Boerboel African mastiff

  • I had a boerboel female pup for a few months recently. It wouldn't be correct to form an idea about the whole breed based on my personal experience with one dog. However I worked with a few different mastiff and LGD breeds and also seen others work them on video. I was able to draw conclusions that I was complete with without waiting for the pup to mature. I eventually decided that this dog is not for me and placed it in a great home. Following is some stuff I previously wrote about the boerboel that may be of interest. I'm leaving it in the same order as when I first posted it.

    Here's what they look like BTW.

    Boerboel male.

    Boerboel female.

  • Here are some pics of the new addition to my household. It's a Boerboel (African mastiff) female puppy, six weeks old. These pics were taken by my friend who went to pick it out of a litter of seven or eight. This little thing will grow and grow and hopefully one day if need be will mess up a bad guy who tries to break into my house.

    Mama and Papa.

  • The puppy arrived at 7 weeks of age. It's been a couple of nights without much rest as I had to get up a few times and let her out. She adjusted to the raw diet instantly. Didn't shut down at all in the new surroundings and started to explore the house right away. A deworming did her real well and this morning she shit out a massive roundworm. Already she's gaining weight and acquiring the correct look for a healthy puppy. She's lying at my feet under the desk as I write.

  • I've worked with a number of different mastiff type dogs in the past. I've come to categorize them as breeds suitable for a particular purpose, guard dogs, when they're capable of working at all. In general they don't possess everything that I would expect from a dog. One of my experiences is with Neapolitan mastiffs of which I've owned and trained a few. I also bred a couple of litters back when they were still considered an exotic breed.

    My neapolitan pups at around eight weeks of age.

    The last pup before I sold him at around four months.

    This is what a normal young male of working capability should look like.

    So when I got the Boerboel puppy I considered it to be just another mastiff breed and took the dog as a what the hell why not type of thing. But the little pup surprised and impressed me in a few areas.

    First it's extremely coordinated for a seven week old puppy. It is very agile and fast. I was told that these dogs are agile but took it as typical of breeders talking up their breed. Neos can move very fast in an instant and attack when they feel threat but are sluggish overall. Not so with this animalito, I watch it move and I can imagine what it will be capable of as an adult. The difference is apparent when you deal with puppies of different breeds, rottweiler and german shepherd puppies are wobbly at this age by comparison. This may also be an indication that the boerboel are fast matureres, capable of starting to do their job at an earlier age. Some rottweilers take a very long time to mature, up to two years before they even learn to perceive threat, sometimes never.

    The above is only an impression as there doesn't exist a standard by which to judge a dogs development other than comparing to what a person has seen in the past. However today something happened that I know for a fact I've never seen before in a puppy. She's been wearing a collar for a few days and today I put a leash on her for the first time. I usually let the pup drag the leash around for a couple of days before I even take hold of it. She accepted the leash like it was nothing so I wanted to see how far that goes. Well I took her for a short walk down the block on leash without any resistance. It's an amazing thing, anyone who remembers putting a leash on a puppy for the first time should remember the struggle the puppy puts on to not follow the pull of the leash.

    She picked up within a few days that things come from me and looks up to gauge what my next move is going to be so she's often looking up at my face. This kind of awareness at this age is surprising.

    All good things but there are things that make me concerned too. There were a few things here and there that spooked her. The good thing is that after being scared by something she recovers quickly and goes to check it out. Whatever it is that scared her once will not scare her a second time. I'm in the habit of always worrying about the dog displaying fear in strange situations. With the herders as protection dogs the tendency has been to breed very stable dogs who apparently do not react with fear to anything even as puppies. This may not be ideal because with this approach you're eliminating all sense of threat perception in the dogs and some degree of it is necessary for the dog to be aware of threat and react at the appropriate time.

  • Video: Predator - The Circle Of Life

    The pup is feisty. She took me on the other day and I had to put her in her place. She accepts her position well though. I'm a little concerned about my three year old. At this point the puppy doesn't respect her. It is understood that dogs respect the children through the influence of the master. I'm hoping there's a genetic predisposition to not only respect the child but also assume responsibility for her. Of course this will come at a later time if it does.

  • 4 months old.

