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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Bouvier Des Flandres
Average Cost to keep/care for a Bouvier Des Flandres
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Bouvier des Flandres is a powerful dog that was bred to herd livestock both in France and Belgium. They are handsome with their impressive eyebrows, moustaches and beards which gives a Bouvier a somewhat forbidding look, but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth because they are known to be kind with even temperaments. As such, they have always been firm favourites in Europe both as companions and family pets.
Bouviers are also known to be very tolerant around children and thrive in a home environment although they don’t generally mind being left to their own devices, providing it is never for too long. The Bouviers des Flandres is also an excellent watchdog which is a trait that is deeply embedded in their psyche.
It was not until the end of the 19th Century that the Bouvier des Flandres came to the attention of local vets in France and Belgium. They noticed that certain farm dogs had a very similar look about them. These dogs were fearless and impressive looking being capable of turning a milk churn or pull small carts for both milkmen and bakers. The dogs were also seen to be highly intelligent.
At first, there were 3 types of Bouviers, namely the Bouvier d’Ardennes which was a smaller dog with pricked ears and a shorter tail. The Walloons called these dogs “Bergeots” and they were the smallest of all Bouvier types. The second was the Bouvier de Roulers which was a larger, smooth-coated dog and thirdly, there was the Bouvier des Flandres, a dog that was native to northern France which was very popular with shepherds of the region.
The Bouvier des Flandres we see today is thought to have been developed using harsher coated sheepdogs. However, at the turn of the century the larger Bouviers was more popular than the smaller Bouvier des Flandres. Fortunately, breed enthusiasts promoted the breed as versatile, all-round working dogs. It was a vet called Professor Reul who recorded a Bouvier des Flandres turn of speed and their courage when confronted by cattle being agile and capable of leaping high into the air to avoid being kicked. He was so impressed by the Bouvier des Flandres that he encouraged their continued development.
Other enthusiasts included two men called Moermans and Paret who are thought to be the first dedicated Bouvier breeders back in the day. With this said, the argument over breed standard continued as nobody could agree as to what it should be. It was in Hasselt in 1900, that the first Bouviers were exhibited, but they looked similar to sheepdogs than being true to type. In 1901, another three Bouviers were exhibited in Brussels, but these dogs looked more like Briards. As such, there is a strong belief that Bouviers were outcrossed to sheepdogs found in Northern France as well as the Picard and other Belgian breeds. In 1903, Professor Reul found a dog he liked the look of and subsequently drafted a provisional standard for the Bouvier.
Two Bouviers were exhibited at the International Dog Show held in Brussels, one was called Rex and the other Nelly which belonged to a Monsieur Paret who was a breed enthusiast from Ghent. He is attributed with establishing the foundation bloodlines for the breed that we see today. However, one of the judges at the show did not like the look of the Bouvier and recommended they not be exhibited in the future. Fortunately, breed enthusiasts ensured this was not to be the case. In Holland, the breed was being exhibited but they were called Vlaamse Koehond and these dogs had black, grey or blonde coats.
The breed suffered during the First World War as did many other European breeds and their numbers fell dramatically to the point that the Bouvier was almost lost forever. Fortunately, a few dogs survived because they had been used as stretcher-bearers, gun carriage dogs and messengers. At the end of the war, the breed was mainly found around Antwerp and Eastern Flandres, but later they were more commonly seen in the Hainault country, Holland and France. It was during this time that breed enthusiast concentrated on selective breeding with their end goal being to produce dogs that could be seen as having a “distinct” type and one that was bred to the Breed Standard that had been drawn up in 1922 by the Club Nationale Belge du Bouvier des Flandres.
Through selective and careful breeding, their goal was achieved although it did take quite a while given that so many different “types” were used to create the Bouvier with one type being more dominant for a while whereas another one would prevail later on. It was agreed at the time, that “type” was one of the most important factors in the breed and that coat colours would be secondary to this.
Over time, and through careful breeding practices, the Bouvier as a breed improved with dogs having large chests, a square build and nicely chiselled heads with their distinct eyebrows and beards. By 1919, the very first Bouvier Belge was taken to Holland and a few years later in 1923, the Dutch Bouvier Club was established although the breed was not so popular in the country at the time because customs officers used Bouvier to track down smugglers. They were however, a popular choice with Dutch poachers thanks to the fact they were so quick on their feet and with their dark coats, a Bouvier could go places at night without being seen.
Thanks to their excellent scenting abilities, Bouviers also found favour with the Police and the Army which saw these dogs being used during the Second World War as messengers on the Front Line. They were also very popular with the Resistance in Holland with many people offering scraps of food for Bouviers that helped with the war effort.
