Advice on bad manners with toys

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Super Boxer
Hi, I have a 3 dog family. Our youngest is a 16 week Boxer girl, Luna, who tends to "bully" the other dogs to get a toy from them, that she has decided she wants. Never mind that there are an abundance of toys, and most in duplicate !. She is only 16 weeks old, and the other dogs are all adults, yet she usually manages to get her way by stepping on the toy, sitting on the toy, pushing her body between the other dog and the toy and generally being a pain, chewing on their collars. They give warning growls, which she seems impervious to, but they are too tolerant to a fault ..... I really wish they would give her a snarl and a nip. Whenever I see this rude pushy behavior, I immediately correct her and then get her interested in another game and toy to leave the other dog in peace.
However sometimes the other dogs "give-up ", I am sure they think the toy is not worth the bother of putting up with the harassment, and let her take the toy from them. I don't want her to think that she is the boss of the toys, so if this happens I give the command "Leave it", which she knows well, and she will always drop the toy in question, move back slightly and then sit down obediently ... and I take the toy.

I am confused about what I should be doing then ? Do I give the toy back to the dog from whom she "stole" it ..... or do I remove it completely .... or do I make her earn the toy by going into a "down" and made to wait a short while.

Thanks for any advice.


Super Boxer
In my experience, boxers especially are body contact type dogs. Your little puppy may just be trying to initiate play. If she gives the toy to you so easily at the "leave it" command then I don't think she's being possessive. Of course I can't know for sure.

She's probably just trying to figure out how to initiate play with your other dogs.

Not sure how to fix it. I'd just make sure she will allow you to control the toy. Whether you give it back to her, or to the other dog (then give her a treat), or put it away entirely.

The growling - is that just the standard boxer vocalizations? Or is it a true growl? Hard to say from here, but a 16wk old pup is unlikely to be displaying any true aggression. ;)

I would definitely interrupt and redirect (as apposed to correct - they have to know what they are doing wrong before a correction will actually do any good rather than harm - and she's still just a baby) any time she chews on the collars. That's just dangerous behavior.

As long as the other dogs aren't bothered by her, I wouldn't be too worried about it - as long as you can interrupt immediately at any time. You can practice impulse control games that may help with the toy issue because it will teach her to not react without thinking first, "Am I supposed to do this" every time she wants something.

Congratulations on your new puppy. :D


Super Boxer
The other dogs are the key here. It's your job to correct her, not the other dogs! Be clear on that point! Two dogs are a pair,three dogs are a pack! That means something in dogie world! I found this out the hard way with a 7 month old puppy GSD, 18 months after having "no problems" not a single growl from none of my three! Then 18 months later the GSD launched a full blown attack on Gunther!!???

My take is if the "other" dogs are growling "they' have an issue with her behavior! If it were 'me'...,. it would be "down' and stay! Take the toy,play time is over! They'll figure out quickly who is in charge! :)

They'll figure out pretty quickly who's in charge no giving the toy to the "loser" they screw up everybody loses! If you don't get this right the problems will come 18 months are so down the road most likely and you'll be wondering...what went wrong? :)

And since you have a girl... on one occasion unrelated to dog # three (GSD) Struddell my baby girl nutted up on Gunther! Never saw anything like it. It was over baby kittens Stru though Gunther was to excited and decided to "handle things herself, can you say "fast". You have a girl and they are the "bitches" of Boxer world! :) No you don't want the dogs to handle it ...that's your job! :)


Super Boxer
Thank you Gunther and Kisaq

Thank you Kisaq and Gunther.

I have always had more than two dogs, since 1989 ! - 3 at the moment, but it has been up to four in the past ... so I do know what you mean about having to be seen to be in charge right from the start. In all my years of pack ownership/ leadership, I have never had as much as a cross word between my dogs .... and it would upset me so much if any trouble were to start.