    I was sure I put four sausages on the grill :)

    I find that the pup has a good measure of willingness. She listens to me very well and catches on to what I want her to do very quickly albeit I demand very simple things. Sometimes it looks like she knows what I want before I tell her so I don't even have time to approach the exercise in a logistic way. I've never had a dog that could be trained just by talking to it with an occasional enforcement. All puppies I've owned have been of the conventional working breeds with the exception of a few neos. I know that mastiff type dogs don't like repetition and I wasn't looking forward to starting formal obedience training with her. It looks like I may not have to approach her training in a formal way. Another observation is that although basic obedience exercises are very easy I think it would be very difficult or almost impossible to teach more complicated things as the dog doesn't show drive or interest in things we could cooperate on in the way a GSD or a rottweiler and their handler would.

    When I tell her to do something and she doesn't and I move in to enforce she doesn't run away nor assumes a submissive posture. This allows me to do all the work off leash without all the intermediate progressions which eliminate the choice for the dog to avoid the enforcement. Still takes some know how but I can see why people would consider this kind of dog easy to get along with.

    Protection wise I see nothing promising. She barks when in her fenced in space and some unusual people pass in back of my property but the bark is not strong. I've heard the beginnings of a stronger bark in pups of about the same age.

    However I feel that the boerboel's awareness to what's going on around her is at a higher level. Here's a good example. At this time the boerboel likes her crate, which I leave open, and crashes in there from time to time. Sometimes I would call her out to go outside and she would just raise her eye brows and look at me but not move from the crate. I already know she'd prefer to stay where she is and leave her alone. On one such occasion she was in the crate which is in my office. I picked up an object, a long plastic tube, from outside the house and carried it into the house and walked past the office door. I don't remember why I brought this thing into the house but as I passed the office I clearly remember this thought that occurred to me; "she's going to go out of the crate and check out what I was up to". Sure enough a few paces away from the door and she caught up to me to check out what that was all about. And she didn't do it with the same motivation as a dog that sees someone carrying a toy it likes and running over expecting a game.

    In terms of protection I think this indicates a dog that has a good awareness of what's going on around it which is a good starting point but certainly not everything. She still has very high interest to run over to strange people and act all submissive to them when they start to pet her. The good thing is that I can stop her with a command and call her back to me to which she responds without hesitation. I did enforce this a couple of times when there are no distractions, just as a training situation. This seems to be the time when she requires corrections because when it really counts she shows no hesitation in following my directions. Maybe because the situations are relatively new to her and her level of decisiveness in what she's doing is lower so she's more apt to take my directions.

  • It was at this point that I decided I'm not going to keep the boerboel. My decision was based fundamentally on her reaction to friendly strangers which was submissive. There was not enough drive to do anything with. She'd chase a ball, pull on a rag and do many other things but everything mediocre. As far as obedience she's the kind of dog that rethinks everything every time I tell her to do something. The reaction to a given command is first to think "is there any way I can get away with doing something else". From time to time reinforcement is required to set the boundaries with the child. I think she'll make a very nice pet with someone who can control her sometimes wilful streak. Once it's established who's in charge she responds very well to modulating one's voice and talking to her to get her to do things as opposed to responding to one word commands. In that way she's an intuitive dog that will figure out what you want before you get a chance to show her.

  • Thanks for sharing Dan. Is it fair to say that, on average, their bark is worse than their bite? They are definitely big and intimidating and so I'm not sure how many dudes would want to hang around and find out if the dog is serious or not.

  • I tested the mother a little before I bought the pup. She was aggressive in the kennel. The same display inside the house would keep anyone out. I was hoping the same from the pup but could see that she wasn't going in that direction. I also detected a weakness in the mother's aggression. When I'd raise my hand in threat she'd crouch down a little. It was almost imperceptible and could be construed as the dog taking action to avoid a blow and spring back at you. But based on my experience I concluded it was a weakness. However while not posssessing the kind of drive we look for to stay on the bite the mother is the kind of dog that would react instantly and decisively to a threat. This has been demonstrated and is similar to reactions I've seen in neapolitan mastiffs. She would bite an assailant and it would be enough to distract them and allow the owner to make a getaway. However I can get the same and much more from my rott who operates in a different mode.

