Why are Boundaries important?
The Boerboel was originally bred to be the farm and family protectors in South Africa. Their job was to be dominant, protective free-thinkers that knew how to perceive a threat and react appropriately to that threat (fight or flight) without direction from the farmer.
As the Boerboel matures its level of dominance and protectiveness also matures. I have found that the males in particular increase in their dominance level strongly between the ages of 2-4.
Currently most Boerboels are being placed in pet homes, and may or may not be farm protectors. In the home situation, we NEED the dogs to look to us for direction before reacting. This goes against their very nature and so it is our responsibility to teach and maintain that. This is where “Boundaries for Life” come in.
The big picture of “Boundaries for Life” is this:
I, as the human of this pack, am the leader. I say what you do, how you do it, when you do it. This is my home and I decide who can be in it, when they can be in it and for how long they can be in it. I decide who will greet me, who will shake my hand, who will give me a hug. I decide how much freedom the dog pack gets within the home, keeping in mind that the more continuous freedom they have, the more dominant/protective they will become over that area.
If you’ve been to my home you will have noticed that all of dogs do not have the freedom to ‘hang out’ with you. Some will meet and greet and then be put away (the ones that tend to be more free-thinkers). The ones that are less free-thinking may get to hang out for longer and then get rotated out for someone else. BUT I make it a point to reinforce to them that they are not in control of my visitor, I am, therefore by putting them ‘away’ they understand that they are not on duty. That I have it under control. Putting them away could be in a crate in the same area we are in, in a room, outside, etc.
What Boundaries look like on a DAILY basis:
· The dog does not have full freedom of the house/yard 24/7.
· The human always greets a visitor before the dog is allowed to greet the visitor. I do my best to get out to the gate before a person approaches it if a dog is in the front yard. I have noticed that it is even better if I go out on the side of the gate the visitor is on leaving the dog on the opposite side. I greet the visitor several feet away from the gate and then introduce to the dog over the gate. The exception to this is if a creepy person comes up my driveway, then I will let a dog do the ‘stay away’ bounce at the fence.
· Several hours every day is spent confined to a crate, pen or room. You say when and for how long. Overnight confinement is highly suggested until the dog is well over 1 year old. Random confinement a couple nights a week is suggested for life. Again, you are in control, not the dog. He/she sleeps where you tell them to and it can change at any time.
· The dog is not allowed to eat food until they have sat, acknowledged you for whatever length of time you require and then is ‘freed’ to eat.
· Commands are not repeated. If you give a command and the dog does not obey, you physically walk over to the dog and help them to obey.
· Keep it simple. No means No for whatever reason. Develop a STRONG deterrent word or sound that gets your dog’s attention immediately. I use a loud uh-ah! If they are looking cross-eyed at something/someone that I have ok’d then I give the deterrent and put the dog away.
· Continuously repeating phrases such as ‘you’re fine’ ‘it’s ok’ actually works a dog up, not down. Keep your commands simple and straight to the point.
· Using a correction collar while on leash (prong or chain) reduces the ability of your dog to react, pull, etc. The correction collar ‘corrects’ the dog when this unwanted behavior happens. This also reinforces that the dog is not in control while on lead. A dog that can pull without correction is being reinforced that their behavior is acceptable. Correction collars are suggested for use after the 6 month stage.
If you’re Boerboel is allowed too much freedom you will see their free-thinking take over in the form of unwanted dominance/aggression/protectiveness. It is in their very nature to do so and does not make them a bad dog or uncontrollable. Continuously resetting Boundaries for Life reinforce their reliance on you and your leadership over them. Boundaries make for happy, confident dogs, trustworthy dogs.