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How to Train a Boerboel: Our Expert Guide

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Dogster Team

two Boerboel dogs sitting outdoor

How to Train a Boerboel: Our Expert Guide

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Dr. Karyn Kanowski Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Karyn Kanowski

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The well-socialized Boerboel is a delightful and utterly devoted family companion with an abundance of love to share, but training from as early as possible is essential to prevent this large and powerful dog from becoming a handful.

Despite often being rather chilled out as puppies, these natural guardians can grow to be domineering and unmanageable if dog parents are lax about training, so you’ll want to get down to business right away. In this guide, we’ll share some top tips on training a Boerboel.

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Boerboel Stats

Boerboel dog with collar standing on grass
Image Credit: AleksaMayer, Shutterstock
Height: 22-27 inches
Weight: 150-200 pounds
Life expectancy: 9-11 years
Origin: South Africa, used for guarding homes and property
Pronunciation: Bor-bul, Bauble

The Boerboel is a loyal family dog, but their athleticism and size mean that there is little room for error when it comes to training, and they are not an ideal breed for an inexperienced dog owner.

The 9 Tips for Training a Boerboel

What You'll Need
  • Short leash
  • Long leash
  • Harness
  • Treats/toys to use as rewards

1. Start Young

Start training your Boerboel puppy as soon as you bring them home—the earlier, the better. Though they may seem super relaxed now, they’ll soon grow up and get bolder, so now is the time to instill boundaries and start socializing your dog. Being tactile with your dog to get them used to being handled is one of the most important things to start with.

In addition, have your Boerboel spend time with different people and, if possible, invite over family, friends, or neighbors with vaccinated, healthy dogs so your Boerboel can get used to spending time around other dogs. Check with your vet when it’s safe for your puppy to go to public places, as this can depend on their vaccination schedule.

Boerboel puppy sitting outdoor
Image Credit: ALEX S, Shutterstock

2. Teach the Basics

When it comes to dogs, it’s best to start as you mean to go on, which means getting to work on basic commands right away. It’s essential for all dogs—but especially large, powerful dogs—to learn the following basic commands to keep everyone (including themselves) safe.

When teaching your dog, make sure you have set aside some time to do it, and make sure they are feeling calm. Be sure you have their attention, speak loudly and clearly, and remember that they heard you the first time. Teach your dog to sit on the command “sit”, not “sit….sit, sit, sit….sit…sit”!

Here are some important commands to teach and methods of doing so. You can start practicing in your home before taking your dog out in public.

The two most important commands for any dog are to have them come to their name (come) and to drop whatever they have in their mouths (drop it).

Come

This might seem straightforward, and puppies quickly learn their names, but there are two things to consider when training your Boerboel to come when called.

  • When choosing a name, think about how easy it is to call out in a large area. “Copernicus” or “Princess Consuela” are awesome names, but not so quick and easy to shout at the beach or dog park.
  • Your dog needs to come to their name even if there are other dogs, exciting smells, or small furry creatures running away. Instill a strong positive association with recall, then practice it with various distractions.

Hold out a treat or your Boerboel’s favorite toy, crouch down, and say “Come!” in a friendly manner. Reward your dog when they come while saying “Good Come”. It’s a good idea to teach “Come” while your Boerboel is on a long leash if they’re out in public. This gives you more control.

Boerboel puppy walking on the lawn
Image Credit: Jan Dix, Shutterstock

Drop It

Many dogs end up at the vets for eating things that they shouldn’t, and the larger the dog, the more things they can get into their mouths. Teaching your dog to drop what is in their mouth is essential for their safety, and for yours. Your dog should also drop toys, food, and treats on command, and this is particularly important for a large dog like the Boerboel.

The easiest way to start this training is with toys. Use a toy that is large enough for you to easily grab onto when it’s inside their mouth. When the toy is in their mouth, hold the toy and say “drop it.” If they let go of the toy, give them lots of praise and a fuss, and allow them to have the toy back – this is important.

If they don’t release the toy, do not engage in tug-o-war – this just becomes a game to them. Use a treat or another toy to get them to drop the toy in their mouth, and remember to give them praise when they do. When taking food, treats, or toys from your dog in training, it is important to give them back, otherwise they are likely to start guarding the things they love most. If they think that they will get the item back, they are more likely to drop whatever is in their mouth whenever you tell them to.

Always be careful when taking things from your dog’s mouth, especially one as large as the Boerboel! But if you train them right, you should be able to easily take anything from them without worrying about being bitten.

Sit

You can teach this by taking a treat and moving it above your dog’s head. As the head goes up, their bottom should go down toward the ground. Say “Good Sit” while you give them the treat. This teaches them to associate “Good” and the treat with the action. If they sit without you saying the command, still praise them with “Sit, good sit” so they associate the words with the action.

young Boerboel dog sitting on grass and looking up
Image Credit: McCann Michelle, Shutterstock

Stay

Have your Boerboel sit and give the command “Stay”. Before your dog moves, reward them with a treat. Then, give the command again, waiting a few seconds this time before giving the treat. If they move before they get the treat, take them back to where they were, and start again. Gradually build up the length of time your dog has to “stay” before they get the reward. Say “Good Stay” when you reward them.