    If you search youtube for boerboels and bitework you will see some sleeve work. All dogs are working in prey and lack intensity. There's very little work where the dog is showing some defense. When it does it's mediocre.

  • Dan, your neo's were gorgeous! What led you into them and what led you out if you don't mind me asking? Also what was your opinion of them as protection dogs?

  • Barbara, I might as well take this opportunity to say some of my thoughts with regards to the molossers in general. But first what a coincidence that yesterday I received an email from the person I sold the boerboel bitch to. Here it is with a couple of pics.


    These were all taken in early february and unfortunately some really great photo's of her working on and off lead are not comming up. She and my son are nearly inseperable and I'm very impressed how she responds to both of the children. I'm not sure who enjoys the training portion more, M*** or the kids.

    Simply stated I don't feel that the trainability of the molossers is comparable to that of the herding breeds. As a trainer trainability is somehting very real to me. Over my time with dogs I've come to expect the minimum in terms of command performance from my dogs. What I mean by this is that I teach them only what is necessary for absolute control eliminating any superfluous exercises that I will not use in day to day situations. I find that with those basic exercises and more so with some of the complex exercises that are part of bitework, the molossers lack in trainability. They also lack in in stability and understanding of the task at hand. This applies to offensive work. When they are working in prey it is weak to mediocre and when they are working in defense they are obviously not capable of doing offensive/patrol type work.

    With that said I think that the big advantage of molossers is that they are great defensive dogs. For somebody who is not in a position to invest a lot of money and time in protection training a molosser can be a dog that will perform well. It is a dog that most often is handler sensitive and also sensitive to other members of the family. It recognizes threat innately and acts decisively to eliminate it. I'm not saying that every molosser is like this but many can be. You can have a great patrol dog that as a family dog is completely oblivious to situations that a molosser understands innately. I realize that this is a very general description that may not make any sense to people that concentrate on herding breeds and patrol dog work. However anyone that has experienced the decisiveness and quickness with which some molossers react will know what I'm talking about.

    I don't feel that these qualities are restricted to molossers. I think a good dog of the herding breeds can function in both capacities although it's rare to see. This is why I choose the rottweiler. I feel that more often than any other breed they combine this ability to act naturally to sense threat while at the same time being able to do patrol type work. The neos to me did not have this quality. I realize that there are exceptions in every breed. I've communicated with an individual that led me to believe that in terms of reacting to a challenge a neo is capable of withstanding some extreme pressure, the kind that you wouldn't really expect a herding breed to stand up to. I believe it because in my experience agitating some of the molosser breeds they possess in defense what I call the bottomless barrel. The more you push they will still find more within themselves to come out even harder. There's no backing them down. Those that think I'm talking about the fear motivated mastiff type dogs better think again, you have not seen what I'm talking about. They can't be shut down.

    Still trainabilty is an important quality to me so I choose the middle ground; the rottweiler.

    My experience with neos is not extensive. The ones that I've seen that showed some potential in protection lacked in stability and their reaction could be viewed as fear based. I don't completely subscribe to this way of seeing it but I do most definitely prefer a dog that is capable of being neutral in situations where the neo was not. As I've said before a dog that provides its owner with the necessary level of protection, which is what this forum is about, be it a molosser, bandog, or any other of the off breeds is acceptable by me and is worthy of discussion.

  • There's a lot of hype in these dogs, and when I didn't have a lot of experience I was a subscriber to it. A lot of this, "you can't shut the dog down" stuff is back yard training, or less sophisticated training than what's out there. Sure, the dog looks GREAT and like it won't shut down, but put someone in front of it who knows what they're doing and you may see something different. My first bandog was a bull mastiff x apbt ( I have no proof if this was the breed components, this is what I was told it was). I did this backyard training and had a few police officers and construction workers with lots of presence jump us in "real" scenarios, and eventually put immense pressure on him. He looked awesome, like nothing could stop him. Then I got a real trainer. He shut the dog down one two three, and I believe it was in an effort to show me that ANY dog can be shut down. Now what about all that I saw? Got me. I don't have the answers.

    I think the problem is you have a lot of people into these dogs that aren't into serious training. Sure they train a little and "test" a lot, but IMO, that isn't cutting it. Then you have all the tall tales, and nobody's showing any proof. You send a pro to go see, and they see.... hype with nothing to back it up.