It's been over 5 years since my last puppy, and so I am a bit rusty .. and also this is my first boxer and I am quickly realising that she is very different from my lab and my jack russell, who were a breeze to handle in comparison. So I am learning every day, and apprecaite advice from the more experienced boxer owners on this site

It made me smile when Kisaq said about the growls and rumbles. I nearly had a heart attack the first time I heard such noises coming from a tiny puppy when playing :)) She does not direct growls at the other dogs however, I must add, only ever at toys.

Kisaq, its not initiating play .... they all do play together, and the only problem there is that the puppy has a hard time accepting when they have had enough and want to rest- at which point I remove her and get her interested in something else. Luna is definately trying to claim the toy through body posturing.

I do step in and stop any bad behavior ... or divert it before it starts if I can see the signals - and my little girl does listen to me, and responds well. She is not a naughty puppy, she obviously has all the usual puppy high jinx, but I have been training her since she was 8 weeks old ( age appropriately ) and she is obedient. I also practice NILF with all the dogs as a matter of course.

BUT Where I think I have been going wrong, is that rather than calling quits immediately, I have been waiting to see if a) the other dogs let her know that they have had enough and B ) if she responds to the other dogs signals first, before I step in.
I follow what you both say about it being "my job" to put a stop to it, and that makes COMPLETE sense ..... I guess I was confused by the concept that older dogs are supposed to teach puppies good social skills and what is tolerable behaviour.

When you say that I should " interrupt and redirect, rather than correct" ..... I understand the concept of interrupting and redirecting .... but I also say " Leave it" or " Enough", which she knows are the stop what you are doing commands. This is what I mean when I say that I give a correction ..... Should I not be doing this ?

The other dogs are well balanced, laid back guys who are so gentle and tolerant with her ... although I realise that no dog is completely predictable. I am always around to watch them when they are together.

Gunther ... I will be very honest. Since reading so many horror stories about Boxer bitches, I have literally been having sleepless nights. Everyone seems to have a story about aggression.

Please, if anyone, who has a boxer bitch in a multi-dog household, who has a positive story to tell, post it for me. I really need to hear some good things too :-(


Boxer Insane
They give warning growls, which she seems impervious to, but they are too tolerant to a fault ..... I really wish they would give her a snarl and a nip. Whenever I see this rude pushy behavior, I immediately correct her and then get her interested in another game and toy to leave the other dog in peace.

They are so tolerant because Luna still has a "puppy license". The adults accept that she's going to do rude/socially unacceptable puppy stuff and they let some of it slide. Not all adults are like this so count yourself lucky. Don't take advantage of it though. Continue to interrupt the behavior if she doesn't heed their low-level warnings and get her interested in something else. As Luna gets older the adults will likely become less tolerant and you will probably see them giving in to her less. They might escalate beyond simple growling to a higher level correction like lip lifts, air snapping, muzzle grab, etc. A few instances of the adults having to put her in her place are likely inevitable--we can't be there to intervene and redirect every time, but you can teach the dogs to defer to each other and decrease the likelihood that things will have to escalate.

Regarding the other part of what you are doing. I wouldn't give her the toy afterward even if you are making her do obedience behaviors to "earn" it. The rude behavior will get rewarded--albeit indirectly, but still rewarded. Just tuck that toy away, shoo her back and briefly engage the dog she "stole" from with another toy. After all, they didn't do anything wrong and don't deserve their fun taken away. Additionally, if they are also leaving the toy when you cue "leave it" then they are never getting rewarded for that behavior and you might be giving them even more reason to not like it when Luna comes near them when they have a toy. You can casually return the coveted toy to general population later.

If you only ever rely on using your "leave it" cue to interrupt what the dog thinks as good fun then you run the risk of her response to that cue deteriorating. Remember, "leave it" shouldn't be a correction, it's a cue to do a behavior. To prevent her from learning to ignore it, try not to use it to repair an interaction that's already gone bad. Instead, try also to step in a bit earlier in the sequence so no bad interaction happens in the first place. If one of the adults is laying there chewing a toy and Luna starts to approach them, rather than wait and play the repair game, be preemptive. Cue your "leave it" as she's making the choice to approach and call her over and engage her in play with you instead. What you want her to learn is that if a dog has a toy but isn't asking her to play then it's far more rewarding to not bother them.

