Bouvier Des Flandres
The Bouvier des Flandres
The Bouvier des Flandres originates from the area of Europe known as Flanders which encompasses parts of Belgium, France and Holland. They were bred originally as farm dogs to herd, drive, guard and to pull carts. Over the last century they have evolved, through selective breeding, into the modern day dog which is primarily a companion animal but one which retains the original traits of its forefathers.
The first Bouvier des Flandres "standard" was drawn up in 1912 and this was the basis for the modern day Bouvier as a show dog. Justin Chastel, a Belgian breeder with his 'de la Thudinie' kennel was the pioneer and it was imports from his kennels that were the foundation stock in the UK. More recently Dutch and American imports have added to the gene pool although these too are descended from the original Belgian lines.
The Bouvier des Flandres makes an excellent family dog, providing the owner is prepared to put the time and effort into training and socialising from the time they first take their puppy home. Like any working breed the Bouvier is intelligent and able to think for itself which can be exhibited as stubbornness. The owner needs to be 'pack leader' and give the dog firm boundaries. Training needs to be fun using whatever motivates the dog best - food, toys and lots of praise. While is essential to have basic training, Bouviers also succeed at competition obedience, working trials, agility, tracking and herding. Unfortunately in the UK many training clubs are geared to the Border Collie and sometimes the training methods used are not necessarily those which bring out the best in the Bouvier so it is advisable to pick your club and trainer carefully.
The typical character of the Bouvier des Flandres is that of a large even-tempered dog, a bit stand offish with strangers and protective of home and family in a non-aggressive way. Many people think their Bouvier doesn't have any guarding ability until a situation arises where it is needed. They are a dog that needs human companionship and do not do well tied up in the garden or kennelled for long periods. Adult dogs need regular exercise, preferably including some free running in a safe environment. Providing you are willing to take one long or two shorter walks a day it is not necessary to have a large garden. Puppies should not be taken on long walks, they need moderate exercise and advice on this will be provided by the breeder.
As a long coated breed, grooming is of prime importance and the Bouvier needs to be brushed and combed regularly. Spend fifteen minutes at least once a week and the coat should be kept under control, any less than this and the coat quickly becomes matted. For a pet, trimming five or six times a year should be enough but a show dog will need much more attention to the coat. As professional groomers are expensive, and often unfamiliar with the Bouvier, the majority of owners learn to trim their own dogs, usually by trial and error! The one thing that you need to remember is that mistakes will grow out! Advice on grooming should be available from the breeder and if you live near enough they will probably be willing to help you. Failing this they should be able to put you in touch with somebody nearby. Diagrams and instructions are also available from the breed clubs.
Although the Bouvier des Flandres, according to the breed standard may be fawn through to black, light colours are no longer shown in Europe. In the USA and Canada Bouvier exhibits are all colours. The ideal coat is strongly brindled with dark pigmentation. Dogs are 24" -26.5" at the shoulder and bitches are 23" -25", weighing 35-40 kilos and 27 -35 kilos respectively.
About the author : I have had Bouvier des Flandres since the early eighties. I have shown the breed and done basic agility with some of my dogs. I only breed occasionally and believe that I have responsiblity for any dog that I breed for life. I think that it is important to take into account any known health problems and strive to avoid genetic problems when breeding but that temerament is equally as important. I am chair of the British Bouvier Association and support Bouvier Rescue