    When you start talking about defensive breeds and defensive dogs, it's worth mentioning that this defense is really a touch of nerves, similar to what the old school version of sharp was. Not that it's a bad thing, it's something that determines the level of protection dog a dog makes, whether real or playing a game. Nerves are a funny and complex thing, especially when dealing with the overly defensive dog. Missing prey, and IMO, you're missing an integral component. Can you get by in most cases like this if the dog is all forward, can they look good, yes, but there's always that small percent that you're going to get the mentally ill psycho who's going to plow through your dog, the dog who couldn't be beaten off the bite, and the dog is going to be like WOW, what do I do? They don't have the genetics necessarily to get thru that without a lot of training.

    After I got a real trainer I started training my neo x ab from South Africa professionally. We started to do home protection. She looked awesome. Very intense, very serious, the work wasn't a game. I got bored with the real PP stuff and thought maybe I'd like to train her for a sport, so we started pursuing PSA. Although the dog was working primarily in defense, and we did all defense work, this dog would haul tail to get a bite pretty much at any lengths. Towards the end, outing was a problem. Some controversial techniques were applied to get her to out, and the problem seemed to be fixed. Then I went to trial. In PSA for the PDC which is the entry level title, you can request a forearm presentation. Since we had done all of our initial work with a sleeve we were going to ask for the forearm presentation at the trial, and after that begin teaching her upper body targeting to train for the PSA 1. Here's what happened, the decoy didn't give the forearm presentation and it totally screwed with the dogs head. I've never seen this dog back down from anything, till this trial. Granted the test was WAY harder than what she had been prepared for, we had only trained for 4 months on a field, and had only put her on strange decoys twice, with no field work with people milling about and it was 110 degrees. Are these excuses or are they valid issues? Who knows, I don't have enough experience to answer that. I've been told varying things from she's a curr to her reaction was appropriate given the circumstances for her temp. and it doesn't make her a bad dog at all.

    If you're interested in seeing this is in the order that it occurred and can make heads or tails of it go ahead:

    This is the car jack, this is the first time she ever saw a hidden sleeve. We used this as a true test

    after the lack of forearm presentation we were told to do it again

    And then the finale was the courage test where she hit the decoy like a freight train hitting a wall. Strangely she seemed to do the best in this one then the others

    Here you have a female bandog professionally trained, even if incompletely, who I have hours of footage of looking good, who couldn't be beaten off the bite, backed down at the trial. What to make of this? Who knows :) I think she's a good dog for a female bandog and she more than fulfills the job I purchased her for, which was not sport. Do any of these molossers besides the rottweiler compare to the herding breeds in terms of versatility, ease of use and proven nature? No, but I like their personalities and temperaments, and when you're in a low class neighborhood, these are the dogs people understand or at least think they do ;) I think if more people got out and truly started investigating their nature inside and out, and not this simple testing stuff, they could go far. Right now, there's just not a lot of people interested in them to take them there. There are some people trying, but IMO the work being done by 90% of the owners/breeders isn't extensive enough to achieve any sort of recognition like the herders and rottweilers have, and the work being put into them by that 10% isn't being investigated enough because most experienced people don't want these dogs. They want something easier to work with with more of a chance to get a good dog than the crap shoot it is taking them on.

    Do I think these dogs can be great when not comparing them to the more traditional breeds? Absolutely, even if they are few and far between, but they are nowhere near where the other breeds are in terms of proven.

    That's my 2 cents :)

    And BTW, I'm glad you found a loving home for your Boerboel, she's very pretty :) I like the first one you posted to at the beginning of the thread showing an adult BB.

  • I agree with most of things you said about bandogs and molossers in general.

    I can't comment on your dog, I'd have to see it. It's hard to tell from videos in general and more specifically because of the distance of the camera from the dog in your vids I can't make any conclusion about the dog. The description you gave can be speculated upon but there are too many variables. Thanks for sharing them BTW.

    With regards to shutting down a dog; sure a bullet to the head will shut down most dogs. The question is what is considered reasonable pressure that the dog should be able to withstand. I'd like to start a discussion about that in this thread In the case of the pro trainer that backed down your first bandog, do you remember what exactly he did?

