Is intelligent, trainable and manageable. The type of intelligence we are looking for in a Boerboel is the ability to learn quickly and also to learn from his experiences. Boerboels should also have the intelligence to be wary of dangers that may cause harm to themselves or their owner. There is no point in spending all your time and effort in training a dog, and the first time it sees a leopard or lion, he charges out and goes and gets himself killed! The terms “trainable” and “intelligent,” often get used in describing the same trait with dogs, but they are different. Many dogs are very trainable (obedient) but cannot think for themselves; they are not intelligent. On the same note, I have seen some dogs who do extremely intelligent things but would not care for obedience training. The Boerboel must be both. When he is intelligent and trainable, he will become manageable. A large dog who is not controlled properly, can quickly become a danger to his owner or innocent bystanders.
Has a strong protective instinct and is loyal to members of the family.
The original breed standard, which was written in 1983 said, “He must be a resolutely good watchdog for all to see and loving towards the family with a special liking / preference for children.” I would like to see the bit that says, “A special liking/ preference for children,” to be in all the breed standards for the Boerboel, as this is the original job for the Boerboel, to protect his owners, his family, and his pack. And what could be more important to his owners than their children?
I remember the last two Boerboels my father had on the farm before he died in 1976. My kids were two and three years old. I was chasing them around playfully with a lion mask over my head. Both these Boerboels were not happy with what I was doing, but they accepted it, sort of, conditionally. The next moment, my younger daughter stepped on a thorn and started crying. Both Boerboels turned on me immediately, and I had a split second to rip off the mask and calm the two dogs down before they attacked me. It was pure luck that both dogs were closer to the kids at that specific, crucial moment. I think that a small percentage of Boerboels are still like that. There is more on this subject throughout this book, because it is such an important part of the Boerboel that many people do not draw enough consideration to.
Is steadfast and calm, with a balanced and confident nature when approached.
The Boerboel is a watchdog, and the first thing that a would-be- intruder will do is test the dog, to see if the dog will back down when approached. It doesn’t look good when someone sees your large, powerfully-built dog from a distance, and when they come close, he slinks off in fear of the person approaching. “balanced” and “confident” also means that if something unusual happens, the dog doesn’t immediately react by either wanting to run away or begin snapping in fear, either at the person approaching, or even worse, the owner holding the leash.
Oom Klaas and Ysterberg Vegter III. This dog had all the desired traits of the Boerboel temperament and much more. He was also a very prepotent producer, and appears in pedigrees of many good dogs that are at stud today.
Ysterberg Vegter III demonstrated the most confidence and calmness of any Boerboel that I have ever seen. His owner, Oom Klass Van
Waarveren walked him through a two-meter-wide corridor of 18 caged, aggressive, barking, male Boerboels. This was a very intimidating situation for any dog, but not for Vegter. He calmly stayed by his owner’s side and walked past the dogs, who were launching at him, and hitting their cages ferociously, as if they were not there. When Vegter got near the middle of the corridor, he let out one stern bark, which was more like a lion’s roar, and all the dogs suddenly became quiet and subdued. It was an amazing sight to see. The only explanation I, or anyone else who witnessed this spectacle could give, was that Vegter oozed such confidence and dominance, that when he barked, no dog dared to challenge him anymore.
Is fearless and shows courage when threatened. This sentence really is the essence of the Boerboel. Sure, a Boerboel has to be big and powerful, but what use is that, when in your only time of need, he decides his well-being is more important than yours? It needs to be clear that a Boerboel should be fearless when his owner is in danger, either from a charging animal, or an attacking human. Either one of these scenarios should trigger an instinct within the dog to protect to the death. This should be a strong instinct and is not rational, from the perspective of the dog and his own life. Having said that, a dog should have enough intelligence to know a bad situation, which isn’t life threatening to his owner, should be avoided. Once again, this is a very important part of the breed and it is addressed many more times in this book.
Requires training and firm handling from an early age. This is the case with ALL dogs, especially larger breeds that are as strong as, or stronger than the handler. There are many dominant Boerboels who need experienced handlers. It is important to be able to distinguish between a good dog with a dominance issue and a bad dog who bites through fear.