However sometimes the other dogs "give-up ", I am sure they think the toy is not worth the bother of putting up with the harassment, and let her take the toy from them.

You are absolutely correct here. Just like the dog determines what is a reward and what is a punishment, they also determine what qualifies as a resource. You might be assigning more importance to the toys than the dogs are. That's why trying to get in the dogs' heads and attempting to figure out how they determine who is "alpha" and who isn't can be problematic. You might be trying to support some hierarchy with regards to possession of toys that doesn't actually exist or is more fluid than fixed.

Train all your dogs to take their toys to their beds (or some other designated place) when they have them. Teach the other dogs not to approach a dog on its bed with a toy. Reward dogs that don't bother other dogs when they have toys and intervene and redirect dogs that pester other dogs with toys.

In my house each dog has its place to go when I hand out food chewies. As I give out the chewies I send them to their places. If they try to take their chewy away from that place I send them back until they are done. If any dog attempts to approach another dog in their place I shoo them away. Likewise, if I see a dog settling down with a toy I direct them to a bed. If any other dog approaches them I shoo them away. I used to have to do it often but now my dogs are really good about going to their beds with toys all by themselves. They are also really good about not approaching beds occupied by dogs with toys. If I find stray toys laying around I deposit them on various beds that way when a dog encounters a toy it is more likely to hunker down with it on the bed.

Basically what I'm doing is teaching my dogs an additional signal to communicate to the other dogs that they want to keep the toy for themselves and I'm also teaching them to recognize and respect that signal in other dogs. Because they have this additional low-level signal as their first line of defense, the few occasions when there is a grumble or growl it really means something to the dogs and they heed it.

If you consistently enforce and reinforce that kind of communication then there will be less need for your dogs to communicate in other more aggressive ways.
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Super Boxer
Huge thanks to Two Dogs

Two dogs ... thank you so much, You explained things so well, easy for me grasp where I am going wrong, and why its important to do things the right way. I have printed off your entire post so that I can read and re-read .... and put it into action. Much appreciated.


Super Boxer
Wow really impressive input folks! Jinnytee, four dogs at one time that is a packaroo! But yeah the 'other dogs growling is the key. Boxers are noisy growly rambunctious dogs espically as puppies, so you can't really tell alot by her growling by and large at this point.

I was very late in getting Stru fixed and that might have contributed to the two problems I had with her? I think she was three when I got her fixed.

I remember the first time was over the kittens she didn't like Gunthers excitement about the kittens being born. Can't remeber what the other time was about? But what I do remmber was a very diffrent kind of growl and then almost instantly, she was on Gunther and I have never seen a dog move so fast (Struddell)!

I had to pull her off (Gunther he never fought back he let me deal with her!) and put her in a head lock till she calmed down! So two times in 10 years and I think she was between two and four years old?

It was just the two dogs at the time and no issues at all for years, I just think the late spaying was to blame?

Anyway you got all that sooo, the only other question would be...any other female dogs in the pack?
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Boxer Booster
"In my house each dog has its place to go when I hand out food chewies. As I give out the chewies I send them to their places."

I think this is great advice! In fact I have also done this with my recent re-crate training (my girl has really bad separation anxiety!) she can only have the special bone in her crate with door open, if she comes out I take it and tell her to go to her 'room' when she does, she gets it back. Now she will stay in there to have her bone.

Also, you mentioned having girl boxer and any advice, well mine has been spayed, so not sure if 'bitch' is spayed or unspayed or if that is a general term?

I am on my second female boxer (not at same time), both exhibited similar behavior with regards to the toys/bones like you mentioned.

