Bouvier Des Flandres

Bouvier Des Flandres Dog Breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

At first glance, the Bouvier des Flandres might appear intimidating, but underneath the imposing interior there’s a sweet and gentle-natured dog. The Bouviers originated in Belgium and while they were mainly used for general farm work, they were also used as guard and watch dogs. They can be found in those roles to this day, as well as police and military dogs, guide dogs and of course, house pets.

They are known for their work ethic, intelligence and pleasant nature and make a great addition to any family. The Bouviers can adapt quite well to country or city living, and are an excellent choice for apartment dwellers as long as they are sufficiently exercised.

Breed characteristics

Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog breed group:Working dogs
Weight:60-120 lb.
Height:22-28 inches tall at the shoulder
Life span: 10-12 years.
Main Highlights
  • Has been bred by the middle class to be a tireless working dog coupled with an even and calm disposition.
  • Were used extensively during World War I and World War II as search and rescue dogs as well as message carriers on the front lines, which almost brought the breed to extinction.
  • The breed is slow to mature. They don’t fully lose their puppy antics until 2-3 years old.
  • The breed is considered a non-shedding breed as most of the loose hairs are trapped by their undercoat, making them a good choice for people with allergies or asthma.
  • They have a tendency to be pushy and are not considered a good choice for the inexperienced or novice owner.
  • The Bouviers have a strong herding instinct and will attempt to herd anything that moves.
  • Suitable for apartment dwelling due to moderate exercise needs and being fairly inactive indoors.
Breed History

The earliest known breeders of the Bouviers were the monks at the Ter Duinen monastery in Flanders, Belgium from which they derive their name. The ancestry of the Bouviers is somewhat unknown but it is suggested that they are the result of a breeding between the Scottish deer hounds, The Griffon, Irish Wolfhounds, the Beauceron and local farm dogs.

Bouvier Des Flandres, which actually means cow herder, are also know to go by Vlaamse Koehond which means Flemish cow dog, Toucheur de Boeuf which means cattle driver and Vuilbaard which means dirty beard and may suggest that they might be not the tidiest of dogs. As the name clearly suggests, they were mainly used for general farm work, cattle herding, flock guarding, and farm watching.

World War I and later World War II almost brought the extinction of the breed due to them being used extensively as search and rescue dogs and message carriers on the front lines. It is suggested that one the Bouviers that were used for military purposes during the war, Nic, later went on to be a winner of several dog shows and is considered to be the founder of the breed, from which the new generations of the Bouviers are descendant today.

Among the well-known Bouviers was Lucky, the United States President Ronald Reagan’s pet Bouvier.

Today, the Bouviers could still be found on farms, military and law enforcement, and homes around the world. Many Bouviers also serve as guide dogs to the blind.


The Bouvier males weigh in at 75-120 lb. and measure at 23-28 inch tall at the shoulder. The females are slightly smaller and weigh in at 60-80 lb., measuring 22-27 inch tall at the shoulder.

Bouviers with Dutch bloodlines tend to be larger and heavier than those who have Belgian bloodlines in them.

Personality and Character

The breed is most popular for their ability to work tirelessly, whether it’s on the farm, law enforcement, military or as guide dogs, the Bouvier gets the job done.

Underneath the rugged exterior, they are intelligent, gentle and kind spirits who will make a fantastic addition to any family. They adapt easily and quickly to life out in the country or an apartment as long as they are sufficiently exercised. Their exercise needs are moderate and they do well with daily walks, jogs or a good romp in the yard.

The breed has a very strong protective instinct which is why they make a great watchdog as well as a guard dog. They are not an aggressive unless they feel that their family is threatened. However, sometimes their intimidating looks are enough to deter any intruders.

The best place for them is beside their human flock where they can be part of the pack and participate in a variety of activities. They don’t like being away from their people for long durations of time and might develop irritating habits if bored or unhappy such as chewing or excessive barking. They are extremely loyal and devoted to their families and tend to form deep bonds and attachment to members of their pack.

