My husband and I are Belgians living in Ghana, West-Africa. Last year our home was burgled at night and we no longer felt safe in our house. Therefore we decided to get a guard dog as a pet and for protection of the house and garden. We bought a South African Boerboel (although not entirely purebred) who is now 9 months, and I have intensively trained him since the start (using marker training and the leerburg basic obedience DVD). He follows all basic commands, sit, stay, heel, walking without pulling etc. (the recall is not a 100% yet though, but working on it). He does not have any dominance issues at all towards us in the house and we have always set firm boundaries which he respects. We've also recently had him neutered.
The problem we are facing now is a bit complex, we want him to be a guard dog in and around the house, which he is, he will attack any stranger coming into the garden or the house. However we have taken him out for walks in the neighbourhood since day one, sometimes taking him to a local bar as well and having him lay down with us while we are having a drink. We've never let strangers pet him at those instances but he has always been used to strangers being around outdoors. Since about a month or so however he is getting very aggressive towards strangers once we sit down somewhere, so when we are walking all is fine, he will be attentive towards passers by but he will not do anything, it is only once we settle down somewhere and a waiter comes to take an order or people walk by a little close that he will get really aggressive and wants to attack because they are coming close. He is also quite racist in that respect, he will instantly bark and get aggressive towards a local (i.e. in Ghana black) person but not towards white people. I guess that is because most of our friends who he knows well are white, but on the other hand there are also quite some black people in his life and all the black people he has known since the beginning he is happy with, for instance the neighbour and her children, the security guard, the gardener etc. So he is not completely racist, but more or less racist towards 'new' people. It is also easy to introduce white guests inside the house, but I haven't dared introducing a black person in the house since he started this behaviour out of fear that he would attack and I don't want to react in the wrong way until I know how to deal with this issue properly.
So basically what I am looking for is how to communicate to my dog that it is ok to be aggressive towards strangers in the house or the garden but that when we tell him that this or that person is ok he should stop being aggressive, especially when we are outside of our premises. I would hate for the situation to turn to the fact that we can only take him outside for walks (at which point he is ok towards anyone) I would still want to be able to sit down somewhere and communicate to him that the waiter can come close and that passers by are not necessarily a threat...
Any help someone? Thanks a lot!!!
Suzanne Vanhooymissen from Ghana :-)
You will get more replies, and this is just my opinion. A guard dog (working on its own) and a PPD (working under your command) are very different animals.
I see your goal as unrealistic.
Others will have opinions, probably better.
I always have a problem with people who purchase certain dogs expecting them to be protectors based on breed and reputation. Finding a Boerboel that is capable of doing what you expect is not an easy thing to do. There just aren't that many out there of that breed. On top of that, yours is a mix breed and lord knows what with. Seems like the dog is uncomfortable in certain settings and is displaying aggression out of fear. With some people, and some places he's fine..others he is not.
You don't tell us if this dog has had any training as a youngster to prepare him to do protection work. You cannot expect the dog to "Naturally" protect because very few dogs will do this. You also can't expect the dog to make decisions on his own, especially since you don't appear to have formal protection training in the dog.
Regarding the dog being racist...Don't think so. If he was then the folks of color he has contact with in his relaxed setting ie:home, would be in trouble as well. My bet is that certain folks are eyeballing the dog which puts him on the defensive and can trigger aggression.
Excellent answer Howard.
A dog can be cued to respond in a certain way but to expect it to make the right choice on it's own isn't something to expect as a training goal.
Ditto on the "racist" dog thought. It's quite possible, IMO, the dog is reacting to subtle body cues from the owner, intended or otherwise.
This issue may be more complicated than you realize. It is too complex to address well here. I could write a whole essay on it, but I will attempt to be brief. This is only my opinion, and others may see this differently.
Usually, when people say "guard dog", they are referring to a dog that is allowed, if not encouraged, to exhibit behaviors that are most often considered behavioral flaws. Among these are barrier aggression, aggressive displays, bluffing, and posturing. Additionally, the dog is also in the position of deciding which behavior is appropriate in the face of a threat. These behaviors become self-gratifying, and the dog will choose to act out any time he becomes uncomfortable.
Your situation is compounded by the fact that you have a very young large-breed dog. As dogs mature, the traits that make a good guard dog (territoriality, loyalty, natural aggression) usually become more pronounced.
It is hard to turn off a dog that works as a guard dog. They tend to decide for themselves what constitutes a threat. Even if you can command him to quiet, he will still be uncomfortable when he is outside the confines of his own home and/or family. If he is the least bit unpredictable, he is not safe enough to mingle with strangers.
If you want a dog that has an on/off switch, you start with a dog that is comfortable being off and will turn on with a command. A guard dog is not that dog. It's much easier to turn a dog on than to turn him off.
If you are serious about needing a guard dog for your home, let him be a guard dog and don't put other expectations on him. If it were me (and I have a guard dog), I'd refrain from letting strangers meet him, and I'd put him away when company comes over.
If I was a waiter and you brought your dog to one of my tables, I would be extremely upset if the dog growled at me (but I have an issue with pets in service establishments anyway).
Welcome to the forum. Good luck with choosing the correct path for you and your dog.
I have 2 Boerboels who are 5 now, (litter sibs) who in the house, and when there are strangers at the door, do a very good vocal display of guarding, but when I am out with them, I absolutely do not want them to be aggressive, as any aggression is perceived as a 'dangerous' dog in the UK, and would be seized and pts.
Obviously there is a world of difference between Ghana and the UK, in every sense!
My breeder has 5 adult Boerboels in the house, and the one time she had a burglar chance it on the property, she came down to find her gigantic male holding the burglar by the arm, just enough pressure to hold him, no broken skin, and that was what she required from him.
When my lot play, they try to bring each other down in the way a lion brings down it's prey, and their sheer size and bulk makes this a successful MO, but as I have stated here before, I honestly don't think they are remotely ppd's as they just aren't smart enough! I adore my BB's, but if I wanted or needed personal protection, it wouldn't be my breed of choice.
Also, just to add, a friend of mine moved from SA a while back, where her explosive female - she had a huge pack- was encouraged and expected to patrol the perimeter, which she did very successfully, having seen the video of Lulu doing her job, I sure as hell wouldn't have stepped over the boundary, and there are a couple of really good handlers who do man work at competitive levels, mostly though, the Boerboel is a really good guard dog, if you are looking for an efficient deterrent, for more critical protection, I would be seeking out the expertise of the many experts on this board.
You have definitely come to the right place for advice!
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