The breeders in France, Belgium and Holland could never agree on breed type which meant the Bouvier suffered as a result. However, a man called Justin Chastel owned a female and being poor he could not afford to pay stud fees so when he encountered a male Bouvier one night when out walking his dog, he took advantage of the situation and as a result his female produced a litter of puppies. It was to be the start of a now famous Bouvier des Flandres bloodline called De La Thudinie Kennel.
It was not until 1972, that the Bouvier des Flandres was officially introduced and as a breed established in the UK, but two puppies had been registered with the Kennel Club in 1924 by a Capt. H. P. Dick. Later in 1948, another male Bouvier called Jeep was also registered with the club. However, the first litter of nine puppies to be whelped happened in 1973 when a female had her puppies whilst she was still in quarantine. These puppies were to be the foundation dogs of the Bouvier des Flandres in the UK.
Sadly, not many English judges recognised the Bouvier des Flandres at the time and any that did were reluctant to approach the dogs because of the reputation the breed had earned itself in Europe. However, this soon changed when a Bouvier called Jango became the first of the breed to become a police dog for his handler P.C Edgar Dyson having beaten 22 German Shepherd Dogs and a Weimaraner that were trained at the same time as he was to be awarded the status of “top dog”. Jango also went on to guard the Princess of Wales on occasion and was famous in the streets of London that he patrolled with his handler.
The breed was accepted as a unique breed by the Kennel Club and other clubs of the world. Today, the Bouvier des Flandres remains a popular choice as a family pet thanks to the wonderful looks and even kind natures both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world although anyone wanting to share a home with one of these proud, intelligent dogs would need to register their interest with breeders and go on a waiting list for the pleasure of doing so.
Height at the withers: Males 58 – 71 cm, Females 56 – 69 cm
Average weight: Males 36 –54 kg, Females 27 – 36 kg
The Bouvier is a compact, strong looking dog that boasts a rather rugged appearance which is nicely highlighted by their bushy eyebrows, moustaches and beards. They have well developed heads with the depth of their stops being nicely accentuated by their bushy eyebrows. Their muzzle is well-boned, broad and strong with a straight upper line that slopes nicely towards a well-developed nose. Their cheeks lie clean and flat with dog’s boasting wide open nostrils.
A Bouvier's eyes always have an alertness about them and are slightly oval in shape, being set neither too far apart or too close on a dog's face. Their rims are always black which accentuates their eyes nicely. Ears are set high and triangular in shape but always in proportion to a dog's head. The Bouvier has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
They boast having a powerful, well-muscled neck that thickens towards a dog's shoulders. Their neck is slightly arched at the nape. A dog's front legs are powerful and extremely straight. Shoulders are well muscled and placed obliquely. Bouviers have strong, short, compact and broad bodies with virtually no tuck up and ribs are well-sprung. Their croup is broad with a gentle curve at the rump. Females tend to have broader rumps than their male counterparts.
Their hindquarters are well-muscled and firm with dogs boasting powerful thighs and strong back legs. Feet are round, compact and short with dogs having tight, well-arched toes. Their nails are strong and black with pads being both hard and thick. Tails follow the line of a dog's spine which they carry high and gaily when they are alert and on the move.
When it comes to their coat, a Bouvier boasts a double coat, having an abundance of thick hair that’s coarse to the touch for their outer coat which always has a shaggy look about it and which is always shorter on a dog's legs. Their undercoat is closely grained and very dense. The hair on a dog's head and the outside of their ears is short with Bouviers having a nice moustache and full beard. Their eyebrows sweep back which accentuates a dog's eyes and should never fall over so they interfere with a dog's vision. Accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard which are as follows:
Dogs can have a white star on their chests which is allowed under the UK Kennel Club breed standard.
The highly undesirable colours are as follows:
When a Bouvier des Flandres moves, they do so with a powerful stride and free and easy gait showing a lot of drive from behind.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
The Bouvier des Flandres might be an imposing looking dog, but they are one of the kindest characters around which is why they are such a popular choice with families in Europe, here in the UK and elsewhere in the world. They are known to be calm and quiet dogs around the home getting on with children and other animals with no trouble at all especially if they have all grown up together. They tend to be very protective of their families and their homes which in short means the Bouvier is always quick to let an owner known when there is anyone around.
They can be a little aloof and wary around people they don’t know, but a Bouvier would rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards strangers, preferring to just keep their distance. With this said, the Bouvier is a good choice for first-time owners because they are so eager and willing to please which makes them easier to train, especially as they are such smart dogs. However, anyone wanting to share a home with a Bouvier has to know just how big these dogs are and as such be able to provide the sort of space they need to live and move around in.
A Bouvier des Flandres is not the best choice for first time dog owners because they must be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the specific needs of a highly intelligent, dominant by nature dog.
