About the Breed
The large breed that is the Bouvier des Flandres, or Bouvier for short, is a natural herding breed that developed in Belgium in the late 19th century. He was a multipurpose farm dog that excelled at herding, was able to pull carts because of his size and strength, and also could serve as a protective guardian.
The breed almost became extinct in his native land due to World War I and then World War II as the region was devastated. Many dogs simply died and others were put to work in the wars for the military. A few were exported out to other regions where his type was refined with these few dogs.
Today the breed can still be seen herding and working, but he has also found a niche in police work in some locations. His natural abilities as a protector and ability to scent have proven to be useful.
The Bouvier is a large, muscled, and compact dog. He averages at about 25 or 26 inches tall and weighs a substantial 70-110 pounds. His body is well muscled, which combined with body type is why he can make a very good cart pulling dog.
The typical coloration for the majority of the dogs is a dark steely grey or black, but there are some that do range more towards a salt and pepper look and even fewer that are fawn colored. His thick coat is rough and highly weather resistant.
Traditionally his tail and ears have been cropped, but now this only exists in the United States. In other parts where such things have fallen out of favor, he is seen in a more natural appearance with a longer tail and natural dropped ears.
The Bouvier is considered very even tempered by those that love them despite being a naturally protective dog. This gentle, calm nature makes them excellent guardians as they normally think before reacting. He makes for a wonderful family companion and normally is comfortable with all ages of people.
With strangers he is most likely to be aloof until he gets to know them on a more personal level. He is naturally protective of his family and home, so proper training should be undertaken early to curtail any issues from developing.
He is quite social and loving with his family and prefers to be with you. He does not do well with social isolation and in fact craves being near.
Bouviers are intelligent dogs that train well and they enjoy working with their person. He is always alert, an attribute desirable in a guardian. His agility makes him fast and capable and very good in performance sports like agility and herding.
The breed is generally good with other animals but as with any herding breed may chase small animals like cats that run from him. He can do well with other dogs too, but some individuals can be more dominate in nature with other dogs.
Although very trainable and intelligent, the Bouvier is likely not the best dog for a first time dog owner. He requires a firm but not harsh, consistent leader to guide him. He also requires early and on going socialization to ensure he has a good barometer of dealing with new people in order to keep his natural protectiveness and territorialness in check.
The Bouvier does well with consistent training, and if so desired, can be an eager participant in numerous competitive sports.
Shedding & Grooming
The Bouvier actually doesn’t shed very much at all, but this is only because of the nature of his coat. The dead hair that is shed out becomes trapped within his thick coat rather than falling out all over your home. He must be brushed out thoroughly each week otherwise his coat will mat terribly.
The breed can be kept in a more natural look with simple brushing, but if you desired the look that is most recognized with the breed, this will take more advanced grooming techniques that you can either learn or have a professional groomer do.
Many individuals also pluck any hairs that are growing within the ear so as to improve air flow. This is likely more important in those members with natural dropped ears.
Overall the Bouvier is a fairly clean breed that doesn’t require frequent baths, but you should include regular nail trims and toothbrushing into the grooming routine.
Health & Life Expectancy
The Bouvier has an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. The American Bouvier des Flandres Club (www.bouvier.org) lists the following health issues to be aware of in the breed:
- Heart disorders like Subaortic stenosis
- Eye issues like Glaucoma
- Hip dysplasia
- Autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Gastric Dilatation Volvulus