Bouviers des Flandres dog breed hails from Flanders in Belgium. Though developed as a farm dog to help with cattle and sheep, they make excellent family dogs. They can be used as guard dogs too, as they have a natural protective instinct. They are highly intelligent and obedient dogs. Though they are easy to train and quick at learning commands, repetitive activities bore this dog. Despite their size and strong body, they are known for their gentleness and pleasant nature.
Bouvier des Flandres originated in Belgium sometime during the 1600s. The exact lineage of the breed is not clear, but it is thought to involve different breeds of sheepdogs, mastiff and spaniels that were already used for farm work in the area. They were bred at the Ter Duinen monastery with imported breeds such as Scottish deerhounds and Irish wolfhounds.
Bouvier des Flandres breed was initially used for droving cattle and herding the stock, as is indicated by its name, which literally means “Cow Herder of Flanders” in French. They worked mainly in the farms in France and the southwest parts of Flanders in Belgium.
Like most working dogs, they had a mixed bag of duties such as pulling carts and guard duty besides droving cattle, resulting in wide variations within the breed. Interest in the breed increased in the early 20th century, and the breed characteristics were standardized in 1912. It was followed by a decline in numbers at the time of World War I which left very few dogs of this breed about. The Bouviers of today have mainly descended from a particular dog of the name Ch. Nic de Scottegem.
Bouviers des Flandres are large dogs measuring up to 28 inches at the withers, and weighing a hundred pounds or more. They are rugged-looking, muscular dogs without any of the heaviness associated with large breeds. Their thick, shaggy double coat comes in many colors such as black, grey, and fawn and in brindle patterns. They typically have long hair on the face that give them the characteristic moustache and beard. Their short, curly tail used to be docked and the small folded ears clipped to prevent accidental tearing while working, but this practice is discouraged now.
This breed has a tendency to dominate; hence it is essential that the owner of the dog be self-confident and never reluctant to exert authority over the dog. These dogs are reserved with strangers, and may even appear to be shy. But they are very independent and fearless in nature, and may respond protectively if they perceive any danger to their family members.
Early obedience training and socialization should be done to make them suitable for company. They are good with children, and tolerate other pets if they are introduced when they are puppies. This dog has a long puppyhood, taking up to 3 years to mature.
Grooming and exercise
The thick, heavy coat of Bouvier des Flandres dog breed requires regular grooming. Thorough brushing twice a week is essential. In addition to that, once every two months you may need professional trimming to keep the coat in good shape.
This energetic herding dog needs plenty of rigorous activity on a daily basis. This is not a dog to be kept inside during the day. Access to a large yard where the dog can freely roam about and exercise its muscles is a must for this breed. Inactivity can frustrate the dog so much that it may resort to destructive behavior to expend its energy reserves. A Bouvier des Flandres is the happiest when it is given the job of herding. Otherwise, they should be kept busy with rigorous games and activities, preferably involving its owner and family members.
The dog can stay outdoors during the winter season as the thick coat provides ample protection to the dog in cool weather. But it cannot tolerate warm weather. Hence it is best to provide an indoor living space for the dog, preferably with the family.
Common health issues of Bouvier des Flandres dog breed
The Bouvier des Flandres dog breed has an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. Musculoskeletal problems such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are common in this breed. They are prone to certain eye problems like glaucoma and the congenital heart disorder SAS too. Hypothyroidism may occur in some. Regular health checkups can help identify and treat these conditions in the dog.