Contributed by Mary Johns. Owner of Fuller’s Prince Vados and Legends Boss
When first getting your new Boerboel puppy it’s important to work the basic foundation skills such as name recognition, sits, downs, leash work and recall. These skills can help you bond and create a trusting relationship through consistency and boundaries. As you progress through these basic foundation skills you can start proofing with distractions as well as adding in additional commands that can stack on top of the basics. Often times owners start to let up on training and expectations when things are going well which can create issues when going into the teenage years or later. Some Boerboels can be very easy going, some need confidence building and some can be very confident and choose to make their own decisions. It is my recommendation for this breed to incorporate training as a daily way of life to help guide you through the more difficult times and prepare you if they should arise. This is where I have found that a few additional commands and training techniques can become helpful which include:
Leave it, Focus Work (Watch Me), All done, Out, Place and Heeling.
“Leave It” is a command that works impulse control. This command means under no circumstance should an item be picked up or pressed forward toward. Leave It can be used both inside and outside, during times when they decide on their own to sniff or show a desire to pick something up that they should not have. It can also be used when on walks and if they become interested in an animal, person or object and start to pull to go toward the object of interest.
“Focus Work” such as “Watch Me” trains them to keep their attention directed on you. Through consistent focus work your goal will be to have them in tune with you and your movements and keeps their attention focused to be looking for direction from you, not where or what they want to fixate on. In the beginning you can practice “Watch Me” while holding a treat or toy in a hand and draw it up to your chin and reward immediately for eye contact. This game can become more complex by holding the treat out to the side and wait for them to look to you instead of what is in your hand. The minute they make eye contact verbal praise and reward. Over time you can add in duration of eye contact as well as holding the treat or toy in both hands. Goal is to not touch or take until eye contact has been established and you give a verbal release or marker word to let them know they achieved what you were looking for. A few ways to work this is during meal times you can practice having the pup sit and make eye contact prior to being released for meal time. You can also work this command coming in and out of the house where you ask for the sit and wait for eye contact. You can also practice this during heeling/leash work inside and outside and while on walks. Same goal to proof is adding in distractions and duration of holding the command.
“All Done” is a command that can be versatile. You can use this command for a cease in playtime, barking, sniffing, etc. An example of this would be alerting at the window. I do allow my Boerboels to alert but if there is no valid reason for continuing the behavior I follow up with an “All Done” command and redirection to go lay down. I use the same command while in the car for a cease in any barking/ resource behavior unless warranted. The same protocol is worked during playtime. We engage in active play followed by me calling the playtime off and redirect to a down/calming position. Sniffing people or sniffing objects or other dogs is also a great time to utilize this cue.
“Out” is a command that can be used in many different situations such as taking a desired object away without confrontation, mealtime work and moving or backing away from an object, person or moving out of a room. Flirt pole work is a great exercise for working the “Out” as it encourages mental stimulation, focus, impulse control and the “Out” for disengaging and stepping away from the object. Once the “Out” is established you can train to redirect to a designated location or add on a stacked behavior command such as a sit or down until given a release command. While training this it is important to have them understand that the value/reward is far greater for them to move away rather than staying. You can reward through treats, toys or verbal praise.
“Place” is a great neutral calming command to work with your Boerboel. I like using this command for redirection following an “All Done” or “Out” command as it helps settle their mind and takes them away from the object of interest. I also like this command while I’m working in the kitchen or relaxing. You can work this command anywhere you go. I like to start out with teaching them to go onto a mat or bed and rewarding the behavior followed by a release command. You can start out with luring them to the designated place and reward for going on the mat or bed followed by a release cue and luring them off. I like to have a lead or a collar with a shorty lead attached to help guide on and off at first. To increase duration as well as proofing I add small increments of time as well as distance and distractions before release. This command is wonderful when company arrives and you want them to be in a calm state before greeting. You can work this command anywhere you go.
”Heeling” exercises: I like to start leash work from the beginning. This is great for teaching proper etiquette of staying by your side and not pulling on the leash as well as following your lead in all directions as well as pace. I like to incorporate walking a few feet followed by some sits, downs or stands then resume walking a few more feet. As I am walking I give give a heads up of the command I will be asking prior to stopping. This gives them time to think of the expectation and perform as I stop. Directional Turnarounds are great for helping them become in tune to where your body is going and being focused on your movements. Given the chance every dog would love to just press forward and go. This exercise not only gets them in tune to looking to you for direction but exercises their mind mentally. I also like to work pace. I do a lot of “Walk” “Let’s Go” which for me means pick up the pace and when I want to slow down I give the cue “Easy”. I also give the cue “Left” and Right” for turns.
It’s amazing how quickly they understand all of this, it just takes time and consistency in working with them. The more you practice the more it becomes second nature to them in what your expectations and boundaries are as well as developing a trusting relationship where they can relax and look to your for guidance. The goal in all of this is to create a balanced relationship. You train and guide for the desired behaviors with zero allowance for undesirable behaviors. Small allowances of undesirable behaviors can quickly be stacked on top of each other creating issues. These are just a few of the things I have worked with both of my Boerboels with success❤️
Mary Johns 8/16/19