The Bouvier Des Flandres is a herding dog classified under the Working group by the Kennel club. It is a large breed measuring around 58-71 cm from withers and weighing between 36-54 kg. It a powerfully built, rough looking cattle herder with a dense outer coat that comes in fawn, brindle, black, grey or blonde colour. It has a compact body, well-boned with strong muscled forequarters and hindquarters. It displays an intelligent and energetic appearance when standing straight. It has a moustache and a harsh beard that gives a hostile look. It has a shallow stop that appears deep due to prominent, strong eyebrows. The broad and well-boned muzzle slightly slopes towards the nose but never pointed. The eyes are slightly oval in shape, not protruding or sunken accentuated by black eye rims. It has triangular ears, set highly on the head, strong jaws with teeth that form regular and complete scissor bite and a well-muscled and strong neck. It has straight forelegs, well-muscled and heavily boned and equally well-muscled hindquarters with short round and compact feet cushioned by thick and hard pads. The tail of the Bouvier can either be undocked or customarily docked to 2-3 vertebrae. The whole body is covered with a dense, matted outer coat that is coarse and dry, over an equally dense and grained undercoat.
The Bouvier Des Flandres is a herding dog that originated in Flanders, Belgium. “Bouvier” is a French word which literally means “cowherd”, which was the original use of the breed. There is no real definite agreement concerning the exact lineage of the Bouvier. It may be a cross of the Griffon and the Beauceron but no one is sure. However, it is known that the earliest breeders of the Bouvier were the monks at the Ten Duinen Abbey at Koksijde in what is now Belgium. These dogs were a mix of Irish wolfhounds, Scottish deerhounds and farm dogs endemic to the region. During the end of the 19th century, veterinarians visiting local farms in a particular area of Belgium and France noticed local dogs of different built but looked very similar in general. These dogs were courageous working farm dogs, highly intelligent, very strong and were used for different purposes – from herding cattle to pulling small milk carts. Eventually, these were classified into three types: Bouvier d’Ardennes (small, prick ears), Bovier de Roulers (large, Matin-breed look-alike) and the Bouvier des Flandres (harsh coat). There were also Berger Picards in that area during that period. It is assumed that the Bouvier Des Flandres is a cross of the Berger Picard and the Matin.
Two dog fanciers during 1900, Mr. Moremans and Mr. Paret were credited as the first serious breeders of the Bouvier Des Flandres but could not agree to a breed standard. However, it was eventually Mr. Paret who would later be considered as the one who established the foundation bloodlines of the modern Bouvier. The breed standard was drawn up in Ghent by the Club National Belge du Bouvier des Flandres in January 15, 1922.
The Bouvier Des Flandres may look very intimidating at first glance, but is actually an obedient, good-natured and gentle dog. Its natural protectiveness, enthusiasm and fearless attitude makes it a well-balanced breed, excellent both as a family pet and a very good guard dog and watch dog. It typically gentle and calm inside the house but it is very active when outdoors. The Bouvier is very devoted to its owner, which makes it easy to train.
The Bouvier is an enthusiastic dog that loves to please its owner which makes it relatively easy to train. It learns relatively fast and once the Bouvier learns a command, it will remember it for the rest of its life. Training should be well-balanced and consistent. It gets bored very easily so repetitive command should be limited. Owing to their independent nature, this dog has a tendency to become dominant, both over humans and other animals. It also has a tendency to become overly protective and timid over strangers. However, just like other breeds, early obedience training as a puppy and socialisation to as many experiences as possible is key to having a well-balanced adult Bouvier. This dog can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, Schutzhund, tracking, and herding events.
The double coat of the Bouvier Des Flandres is so abundant and thick that even when separated by hand, the skin is barely visible. This harsh coat needs to be brushed regularly every couple of days or once a week using a steel comb. Comb right down to the skin and not just over the top of the hair. The undercoat is where matting begins which can cause skin diseases, discomfort and pain to the dog. Hairs between the pads should also be checked for mats. Nails should be trimmed at least monthly. Make sure to smooth the nails after trimming. Clean the teeth once a week using a soft toothbrush or washcloth. Inspect and clean the ears regularly and pluck excess hairs whenever necessary.
There are very few health concerns for the Bouvier in the United Kingdom because numerically speaking, this breed still has a small number in the UK. However, there are known issues that occasionally affect the breed in other countries including:
The Bouvier loves a good exercise. It is a working dog in its native home so it must be given a good amount of physical and mental stimulation if it is kept as a house pet. Jogging or brisk walking for an hour or two will keep the dog happy and healthy. Herding is its nature and will enjoy an hour of playtime off-lead in a fenced yard. A puppy Bouvier should only be walked for a limited period to prevent injury to its growing bones and muscles. It is an adaptable breed and can live in any home setting as long as it gets proper exercise.
The Bouvier is an excellent family dog and is great with children. It is also generally good with other dogs particularly if it is raised with them from puppyhood. Individual dogs have different dominance level. Some are typically submissive while others are dog-aggressive so proper training from a consistent owner is the key to correct this behaviour.