Welcome to the exciting adventure of raising a Boerboel! The majestic Boerboels, known for their strength and intelligence, deserve training that justifies their impressive personality. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to train your Boerboel effectively to build a harmonious bond. From basic training to proper socialization, I’ll share practical tips and best practices to help you shape a well-behaved, obedient Boerboel. Let’s overcome the challenges together and teach your loyal companion the best behaviors. Get ready for an exciting journey of Boerboel education!
Boerboels are very intelligent but, at the same time, not easy to train. The fact that Boerboels are relatively independent and do not have a solid eagerness to please makes training them more challenging or complicated than many other breeds. They need very consistent but loving training and guidance right from the start. For this reason, Boerboels are not beginner dogs.
Are Boerboels easy to train?
Boerboels are not easy to train. This is because they are very independent. After all, their job was to guard and protect huge areas such as farms and fields.
They perform this task independently 24/7. They don’t need humans to tell them what to do. It’s simply in their genetics. And it is precisely this independence that makes training Boerboels difficult.
Boerboels do not have a strong eager-to-please. This means that they don’t necessarily want to please you – they want to follow their natural and strong protective and guarding instincts and do their own thing.
In addition, the Boerboel is a mastiff-type breed considered rather stubborn and sometimes a little slower in the head.
Therefore, the counterpart to the Golden Retriever, for whom there is nothing more significant than working together with their human.
This independence, combined with the pronounced guarding instinct and the incredible size of up to 27 inches (70 cm) and 200 lbs (90 kg), makes the Boerboel a dog that is not easy to train.
Are Boerboels suitable for first-time owners?
Boerboels are not for first-time owners. The independence above, size, and lack of eager-to-please require a certain amount of experience with dogs that show similar character traits.
Beginners, in particular, are generally unable to show the necessary consistency and confidence to train properly and build a deep bond.
Suppose you want a large Mastiff-type dog but have little experience. In that case, I can recommend a Broholmer, which also has a pronounced guarding instinct and, at up to 30 inches (75 cm) and 155 lbs (70 kg), has a similarly imposing appearance.
However, the Cane Corso, which is also not as independent, is somewhat easier to train than a Boerboel.
How you should train a Boerboel!
If you decide to get a Boerboel, you should pay attention to the following points when training it:
Start training on day 1
You must start training your Boerboel on the very first day to be one step ahead of it.
You must be a calm, steady, and consistent pack leader from day 1. If you let a few weeks go by because they are so cuddly and sweet, this can quickly backfire. Because all of a sudden, they have grown to an impressive size, and the hormones kick in.
Consistent training right from the start is essential. Your dog must accept you as the pack leader and follow you. You make all the decisions and manage all the resources (food, toys, activities).
You must ensure that your commands are obeyed.
Set clear boundaries
Along with consistent training and leadership, you must set clear boundaries right from the start. You decide what is allowed and what is not. Boundaries that are set must not be exceeded.
In addition to consistent training with clear boundaries right from the start, socialization is an important part of Boerboel training. Your Boerboel should get to know all kinds of situations, such as other people, other dogs, animals, and cars, as a puppy.
Sensible socialization right from the start is crucial with a Boerboel and probably more critical than with most other breeds.
So, what could happen in the worst-case scenario? Your Boerboel has never met strangers, and now the postman or friendly neighbor comes to the garden fence or too close to you. In the worst-case scenario, the whole thing could end in disaster if your dog’s protective and guarding instincts kick in.
Exercise is not directly related to training. But it is easier to train your Boerboel if it is kept busy.
In their native South Africa, Boerboels used to roam the huge areas on their own to guard them. Boerboels need an average amount of exercise and activity.
This means you should also take him for 1-2 long walks daily to keep him happy and content. As a puppy, because the bones and joints have to develop first, this will be shorter.
If your Boerboel is under-challenged and bored rather than being kept busy, this will hurt his training,
What you should train with your Boerboel every day!
You can integrate various exercises into your everyday life every day without spending too much time. Your entire life together is training. You set the rules and boundaries and ensure your Boerboel puppy adheres to them and follows the commands from the beginning.
You need to be a calm, confident, and consistent pack leader who your dog can look up to and wait for guidance and directions – so that he doesn’t have to make decisions independently.
Food is never freely available.
Food is the greatest resource for all dogs – and you manage it. You decide when to eat. Your Boerboel never has a full bowl anywhere and can take food whenever possible.
When you give your Boerboel food, even as a puppy, you should ensure that he sits quietly and looks at you. This will teach him that if he pays attention to you and is calm and relaxed, he will also have access to the most critical resource.
You can also give him some or all of his food throughout the day. Every time your Boerboel shows good behavior, reward him with food.