For example:

My sister has a golden retriever mix Hailey, a female rescue with severe resource guarding that we have both worked on with her. My current boxer Proxie used to do a bratty temper tantrum if Hailey had something she wanted. She would do the 'bratty bark' its a short high pitch bark, and would try to take things from Hailey, and carry on, etc. In this situation, Hailey would get the deep growl 'don't come over I will get you' and it could have led to bad situation on multiple occasions if we weren't knowledgeable and keeping keen eye.

My sister and I will give them each something, if Proxie started the barking or started going near Hailey, 'No, all done!' all bones/toys are gone. Same if Hailey started the growl at Proxie with a toy. We would wait 15 minutes, give them both something again, then take away if either tried to escalate again.

Now, I realize this is different than your situation, since your older boys aren't doing the possessive behavior. But, I think removing the object, and then maybe a time out for the boxer baby girl (another room behind baby gate?) and then give the boys another toy and initiate fun (not their fault!) like others said is good option.

Also, Hailey and Proxie both are reasonably good now with the bones/toys, maybe a small issue if it has been awhile since they seen each other. But, mostly, they now play tug of war and tag with the toys for hours with no incidents! Or they sit near each other chewing their bones without incident.

I have not had aggression issues in female boxers (only have had 2, so not best gage) but what I have noticed, more what I would liken to ... bratty, jealous, stubborn, 'its not fair, i want THAT toy' kind of behavior.

Maybe when she tries to get toys from the boys, you could try 'no, leave it' and if she doesn't then she gets a time out? Then like others said, you won't lose the effectiveness of the drop it command?



Boxer Booster
Also, I think once either female boxer I owned figured out 'the rules' they learned and obeyed very quickly.

Only difference was what kind of training they responded well to!! That might be one of the hardest things, no guidance is 100%, my past boxer Dora was extremely stubborn and needed firm discipline, like the one word deep voice kind of commands 'NO!' 'SIT!' etc. Then she listened and all was good.

Proxie is much much more sensitive!! If you do a deep 'NO' she gets upset and will then try to lower her head, sit in your lap and be like 'I'm so sorry please never say that again to me!' so for her I have found a firm but gentle 'no' works, but even better is to praise the good behavior! She LIVES for the praise! 'good girl!!!!' will make her so happy and wiggle butt all around the house! Just doing a 'bad' behavior and not getting the praise makes her not want to do the bad behavior.

Dora, when you praised her, was like 'yeah yeah yeah whatever'. But with the firm 'NO' she was like, gotcha loud and clear, will stop doing that! She liked being pet and snuggled but just didn't respond as much to positive praise (although she DID respond well to treats!)

Anyways, just thought I should mention to try different approaches and see if she responds better to different tones, praise vs just telling her what is wrong, treats versus words, etc.



Super Boxer
update- great progress

Dora ... thank you so much for adding your insight and advice .... but I am VERY happy to report that it is no longer needed :))

Simply by my pre-empting and intervening before any of Luna's rude behaviour could start, WOW - honestly, within a day I saw a big improvement. After a week all her rude, inappropriate behaviour had completely stopped. I now have a calm, well behaved, very well-mannered little girl. Its such a delight to watch all the dogs together. They interact so well, always calm, and always happy, with much kisses for each other and happy wiggly bottoms and waggy tails.

I can't believe I was so naive ( aka dumb ! ) to think I should let the dogs "tell her off " !

Interestingly, just as Two-dogs observed, the other dogs were not actually applying as much value to the toys as I presumed. They have very little interest, maybe an occasional cursory chew ... even when its a fresh one out of the toy bag. More often than not the only time they bother with a toy, is to bring it over to Luna, to initiate a game of tag, ( "You chase me for the toy, then I will drop it, and then you pick it up and I will chase you " ), which they all play so well together with some unspoken "playground rules" agreement between them that they all take turns :)

I have the BEST doggie family :)))
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