, as opposed to correcting it later. That said, even if your Boxer hasn’t been listening to you for quite a while, it is fixable with determined training. 

Seniors – As a Boxer dog ages, it is common for him to experience decreased vision and hearing. Particularly with decreased hearing, this can be misinterpreted as the dog developing behavior of not listening any longer.

Some signs of hearing loss include not responding to sudden noises (door slamming, hand clapping, etc.), not waking up to noises as he once did and being unresponsive to toys that emit noises. 

Boxers, starting at the age of 8 or 9 years old, should be receiving twice-per-year geriatric veterinarian health checks and part of this will be both vision and hearing tests. 
Do be sure to have such things ruled out before taking any steps to train your Boxer to listen to you. 

Signs that a Boxer is Dominant Vs Lack of Command Comprehension

When a dog does not listen to his owners, it comes down to 1 of 2 elements: 

1. Lack of Command Comprehension. A Boxer may very well see you as his leader, however may not listen because he does not understand what is requested of him. 

This would then be a matter of using a more effective training technique for teaching commands and heeling. 

It will be important to obtain a solid, reputable training guide in order to prep yourself as a trainer and create a conducive learning environment. If proper hierarchy is there, you only need to follow effective training techniques to have success.  

2. A Boxer is Dominant. As we touched on, if a Boxer does not see his human as his leader, he has no reason to listen. 

He will do as he pleases and while he appreciates his connection to his humans, he sees them as equals and not as leaders. 
Boxer puppy smiling
Echo, at 3 months old
Photo courtesy of Keith Farrelly
Commands mean nothing and are ignored. He may appear to listen, however he is essentially listening only when he wishes, and particularly only when he perceives that doing so is in his best interest. 

Signs of a dominant dog include:
  • When you open the door, he rushes past you to run outside before you exit
  • Running away and not stopping when you call out his name
  • Jumping up on you even if you order him to get down
  • Taking over furniture and not moving out of the way when you want to sit down
  • When being let off leash outside, running away quickly without listening to a verbal cue from you that he is allowed to explore
  • When on leash for his daily walk, the Boxer walks ahead of you, pulling on the leash and essentially leading the way
  • Jumping on or pestering guests, not listening to you to leave them alone
  • Insistence on sleeping in your bed
  • Only listening to command some of the time or not at all

4 Steps to Take for Your Boxer Dog to Listen to You

This all boils down to needing to teach a Boxer why he should listen to you. 

You know that you are your Boxer’s owner, but he does not necessarily see it that way. He has no concept that you pay the rent, buy him his food and that you spend time reading articles here in an effort to take better care of him. 

When a dog doesn’t listen, he is metaphorically thinking, “Why should I follow commands?”. He is not purposefully being defiant; he simply does not know why such a thing is even expected of him. 

So, what will automatically make a Boxer dog listen? As touched on above, canine instinct dictates that obedience is given to whomever he sees as his leader. Strong leaders are simply not ignored. Such a thing cannot happen in the canine world. Listening to a leader is an automatic response. And doing so actually creates a more content dog.

When a dog takes on the Alpha role or if he sees his human as a weak leader, this puts a lot of stress and responsibility on that dog. And when that changes, when his human makes it clear that he/she is the true leader, the dog can relax. He takes his place as Beta, listens well and all is right with the world. 
15 year old Boxer dog
Caesar, 3 months old, keyaking in Gibraltar
Photo courtesy of Neville Wilson
Let’s first take note of 2 things:

1. It is important to note that ensuring your proper place as leader can and should be done in a loving way. You will be a caring, kind and fair leader. Nothing about this is harsh and expecting your Boxer to listen to you is not only appropriate, it is the path to a balanced, happy household. 

2. The rules of getting a Boxer puppy or dog to listen are not that difficult; the element that many owners do have is consistency. Appearing to be wavering will be taken as a sign of weakness and self-doubt. This only works if everyone in the household is on board and if these rules are followed all of the time. 

1) Meals and Snacks. 

Canines know that food equals survival. When humans talk about basic survival being food, clothing, shelter and fire, with dogs it is just food. That’s it. 

