The Bouvier des Flandres is a farm dog through and through—powerful enough to pull loads, agile enough to herd cattle, and alert enough to keep watch. This no-nonsense breed likes having a job to do, especially when they're working alongside their family. Bouviers have a tousled coat from their flouncy tail to their pronounced eyebrows and full beard. Though utterly devoted to their families, Bouviers aren't overly demonstrative; they show affection by working hard and sticking close to you. When given plenty of opportunity for play, work, and exercise to head off boredom, Bouvier des Flandres are serene and gentle companions at home. Keeping them busy will also prevent unwelcome behaviors like barking, chewing, and chasing. The strong-willed Bouvier does best with experienced dog owners who establish firm, consistent, and loving boundaries.
The Bouvier des Flandres' name is often shortened to Bouvier. They were once known as Koe Hond, meaning cow dog in Dutch, and Vuilbaard, meaning dirty beard. Today Bouviers are also known as Flanders Cattle Dog and Vlaamse Koehond.
The Bouvier des Flandres' double coat is tousled and weatherproof. The outer coat is harsh and rough to the touch, while the dense undercoat is soft and fine. They have a copious beard and mustache, and pronounced eyebrows. The coat colors are fawn, grey, black, pepper and salt, or grey brindle. They may have a small white star on their chest.
Average Height: 23-28 inches
Average Weight: 70-100 pounds
Breed Standard & History
Bouviers are powerful and agile, built to meet the demands of the farmstead and keep up with stray cattle. They are large, strong and rugged in appearance, yet able to move with surprising grace. They are muscular from their neck through their chest, and have athletic legs. A pleasant mix of spirited and serene, fearless and even-tempered, Bouviers always make for enjoyable company.
The Bouvier des Flandres hails from the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium, that was then known as Flanders. Early in the breed's history their job was cattle herding, but over time they developed into a dog of all trades that could herd, as well as keep watch and pull carts. Their ancestors are thought to be a mix of Sheepdogs, Mastiffs, and a variety of spaniel breeds.
Bouviers were almost lost during World War I when many were enlisted to serve as messenger and ambulance dogs. Today, all Bouviers are descended from the few dogs that survived the battlefields and were brought to the US by European expatriates. Having proved their mettle in war, people began using the capable and courageous Bouvier for police K-9 units, as well as search and rescue, and guide work.
The American Kennel Club recognized Bouviers in 1931.
AKC Breed Category
The intelligent Bouvier des Flandres gets the job done with a quiet dignity. They tend to be laid back at home, and energized and focused when they have work to do, whether it's herding or training for dog sports. Bouviers adore their families and show it by their steady, even-tempered companionship. This is not an excitable breed, though they are strong-willed and known to be aggressive with other dogs.
Are Bouviers Good with Kids? Bouviers consider kids they are raised with members of the pack and enjoy playing with them. However, Bouviers should always be watched when playing with children because they are known to nip at heels to keep tykes in line, and they can knock toddlers over during exuberant play.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Bouviers Good with Other Pets? Bouviers are not always a good match for households with multiple pets. They may live peacefully with cats and dogs when they are raised with them from puppyhood. But Bouviers have a strong prey drive and they often try to assert their dominance with dogs of the same sex.
Bouviers are highly protective of their people, themselves, and their territory.
Are Bouviers Good Guard Dogs? Guarding and watching are in the Bouvier's DNA. They will keep watch over your property, alert the house to danger (or visitors), and go on the offensive if they suspect someone entering the home is up to no good. They are not aggressive towards people without cause.
Bred for long days on the job, Bouviers have the stamina for lengthy play sessions and walks.
- Bold and strong-willed.
- They require experienced owners who set firm, consistent boundaries.
- May be aggressive towards dogs they don't know, especially without adequate socialization when they are young.
- Leash training is critical so they don't dash off after small animals.
- They get bored easily and need active owners who have the time and energy to exercise with them.
- They tend towards destructive behaviors when they get bored
- Their tousled coats pick up dirt from outside and bring it indoors.
Bouviers consider themselves family and should live indoors with their people. They are intelligent and become bored easily. To prevent unwanted behaviors like barking, chewing, and chasing it's best to keep them occupied throughout most of the day. While their coats are low-shedding, their rough coat collects dirt and debris. It's helpful to do a spot check and quick brush before going inside to keep the mess to a minimum.
Bouviers des Flandres benefit from a large yard where they can run, play, and keep active. The yard should be well secured, because they will try to find a way out. Bouviers are fairly comfortable outside in cold weather, but they become uncomfortable when it's very hot and humid.
A healthy Bouvier requires several hours of physical activity each day so they stay healthy and don't become restless. Dog sports are a great way to keep them active, as are boisterous play sessions and long walks.
Bouviers are hardworking dogs with the stamina to mind the farm and the flock all day. It's tough to tire out this breed.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Bouviers will jog with you for three to five miles as long as it isn't too hot or humid outside.
- Hiking Miles: Aside from bringing bits of the forest back in their coats, a leash-trained Bouvier makes an excellent hiking partner. Your Bouvier will happily trek with you for five to eight miles.
Generally, this breed requires about 3 to 5 cups of good quality dry dog food each day, over the course of two feedings. This will vary, however, based upon your Bouvier's activity level and age. Talk to your veterinarian about the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Bouvier.
Bouviers can spend an hour or two alone, but much beyond that and they'll resort to destructive behaviors, such as barking, and chewing. Too much time alone also means they aren't getting the exercise they need, which can lead to poor manners, chasing, and leash pulling. If your dog does pull on their leash, consider a harness. When you do leave your Bouvier alone for short stretches of time, it is helpful to set them up in a cozy dog crate with a few favorite toys to keep them occupied.
Health and Grooming
The Bouvier's tousled coat needs a thorough brushing at least once a week to prevent mats tangles. Doing this properly can take more than an hour. Many Bouvier owners trim their dog's beard and coat to make it more manageable. Bouviers need a bath about once a month, or when they get dirty. Check and gently your dog's ears once a week with a vet-approved cleanser to remove dirt that can cause infections, and trim his nails once a month to avoid painful cracking.
Common Health Issues
Breed-specific health conditions, some serious, may affect the Bouvier des Flandres. These include:
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Eye conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma, entropion, and ectropion
- Gastric torsion
- Sub-aortic stenosis, a heart condition
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Bouvier des Flandres by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Smart and attentive, Bouviers get the basics down fast—including housetraining. A mix of stubborn and sensitive, they respond best to firm, but gentle corrections and positive reinforcement.
Bouviers benefit from participation in advanced training throughout their lives because it prevents boredom, and keeps them physically and mentally challenged. They are particularly strong competitors in herding, but are also adept at agility, dock jumping, and flyball.
Sporting Dog Training
The Bouvier excels at herding rather than hunting.
Yes. Bouviers are among the largest of the hypoallergenic breeds. Their rough coats don't shed heavily and, as a result, pet dander is less abundant in your home. Regular grooming of your Bouvier can further minimize pet dander. Keep in mind, no dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic.
Bouviers are aloof with strangers, but not aggressive. They're sometimes pugnacious with other dogs, though only when they haven't been properly socialized. Bouviers are also protective of their people, but will take action only when the threat is clear.
Bouviers are strong swimmers and it's a great way to have them burn off excess energy in the summer months. No dog should be allowed to swim unsupervised.