A Complete Guide to Caring for a South African Boerboel Dog

The Boerboel breedBoerboel Breed Overview

This large mastiff dog breed is deceivingly intimidating, as the massive guard dog appears like it could fight off a lion. The Boerboel breed used to fight off lions, but they also made their way into plenty of family homes and hearts. The Boerboel dog is a great family dog and would be a loving and friendly pet when they are with the right individual. 

The name of this breed came from Dutch Africans, and the word roughly translates to 'farmers dog.' These pets are also sometimes referred to as South African Mastiff, South African Boerboel, Borbull, or Bole. In this article, they will be referred to as Boerboel, which is pronounced like 'boo-ar-bull.

Dog laying down outside in the dirt

The Boerboel breed began in South Africa. This huge breed helped protect farmers from the deadly wildlife that lives there. The dangerous wildlife of that area included hyenas, lions, leopards, baboons, other big cats, and dangerous animals, which is why these dogs have adapted to be such large and protective creatures. The Boerboel breed became less popular as more people moved into South Africa, and it became less inhabited by the dangerous wildlife surrounding the area. This breed almost completely disappeared from the world, but Boerboel breed enthusiasts began a breed resurgence around the 1980s.


One of the most impressive parts of the Boerboel dog breed is that they can stand anywhere from 22 to 28 inches tall at their shoulders. These dogs might weigh between 110 and 200 pounds, and although these are their breed standards, these pets can be larger or smaller than this. These dogs might seem intimidating, but they are just as affectionate and playful as a German Shepherd in the right homes. These dogs are just a lot bigger, so instead of caring for a normal, lovable pet, it's like caring for Clifford, the Big Red dog.


This giant dog breed makes for an excellent guard dog because of its size, loyalty, and pride. However, these same qualities can make for quite some trouble if they aren't socialized properly. It's always important to introduce these dogs to newcomers or other animals before allowing them to roam freely together, as Boerboel puppies can feel threatened easily. 

Even though these dogs can have fragile egos, when they are properly socialized, they are really lovable creatures. These dogs are also great with families and children, but they might be unaware of their gigantic size and can accidentally injure small children by stepping or tripping on them.

Dog sitting calmly outside


Even though these dogs can be trained to be great pets, they require a dominant and consistent trainer. The Boerboel dog breed is not a great pet for first-time dog owners because they will need very regular and strictly scheduled training sessions to be well-behaved dogs. These dogs have had jobs for most of their existence, so they are very intelligent and eager to please their owners. This also means that these pets will need plenty of mental stimulation to stay on their best behavior.

As long as a potential Boerboel dog owner knows how to provide consistent training and is comfortable and patient working with stubborn dogs, they will find that Boerboel puppies are not different than many other pets when it comes to training. These pets will respond best to short and consistent sessions that are focused on the same commands until they master them and are ready to move on to the next. Owners should never chastise their Boerboel dog for not completing a command, as this can taint the fun these dogs should have from their training sessions. Often dog owners make the mistake of thinking a stubborn dog needs to be 'broken' this tragic way of thinking will just lead to frustration and trust issues on both sides of the relationship. The best way to help a stubborn dog listen to you is to earn their trust with consistency, kindness, and patience over time. Once the dog trains with its owner regularly and sees that you are constantly offering up verbal praise and treats when they complete your commands, they're much more likely to listen more often.


These dogs can have short straight coats that are shiny, soft, and dense. Their overcoat is typically a shiny thin layer, whereas their protective undercoat is very thick. These dogs can have red, fawn, brown, brindle, or black coats. Sometimes Boerboel dogs have spots on their coats, especially around their neck, face, and paws. A stereotypical Boerboel coat pattern will also have dark markings around their eyes, mouth, nose, and ears.

The Boerboel dog's coat doesn't shed much at all, but it should still be brushed weekly to keep its skin healthy. Even though these dogs might shed very little, they are likely to go through heavier shedding periods during significant changes in the season. These pets aren't considered hypoallergenic and might not be great pets for people with dog allergies. Dog allergies can be caused by drool, dandruff, and dead hair, so even if these dogs don't produce a lot of dead hair, their excess drool can really irritate some people's allergies.

Boerboel Health Overview

Boerboel dogs are like every other breed when it comes to their health issues. These dogs will struggle with certain predispositions the breed is genetically at risk of experiencing. However, the majority of dogs in this breed will not experience any significant health issues and will live a long lifespan. The average lifespan for this Boerboel dog breed is between 10 to 12 years.

Common Psychological Health Condition


There are many reasons a dog may experience stress in its life. The most common cause of stress in dogs is poor socialization. When dogs aren't exposed to new environments or people enough, they get very anxious and uncomfortable in new situations. Another common cause of stress in dogs is loud noises, and this is why many dogs don't like fireworks, sirens, or thunderstorms. 

