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Bouvier des Flandres: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Bouvier des Flandres temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Bouvier des Flandres dog breed

The Bouvier des Flandres tends to be sober and thoughtful, rather than light-hearted or whimsical.

The AKC Standard calls him "steady, resolute, and rugged."

Though they can be athletic and agile, many Bouviers (especially those from show lines) are a bit lazy unless deliberately taken outside and encouraged to move. Brisk walks are a must to keep them in hard condition.

Mental stimulation in the form of advanced obedience, agility, tracking, herding, carting, or Schutzhund is even more important to this highly intelligent breed. But there is a big difference between Bouviers from working lines and those from show lines. If you're not going to devote serious time with your dog in some form of "working activity", don't get a Bouvier from working lines.

Though not overly demonstrative – he shows his loyalty in more subtle ways – the Bouvier des Flandres must live indoors and close to his family, his "flock."

Matching his stern appearance (often likened to a wise old grandfather), he is often aloof with strangers. His air of calm appraisal can be intimidating, although he is more likely to use his big body to control people, rather than biting. Socialization must be early and frequent so that he learns to discriminate between friend and foe.

Most Bouvers des Flandres are dominant with other dogs, especially of the same sex. Individuals with a high prey drive are not reliable with cats and other creatures that run or flutter.

Make no mistake about it, the Bouvier des Flandres can be a pushy, strong-willed dog who requires a confident owner, especially during the challenging adolescent period. This is not a breed for first-time or passive owners.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is large, rugged, and shaggy
  • Carries himself with a dignified, impressive presence
  • Looks stern and imposing, so makes an effective deterrent
  • Is usually steady-tempered and sensible
  • As an adult, is usually calm and quiet indoors

A Bouvier des Flandres may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
  • Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
  • Aggression or fearfulness when not socialized enough
  • Potential aggression toward other animals
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Chasing and nipping at things that move: children, joggers, other animals, bikes, cars
  • Frequent brushing, combing, and clipping of the rough coat
  • "Shaggy dog syndrome," i.e. debris clinging to the coat, water soaking into the beard and dripping on your floors
  • Gassiness (flatulence)

A Bouvier des Flandres may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Bouviers have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
  • Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Bouvier to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

More traits and characteristics of the Bouvier des Flandres

If I was considering a Bouvier, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Bouviers require regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become bored, which they usually express by destructiveness, often on a large scale!
  2. Providing enough socialization. Many Bouviers have protective instincts toward strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, or even nervous and fearful.
  3. Animal aggression. Many Bouviers are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Some have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures.
  4. The strong temperament. The Bouvier des Flandres is capable of learning a great deal, but he has an independent mind of their own and is not a pushover to raise and train. You must know how to be a leader to a large, very strong dog. To teach your Bouvier to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Bouvier des Flandres Training Pagediscusses the program you need.
  5. Grooming. To keep his coat short and free of mats, the Bouvier des Flandres requires regular brushing, and also clipping and trimming every few months. But don't expect your pet Bouvier to look like the Bouvier des Flandres show dogs you've seen in books or on TV. That particular look takes hours of specialized coat work by experienced show groomers.

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  6. "Shaggy dog syndrome." Like all shaggy dogs, the Bouvier des Flandres is a messy dog. Leaves, mud, snow, fecal matter, and other debris cling to his rough coat and ends up all over your house. When he drinks, his beard absorbs water, which drips on your floors when he walks away. When he eats, his beard absorbs food so that when he sniffs your face or presses his head against your leg, YOU end up dirty, too. Big shaggy dogs are not suited to fastidious housekeepers.
  7. Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. Fortunately, Bouviers who are fed a homemade diet of real meat and vegetables have much less trouble with gassiness.
  8. Health problems. Bouviers are susceptible to crippling hip and elbow disorders, an emergency digestive syndrome called bloat, and a number of different cancers that can cut your dog's life short in middle age. See my Bouvier Health Page

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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