From Hands to Paws...



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 Hello Everyone!  This is based on my experience with my two boxers.  It is long.... but I do hope you enjoy, Thanks for Reading!   -Millie Czerwinski
              Canines are amazing creatures.  They demonstrate many different kinds of emotions and characteristics.  One can describe how a canine is reacting to a situation by their eyes, eye lids and brows, ears, vocals, snout (closed teeth or parted teeth), paws, and tail.  Canines also show if they feel threatened, stressed, playful or even tired just by the position of their bodies.  There will always be some type of warning sign to let a human or other animal know if the canine is feeling threatened.  If you touch a   sore leg and the dog turns and licks your hand, this could be a nice way of letting you know “Hey, please don’t touch me there. It hurts.”  Shivering could mean the dog is cold and trying to produce heat to warm up; the dog may also be expressing fear.  Canine signs range from very gentle to very extreme.  It’s always best to know the calming signals that canines demonstrate. An example is “the shake.” The canine will “shake off” whatever is bothering it.  I personally encourage my dogs to d o “the shake” when I feel their energy rising or if I notice a stressful situation. 

            I have studied and observed my two boxers, Leigha and Durango, for years.  Leigha is a 3 year old fawn and white female who I’ve known since she was born.  I helped out once a week when Leigha and her litter mates were born.  Durango is a 2 year old fawn male who my parents and I adopted together through Northeastern Boxer Rescue.  Durango has been with us since he was 8 months old.  He came to us with major aggression and fear issues, especially at play time.  He’s come a very long way.  Now there is very few times when their interactions get to that level.  Together, they have a lot of high energy play. 

            Boxers are loyal, high strung, energetic, faithful, intelligent and compassionate companions.  The name "Boxer" is supposedly derived from the breed's tendency to play by standing on its hind legs and "boxing" with its front paws  It’s not uncommon when two boxers get together that they demonstrate this characteristic along with the play growl.  This breed of dog will play and play regardless of their mood. In fact, if they are not in the mood to play, they will actually go and find a toy to carry around, which eventually ends up turning into play time.  This is something that we also encourage them to do when we come home or someone comes into the house.  This helps them from jumping up on us or our company.  It’s very comical to watch Leigha and Durango interact.  Their emotions and strength along with their silly personalities puts a smile on everyone’s face.  Leigha and Durango are truly just clowns! 

            Don’t let me fool you though.  Leigha and Durango can become pretty stubborn when they feel like it.  They often become stubborn the most during obedience training.  Leigha is definitely more stubborn than Durango. She can appear almost aloof.  This o ften happens when we ask them to do tricks at the same time.  Stubbornness is also a characteristic of a boxer.  It coincides with them becoming bored with what they are doing.  I’ve never seen them become bored.  As I said before, they are very interactive dogs. 

            When the weather is nice Leigha and Durango get a lot of outside time during the day.  Fortunately for my dogs someone is always home.  This allows them to be able to interact and be outside instead of being confined like most dogs are during work hours.  Leigha and Durango live the good life; they sunbathe, play and walk every day.  They are extremely spoiled and happy dogs.  However, once winter comes, things change and due to the brisk weather they do not get nearly as much outside time other than their daily walk.   This makes for an interesting winter season because they build up energy and sometimes get on each others nerves.  This is also presents the opportunity for them to become destructive.  But they rarely get to that point.

            I’ve observed Leigha and Durango’s style of interaction with one another in multiple locations and settings.  I spend most of my non-work hours with the two of them.  The two common locations are my house and the river. My house is located on a small quiet street.  We have a little over an acre of yard for the dogs to play.  There is great energy here, and it’s nice just hanging out in the back yard.  Basically every day we go outside and spend some time playing fetch, romping and sun bathing.  The river location is on a very large piece of property which is right on the Connecticut River in Hadley, Massachusetts.  Depending on the tide level there is a beach as well.  It becomes a very large stretch of beautiful sand.  The river is a very calming area for all of us to gather.  The dogs can run free, swim, and be dogs.  There is an abundance of different smells that keep them busy, but basically they just romp around like boxers do.  My dogs interact with one another the same way whether it is down at the river or just in my back yard.

            We tend not to get in the middle of them when they are interacting unless it is needed.  There are times when play gets to a point of aggression, and we do not allow that.  At this point we make them take a break and regroup their thoughts.  Then they are allowed to go back to playing.  This rarely happens between the two of them.  They seem to know each other’s limits very well, and do not provoke each other to that point.