If your Boxer is not listening to you, chances are that he has zero idea that it is you who provides his food. He had no idea that you’ve researched the top quality dog food brands, that a good portion of your paycheck goes into obtaining it and that you pay careful attention to what you give him as treats. 

How to fix this: You’ll want to make sure that your Boxer fully understands that he only eats because of you and he only eats when you say that he can. 

While other guidelines are helpful in getting a dog to listen and show obedience, without this one, it will be a failure. Food, beyond doubt, is the #1 element. 
1. It is recommended that all humans in the household take turns in feeding the Boxer his meals and snacks. If only one person takes charge of this, the Boxer may see just that person as his leader and will listen to him, but be disobedient to others. 
2. Follow the rules for any food that is given; both meals and snacks.

3. The Boxer must obey the ‘Sit’ command and hold the position for a count of at least 5 and up to 10 before any food is given. Vary the time that you have him hold. 

4. For at least 1 meal of the day, make sure that your Boxer sees that you eat first. A dog only needs to see his human begin eating (do not make him watch you eat the entire meal). You will want to prepare both your meal and his. You then place his bowl where he cannot reach it. 

Sit at the table. When your Boxer is looking at you, take several bites. Ignore any barking, jumping, begging or whining. After calmly taking a few forkfuls, rise and give the ‘Sit’ command, not placing the bowl down until it is obeyed and keeping the ‘Sit’ duration varied between 5 and 10 seconds. 

2) Entering and Exiting. 

The correlation we touched on earlier in regard to a Boxer rushing out of the house first and also being a dog that does not listen is crucial in understanding how to fix the obedience issue. Through the eyes of a canine, the house is his den. It is his safe place, one to relax with his pack and defend from outsiders. 

And there is one major rule in regard to the den: The leader of it has the privilege to enter it and exit it first. His Betas then follow him.  

So, if your Boxer pushes past you to leave the house, it’s no surprise that he also does not properly listen to you.
By allowing him to do this, you are essentially saying, “You go first, my dear Leader, I shall follow as your subordinate”.  

How to fix this: Take charge of this by being the one to enter and exit first. It is recommended to:

1. Within a few feet of the door, command your Boxer to 'Sit'.

2. While he is holding, attach his leash.

3. Reaffirm the 'Sit' command by repeating it as you open the door. If your Boxer makes a move to push by you, give a firm ‘No’. Close the door to block him from exiting and again order him to sit. 

4. Ideally, you will want to be able to fully exit and then give the ‘Okay’ release word for your Boxer to follow. 

5. Repeat this before entering back inside, with your Boxer on the doorstep and not entering in until he listens to your ‘Sit’ command and you enter first. 

6. For puppies that are being housebroken, certainly do not allow an accident to occur just to follow this training. But at all other times that you take your Boxer outside, do follow this. As your puppy matures and he/she has more control over bladder and bowel muscles, your Boxer will then be able to listen to a ‘Sit’ and follow you out. 
Boxer dog in a box
Belle, at 4 months old
Photo courtesy of Mireya
3) Handling Gridlock. 

While it may seem very innocent to walk around your Boxer if he is in the hallway or other area that you need to pass by, allowing a dog to remain in place and stepping over or around him sends the wrong signal. This is also very relevant for Boxer dogs that are sprawled out over furniture and don’t want to move out of the way for you to sit as well. 

It should be the dog that moves for the owner and not the other way around. And the Boxer should, on first command, listen to the order to move off of the sofa or at the very least, make room for his owner. 

If you allow a Boxer to secure dominance over any area of the house, this is essentially telling a dog that he is in a power position, and you – the subordinate- will accommodate him by troubling yourself to move around him or sit yourself on a difference piece of furniture. 

And as you can imagine, passing this sort of message to a dog will then lead to all sorts of hierarchy issues, including the one of being ignored and not being listened to. 

How to fix this: Again, this should all be done with love. There is no need to bark an order of ‘Get out of the way!”; instead you can speak in a happy, amused yet firm tone, giving an order for the Boxer to move. 

Do not take no for an answer. If need be, attach his leash and physically lead him away. 