Leave It

Hold out your palm with a treat on it. Say “Leave It” and reward your dog if they manage to do so for a couple of seconds. Gradually build up the length of time they have to leave something alone. Couple the reward with a “Good Leave It”.

Heel

Put your Boerboel’s leash on and start walking. When they move ahead of you, stop, say the dog’s name, and say “Heel” while pointing to your side or patting your thigh. When they come to your side, say “Good Heel” and reward them.

Build up the time your Boerboel has to walk at your side before they can get the treat, starting with a few seconds at first. This helps prevent them from thinking they can come to your side, get a reward, and just carry on what they were doing before.


3. Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement means rewarding and praising your dog for behaving correctly rather than punishing them for their mistakes. Finding out what your Boerboel is most motivated by is a good way to decide on what their reward will be when they do something right. For example, while some dogs are motivated by treats, others are motivated by toys and play.

These rewards help form positive associations about the actions you’re trying to get them to perform, thereby encouraging them to do these things more.

male owner petting Boerboel dog
Image Credit: ALEX S, Shutterstock

4. Reward Calm Behavior

Sometimes, we can get so caught up in rewarding specific actions that we forget to acknowledge the good behavior you didn’t ask for. When your Boerboel is settled and quiet, give them a treat. Trying to engage your dog while they’re chilled out isn’t a good idea because it breaks their calm: Instead, simply drop a treat in front of them.

You can also reward your Boerboel for meeting people politely. When your dog meets someone new, keep them on a leash and only let them approach the person if they’re calm. These dogs are naturally protective, so socializing them around other people is really important, so they don’t become wary of everyone outside the family.


5. Ignore Undesirable Behavior

If your dog is jumping up, barking at you, or otherwise trying to demand attention, the worst thing to do is shout and wave your arms – as far as they’re concerned, you’ve just joined in the conversation! Don’t say a word, just walk away. When they are calm, offer them a pat or treat, and quietly give them praise.

close up of young boerboel dog
Image Credit: Leoniek van der Vliet, Shutterstock

6. Be Consistent

It’s not enough to do a few training sessions with your Boerboel because training and socialization need to be ongoing to be properly instilled. You’ll want to work on commands daily and keep up with socializing them around other dogs and people, so they don’t fall into bad habits.

Make sure everyone in your family is doing the same thing to prevent the dog from getting confused as to what is and isn’t acceptable. It might seem hard to be consistent sometimes, but it’s worth it in the long run.


7. Be in Charge

When you let your dog pull on the leash or get up on the couch “just once” even though you don’t usually permit them to, it sends your dog mixed messages about who actually makes the rules. That’s not to say that later on, once your Boerboel has settled into their routine and there is no confusion about rules and boundaries, that you can’t invite them onto the couch, but this must always be at your invitation.

You need to gently but firmly establish yourself as the pack leader and get into the mindset of being a pack leader—your dog needs to know that you set the boundaries, and they need to look to you for leadership. If you are inconsistent with rules and boundaries, particularly in the early training stages, your dog will become confused about who is in charge of decisions, and will try to take on that role, which is actually quite stressful for them.

When you share your home with dogs, particularly dogs that might weigh more than you do, there needs to be no uncertainty that you are in charge. You need it, too, because you don’t want to spend your time with your dog stressing about how they’re going to behave.

Use lots of positive reinforcement, be consistent, and take a firm but kind approach to win your dog’s respect. Avoid resorting to harsh punishments as this will damage your bond with your dog.

male owner walking his young Boerboel dog
Image Credit: Dmitriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

8. Know How to Say No

Positive reinforcement (praising the good) and negative punishment (ignoring the bad) are the mainstays of healthy dog training. However, there will invariably be times when you need to stop a behavior quickly, either for your dog’s safety, or that of yourself or family.

Pups like to play rough, and if you have a big dog and small kids, this can be a problem. Some people will advise you to squeal or cry out if your pup hurts you, showing them that they caused pain. However, this can have the opposite effect, and get them riled up, just like when they play with their littermates. Instead, get everyone in your family to learn the “no” bark. Think of how an adult wolf would correct a naughty pup, channel your inner beast, and say “No!”

This is particularly useful for kids and women, as the higher register of our voices often don’t have the same gravitas as the male voice. A short, sharp, deep “No!” will usually stop your dog and turn their attention to you, allowing you to move them away or give a command.


9. Go to Obedience Classes

It’s a good idea to enroll your Boerboel in obedience classes to supplement the training you’ll do at home. These classes are beneficial for socializing your dog and picking up some top tips from the professionals. They’re also a good place to start if you’re new to training.

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Final Thoughts

Boerboels are best suited to dog parents with some experience because proper training is crucial for these ginormous dogs. Your Boerboel will also need plenty of daily exercise to reduce their stress levels and make training easier. A bored, under-exercised dog is much harder to train and socialize than one with an outlet for pent-up energy.


Featured Image Credit: Pikunova Nadiia, Shutterstock

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