            Leigha and Durango have a very upbeat style of play.  This consists of body banging, play growling, jumping on or over each other, chasing one another (tag), and some play nibbling.  Having a one boxer home is much different than having a multiple boxer home.  They play much differently than when they play with a different breed of dog.  Every breed and every dog has their own style of interaction.  The boxer’s is just more energetic. A lab and boxer are not going to play the same as two boxers.  Labs and Boxers have different energy levels and different ways of interacting.  Some things a boxer does a lab does not like and vice versa.  But I have noticed that after a few minutes they tend to adapt to each other and find a medium at which they both can deal with.

            Leigha and Durango do a lot of the play bow.  This is how they get the other one going.  They will also throw a bark or two in here and there.  I can remember one day I was sitting outside on the swing watching them and Leigha wanted to play.  Durango was interested in some type of smell near the fish pond.  Leigha decided to bark and bow towards him.  There was nothing that was going to distract Durango since he smelled something good.  So Leigha decided she’s would run over to Durango and grab his hind leg.  Durango jumped and turned around.  That got his attention.  Then they started to romp around the back yard taking turns being submissive to each other.  One would be on the ground while the other was pushing vice versa.  When watching them I noticed that they always have perky ears, tails are straight up to the sky, and they have the dog smile.

            Leigha and Durango have a very fast pace.  They are always ready and willing to go.  This is good since they sleep great through the night.  Their upbeat style of interaction makes them seem like they are pushy.  It’s not uncommon for them to get excited quickly.  They definitely fire each other up.  When people pull into the driveway we actually tell them to wait.  We gather the dogs and then slowly integrate them with the people.  Leigha and Durango get so excited and protective when people come into the yard that their energy levels are very high. This can lead to them getting on each other’s nerves and sometimes fight.  I’ve seen a few times where the hair has stood up on their backs. This is not because of the people coming into the yard, but because one or the other is trying to get all the attention.  I’d say a good word for this is jealousy.  This often happens with boxers.  It’s a breed trait.  They can become very jealous.  This is definitely something I learned with Leigha.  She does not like to share me.  I believe that she is protective of me.  She does not want others near me (whether human or animal) until she can trust them.  This was an issue when we first brought Durango home.  But she slowly backed off.

           Down at the river Leigha and Durango have acres and acres to run on.  They love to romp, play and swim together.  Leigha actually helped me teach Durango how to swim.  It was amazing, and then she tried to drown him a few times by swimming on him.  I feel that was her way of saying “about time” you start swimming or “see it’s not so bad is it?”  They also do a lot of digging in the sand together.  It’s cute because Leigha will dive her body under Durango while he is digging.  I think this is her friendly way of saying “play with me” instead of digging in the dirt.  I’ve noticed that if one of them goes to play in the sand or run in the water, the other one has to follow close behind.  I think that they like each other’s company and always have to see what the other one is doing.  If Durango finds a good smell and he’s running around tracking it, Leigha eventually starts following him and sniffing, too.  They have to investigate the area together.  I think down at the river they just like to explore together. 

           Durango and Leigha antagonize each other on a daily basis.  I’ve noticed that when one wants to play (and get the others attention) this does not happen smoothly.  Leigha tends to body bang (throw her body into his).  She likes to muscle Durango around to show him who is boss.  Durango, on the other hand, created the leg grab.  He will grab her back leg with his mouth.  I think this is his way of trying to take the queen off her thrown.  Both of them bark, bow, swat, and pounce.  When one wants to play he or she will go to all extremes to get the other one going.

           Boxers have very expressive body language.  They have very tight frames which allow them to muscle each other around.  Leigha is always throwing her body at Durango.  If she’s not getting what she wants, she will go and run right into him.  Durango has realized this and now is attempting to throw his body into her more.  Although it looks very intense, this body language is not defensive. It may just be antagonistic. Their ears are usually always perky when they are together.  They are always watching what the other one is doing, and I’ve never noticed their ears pinned back. 

           Leigha and Durango’s eyes are very intense.  When boxers play they are always paying close attention to the other.  This intense look may be frightening to some, but it’s harmless with boxers.  I’ve notice that most of the time when they are interacting together that the whites of their eyes are always showing.  Although this is thought to be a sign of fear, or nervousness, I believe this is because of how they play with each other. It may be side by side or head to head, but they are always watching to see where the other one is at.  The eyes are very important.  Leigha gets in this trance; she appears frozen, but her eyes are following Durango.  Then she waits for the right moment and she pounces towards him.  The facial expressions that Leigha and Durango have when they are interacting are priceless.  Depending on the time of day or what mood they are in they range from totally confused to “come and get me”.  Most of the time their mouths are opened and C-shaped.  When they are interacting they are always using their mouths.  It’s like they are talking to each other the whole time they are interacting. 