The breed has a strong personality and can be stubborn and wilful. In conclusion, they are not the best choice for a novice or passive owner. Even more, the Bouviers are slow to mature and maintain their puppy behaviour and characteristic until they are 2-3 years.

Health and Potential Problems

The Bouviers are generally a healthy breed. Irresponsible breeding left them vulnerable to health and temperament issues and this is why you should never purchase a dog from a puppy mill. Reputable shelters and breeders usually make sure the puppy or dog have received a clean bill of health from the vet.

An important thing to consider is that due to their breeding, the breed has a high pain tolerance. In most cases, by the time you notice any signs of illness, the puppy or the dog have been sick for a considerable amount of time. The only way to tell they are ill, are behavioural changes. Knowing your dog or puppy’s mannerism is sometimes crucial for early detection and treatment.

Now, here are the conditions that your dog might develop:

  • Hip Dysplasia: A common issue among dogs, caused when the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint. May cause lameness and discomfort, it is usually treated with pain medication and surgery in severe cases.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: A hereditary condition which is caused by different growth rates of the elbow bones. The condition may cause lameness and pain and is typically treated with pain medication and surgery in severe cases.
  • Cataracts: An eye disorder found in humans and dogs, usually develops in old age and causes opacity on the eye lens. It can be surgically corrected.
  • Cancer: A disease found in both humans and dogs. Depending on the type of cancer, it is usually treated with surgery, chemotherapy or a combination of both.
  • Entropion: An eye disorder that causes the eyelid to roll inward, injuring and irritating the eyeball. It can be surgically corrected in severe cases.
  • Ectropion: An eye disorder that causes the eyelid to sag or roll out, leaving the eye prone to infection and irritation. In severe cases it may be surgically corrected.
  • Hyperthyroidism: A disorder caused by the body’s inability to properly regulate and maintain thyroid hormones levels. The disorder may cause obesity or hair loss and is typically treated with medication and diet adjustments.
  • Epilepsy: Common among humans and dogs, the condition causes unpredictable seizures. There is no known cause or cure, but it is usually treated with medication. Most dogs with epilepsy live long and full lives.
  • Addison’s disease: A condition caused by the body’s inability to produce sufficient amount of adrenal hormones. It is a potentially life threatening disease and may lead to severe shock and death.
  • Bloat: A potentially life threatening condition without early detection and vet intervention. It occurs when the dog drinks or eats too fast or is exercised right after a meal, trapping air or gas in the stomach and causes it to twist on itself.
  • Glaucoma: An eye disorder that is caused by decreased fluid in the eye that creates extreme pressure in the eye. The condition might also be hereditary. Symptoms may include pain and vision loss and is usually treated with eye drops or surgery in severe cases.
  • Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis: A heart disorder where fainting is the main indicator and may eventually lead to death or heart failure without immediate vet intervention.
  • Cushing’s disease: a disorder caused by an imbalance of the adrenal gland or the pituitary, causing the body to produce high levels of cortisol. Main symptoms are excessive drinking and urination, typically treated with medication or surgery in severe cases.

Even though the list may seem long, this doesn’t mean your dog will develop any of these. With proper diet, sufficient exercise and regular vet visits, your companion will remain by your side for years to come.

Care Features

The Bouvier, like most breeds, requires plenty of socialization, starting as soon as possible to prevent them from developing shy and suspicious characteristics when they’re adults. They need to be introduced to a wide variety of people, children, different animals, scenarios and various environments to ensure that they grow up to be a well-rounded adult. Puppy kindergarten is highly recommended as your puppy can be introduced to the world under proper professional guidance.

As the intelligent breed they are, they require plenty of mental stimulation. Enrolling them in events such as agility, obedience, tracking and herding is very beneficial for your dog or puppy to vent their energy and get their brains working in positive directions. If bored, the Bouvier will take it out on your possessions, in the forms of excessive barking or nipping at heels in an attempt to herd.