Bouviers have a very high prey drive and will chase anything that attempts to run away from them or which they spot in the distance which includes a next-door neighbour’s cat. As such care should always be taken as to where and when a dog can run off the lead, more especially when there is livestock and/or wildlife close by. The good news is that a well-trained Bouvier would always remain at heel when asked and obey a “recall” command they are given.
Bouviers are known to be very playful and boisterous when young. However, as they mature they tend to take life a lot more seriously although this is not to say that Bouviers don’t have their playful moments and enjoy playing with family members when there’s an interactive game going on.
A Bouvier des Flandres is better suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and who have large, well-fenced, secure back gardens a dog can safely roam in whenever possible to really let off steam.
Although Bouviers form strong ties with their families, they do not generally suffer from separation anxiety although it is worth noting that the breed is known to have a low boredom threshold and if not kept stimulated and well exercised, a Bouvier could start being destructive around the home which is their way of keeping themselves entertained.
Bouviers are not known to be “barkers” and will generally only voice an opinion when they think it is necessary to do so which is why they have always been so highly prized watchdogs.
Most Bouviers like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a dog off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Bouviers are natural watchdogs which is a trait that is deeply embedded in the breed’s psyche. As such, they are always quick off the mark when it comes to letting an owner know when there are strangers about and when something they don’t like is going on in their environment.
The Bouvier des Flandres is an intelligent dog and one that quickly understands new things they are taught. However, this means they are just as quick to pick up bad habits too which is why their training has to start early and it must be consistent and always fair. Bouviers are a great choice for novice owners, but it cannot be stressed enough that these large dogs need to know their place in the pack and are never happier than when they know they can look up to an owner for both guidance and direction.
Like all puppies, Bouviers are incredibly cute when young and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in new homes. As soon as a puppy is nicely settled owners must start out as they mean to go on by laying down ground rules and boundaries so that a puppy understands what is expected of them. It helps establish a pecking order and who the alpha dog is in the household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Although very large dogs, the Bouvier is known to be gentle around children, but care has to be taken that they don't accidentally knock a child over which could frighten or hurt them. As such, adult supervision is always necessary when the kids are around a Bouvier to make sure things don't get too boisterous.
When Bouviers are well socialised from a young age and they grow up with other pets and cats in a household, they will generally get on well together. The same applies to when they are around other dogs. With this said, care has to be taken when they are around cats and any smaller pets because a Bouvier may see them as "prey" with disastrous results.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Bouvier des Flandres is between 5 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Bouvier is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good-looking dogs. However, it is worth noting that Bouviers bred in the UK do not have many recorded health issues at the present time. As such, the information collected below is based on Bouviers that have been bred outside of the United Kingdom. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Bouvier puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
As with other breeds, some Bouviers gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Bouviers are not generally known to suffer from allergies but it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if they have a flare up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
It is worth noting that the breed average COI as stated by The UK Kennel Club currently stands at 8.3%.
All responsible Bouvier des Flandres breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions that are in place for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Bouvier des Flandres.
Apart from the standard breeding restriction in place for all Kennel Club recognised breeds, there are no other Assured Breeder requirements in place for the Bouvier des Flandres.
As with any other breed, Bouviers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Bouvier puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Bouvier puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Bouvier des Flandres puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Bouvier need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Bouvier in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older dogs need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older dogs don't need the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
A Bouvier's coat is profuse and boasts a coarser outer coat with a much closer and denser undercoat which means they are quite high maintenance when it comes to keeping things looking tidy and a dog's skin in good condition. Particular attention has to be paid to their moustaches and beards because they get quite wet when dogs drink and food tends to stick in them when they eat too. If not cleaned every day, not only do their moustaches and beards get a bit smelly, but it provides the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish.
A Bouvier's coat should also be hand stripped a couple of times a year which is especially true during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when, like most dogs, they tend to shed the most hair. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Bouviers are not high energy dogs, but they do enjoy being out and about as often as possible. They need to be given a minimum of 60 minutes a day and ideally this should be a shorter walk first thing in the morning and then a longer, more interesting walk in the afternoon. They also love to be able to spend as much time as possible in the garden, weather permitting. However, garden fencing has to be very secure to keep these large dogs in.
With this said, young Bouvier puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump and down off furniture, in and out of the car or up and down stairs because it puts too much pressure on a puppy's growing joints.
If you get a Bouvier des Flandres puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Bouvier puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 13 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Bouvier des Flandres should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult dog can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Bouvier des Flandres puppy you may have to go on a waiting list because only very few puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year. If you do find a breeder you would need to pay anything from £500 to over £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Bouvier in northern England would be £27.65 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £66.43 a month (quote as of October 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed amongst other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Bouvier and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Bouvier des Flandres would be between £95 to £130 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Bouvier des Flandres puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Finding well-bred Bouvier des Flandres in the UK can prove challenging as not many puppies are registered with the Kennel Club every year which means puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Bouviers there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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