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Boerboel: Breed profile

A boerboel dog standing on a dust track looking at the camera
(Image credit: Getty)
Quick stats

Life expectancy: 10-12 years
Average weight: Male: 174lbs/79kg Female 161lbs/73kg
About the same as: A keg of beer

Boerboels are beautiful dogs but they can look a little scary too. With their powerful jaws, stocky build and 27-inch (70-centimeter) height, they are certainly big and strong. But that's no surprise. These dogs have been bred for strength, having come from South Africa where they protected homesteads. Believed to have been the result of European and African interbreeding, they have also long gained a reputation for being one of the best guard dog breeds.

But does that mean they won't make for a cracking pet? Not at all. When treated correctly and brought up properly, there's no doubt Boerboels will become a loyal companion. In fact, they're among the smartest of dogs and they're always eager to learn. They also display great loyalty and confidence yet that's not to say they are perfect for everyone.

As you'll discover in this guide, Boerboels require a lot of effort from the moment they step into your home as a puppy. They need to be trained and socialized and they can't be left alone for lengthy periods otherwise they become bored and destructive. At their worst, they can even be dangerous. But don't stop reading! Let's see if this is the breed for you.

Boerboel dog

(Image credit: Getty)

How much exercise does a Boerboel need?

Facts for potential owners

Suitable for: People who want a strong, protective loving family pet
Not suitable for: Novice dog parents and anyone who doesn't have time to train
Temperament: Intelligent, loyal, obedient, territorial, dominant
Shedding: Medium

Are you ready to keep fit? Well, if you decide to welcome a Boerboel into your home, you'll be kept on your toes! Boerboels need plenty of exercise each day – about an hour spread over two walks, on a leash at the very minimum. You will also need to add in some playtime – both physically and mentally which you can do with the best dog toys as well as some old-fashioned tug-o-war. 

It helps enormously if you have a large yard. You can't pop down to the park and let this breed run because you can never be too sure how a Boerboel will react when encountering wildlife and other dogs. Yet they will need some freedom and having sufficient land is a must so they can run and play freely. Having a large home is also crucial. These are not the best large dogs for apartments!

Are Boerboels easy to train?

There is no getting around the fact that Boerboels need extensive training. Although they are intelligent and obedient, they are also dominant, so the trick is to start training them as early as you possibly can.

Trouble is, training is going to be far more difficult if you're a novice dog parent. You will need to know how to handle a pooch, particularly of this size and weight, and that means being assertive yet patient while confidently setting boundaries, being consistent and using positive reinforcement. Boerboels also need to be socialized from a young age – they must be introduced to a wide range of people and places and that takes time and patience.

Yet if you don't follow these golden rules, then you are likely to have a problem on your hands. With a lack of leadership, a Boerboel will assume a dominant role and be far less likely to respect you or follow your commands. But that's not all. Poor training can also lead to far worse behavioral problems as you're about to see.

Are Boerboels aggressive?

Sadly, they can be and, again, it all comes down to training. At the very least, a poorly trained Boerboel will show dog aggression to other dogs, more so if they are of the same sex and worse if they also of the same breed – seeing other dogs of the same sex seems to kickstart the breed's competitive nature. Boerboels are also territorial and they can become overprotective which can pose a danger to strangers. But if they are properly bred, well-trained and looked after well, then they will form close bonds instead. The worse you'd get in this instance is a polite aloofness which most people can cope with!

Boerboel dog

(Image credit: Getty)

Are Boerboels good family dogs?

Given what we've just learned about their potential aggressiveness, you may be wondering if a Boerboel is going to fit well into your family's life. It's a particularly important issue if you're going to be introducing children to this breed. But don't worry! Yes, Boerboels are fantastic family dogs and they're amazing with kids and other pets. Just ensure they're well-trained and socialized from a young age!

Boerboels certainly love to play and they have so much energy that they'll definitely be able to keep up with a kid's demands. They'll show a great level of calmness and affection and they'll also seek to protect children and the rest of the family. Even so, it's important that children know how to behave around dogs. You must stress the need for them to be respectful at all times.

What do Boerboels eat?

Boerboels can be greedy dogs and they are prone to putting on weight so it's a good idea to talk to your veterinarian for advice on portion sizes and how regularly you should be feeding your particular pet. You'll certainly need to keep an eye on this breed's calorie intake, so don't go overboard on the treats during training. Maybe reward them with something else like the best dog chew toys.

Many owners opt for a raw diet. This is absolutely fine but don't feed a Boerboel on meat alone. Although it will provide much needed phosphorus, the breed also needs plenty of calcium which can be obtained through bones, and you should add fruits and vegetables to add nutrients. If you're looking to offer the best dry food then ensure the kibble is of sufficient quality for fast-growing puppies.

Do Boerbels shed?

Grooming info

Amount Of Shedding: Medium
Easy To Groom: Yes
General Health: Good
Potential For Weight Gain: Medium

If you worry about getting hair all over your furnishings and clothes, then be aware Boerboels are moderate shedders. You can catch most of the loose strands and keep this breed looking good by investing in the best dog brushes and giving their coat a once over every week or so. In that sense, the short bristly coat of a Boerboel is easy to maintain – they only require a bath once a month unless they've become particularly grubby. Otherwise, check their ears, keep their teeth clean and trim their nails every couple of weeks.

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Boerboel health problems

Boerboels are generally healthy due to artificial selection but do check with the breeder before buying to be absolutely sure they've screened for elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disease, vaginal hyperplasia and two main abnormalities of the eyelids: ectropion where the lower eyelid rolls out or droops, and entropion where the eyelid rolls inwards and causes the lashes to rub on the dog's eye.

These are illnesses that affect Boerboels the most but you never quite know what's around the corner so it's always advisable to take out the best pet insurance straight away. The breed is prone to putting on weight as we've seen and they also suffer bloat but that's easily avoided. Just ensure you don't feed the breed within four hours before they exercise. Leaving about an hour after exercise before you give them food is also advisable.

How much does a Boerboel cost?

In general, you're looking to pay between $1,500 to $2,000 for a Boerboel depending on the breeder. You shouldn't have to pay too much out in vet fees for health problems (especially with insurance) but other costs will mount up. If you're seeking help with training (and it's recommended), add an extra $1,000. Food will cost around $600 each year on average.

Should I get a Boerboel?

The decision whether to get a Boerboel generally comes down to time and space. You need time to train, time to exercise and time to ensure the breed doesn't become bored and destructive. You need space for them to exercise off-leash and enough room in your home for them to roam because they're big dogs. If you don't have time and space, a Boerboel could become aggressive. But they also make for lovely, adoring family pets, doubled as guard dogs for added protection. You should definitely consider one.

David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.