In time, with the other rules followed, once your Boxer sees that you are his leader, he will automatically make room for you as you approach, which is a clear sign of respect. 
4) Walking. 

So many people joke about a dog walking his owner when they see a dog running ahead on lead. And many owners assume that it is normal for a dog to walk ahead, sniffing and pulling on the leash. What does it really hurt? And after all, isn’t it most important that the Boxer is getting his daily exercise

However, this is a huge missed opportunity to teach your Boxer that you deserve respect. And it’s a clear sign that you’re taking the role of a subordinate. 

It is normal for a dog to have enthusiasm for his walk and it’s completely expected that a Boxer will want sniff and explore. However, you – as a leader that should be listened to and respected – should be in charge when walking. And this, of course, means that a Boxer should listen to your command of ‘Heel’ , staying to your left side, matching your speed and listening to your cues to turn. 
Many owners skip over any sort of heeling training, assuming that it is too difficult and too involved. However, with the right guidelines, it can be taught within a month or so and is a life-long lesson that you’ll really come to appreciate. 

In The GIANT Book of Boxer Dog Care we have a large chapter on training, both for commands and heeling. 

Additional Tips for a Stubborn Boxer that Does Not Listen

When followed with confidence and without fail, the above 4 steps will set proper hierarchy back to where it should be.

This said, some Boxers will not go along with the change without at least giving it a bit of a fight. There may be a power struggle for several weeks until the dog finally gives in, accepts his Beta role and begins to listen.  

If there is indeed a lot of resistance, there are some other things to look at:

1. Spay/Neuter. Spaying and neutering has many benefits including decreased risks for some cancers and of course prevention of an unplanned tie. You might be surprised just how often this happens. And in some cases it can help correct overly dominant and/or aggressive behavior that may be caused, in part, to hormones. While there is some debate over this in regard to female dogs, most experts agree that it is helpful with males. 

2. Sleeping arrangements. Many owners allow their dogs to sleep in their bed with them and other than the Boxer taking over 3/4 of the mattress, leaving drool on the pillows and causing an owner to awaken in the middle of the night due to the dog snoring, there is nothing fundamentally ‘wrong’ with this, IF the Boxer fully understands his place.  
Boxer dog at computer
Lolah, at 3 years old
Photo courtesy of Lina & Larry Lepore
However, sleeping in an owner’s bed can 1) prevent a Boxer puppy from understanding his human’s leadership and 2) interfere to any training done to make a Boxer learn to listen.

For these reasons, we highly suggest never starting this to begin with. A Boxer should have his own sleeping area. This should be a high quality canine bed for proper support and be placed in a common area such as the living room, so that the Boxer is not isolated but has his own area to retreat to when feeling tired.
3. Superior positioning. In instances where a Boxer is out of control, not listening at all and trying to make his claim to the house, owners may need to reaffirm the Alpha/Beta hierarchy by physically being above the dog at all times. For this, you will not sit on the floor with your Boxer. If you are sitting on a chair or sofa, your Boxer will remain on the floor (and by your feet is just fine). And the dog should not be allowed to climb onto anyone’s bed, even if it is just to rest. 

Maintaining Authority

Once you have things under control and your Boxer is starting to listen to you, it is not the time to let up on how you handle these elements. 

Canines are always aware of the pecking order. As canines, they are constantly on alert to notice weakening spots in the system. 

If you slack back and no longer expect a ‘Sit’ before giving food or you think that you’re being nice by letting your Boxer shoot out the door for a walk, things can quickly revert back to where your Boxer is not listening.   

Veterinarians, animal behavioral experts and professional trainers all agree on one thing: Dogs that are taught to be obedient tend to be happier and more relaxed. And that ensuring your Boxer always listens to you not only makes for a peaceful household, but can also keep him safe. 
Things to do now... 
Become a Member (if you are not already a Member) -Receive reminders when we add new pages of information, add the new Boxer Dog Blog - Topic of the Month and you can suggest something for us to write about. 

* If you are already a Member and want to suggest a topic for us to blog about, just reply to any newsletter. 
Check out our book - Simply the most comprehensive, helpful Boxer dog book that exists.
Share by: