Bouvier des Flanders is a herding breed of Belgium’s Flanders. Of all the nicknames associated with it, one is the Vuilbaard translating to dirty or messy beard. This very much complements the breed’s messy appearance.
Besides their role as herding dogs, they have also performed a host of other tasks. These include guarding livestock, homes, and even assisting the differently abled. Documentary filmmaker Louis de Rochemont had bought a Bouvier to care for his son, who had diabetes.
Of some of the notable Bouviers, one is Lucky, owned by Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. president, and his wife. Patrasche is the fictional Bouvier, featured in the novel A Dog of Flanders. In the popularity meter, these dogs ranked 101 out of the 197 breeds in AKC’s Most Popular Dog list published in 2021.
|Bouvier des Flandres Breed Information|
|Dog Breed Group:||Herding Dogs|
|Origin:||Flanders (in Belgium)|
|Temperament:||Loyal, protective, docile, calm, intelligent, gentle|
|Alternate names:||Flanders Cattle Dog, Vlaamse Koehond (Flemish cow dog), Vuilbaard (dirty beard), Boeuf (cattle driver)|
|Tendency to Bark or Howl:|
|Health and Grooming:|
|Amount Of Shedding:|
|Tendency To Bark:|
History of the Bouvier des Flandres
Their name in English translates to the cowherd of Flanders. From the name itself, it is understood that these dogs were primarily bred to herd cattle.
This breed was developed in Flanders and was eventually employed to do other tasks. These included guarding and keeping a watch on the herds and property and even pulling carts. All thanks to their immense stamina and gentle temperament that helped them perform their tasks to the tee. Further, their thick coat helped them survive the harsh weather.
By the 20th century, these dogs just didn’t remain as herders in their native land. Rather, they stole the attention of dog fanciers worldwide. All was well until the First World War, when Belgium was reduced to a devastating battlefield.
The farmers in that region were displaced, while the dogs either perished or went missing. Had it not been for the Belgian army, reviving this breed would have been impossible. These dogs reached America as companion breeds right after the First World War. The first two imported Bouviers gained AKC’s recognition in 1931.
Later, their status rose from just being herding breeds to police dogs and assistance dogs to help the blind. Their population received another blow during World War II. The breed was almost on the brink of extinction. Thanks to the European settlers who were instrumental behind the breed’s survival in America.
More About the Bouvier des Flandres
When trained in the right way, this breed is actually a treasure to have in one’s home. True that owing to their big size they fit well in homes in the countryside. However, if you know how to keep them happy and energized, they won’t mind fitting into your plush apartment either. Read on to know more about this breed’s physical and behavioral traits.
One look at the Bouvier, and you get to see a cute, appealing breed with a shabby look. This is because of their mustache, beard, and heavy eyebrows. They even appear well-muscled, with a sturdy build contributing to their agile nature.
Some of their distinguishing physical features include a well-proportioned head, oval-shaped dark brown eyes, and high-set ears. While their eyes generate a bold and intelligent expression, their ears have alertness written all over them.
They even have a broad muzzle that tapers towards their nose. Their neck is muscular, while the chest appears broad. Another highlighting aspect is their tail which is docked to around 4 inches.
These big dogs have an impressive size. The males are 24.5-27.5 inches in height. In contrast, the females measure between 23.5 and 26.5 inches. They are heavy as well, weighing between 70 and 110 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
These dogs have a versatile temperament, as these dogs are loyal and gentle. At the same time, they emerge as fierce protectors for their families when the need arises.
Their past role as herding and guard dogs perhaps contributes to this trait. If you’ve had or still have a Bouvier des Flandres, then you’d for sure know that his favorite spot at home would be the stair landing or the doorway. Have you ever wondered why? Well, it would help him keep a watch on everyone at home from there with ease.
Their behavior isn’t at par with their looks. The Bouvier des Flandres appear intimidating. But their temperament is just the reverse – calm, gentle, and friendly, especially when they are with their people.
