The Bouvier des Flandres originated in Flanders, from which it takes its name. Initially, the dogs were used for farm work, but now they are kept as guard dogs, pets, and police dogs. In French, the breed's name translates to "Cow Herder of Flanders".
Bouvier des Flandres are also called "dirty beards" and "cattle driver dogs." Some people also call them "Flemish cow dogs".
Characteristics of Bouvier des Flandres
Bouvier des Flandres have a double coat that is rough in texture and medium-length. Their height ranges from 24.5 inches to 27.5 inches in males and 23.5 inches to 26.5 inches in females.
The Bouvier des Flandres' lifespan is 10 to 12 years. The average weight of the breed is 70 pounds to 110 pounds.
Since the breed has a double coat, you can expect a moderate level of shedding. Thus, the coat needs grooming frequently. However, Bouvier des Flandres are only moderately likely to drool.
As for the breed's trainability, they are eager to please and easy to train. They also have high energy levels, making them a good pet for homes with kids. Bouvier des Flandres bark moderately and aren't as vocal as some other breeds.
Their mental stimulation needs are moderate as well. So you don't necessarily have to keep them busy at all times, but they like to have something to do occasionally.
Although Bouvier des Flandres are friendly, they're not open to everyone. They may be reserved toward strangers. They are moderately playful.
Bouvier des Flandres make excellent watchdogs due to their protective nature. You can also keep them as a pet in your apartment or city residence, since they are reasonably adaptable.
Typically, Bouvier des Flandres are affectionate toward their family. They're also good with children and other dogs. If you train them well, they'll get along with everyone.
Caring for Bouvier des Flandres
Bouvier des Flandres only shed moderately. But you should brush their coat once or twice a week with a pin brush or a slicker brush. You can also use a larger comb.
Depending on how dirty they get, you may have to clean the Bouvier des Flandres' beard at times. Trim their nails every week or every other week. Plus, brush your pet’s teeth daily with a toothpaste for dogs.
You should also check them for ticks and fleas. If your pet is infested, consult your vet immediately. They may prescribe topical treatments, shampoos, sprays, or powders to remove ticks and fleas.
You must also get your dog tested for heartworms. Dogs aged seven months or older need to be tested. Often, a dog may look healthy on the outside but be infested by heartworms.
Typically, annual testing is recommended. Talk to the vet about the best frequency for heartworm testing.
Since the Bouvier des Flandres was conventionally a farm dog, they like to keep moving. If they're idle, they can cause destruction around the house. If you're an active person, such as an avid hiker or biker, the Bouvier des Flandres will be an excellent pet for you.
If you have kids at home, they can keep the Bouvier des Flandres busy. The breed also likes to play with other dogs.
Since they're watchdogs in nature, make sure they play in an enclosed space, since they may chase moving objects.
You should feed high-quality dog food to Bouvier des Flandres, whether you prepare it at home or buy it commercially. Make sure the diet is appropriate for the pet's age. If you cook food for your dog at home, consult with a vet to ensure you’re feeding a balanced diet. If you’re buying commercial dog food for Bouvier des Flandres, opt for a large-breed food.
Bouvier des Flandres are prone to getting obese, so they shouldn't be overfed. You can give them treats during training — just don't go overboard. Treats should not make up more than 10% of your pet’s calorie intake.
If you want to feed human food to your Bouvier des Flandres, make sure you check the food's safety beforehand. If you're unsure, talk to your vet.
Training Bouvier des Flandres is relatively simple, since they love to do something at all times. They can also train for dog sports and tend to be excellent at them.
It’s also helpful to provide obedience training to Bouvier des Flandres. That shouldn't be too much of a struggle, since Bouvier des Flandres love to please their owners. If they think what they're doing satisfies you, they love to do it.
Health Problems To Watch for With Bouvier des Flandres
Bouvier des Flandres typically tend to be healthy. However, they require periodic testing for health issues:
- Hip exam
- Elbow evaluation
- Cardiac (heart) exam
- Ophthalmologist (eye) exam
The breed is also susceptible to some severe and life-threatening conditions.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is a lethal condition common in deep-chested dogs like Bouvier des Flandres. Initially, the dog's stomach fills up with gas and causes bloating. With time, the stomach begins to twist upon itself, causing the entry and exit points to be shut down.
Since it's life-threatening, if you suspect GDV, you need to immediately take your pet to the emergency room. Some symptoms of the condition include:
- Swollen tummy
- Excessive drooling
- Stomach pain
- Pale gums
Currently, it's unknown what causes the condition. However, dogs that exercise after drinking a lot of water or eating a large meal are at a higher risk of GDV.
Some studies show that stress may also cause a high risk of GDV in dogs. Conversely, calm and relaxed dogs are less likely to be affected by the condition.
Since GDV is a life-threatening condition, it requires immediate medical attention.
Aortic or subaortic stenosis is a heart condition in which the area under the aortic valve narrows. This obstructs blood flow through the dog's heart.
Depending on your dog's condition, subaortic stenosis may be mild or severe. If your dog suffers from this condition, its heart will have to work extra hard, leading to damage. You can spot subaortic stenosis in your pet by recognizing the symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
In an extreme case of subaortic stenosis, sudden death is also possible. Often, dogs with subaortic stenosis look healthy and are active.
That's why it's important to take your dog for regular vet visits. The vet performs a physical exam and listens to your dog's heart with a stethoscope. If they observe an irregular heartbeat or heart murmur, they may ask if you have observed the symptoms listed above.
If you confirm, the vet will do further diagnostic exams, such as an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart used to diagnose and monitor heart conditions) and chest X-rays, to check for subaortic stenosis.
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes repeated seizures. A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain that can cause convulsions, changes in behavior, and even loss of consciousness.
Epilepsy may be caused by genetic factors, head injuries, infections, or other medical conditions. In many cases, the exact cause of epilepsy is unknown.
Since the diagnosis of epilepsy is through exclusion, the vet will rule out all other causes before confirming epilepsy. They will also perform a thorough physical exam of your pet along with bloodwork. Other tests may also be run, including X-rays and urine tests.
Special Considerations for Bouvier des Flandres
The Bouvier des Flandres temperament is pleasant and obedient. Although they may look scary and intimidating, they are gentle and calm. They are also responsible. So, if you give them the task of babysitting or securing a space, they'll perform their duties.
When training them, you need to remind them constantly that you're the boss. However, don't get harsh with your pet. An experienced owner is required to prevent overprotectiveness and dominance in this breed. If they are poorly trained, Bouvier des Flandres can dominate humans inappropriately.
Likewise, if you do not socialize them properly, Bouvier des Flandres can become reserved, shy, or suspicious toward other dogs and humans. Other Bouvier des Flandres traits include quick trainability and herding instincts. If you train them well, you can enter your Bouvier des Flandres in herding trial competitions.
History of Bouvier des Flandres
The Ter Duinen monastery monks were the first people to breed Bouvier des Flandres. First, they bred their local farm dogs with imported breeds like Scottish deerhounds and Irish wolfhounds. With multiple rounds of breeding, they ended up with dogs thought to be predecessors of the Bouvier des Flandres we see today.
These dogs were ideal for herding, pulling cargo carts, and guarding cattle on farms. Their temperament and size made the breed fit for the job. Their double coats helped them bear the region's harsh weather conditions.
Historically, the breeders docked the breed's tails and cropped their ears to prevent accidents during herding and other activities. Ear cropping of Bouvier des Flandres was not made illegal in the breed’s country of origin until fairly recently, in 2006. It’s still legal in the US.