            Durango, being the youngest of the crew, always tries to create ways to be the leader.  Leigha never allows Durango to have the throne.  Recently he’s found a way.  Leigha went to relieve herself outside and Durango urinated on her.  I feel like he was either trying to claim her or he was trying to get even for something she did to him earlier.  I believe this is also his way of being dominant.  It’s the only chance he gets.  Leigha’s stuck going to the bathroom and cannot move. There is no better opportunity for him than that.  I was very fascinated by what he did simply because I’ve never seen that sort of thing.  It seemed that he was trying to “one up” on Leigha and let her know he’s the boss, even though he’s not.  The females in my house do not allow for him to be the boss.  We have another dog, older, named Meia.  She does not really interact as much, but has been peed on by Durango as well.  To the females, Durango is just the small prince in their castle.

            I’ve notice the interaction when people are around. Leigha gets a little snippy towards Durango.  For instance, Leigha does not like to “talk” when asked.  However, Durango will talk up a storm for a treat.  When they are together and Durango starts to talk Leigha turns quickly towards him and throw a quick nudge of the muzzle.  My impression of this is that Leigha knows she can talk but she’s being stubborn.  She is telling him to not talk by nudging him.  I think that Leigha feels that she can control Durango’s responses sometimes, but when it comes to food Leigha cannot control Durango.  He loves his food and Leigha will not be standing in the way of that.  Leigha will talk when there is no food around and she’s excited I think this is an instance where Leigha is just being stubborn and lazy.  I truly believe she thinks she is his boss.

             My overall observation of the two of them is that they really go at each other with their bodies and they both seem to love it.  They are just big puppies who want to have fun and play all the time. They also love to be lap dogs.  They are always throwing their bodies into one another, chasing each other around the yard, play growling at each other, and of coarse a lot of boxing.  My impression of them is that they are happy-go-lucky.  It also seems that they are reactive to each other’s moods.  If one is not feeling good, the other one is there to be with them.  They rough house a lot and it tends to look like a battle.  It’s possible that they do occasionally get mad at each other, which can then lead into a defensive state of mind.  I’ve only seen that happen a few times.  I’ve also notice that Leigha likes to do the paw smack (box), which is a friendly gesture or a correction to an action that she feels is inappropriate.  Their favorite game is tag.  They love to bump each other and run the opposite direction with the other one chasing.  This is probably what I’ve noticed they do most. This is how the typical boxer plays. It’s rougher than normal, but it really is just them being them.  They are crazy dogs. I am sure they are just thinking, “come and get me, come and get me.”  They are just very up beat and playful clowns.

             This is a typical day with my dogs.  There is a lot of chasing, up and under anything tdifferent sides of them, but for the most part, that is how they play. And at the end of the day, they are so wiped out that they snore through the night.  I believe that the boxer is a harmless dog.  Leigha and Durango are just two big clowns who love to have fun.  If you did not know my dogs, than you would probably think they were fighting, but they are not.  They play rough, but not aggressive to the point of fighting.  They love each other dearly. hat gets in the way.  They pummel each other to the ground and they love it.  There has been a few times where I’ve seen  When they are not running around and romping they are laying on one another sleeping.  My dogs are definitely full of energy, but they get daily walks, lots of outside time, and plenty of attention.  They keep each other company when nobody is home.  They are each other’s best friend. 

             I love being with and watching Leigha and Durango interact.  I think my favorite times are down at the river when they can just let loose and be themselves with nothing in the world to interrupt them.  I love when they do the boxer bow.  My ultimate favorite is when they are so excited and happy to see you that they cannot stand still and do the boxer dance.  When it all comes down to it, these two complete me.  They are my pride and joy and make every little crazy moment worth it.  I wouldn’t trade anything in the world.  Leigha and Durango have taught me how to live, love, trust, how to just let loose and be me.  They have given me the confidence to succeed in life and follow my dreams.  Every time I look into Leigha’s eyes, I am grateful for her.  Leigha is my better half and she definitely keeps me level and teaches me something new all the time.  Life lessons learned through a dog. Who ever knew you could learn so much?  Dogs are miracles with paws; the more you have in your life, the better off you are!