Living With Your Boerboel – The First 6 Months
So… you decided to welcome a beautiful bundle of energy and joy to your home. Congratulations on your new addition.
Well done you!
You are now the proud owner of one of the most wonderful dogs in the world and now get to take him/her home and live with you and capture your heart. Your bundle of licks and waggyness will require a large enough roaming space, durable toys, a safe and warm sleeping place, loads of attention and playtime. As with any dog, you need to get your pup into a routine and get him/her to know your family. You also need to decide upfront what the boundaries are (e.g. sleeping in the house, sleeping on the couch, jumping up against you in excitement, etc.).
So what are you going to do about it?
Before you get your Boerboel puppy home, or at least within the first few months of getting him home, you will, most likely, need most if not all of the following;
- Puppy Pads
- Poo Bags
- Dog Blankets
- Feeding and Water Bowls
- Puppy Food (we will be happy to advise you on what choice of food will be nourishing for your Boerboel)
- Insurance, if you feel the need to have. Your dog will already have a Micro-chip and all his/her vaccinations will be up to date. We will provide the details of the chip and the vaccinations given. We will also advise when the next vaccinations are due.
- Dog Crate (big enough for an adult Boerboel, you can reduce it’s internal size with large boxes if necessary)
- Soft Dog Mattress
- Dog Toys (small, medium and large versions)
- Large Storage Boxes – for toys (don’t leave toys lying around, they are YOUR toys not your puppy’s), supplements, treats etc
- Collar and ID tag (bear in mind you are likely to go through 3 or 4 collars in the first 6 months)
- Puppy Shampoo
- Training Treats
- Treat Pouch
- Chewing Items (high density rubber bones, antler, knuckle or other recreational bones etc – NO COOKED BONES EVER!)
The best thing to do when you get your puppy home is to place him in his x-pen in a quiet room with some pee pads, a bowl of water, his blankets and a small selection of his/her toys and leave him for a couple of hours to sleep, get used to his new environment and all of the strange sights, sounds, smells and comings and goings of his new home. As weird as it will be for you, the first couple of days for your puppy are a minefield of excitement and stress.
Just remember, a couple of days earlier, your pup was a member of an active bundle of tumbling teeth and claws and fighting, nibbling, yelping, licking, snoring, sleeping, cuddling litter mates. Now, he/she is, at least until you form your pack, an orphan. His/her mum has gone, his/her dad has gone, all his/her brothers and sisters have gone, in fact everything in the world that he/she knew, was comfortable with and felt safe in has gone forever. Now all he/she has is you and what you will provide for him/her. He/she will rely on you for warmth, food, fresh water, comfort, enjoyment, excitement, and most importantly, his/her safety.
You will be his/her teacher, mentor, friend, playmate, protector and guide for the rest of his/her life. If you do your job properly your Boerboel will give you years of friendship, laughter, unswerving loyalty and will protect you, your family and everything you hold dear with his life.
The Early Days
One of the most important things to remember when you own a Boerboel or any Mastiff for that matter is not to expect too much too soon. We take the approach that our puppies never have formal obedience training or any kind of special training until they are around 8 months of age. We believe that they develop best, as dogs and as members of our pack and family, if they are allowed to have a decent, stress free puppy-hood. That means just letting them be puppies.
Of course we teach them the basics and this starts the day we get them home but the basics are really just the rules of the house and to do little things like sit, down, come and not to jump up at the bars of the x pen and when we approach his pen or crate. This behaviour is ignored, the behaviour we want is rewarded, it is a simple but very effective method to use with a young puppy, especially as we do not believe in using physical corrections (to be covered at length in a later post) until they are 8 – 12 months of age by which time, if done properly the need for physical corrections will be few and far between.
Voice corrections are simple enough but we add a small twist – whispering. In most of our normal every day dealings with our puppy we use a soft, low, calm voice, almost at a whisper. This has two effects. The first is that the puppy has to concentrate on the low tone and initially will only be rewarded for responding to a “whispered” command, the whisper then is the normal level of communication in the first few months. Secondly, when “whisper” is normal on the odd occasion when a raised and more forceful command becomes necessary the contrast between that and the normal level of communication is very marked and makes the harder vocal correction much more effective.
In its simplest form if you approach your puppy in his pen and he jumps around, jumps at the bars or generally acts stupid give him a firm “No!” and turn your back, wait until the noise dies down or count slowly to 10 and then turn and give your puppy your full attention. Rinse and repeat until your puppy learns that behaving this way gets him/her nothing, being calm does. The other side of the coin obviously therefore, is when you approach your puppy’s pen and he is calm or gives you good confident eye contact give a firm “YES!” accompanied by a treat.
There may, of course, be times when you simply aren’t in the mood to deal with your pup. He/she has nipped you one too many times, played too rough (again), grabbed your trousers or got under your feet or done one of the million and one other things that get under your skin. DO NOT yell, shout, or lose your temper. Calmly remove yourself from the situation or put your puppy in his crate (that is what it is there for after all) and walk away. Remember, if your puppy misbehaves it is because he/she is a baby, he/she doesn’t know any better.
After being play-nipped about 100 times you may find the idea of teething a welcome one BUT this is where his mouth full of little razor sharp needles gets replaced by a mouth full of bigger ones. Again, there are plenty of resources on the net or in books which will tell you about teething.
Boerboels are generally a very healthy breed. However, like most large and giant breeds they can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia. Most of the Boerboel breeder associations have very strict criteria regarding which dogs and bitches may enter the stud registers. This has done a great deal to eliminate many conditions prevalent in other breeds, unfortunately they cannot eliminate handler error. Over exercising your puppy or subjecting your pup to periods of high impact exercise like running, chasing and catching frisbees before he is 12 months is a no no and may damage joints and connective tissues leading to major issues later on in life. This does not mean they shouldn’t be exercised simply that caution and common sense should prevail.