Source: Business Daily (Extract)
Posted: June 1, 2023

Daniel Mutuma Gichungi, a Boerboel breeder, is one of the few in the country registered by both the Boerboel Association of East Africa (BAEA) and the South African Boerboel Breeders Association (SABBS) with the latter being the hallmark of perfection for this particular breed, not just in Kenya but all over the world.

From childhood, he has always been a lover of dogs but he acknowledges that being a professional breeder is something else entirely different from just having a love for animals.

Since he started professional breeding in 2010, he has bred Kenyan Shepherd Dogs (Boscos) before switching to German Shepherds, then Rottweilers and eventually South African Boerboels in 2018.

He runs a kennel — Lenana Boerboels and talks to BD Life about the intricacies surrounding his breeding business and Boerboel handling.


Mr Gichungi explains the importance of understanding the character and disposition of a dog before picking it a factor he was green to when he started his breeding business.

“I was purely driven by the excitement of owning a pedigree dog and the love I had for them, which was a wrong place, to begin with.”

“Breeders usually make the mistake of mixing breeds and coming up with dog breeds whose personality and characteristics cannot be defined and this in the long run creates a problem not just for the breeder but also for pet owners”, he laments.

Understanding a breed’s specific characteristics comes from years of breeding and handling a specific dog.

“Before getting a dog, one should ask themselves what the original breeders of that dog were looking for, was it intelligence, strength, or agility? This helps in knowing what dog would suit your purpose,” says Mr Gichungi.

He says the same due diligence people have before buying cars should be exercised before getting a Boerboel. This is because every breeder has a unique selling point. It helps to know what you want.

He advises dog owners to go for an appraisal, a form of due diligence to understand the characteristics of individual pets, making it easier to know how to breed them if need be.

“For one to get a dog appraisal, you need to belong to a breeding society and even if you have a dog, which has been registered but does not belong to that particular breeding society, you cannot get an appraisal.”

He gives an example of his dogs, which are SABBS approved and registered.

It comes with a condition that he cannot allow them to mate with a dog that has not been SABBS approved or registered. If he does, he cannot register those puppies under the society.

“Appraisals in Kenya have a percentage limit for breed approval. The Boerboel Association of East Africa has a pass rate of 80 percent for the approval of a breed and if a dog doesn’t meet this approval rating, then it cannot be allowed to breed, but can only be kept as a pet. The threshold percentage is the bottom-line standard aimed at maintaining the quality of dog breeds.”

“Our appraisal standards high as they are, are nowhere near those set by SABBS, which has advanced technology able to look at even the heart condition of a dog. Their appraisals are more than the merely physical ones which we use here as a country”, he says.

Mr Gichungi sourced the breeds from abroad, “one from a guy in Uganda and another from a guy in Tanzania, Halisi Boerboels who used his connections with the South African Boerboel Breeders Association to import a dog for me”.

“I had to use Halisi because the South African breeders do not sell their dogs to people they do not know and Halisi having dealt with them for a long time has their trust. If I had gone on my own, they would have double charged me or refused to sell.”

His preference for the South African Boerboel was natural.

“I had a problem with the Rottweilers’ temperament,” he says.

“This is mostly because of their drive, they needed a lot of work. They also have concentration span issues as compared to the German Shepherd or the Belgian Malinois.”

He says the Boerboel is a courageous dog.

“They were initially bred by Dutch farmers in South Africa in the 1900s to guard their large farms and ward off wild animals. The Dutch farmers wanted a fierce guard dog, which would also be loyal to the family, basically one capable of companionship without losing its protective capability.”

Whereas it is a chilled dog, he warns that it is not meant to be locked up for long periods, citing many of its attacks on humans as a result of pent-up aggression from being overly kennelled.

“A dog is largely a social animal. The more it stays with people, the better its disposition becomes, but the less it does, the more it becomes a risk even to its close family members,” says Mr Gichungi.

He likes the Boerboels because they are easy to train.

“Inasmuch as they are not the best in terms of concentration compared to the German Shepherd, they are good in terms of understanding basic obedience, bite-work and guard training,” says the dog breeder.

He sells his puppies for $1,000 but he doesn’t just sell to anyone who comes to Lenana Kennels looking for a puppy.

“If it is a first-time breeder, I usually advise them to look for another breed because a Boerboel can be mentally taxing. It is a physically and a mentally strong dog which will easily stress most first-time owners,” says Mr Gichungi.

“It is a dog, which needs to be kept in check, and check here doesn’t mean beating it up, no, it means training, establishing boundaries and obedience. For first-time owners, I usually recommend a more relaxed breed.”

Before selling, he also assesses the buyer’s character by finding out what one knows about keeping such a kind of dog.

He assesses the need of this particular dog, how long have they bred dogs how they plan to keep them. If unsatisfied, he will not sell regardless of the amount offered.

“I don’t want my dogs to go and suffer,” he quips.

Handling and maintenance

Mr Gichungi insists the Boerboel requires thorough training, “one has to make them understand their place in the family, here is where socialization matters because they have to learn to respect the family just as they respect you.”

Socialization in his words is about taking them for walks and also allowing them to interact with people and other animals.

Failing to do this results in anger and aggression issues which can be deadly. Big dogs make humongous mistakes.

On feeding, he explains it is rarely ever about quantity but quality.

“How you feed your Boerboel will be reflected by its appearance. I prefer natural feeding of dogs which means they are mostly on a raw diet. I do not like processed foods and will only use them as a matter of emergency if my supply is lacking.

I take my prospective customers through feeding regimens and if I find they cannot cope with them, then I will not sell them the dog.”

Mr Gichungi encourages variations even when using a raw diet. He recommends dog owners try out different variations of red and white meat but also notes that it can become an expensive process.

“If you look at its size, you would understand that it isn’t a cheap dog to keep or maintain. It helps to know how to source their food. Dog food is expensive.

A long time ago, a kilo of chicken heads or feet would go for Sh60 but now they cost between Sh120-150. A mature dog eats about three kilos of dog food every day.”

In a month, he spends an average of Sh10,000-15,000 per dog. His kennel has five of them.

“To this, add treating, docking and grooming costs and you will understand why it is not easy work to own such a breed”.

It is not a dog for everyone, is it?