This could be, for example, when you are talking to someone, and he is standing or sitting quietly next to you. Then, he gets some food as a reward, and you show him that you appreciate this behavior.
This way, you can reward your Boerboel every time throughout the day. I saw this tip in a video by Will Atherthon. When feeding or training with treats, your Boerboel may drool heavily.
You go first!
From day one, you always go in or out somewhere first—no matter where. When you leave the house, you go through the door first, and your Boerboel may only follow after you have given a welcoming gesture and command.
If you stand in front of him (and, if necessary, signal stop with an outstretched hand), you are showing him physically that he is not allowed to pass. He can go through as soon as you turn to the side and invite him in with a hand gesture.
You can do this whenever you leave or enter a new place. Be it the front door, the door to the garden, from the car, or in the house when entering or leaving different rooms.
This has nothing to do with the fact that the pack leader always goes first with wolves. This is simply an exercise to set clear rules and boundaries for your Boerbooel right from the start so that he learns to accept you as a calm and confident leader and to wait for your guidance and direction.
You decide on an activity.
Another exercise we have from our dog trainer that you can also easily integrate into your walk is the following:
Stand with your Boerboel somewhere with a loose leash on a meadow or dirt road. The aim is for your dog to stand (or later sit) quietly right next to you. When he starts sniffing or wants to move away to sniff or something similar, bring him back to you with the leash and gently press him against the side of your leg with your hand without saying anything.
You are showing him that he has nothing to do now. You want him to stand calmly next to you. You get him to stand next to you in a calm but firm way. This is an excellent exercise to consolidate your role as pack leader. This and a few other exercises have brought us a long way forward with our Cane Corso.
You do this exercise without distractions at first; as you get better at it, you can incorporate specific distractions. For example, people walking past, with or without a dog. Or you can stand in a supermarket parking lot and do it as part of the socialization. There are no limits to your creativity.
You can and should start this in the first few days as soon as your Boerboel puppy has moved in. Initially, of course, only briefly – a few seconds – and then keep building on this.
Read next: How long do Boerboels live?
In addition to the everyday behaviors described above, which are extremely helpful in building your basic relationship, training basic commands is essential. I won’t explain specifically how to teach a Boerboel to sit. There are hundreds of good videos explaining this.
I will briefly explain which commands your Boerboel should know and be able to do – and why:
The “sit” command is probably the first and most well-known one every dog learns. The sit command is important because it puts your dog in a calm and safe position.
A safe “sit” is the basis for good behavior. A safe “sit” keeps him from running anywhere, jumping up on people, or whatever. You can train the command anytime and anywhere and increase the difficulty level by using distraction training, for example.
The next command, which is incredibly important, is “Stay”. With the “stay” command, your dog should stay exactly where it is and wait until you allow it to move. This can be important in certain situations where your dog could unexpectedly run off and endanger himself or others.
This may sound strange. But ideally, your Boerboel will perform a sit or stay until you release him. Otherwise, he will make a decision himself at some point and get up or move away from his place.
It is, therefore, important that you resolve every command with a release signal during training. For us, this is an “OK”. Our dogs can do whatever they want as soon as the release signal “OK” is given. Play, eat, lie down somewhere, sniff…
A recall is essential if you want to let your Boerboel run off the lead. The explanation is quite simple. Every dog, especially such a large one, must come back on command.
Another point that should be practiced daily is leash walking. You don’t want a 200 lbs (90 kg) dog pulling on the lead. That can end dangerously.
In my experience, however, if you do everything mentioned above consistently and are a confident, consistent pack leader who your dog follows and waits for instructions, reasonable leash control is often a by-product.
Of course, you can also help with various exercises.
Boerboels don´t like to be left alone. Even if it is not the case today, you should start with training to be alone very early.
Do you have to go to a dog school with a Boerboel?
If you have no particular experience with large, sometimes stubborn Molossians, you should have a dog school or a dog trainer at your side to ensure everything runs smoothly from the start.
It is much more challenging to train misbehavior later than to work with the dog correctly from the start.
When choosing a dog school or trainer, consider their experience with such dogs. If someone trains 99% of Goldies and Labbies with food, they certainly have experience but are not necessarily suitable for training a Boerboel.
Conclusion: Boerboel training and keeping
In conclusion, it can be said that keeping and training a Boerboel is not an easy task. Suppose you have no particular experience with large, sometimes stubborn Molossians. In that case, you should have an experienced dog trainer at your side to ensure that everything runs smoothly from the start and that there are no nasty surprises later on.
I am Marco, and I am very lucky to live with 3 big Mastiff-type dogs. In this blog, I want to share all my experiences and knowledge about dogs.