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Armitage Animal Clinic

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Call us today! 905 836-4001
Call us today! 905-836-4001
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Newmarket, ON L3Y 8C9

Meet The Bouvier Des Flandres

January 15 2024

January is a pretty good month for Man’s Best Friend! Quite a few dogs have special celebratory days this month, including the Boxer and the beloved Lab Retriever. We’re turning the focus onto another Very Good Boy in this blog: The Bouvier Les Flandres. A local vet offers some insight in this article from Armitage Animal Clinic, your Newmarket, ON animal hospital.

Bouvier Dogs: Breed Basics

Originally developed as a Belgian herding dog, the Bouvier Dogs des Flandres is a big, sturdy pooch with a big, sturdy heart. We aren’t kidding on the big part: boys usually weigh between 75 and 120 pounds, and grow between 24 and 27 inches (0.69 m) high. Girls weigh between 60 and 80, and are usually between 23 and 26 inches (0.66 meters). They live up to 12 years, on average.

What Do Bouviers Look Like?

Fido’s most notable feature—aside from his sturdy build—is his thick, shaggy coat. He can wear several outfits, including fawn, black, gray, brindle, and salt-and-pepper. 

The Bouvier dog has cute pointy ears. He also sports thick chin fur that resembles a beard, though it’s not as defined as the Scottish Terrier’s regal one.

What Kind Of Temperament Does The Bouvier des Flandres Have?

Bouvier Dogs are truly great dogs. They’re quite affectionate, and can make great family pets. In fact, they often resemble giant teddy bears. They do well with children, though you will need to take some precautions because of their size.

Smart, steadfast, loving, and loyal, the Bouvier usually gets along well with animals he’s familiar with, though he is not always friendly towards new ones. A natural guard dog, Fido will often position himself in a spot where he can keep an eye on his whole family. However, he usually won’t bite unless provoked. 

It’s worth noting that these guys do take a while to grow up, and can act very puppylike for a few years. Proper training is a must! This intelligent pooch can be stubborn, but overall tends to be a quick learner. Fido is, of course, quite food-motivated when it comes to learning. (Bouvier bonuses: These guys don’t bark, snore, or drool much.)

What Health Problems Do Bouviers Have? 

Most purebreds are prone to developing some specific issues. The Bouvier des Flandres is no exception to this rule.

Screening for some specific issues, such as hip dysplasia, is recommended. Owners should also be aware of the fact that Fido can be prone to bloat. Bouviers may also develop eye issues, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and entropion.

Keep up with your canine buddy’s veterinary care, and follow your Newmarket, ON vet’s recommendations for exams and screenings. 

What Celebrities Have Owned Bouvier dogs?

The Bouvier isn’t the most popular dog, but he has made some devoted fans. These include Joan Baez and Merv Griffin, who had a Bouvier des Flandres named Keesh. The Bouvier’s most recent turn in the spotlight probably happened back in the 1980’s, when he became a First Dog to President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. That pooch, who was appropriately named Lucky, spent a year at the White House before heading out to the Reagans’ California ranch.

Are There Any Famous Bouvier Dogs?   

A few Bouviers have made it into the spotlight. There’s Gretel, the faithful canine companion of ER’s Dr. Romano. Fido also ‘stars’ in the manga/anime series Strike Match. Finally, we have Patrasche, the fictitious pooch from the classic children’s book A Dog of Flanders. (Note: if you ever visit Antwerp, you can find statues of the pooch.) 

What Are The Bouvier dogs Best Known For?

Fido isn’t as sought after for farm work as he once was. However, Bouvier dogs are great guard dogs. They can often be found working as police dogs, guard dogs, or in search and rescue. Bouviers also excel at many dog sports, such as agility, carting, obedience, tracking, and herding. They also make absolutely wonderful pets.

Bouvier Dog Breed History

The Bouvier originated in Flanders, Belgium, as farm dogs, back in the 1600s. In fact, the name Bouvier des Flandres literally translates to ‘Cow Herder of Flanders’.

More specifically, the breed history begins with monks of the Ter Duinen monastery, who bred local farm dogs with other pooches, such as Irish wolfhounds and Scottish deerhounds. Other dogs in the Bouvier’s family tree include gray hounds that were brought over to the Abbey of Duynen, a Flemish monastery, in the 11th century. The result? A strong, sturdy pooch that worked hard and always sought to please his humans. Some of the daily chores the Bouvier helped with included herding sheep, pulling cards, and cattle droving. 

Fido quickly became popular in the region, for several reasons. Not only were the Bouviers great at both guarding and herding sheep and cattle, they were strong enough to pull farm carts to the market and back. Plus, their thick coats helped them deal with the region’s frigid winters. After the automobile was developed, the Bouvier found his employment opportunities dwindling. He has since moved into working as a guard dog and police dog, and, as mentioned is a great pet.

The Bouvier’s Close Call

But for a few lucky twists of fate, the Bouvier des Flandres may not have made it into the twenty-first century. In fact, they almost went extinct after World War I. One particularly extraordinary pooch, Nic, lived during this period. Nic was trained as a trench dog. Trench dogs served vital roles during the conflict. They often hauled supply carts through trenches, and also delivered messages, typically while under fire. They also helped wounded soldiers. Nic proved to be a truly exceptional dog. After the war, he became a top show dog and one of the breed’s progenitors.

An interesting side note: There were originally three variants of the breed: the Paret, Moerman, and the Briard. Breeders finally agreed on the official standards in 1936, when a French-Belgian committee settled the matter.

The Bouvier dogs had another close call not long after. They became very sought after during World War II, because of their valor and performance in the prior conflict. Fido was once more enlisted as a courier, this time for the resistance. Legend has it that a Bouvier des Flandres dog bit Adolf Hitler, who, true to form, then decided to wage war on the entire breed. German soldiers would often shoot the dogs on sight. The breed was again driven to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, by then, the Bouvier Dogs had made their way over to the States. That, and the work of a handful of devoted breeders, saved them from extinction. 

How Do I Care For A Bouvier?

As far as basic care, the Bouvier needs the same things as any other dog: good food, regular veterinary care, and proper exercise. (They also appreciate treats and belly rubs.) It’s important for potential owners to realize that these are not low-maintenance dogs. You’ll need to brush your canine buddy several times a week.

Proper exercise is also a must. This can get tricky, as the Bouvier des Flandres sometimes tends to get a bit lazy, especially as they age. Ask your Newmarket, ON veterinarian  for specific advice.

Do you have questions about the Bouvier? Contact us here at Armitage Animal Clinic, your Newmarket, ON animal clinic, today!