The Bouvier des Flandres is a truly impressive dog. Large, powerful and dark, they are remarkable for their thick dark coats and heavy bearded heads. Founded in Flanders in the middle ages, the Bouvier was bred to herd and guard cattle. In fact, the name Bouvier des Flandres means “the cowheard of Flanders”
Over time, the Bouviers became prized by farmers in present-day France, the Netherlands, and Belgium for their versatility and trustworthiness. They became known as excellent watchdogs, herders, cart pullers and overall guardians.
Sadly, the destruction and ravages of the first and second World Wars did tremendous damage to the breed. Not only were the economies and social structures of the Bouviers’ native regions destroyed, but the dogs themselves were threatened. They were found to be useful to the armies, though, and may have helped to save them.
BOUVIERS DES FLANDRES BREED CHARACTERISTICS
Now let’s take a closer look and get to know these talented dogs!
With their thick, rough coats and powerful bodies, Bouviers are often thought to resemble bears! Coming in dark shades of black, grey, salt and pepper, fawn, and brindle, the Bouvier’s double coat requires dedicated upkeep.
The outer coat is somewhat rough and tousled but not curly, while the undercoat is soft and dense. While the don’t shed too much, that coat definitely has a tendency to pick up debris and mud. It takes some effort to keep these guys tidy!
The build and stature of the Bouvier is also striking. They are quite large, standing over two feet at the shoulders. Their weight averages 70-110 pounds. The breed’s original purpose is more than evident when looking at them. The large, square head is set off by bright eyes and a shaggy beard, supported by a broad neck and wide shoulders.
The back is short and sturdy, and all four legs set wide with heavy bones and thick muscling. Despite their substantial builds though, Bouviers are graceful and quite light on their feet.
Temperament and Personality
Bouviers are known to be serious, dedicated independent, dogs. With their deep roots as herders, they have a deep need to be close to their owners, yet at the same time, to have the space to make their decisions. They can adapt to a variety of living arrangements, even tolerating apartment or urban living given proper exercise.
Excellent family pets, Bouviers are gentle and devoted to the owners, especially children. Their herding and guarding nature make them cautious protectors. They enjoy being involved in all aspects of family life, and do not do well when left alone for extended periods of time.
Bouviers tend to be somewhat emotionally reserved; don’t expect a silly, jovial personality from this dog. Their loyalty is more low key than many other breeds, but it is unending. They are not by their natures open to strangers and other dogs. With consistent, early socialization though, they will easily learn to be more adaptable and friendly to making new friends!
Bouviers are easy to train and very smart, but do require a confident leader. In the absence of firm guidance, Bouviers have a tendency to make their own decisions, which may result in the development of bad habits. This makes them more a better fit for experienced dog owners and handlers.
The herding nature of the Bouvier comes out frequently, whether in gathering and protecting the family, or in attempting to move and manage bikers, joggers, or other animals in public. This makes leash training an absolute must- they aren’t known to be wanderers, but for their own safety and the safety of others, a strong leash and good leash skills are invaluable!
CARING FOR YOUR BOUVIER DES FLANDRES
The specialized nature of the Bouvier des Flandres dog also requires some specialized care, but not so much that your average owner can’t be successful.
The Bouvier’s substantial size requires quite a bit of feeding to maintain! These dogs will require about 3-5 cups of food a day to stay healthy. Bouviers thrive on a low protein dog food, but talk with your veterinarian to tailor a nutrition plan that best suits your Bouvier. Large breeds like the Bouvier who grow so quickly need a customized diet to protect them from bone and joint disorders in their adulthood.
As Bouviers age, many tend toward obesity. Be sure to carefully monitor every dog’s weight and body condition, balancing their size with their activity levels to make sure they’re not being overfed. Also, try to maintain a good feeding schedule, making food available only once or twice a day and not out all of the time. A quality automatic dog feeder can help with this.
Athletic and strong, Bouviers need consistent activity to remain happy and healthy. They are not known to be high energy dogs, being happy to relax indoors with their families. However, they need a regular, strenuous exercise regimen.
Bred for heavy farm work and herding, Bouviers make excellent partners for active, outdoorsy owners. They can hike, run or even accompany their owners on bike rides. They have a strong need to be busy, and if deprived of this, can become destructive.
Because of their large size and fast growth as puppies, Bouviers should avoid strenuous exercise when they are young. Overly taxing their skeletal systems and muscles can lead to injuries.
Bouviers were bred to have a purpose. They are dogs that excel when they are learning and performing a valuable job. Whether herding, guarding, working in search and rescue or tracking, Bouviers enjoy working alongside their owners to achieve a task.
They are intelligent and learn quickly, but are not always intrinsically motivated to do as their owner asks! As a result, an experienced dog owner best handles them. Training should be consistent, frequent and well planned by a patient and capable handler.
Early socialization and even puppy school will help to ensure that the Bouvier is comfortable around people and other animals, and will establish the precedent for the dog’s life for learning and partnership with their owner.
Bouviers are generally robust, healthy dogs. Unfortunately, like all breeds, they can be predisposed toward certain health conditions. Reliable breeders consistently test for and attempt to control many medical conditions.
Some common health concerns for Bouviers include cataracts, glaucoma, deafness, epilepsy, uterine abnormalities, hypothyroidism and certain cancers. Other large breed medical issues like hip and elbow dysplasia can also occur. Joint dysplasias are degenerative joint diseases often occurring in the leg joints. These are generally caused by malformation of the bones and their connections in the joints. They should also be screened for heart conditions like aortic stenosis, and condition resulting from an inefficient connection between the heart and the aorta.
Another large breed issue that can occur in Bouviers is bloat, or gastric torsion. Deep-chested dogs frequently experience bloat if they are exercising heavily after eating or drinking copiously. This emergency condition strikes when the stomach twists within the abdominal cavity, resulting in reduced blood circulation and often respiratory distress.
As mentioned previously, obesity is another common issue that can arise among Bouvier dogs. Owners should take care to frequently monitor their dogs’ weights and body conditions, using both visual and physical methods.