I’ve been researching Boxer dogs a lot lately. Mostly because at first, I was unconvinced that Denim could possibly be a Boxer. Look at her! She’s too small! She’s the wrong color! She has no underbite!
Since then, though, I’ve realized that her behaviors are ALL boxer ALL the time, and her proportions are pretty much boxer, and the fact that her tongue doesn’t fit in her mouth are a boxer trait, and that little nubbin tail? Boxer boxer boxer.
Daisy was probably a setter or spaniel mix, which is a sporting breed. They tend to be high strung and hyper focused. Daisy would get frustrated during training because I wasn’t speaking her language and often wasn’t moving fast enough for her. Denim is different, which, as you can probably guess, requires a whole different protocol and one that we are not familiar with.
I recently watched the Dogs 101 video for Boxers, and one of the contributors made this joke:
“How many boxers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? It doesn’t matter, they’ll still play with their toys in the dark.”
Denim’s Modus Operandi is FUN. Specifically, how to have the most fun all the time. That is what is making her return to us post-first injection so difficult. Snuggling isn’t FUN. Chewing is only so much FUN. Eating is great, but it isn’t FUN.
You know what’s fun? Leaping like a kangaroo! Romping across the backyard off leash! Doing the kidney bean dance across the floor while biting at The Lady’s pants as she gets ready for work! Playing tug! Playing fetch! Chasing birds! Hunting geckoes!
Of course, we can do basically none of those things right now. We can eat stuffed kongs, and have relaxed pets, and take naps, and chew our new buffalo horn. We also have to have all of our potty breaks on a leash—such a disappointment to Denim that she is now running away from her harness. (She gets a cookie for sticking her head through it as a counterconditioning move.)
So we’re turning to training reinforcement to keep her brain busy. Wait and come are big ones. We can do them on a long lead in the backyard, so there’s not enough space for her to really get going, but she has to practice being patient and then “calmly” (for her) trotting across the yard for her cookie. Sits and downs for carrot chips. “Leave its” on her paws and from distractions.
And the whole time, it has to be fun! Smiles, good jobs, and cookies. Unnecessary belly rubs. Letting her “help” in the kitchen. (This mostly looks like making her “leave” food alone until she’s released to have it.) If sporting jobs like to do work, boxers like to have fun! Our job is to make sure she is having as much fun as she calmly can.
We have some worry that this need to be calm for a couple months will break her joy-loving spirit, but the Boxer research has reassured me: She’s going to be a puppy forever.
Dear God, help us.
****I’m going to try to keep record of this, because in researching, I did not find much more than medical resources about heartworm treatment, and I could have used some personal advice from someone I trust.
In the meantime, keep your dog on heartworm preventative. It’s a vital expense of dog ownership. Heartworms are totally preventable, and the treatment is dangerous.