Boerboels And Aggression – “Nature vs Nurture”

boerboel natureThere is an old adage “what you put in is what you get out”. With some rare exceptions, dogs, much like children, are a product of their owners. Owning a dog is not a right – it is a privilege – and with that privilege comes responsibility. A Boerboel is a wonderful and rewarding addition to any family, but you have to be dedicated and prepared to put in the work early on so you can reap the rewards later. While most boerboels conform to certain breed standards of behavior and personality traits, this is not an absolute science and there will be deviations. That being said, by and large the boerboel is an amazing breed of dog. Strong, loving and fiercely loyal – you would be hard pressed to find a better companion.

One of the biggest concerns raised by people thinking of adding a large dog to their family, is they fear aggression. While not unheard of, you are highly unlikely to experience this if you have raised your Boerboel right. These dogs were bred to guard and protect, they were not bred for fighting and so are not naturally aggressive like other guarding breeds. The Boerboel is very protective of his pack – they can intuitively sense a threat and similarly can also tell if you disapprove of someone’s presence BUT would never act without express instruction to do so. If however, someone was attempting to harm you, your Boerboel would bring you their left leg as a souvenir! While your Boerboel will have a baseline personality that cannot be altered, SO much can be achieved through training. Firstly, many people erroneously believe that you need to use physical force to exert your control over such a big strong dog. This is wrong, wrong, wrong! Remember, you catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar. Boerboels DO NOT respond to harsh, physical punishment. They are sensitive dogs who want to please their owners and do not understand why you are hurting them. If you are aggressive to them, then they will be aggressive back to you – plain and simple! Boerboels respond well to positive training methods and firm, consistent discipline from a loving owner. YOU are the alpha. Simple acts such as making them sit and wait for your permission to eat once their food has been put down, sets up your status as the alpha and builds a relationship with your dog based on mutual respect. Establish clearly defined parameters regarding alpha status early on and your boerboel will behave accordingly.

Pushing the Boerboel’s Buttons

As with anyone, human or otherwise, the unknown makes you act out of character. Your boerboel is no exception.  Fear or uncertainty about a situation can cause your dog to lash out. This is a fight or flight reflex rather than a problem with aggression. You would never put your child into an unknown situation without the proper preparation, so why would you do it to your dog? If you want him to get along with other dogs, socialize him – early! Don’t take your 3 year old boerboel to the park and just expect him to fit in and get along. He will view every other dog there as a potential threat, not only to himself but to you and he will go into protection mode. He is then labelled aggressive, which is untrue. You have not prepared him to face other dogs and he is out of his comfort zone. You want him to be good with your kids – let him know that you are confidant and comfortable with the situation by praising the behavior you like and gently but firmly pushing him away if play becomes too boisterous – teach him how to play with them and teach your children the correct way to interact with your dog. If you want a family dog, make him part of your family. Give him a stake in the home and he will protect you to the death – not because he is aggressive, but because he is loyal!