    I think it gets a little complicated because there are training situation or situations where the dog has time to go into offensive drive with all it's perks and by contrast there are situations where the dog is spontaneously challenged. A dog that has been expertly agitated to the point it disregards anything the decoy throws at him in that situation; think water, rattling cans, screaming, an unfaltering frontal stance etc. will show very well in a trial situation or in a real situation with similar rules of engagement. It is very demonstrable. However this very dog may completely lack the decisiveness or strength of character necessary to face a spontaneous challenge from a man. Something that many molossers will do naturally. They may never exhibit the kind of control and workability we see from the herders but if we're talking about strictly a protection dog how often is that really necessary?

    With that said I believe that there are dogs that can do both and that's the kind of dog I'm most interested in.

  • I know, the video was filmed from far away. That was as close as they would let my husband get.

    Well, he came to evaluate my female. He wanted to see my male first. He's a pet quality dog btw, that just happens to be protective, but he's really pet quality compared to my other two. We were chatting in front of the house with my dogs observing us from the window. I brought my male out, let my husband handle him because I had just gotten home from work and was still in heels. Now, my husband never held the leash with him in this type of situation and doesn't have nearly the bond that I have with the dog. The trainer tried to get him to exhibit a defensive reaction by making hard eye contact with full frontal body positioning. My dog didn't see him as a threat, he just watched him. We see people in my neighborhood like that all the time. This is normal behavior here :) lol I had already de-conditioned him to that type of reaction years before with serious corrections. When the dog refused to behave defensively, he whipped him super hard with a leather leash. The dog jumped forward and started barking, wherein the trainer tried to get him to bite a puppy tug. This threw the dog off because I can only assume as a tug loving dog, he couldn't figure out what to make of this guy whipping him and then trying to play a game with him. He drove him to walk around my husband to avoid putting the tug in his mouth. I think he expected the dog to run, which he didn't. He just didn't bite the tug. In the dogs defense, my husband was never threatened in the attack. Had he tried to play nice with the tug, the dog would have been all over it. He's a beloved pet, and I still think he's a cool dog. I don't know what to make of that situation. The dog will defend me, but not himself? Or not my husband? I have no clue. I'm still learning :)

    The molossers aren't really bred with serious training in mind, which is why they're more difficult. The more traditional breeds are bred with that as a top priority. I find them easy to train compared to hunting line labs honestly. Higher levels are difficult, but it's nothing an e-collar can't correct. With an e-collar they train up fairly fast like any other dog.

    I don't have an opinion on the new thread you started, but I look forward to other opinions from people more knowledgeable.

  • When this trainer came to your place what was the objective of bringing the male out? I mean were you talking possible protection training and wondering if the dog had potential or did you specifically ask him to push the dog to see what it will take? Frankly I don't get the leather leash whipping thing. That's questionably the last resort in bringing a dog out if all other things failed. I mean it's much more pressure than flanking. You can destroy a young dog that's not too strong like that and mess up a good dog. The only way I would do that is if someone told me their dog is ready and as good as it's ever going to get and that they needed to know that the dog will be able to withstand that kind of pressure.


    The dog will defend me, but not himself?

    When someone is threatening you the pressure is not on the dog. The dog reacts because it wants to. When the pressure is on the dog it reacts because it has to. Both things are clumped as defense but they are different. Once the dog attacks to defend you the pressure will be turned on him. Being already on the bite he may fight or he may let go. Most times people will pull away once bit so that doesn't work against the dog and it wins.

  • No, I told him I knew the dog protected and I wasn't interested in working him at all. He has HD and being older it wasn't worth the money IMO. He was skeptical that the dog protected and wanted to test him. I thought I'd seen all I needed to see with him. He didn't discuss what he was going to do. The dog is no worse for the wear from it though. He's very confident so this did no damage to him at all. He could tell by looking at him that the dog was confident, which is why he did that. It sounds a little out there, but he's really a very good trainer. It kind of reminded me of the stake out test, but with my husband being the stake.

    Thanks for the explanation. I didn't quite get why it was important for the dog to defend himself, I just knew that's what made him pet quality :)