It is also important to know that these dogs don’t do well if left to themselves for long. That could make them destructive and exhibit annoying behaviors like barking excessively, biting, or even chasing after anything they come across.
Do you know when your Bouvier would be the happiest? The answer is when he has something to do. It could be anything like tending to a baby, guarding, being engaged in rescue work, or herding.
These dogs bond closely with their family. They aren’t that rambunctious. So don’t expect your Bouvier to jump with joy the moment you come home. Instead, these dogs would quietly display their affection by lying near your feet.
It goes without saying that this breed excels as an efficient guard and watchdog. But, it won’t cause trouble to all by barking nonstop. It rarely barks unless it senses trouble.
Because of their guarding instinct, they maintain an out-and-out reserved attitude toward strangers. However, the dogs mostly don’t display aggression unless they aren’t appropriately trained.
Overall, the Bouvier des Flandres is a healthy breed. They are less susceptible to severe health conditions. Yet, like all other breeds, this one, too, is prone to certain ailments that need special mention.
Most big dogs suffer from hip dysplasia, and the Bouvier des Flandres is no exception. The clinical signs of hip dysplasia include pain in the hind legs and weakness.
Your dog would display an unsteady movement and show reluctance in getting up from a lying or sitting posture. He will even experience difficulty while climbing stairs.
Puppies could display symptoms when they are just a few months of age. However, the signs are most prominent by the time the dog is 1 or 2 years old.
It is just like hip dysplasia; however, the elbows are affected in this case instead of the hips. Through a lameness evaluation, most dogs are diagnosed when they are 4 and 12 months old. However, if the elbow dysplasia is mild the lameness may not be visible before they are 7 or 8 years old.
Gastric Dilatation and Bloating
Since the Bouvier des Flandres is a deep-chested breed, it isn’t uncommon for them to suffer from gastric dilatation and bloating. So, it is important to take special care about their meals.
Avoid giving them large meals since that could trigger the condition. Also, refrain from exercising them just after a meal. If your dog is bloated, his abdomen will appear distended.
He will even show other symptoms like restlessness and lethargy. Don’t ignore these signs, and speak to the vet at once. If left untreated, it could take a toll on your dog’s life.
In a study conducted by the NLM (National Library of Medicine), it was found that an increased percentage of this breed were susceptible to developing glaucoma. Some of the common symptoms include watery eyes, bulging eyeballs, and a dilated pupil. If your dog rubs his eyes, blinks a lot, or turns away whenever you try to pet him, chances are that his eyes are paining. Eyer pain is also a symptom of glaucoma.
Entropion and Ectropion
When the eyelid rolls inwards, it is entropion. The outward rolling of the eyelid is ectropion. This breed is prone to suffer from both these conditions. Corrective surgery is needed in severe cases.
The Bouvier des Flandres is prone to suffer from this condition. In most cases, the condition is detected when the dogs are between 4 and 10 years of age. Common signs include weight gain, dry skin or coat, weight loss, hair loss, and aggression.
This breed might suffer from epilepsy as well. The outcome of epilepsy is seizures that can vary in intensity from mild to severe. Immediate treatment is needed to avoid any untoward incident.
A clinical trial deduced that Bouvier des Flandres is one of the five herding breeds to suffer from this disease. Some noticeable symptoms of Addison’s disease include increased thirst, increased urination, diarrhea, weight loss, and bloody stools. The symptoms are a little tricky, and they may be mistaken for other conditions. So diagnosing it early can be really challenging.
It is common in middle-aged or senior dogs. The common signs are urination and excessive drinking. Medication and surgery are the basic remedies to treat Cushing’s disease.
They were bred as herding dogs. So, it is quite obvious that they are the happiest when they have something to do. A bored Bouvier des Flandres would eventually turn destructive. So, make sure you give them their daily dose of exercise.
Take it out on at least two long walks every day. If that isn’t possible, then arrange for ample time in a big, enclosed area. If going jogging or hiking, this breed would be your perfect partner.
However, take extra care regarding the Bouvier puppies. Ensure that you do not allow them to play on hard surfaces or pull carts until their joints are developed properly.