Owners can tell if their dog is struggling with stress by paying attention to their body language. Stressed-out dogs will put their ears back and might cower their head. Many dogs will shake like they're wet when they're stressed out in an attempt to relieve themselves of stress. The best way owners can treat their dogs' stress symptoms is to either provide socialization training or provide calming supplements ahead of a stressful event. Like if you know a thunderstorm is rolling in, then you should give your dog calming treats about an hour ahead of time. 


All dogs will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Dogs that have experienced past trauma like abuse or homelessness are much more likely to experience anxiety than other dogs. Any animals that come from shelters are also more likely to suffer from this condition and its symptoms. One of the most common types of anxiety in dogs is separation anxiety, and Boerboel puppies might struggle with this if they're left alone for too long.

Owners can tell if their pets suffer from anxiety if they see their dog pacing, shaking, whimpering, or barking often. Dogs with anxiety will also tuck their tails between their legs and hold their ears back. Boerboel dogs might also defecate, urinate, or vomit in moments of intense anxiety. Dog owners will be able to tell how severe their dog's situation is based on the intensity of their pet's symptoms. Owners can treat their dog's anxiety at home with special calming supplements, dog CBD, or anti-anxiety treats.

Dog running outside

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Many owners will use calming products to help their pets deal with any anxiety symptoms they might experience. A popular new trend is to create a safe space for your dog. This space is in a designated quiet location in your house, away from a lot of foot traffic, and should have a bunch of amenities specifically added to help your dog relax. These areas can be as simple as a calming dog bed in a corner and an open bowl of water, or they can be incredibly complex and include your dog's crate, some blankets, toys, or Zen treats as well. Some owners like to provide calming music and aromatherapy for their dogs as well. Owners have complete creative control when it comes to making a safe space for their Boerboel puppy, and they should just keep in mind what they know their dog likes best, so it isn't overwhelming for their pup.

Common Physical Health Conditions

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common joint issues dogs experience. The hip joint is supposed to slide smoothly when dogs move, but when a dog suffers from this type of condition, their joint doesn't slide smoothly, and then much later in their life, they will start to develop arthritis and other pain symptoms of it. 

Some dogs with this condition will lose muscle mass in their hind hips as they overcompensate for their weight in the front of their body. They do this to relieve extra weight from their hips, and then the muscles in their shoulders grow. Dogs with this condition might avoid jumping or running, and they will cry if anyone touches them on their inflamed hip.

The majority of cases of hip dysplasia can be treated at home by providing your Boerboel with a comfortable place to rest as well as with anti-inflammatory supplements. Dog CBD offers anti-inflammatory properties as well as pain management qualities which is why many dog owners give their pets CBD if they're suffering from hip dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia 

One of the most common joint conditions that dogs suffer from is elbow dysplasia. Boerboel dogs are humongous animals and are more likely to suffer from joint issues than many other breeds simply because of their massive size. Thankfully elbow dysplasia is mostly mild and only causes slight pain and discomfort. Dogs with this condition might cry or whine whenever they stand up or lie down. These dogs might yelp if anyone gives them a pet on the joint area where they are the sorest.

Pet parents shouldn't stress too much if their Boerboel dog develops this condition because it usually doesn't affect dogs until much later in their life. This condition can also be treated by providing your dog with a comfortable area they can rest. Some owners will also give their dogs anti-inflammatory supplements that can be found at a local dog store. 


A common eye disease that many dogs struggle with is ectropion. This common condition affects some Boerboel puppies, although not every dog in this breed will experience this development. 

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Ectropion occurs when the dog's eyelid rolls outward away from the eyeball. This most often affects the bottom eyelid and can cause some inflammation and discomfort in a dog's eye. Often symptoms of this include your dog's eye looking red and inflamed, they may have bloodshot eyes, but typically there are no treatments for this condition. Some owners will give their Boerboel dogs eye drops or eye ointment to keep their eyes clean, clear, and pain-free. 

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Oral Health 

A dog's oral health can have a huge impact on the rest of their physical health, although most dog parents aren't aware of this fact. When a dog eats, bacteria, tartar, plaque, and other muck build up in their mouths. This then sticks to their teeth, and bacteria slowly grows and enters their body in between teeth cleanings. This bacteria is harmless if your dog gets their teeth brushed regularly enough, but many dogs do not get this done and end up suffering from periodontal disease

Poor dental health can lead to other issues such as respiratory or heart disease as well. The best way owners can prevent this from happening to their Boerboel dog is to brush their teeth with a canine-specific toothbrush and toothpaste once every week. Some owners also give their Boerboel puppy helpful dental cleaning treats to care for their oral health. 

