Teaching your boxer puppy loose-leash walking is a commendable choice. First, because it's never too early to train good manners, and second, because your puppy is better under control now than 60 pounds later, when he decides to take off at 250 miles per hour dragging you along the sidewalk.
Loose-leash walking means just that: walking your dog on a loose leash. When you walk your boxer puppy on a loose leash, there should be no tension; rather, the leash should be slack and loosely hanging down. Loose-leashing walking also means saying goodbye to achy arms and all those gasping, snorting and wheezing sounds from your Boxer when he pulls against the collar. This leads to much more pleasant "walkies" for you and your puppy. It is a known fact that it much easier training a puppy the right way from scratch than training an older dog with a history of pulling.
The best tools to train your boxer puppy to walk politely on a leash are a simple flat buckle collar and a leash. Adjustable collars work great for small puppies because you can adjust the size as your boxer puppy's neck grows. Because of the boxer's neck size in relation to the skull, this breed may at times find it easy to back up and slip out of a traditional buckle collar. In this case, a martingale collar may come handy.This collar is built in such a way as to become snug when your boxer tries to pull his head out of the collar and there is tension in the leash. Unlike a choke collar, which as the name implies cuts off your dog's air supply, martingale collars just tighten enough to prevent your dog from escaping without actually choking; more control for you and less risks of injury for your puppy. (See Resources) For older puppies with a reputation for pulling, a no-pull harness may work wonders.
Why does a dog pull on the leash? Simple: to move ahead. As much as this sounds like a riddle, pulling on the leash will no longer be a joke once your boxer puppy grows. Dogs pull simply because this behavior allows them to interact with their environment and because of the "opposition reflex", an innate predisposition to resist pressure. When your puppy pulls and you pull back, your dog’s reflexive response is to pull forward. With loose-leash walking you are teaching your boxer puppy a whole new principle which is that pulling gets him nowhere, while a loose leash keeps him moving forward.
Don't be fooled by the size and strength of your boxer puppy; boxers were bred to hunt and hold game as big as bears, boars and bison. Knocking you over and dragging you along for the ride of your life is very possible for an adult boxer. Make it a rule that when the leash is loose, you walk ahead and when the leash is tense you slow down and come to a stop. Also, make sure to reward your boxer puppy with high-value treats when he is in heel position so he makes the connection that great things happen when he is besides you.
Loose-leash walking does not happen overnight. The new training concept takes a while to seep into your boxer puppy's mind, but sooner than later, becomes second nature. Patience, consistency and determination pays off in the long run; just make sure you keep those training sessions with your puppy short, simple and sweet. Polite leash manners will help your boxer puppy become a polite member of society while preventing your arm from being pulled out of its socket 60 pounds later.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.