When it comes to their overall hygiene, take care to check their ears weekly for any bad odor or redness. Cleaning their ears using a cotton ball dipped into a vet-approved ear solution would be a good idea.
Also, check their eyes for any discharge or redness. Brush its teeth twice or thrice a week, and trim its nails one or two times a month.
These dogs need high-quality dog food that can be homemade or store-bought. These dogs are prone to gaining weight easily. Hence, owners should also keep a close watch on their calorie intake and weight. This breed also needs a diet with low protein content. So, make sure that you adhere to the same.
Coat Color and Grooming
These dogs come in a wide variety of colors. These include black, brindle, white, brown, fawn, gray, brindle, pepper, salt, silver, and gray. Some dogs will even have a white star-like marking on their chest.
Grooming these dogs is a mammoth task indeed because of their coat texture. They have a double coat that helps them resist the roughest weather conditions. The Bouvier’s outer coat is harsh and rough, while the inner coat is fine, dense, and soft. Its thick coat must be brushed about three to four times a week.
Remember, theirs isn’t a wash-and-wear coat, so you would need to work harder to keep their coats clean. They are called Vuilbaard in French, translating to dirty beard. So, this is evident that they get messy quite easily.
Brush its coat well using a slicker brush. This would help to remove any dirt or debris that may accumulate. Also, combing with a pin brush would help remove the dead hairs and brush out the tangles.
Besides their coat, one must even take special care in brushing their beard and mustache and also keeping them clean after every meal.
Note: If you are a cleanliness freak and do not wish your home to be in a mess. Then this isn’t the right breed for you.
Children and Other Pets
These dogs get along well with children. They were herders in the past. So the Bouviers of the present time still have the tendency to herd children by barking or nudging at them. Older children would do better with them. However, when your dog is interacting with smaller children, make sure you are around to supervise them.
They will have a good rapport with other dogs when brought up with them. But they might show aggression with other dogs, especially if they aren’t socialized properly.
Owing to their herding origin, these dogs have a strong prey drive. So it is important to maintain caution while keeping them with cats or smaller pets.
Because of their calm, gentle nature and high intelligence level, these dogs are easy to train. However, they are stubborn and strong-willed. Hence, they aren’t recommended for first-timers or novice owners.
They should be trained in socialization. This would help them get over their negative traits like increased aggression toward unknown dogs or excessive anxiety to strangers.
Also, start obedience training when your Bouvier is around 8 weeks old. By then, he would be able to comprehend your gestures and command to a certain extent. This would make training easy. Teach them commands like ‘Stay,’ ‘Come,’ ‘Sit,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Leave.’ This would come to aid when they are up to something undesirable, like chasing after smaller pets or barking aggressively. A firm, ‘No’ from you will perhaps compel them to mend themselves if they are trained well.
So, to sum it up, if you are a parent of this fabulous breed, you definitely know the joy of having it in your home. True, it wouldn’t be the right kind of breed if you are new to petting dogs or if you vouch for cleanliness. Yet, keeping all that aside, it is a truly adorable dog one can ask for.
They are extremely intelligent dogs with the ability to learn quickly. In Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, this breed ranks pretty high at 29, along with the Airedale Terrier.
At present, they are not just kept as pets. They even serve as police dogs, guard dogs, and guide dogs for the visually and hearing impaired.
They prefer homes with a yard or a garden. However, these dogs would adapt to apartment life if they exercised well.
Some dogs can be born tailless. As per the breed standards of the AKC, and UKC, such dogs must not be penalized.
They are pretty costly, around $1500-$2500. Their price would depend on how they’ve been bred and their pedigree as well.
Hi, I’m Walter,
I live in Oklahoma City, USA, and have extensive dog caring and grooming expertise. In addition, I provide dog training tips and tricks through my blogs in Canine Weekly. I have a Dog Behavior and Training diploma and have previously worked as a Dog Trainer at ROC Animal Training and Behavior and Tip Top K9 of OKC Dog Training.
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