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Boerboel Dog Breed’s Need


When it comes to large dog breeds like the Boerboel, exercise can have a huge impact on their overall health. Too much or too little exercise can cause growth abnormalities that can lead to joint issues later in life. To avoid this, try to give your Boerboel puppy five minutes of exercise for every month old they are. A three-month-old puppy will need about fifteen minutes of exercise, but it's important not to provide too much as this can be just as damaging to their joints.

When full-grown, a Boerboel dog will need anywhere from one hour to two hours of vigorous exercise. When giant breeds like this don't get enough daily exercise, it might become a problem as they become more anxious and might become destructive in their own attempts to release their pent-up energy.

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It's safe to say that a giant dog breed like the Boerboel dog will require a lot of daily calories to stay healthy. These dogs can easily eat two cups of food a day as a puppy. It's incredibly important to note that giant dogs like this breed can have growth malformations if they aren't fed the proper nutrition during their puppy years. This is why it's important to provide high-quality giant-breed dog food and purchase puppy food specifically for puppies. 

A fully grown Boerboel dog can easily eat anywhere from six to nine cups of dog food daily. It's imperative that these food portions are split up throughout the day into at least two meals minimum. Large, deep-chested dog breeds such as the Boerboel are at higher risk of developing bloat, a dangerous, life-threatening condition. Scientists don't know the exact cause, but they know that large dogs are at a somewhat elevated risk of experiencing this condition. If those dogs also eat too quickly or eat too much in one sitting, this can raise the risk of experiencing this condition. Owners can split their Boerboel's meals up into four different meal times daily if they want. It just depends on what feeding schedule you can realistically manage.


Dogs like the Boerboel breed are considerably easier to care for compared to more high-maintenance dogs like the Maltese. The Boerboel has naturally short and dense fur, and owners can brush these dogs twice a week to keep their pet's coat free of dead hair and debris. It's best to use a pin-style dog brush or a soft bristle brush. Cleaning your dog's coat like this twice a week both helps their skin circulation and gives you more time to bond with your new pet. 

Giant dogs like the Boerboel might take a little longer to groom than a smaller pup simply because of how much more surface area their fur covers.

Owners should try to give these dogs a bath every six to eight weeks. It's a good idea to use canine ear cleaner and clean their ears once a month to avoid any ear infections or wax buildup. Never use anything like a q-tip to clean your dog's ears, and never stick anything inside their ears, as this can easily rupture their eardrums. The best way to clean their ears is to use a cotton ball and wipe the outer layer of their ears. Then you can use the same ear cleaning solution and drop one or two droplets into their ear and massage their ears to clean the inner part of their ears. 

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Top Product Picks for The Boerboel Dog Breed

Many owners get so caught up in the excitement of bringing a new pet home they forget how scary and stressful this time of change can be for their pets. Even though your new pet will come around to love you and their new home, it might take a couple of days or weeks to warm up to this huge change, and that's okay!

Potential Boerboel owners should help their new dog adjust to their new home better by setting up anything their new pet might want. The best way to welcome your new pet home is to have a nice bowl of water available to them, along with some great dog food. Owners can also purchase a dog bed and crate ahead of time, so that way their new pet has somewhere they can rest that is their own place. Sometimes new dogs aren't house trained yet, and a crate will really come in handy when you leave your new dog home alone the first couple of times.

Other necessities new dog owners should purchase ahead of time are a leash, collar, and a food storage container. It's a good idea for owners to purchase two leashes and collars just so they have a backup if anything happens to their first set. Some owners want to buy harnesses ahead of time, and while you can do this, you need to make sure you buy the right size for your new dog, so waiting to purchase this until you have them might make the buying process a little easier. 

Expert dog owners know that there are plenty of other handy items that are worth prepping before bringing your Boerboel home. Having dog treats, toys, and other fun additions like that is a great way to help ease your dog's stress upon their arrival. It's important to give your new pet plenty of space and let them explore the house on their own terms. You should feel free to pet them when your new dog comes to you, but let them explore on their own before you start following them around the house. This added pressure might give them a little more stress than they'd have if they could freely roam.

Any dog will happily adapt to its new home when they realize that they have plenty of love and treats in its new home. Use a calm and encouraging tone of voice to help your dog feel safer in their new residence, and then just wait for them to come around. It won't take long for a dog to realize its new home is a fun and great place.

Other Resources

  1. American Boerboel Club

  2. South African Boerboel Breed Society

  3. North American Boerboel Breed Association

  4. Paragon Boerboel Club

  5. Giant Boerboel Breed Rescue

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