Their herding instinct is very developed and must be taught to be directed in into positive endeavours. As puppies they might attempt to herd people and kids which could turn into biting as an adult. They also will attempt to herd moving objects such as vehicles and bikes, which proves to be rather dangerous. Leash training is a must for that reason as well.

The breed can be stubborn and requires a pack leader that can set boundaries and reinforce them consistently with positive reinforcement in the form of praise and tasty rewards. They are very eager to please but need to understand they are not the boss and can’t run the household. If not properly trained, the Bouvier may develop dominance issues towards people. They do not respond well to harsh training or treatment and the use of such should be avoided at all costs. They learn very quickly and don’t like repeating tasks they have already mastered, therefore training needs to be kept fresh, innovative and keep them on their toes.

Crate training is another must for the breed. Crate training has proven very effective with house training, it provides a safe haven for the dog to retire to when tired and needing space. It will also save your possession from the Bouviers wrath when you are away.

Feeding Schedule

The breed requires 3-5 cups of high quality dry dog food a day, preferably divided into 2 meals.

Each dog’s nutritional needs are different, depending on size, age and activity levels. Generally, high quality dog food without unnecessary additives such as grain, and rich in meat protein will go a long way for your dog. The better quality food, the less the dog will need and consume.

Another thing to consider is that the breed is prone to bloat like many other larger breeds. Bloat occurs when the dog eats or drinks too fast and is unable to expel the trapped air or gas from the stomach, causing it to twist on itself.  In many cases, the condition is preventable. Special dishes are sold in most pet stores to slow the consumption of food and water. Take care not to exercise the dog or puppy right after a meal.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The breed is blessed with a weather-resistant double coat. The outer coat is harsh and rough while the undercoat is dense and fine. Common colours are Black, grey brindle, fawn or salt and pepper.

The Bouviers are considered a non-shedding breed as the loose hair is usually caught and trapped by the undercoat, typically resulting in mats. This makes them a good choice of breed for people with allergies and asthma. However, it is very important to note that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog as allergies can build over time.

The breed does require extensive grooming and needs to be brushed and combed several times a week to prevent matting and tangles. Their grooming needs is another thing to consider when adopting or buying a Bouvier as it can be time and money consuming since many owners opt for the services of a professional groomer.

They are known to have the shaggy dog syndrome, which means that they can be very messy with debris usually clinging to their rough coat, proceeding to be scattered all over the house and food and water collecting in their beards. Keeping a clean house and a tidy looking Bouvier might prove a challenge.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Bouviers are good with children and they are very protective and gentle with the younger pack members. As long as the Bouvier understands that they can’t herd them, the kids will find a wonderful companion in them. As with all other breeds, play time between dogs and children has to be supervised by an adult at all times. Any tail or ear pulling must be immediately discouraged. Children need to be taught respect when approaching any animal.

The breed is generally suspicious with strange dogs but they are usually polite. They get along well with cats and other animals if they have been raised together or very well socialized. Their strong herding instinct may prove a little too hard to resist, and caution must be exercised when they are left alone with other pets.

This versatile breed is a hard-worker, kind, and loyal companion and a fearless protector. They can learn and do anything and everything and they make a wonderful addition to any household. The children of the family will find a responsible and protective best friend in them and they are happiest by their family’s side and need to be involved in the pack’s activities. They don’t do well as a back yard dog.

The Bouvier needs constant mental stimulation but their exercise needs are fairly moderate. The breed will do great in agility and obedience events as well as herding and tracking competition. Participating in these will not only keep your Bouvier in a great physical and mental condition but also help solidify the bond between you.

They don’t shed a lot and are considered a fairly good choice for people with asthma and allergies. However, they might not make the greatest choice for fastidious housekeepers as they track mud and debris into the house on a regular basis, are messy eaters, and pass winds regularly.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.