Bouvier des Flanders (Vlaamse Koehond)
The Bouvier des Flanders is a king-sized, long-haired working breed, which was initially bred in Flanders, a territory that envelops some parts of Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The dog enjoyed the vast popularity among farm people and cattle dealers for its ability to control and drive a large herd of domestic animals. In modern days its specimens are successfully used to perform a wide variety of tasks including tracking, herding, military and police work, guarding and many others.
The Bouvier des Flanders was invented by farmers and cattle-breeders from the Flemish region of Belgium and northern France. That’s why it’s commonly referred as a «Franco-Belgian» dog. Its main responsibility was to herd and protect its subordinated livestock although it was often charged with other important assignments. In fact, its name literally means a «bovine herder». It’s generally agreed that this versatile farm dog was bred with involvement of the Irish Wolfhounds, Tibetan Mastiff, Shnauzer, Griffon and/or Beauceron.
In 1910 the members of the Bouvier des Flanders made their first appearance at the International dog show in Brussels. The initial standard of the breed was developed in 1912, with the active support of a Frenchman, M. Fontaine, who held a post of a vice-president of the Club Saint-Hubert du Nord.
The years of the First World War proved to have been exceptionally difficult for the dog as its number fell to a dangerously low level. Luckily several enthusiastic breeders managed to keep their dogs from being killed or becoming strays. Some of the Bouvier des Flanders served as couriers while others were used as ambulance and carting dogs during wartime.
After the war was over the most noticeable contribution in the breed’s revival was made by the dog named Ch. Nic de Sottegem, whose owner was Captain Barbry, a Belgian army veterinarian. The scions of this male left their mark on virtually every pedigree of today’s Bouviers.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) formally accepted this breed in 1929 and began to register its specimens in 1931. However before the Second World War the Bouvier des Flanders remained very rare both in the US and Europe. After 1945 a few Western emigrants took along several high-quality dogs to America and since then awareness about this breed slowly but steadily grew in this country.
Actually the breeds’ popularity skyrocketed in the 50s and 60s of the XX century. The most known Bouviers in the US was a dog called «Lucky», that was President Ronald Reagan’s treasured pet. Today the breed doesn’t seem to lose its working drive although most of its specimens are kept exclusively for companionship.
The standard of the Bouvier des Flanders requests its specimen to be quite, even-tempered, solid, and courageous. In puppyhood it stands out for impetuous and mischievous nature but usually grows up into majestic and somewhat lazy dog, which loves nothing more than to doze for hours near the fireplace. Nonetheless this dog needs firm and strong master who will be able to dedicate sufficient time to its training and socialisation. In this case children will be quite safe around this dog (probably with the exception of too small ones). Due to its herding heritage this breed tends to herd kids, vehicles and familiar animals. It’s possible to break it from this aptitude although only to certain extent.
The Bouvier des Flanders is known for its powerful desire to protect its special people so it demonstrates a great deal of suspiciousness in the presence of strangers. Start socialising your pet as early as possible so it would realise that newcomers in your house contemplate no harm. Thanks to its intimidating appearance and unfailing vigilance this dog makes an ideal watcher. Moreover it can be depended on as an undaunted guardian who will take any measures to ensure the safety of its masters.
The Bouvier des Flanders is moderately good with other dogs as long as they don’t threaten its owners or territory. Nevertheless conflicts between specimens of the same sex occur rather frequently so it’s highly recommended to always walk this dog on a secure leash. The Bouvier des Flanders is keen on chasing small animals and may inadvertently harm them in a process. It can be kept without problems only with those non-canine pets with which it has been raised since a young age.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· canine hip dysplasia;
· elbow dysplasia;
· eye problems;
· subvalvular aortic stenosis;
· gastric torsion;
· Addison’s Disease;
· Cushing’s Disease.
The Bouvier des Flanders possesses thick double coat, which takes sizeable amount of time to maintain it in tidy condition. It’s imperative to brush the dog’s hair at least twice a week to prevent it from matting and tangling. Be prepared to spend up to three hours weekly on brushing your pet. It’s recommended to acquire a stiff bristle or pin brush and a blunt-tipped scissor to make this procedure more pleasant.
The Bouvier is a pretty messy dog as its beard, long fur on feet and rear end tend to attract dirt, water and debris. It should be bathed every six to eight weeks or when the need arises. If you don’t intend to exhibit your dog it’s acceptable to trim its coat and beard for easier maintenance. The dog’s teeth need weekly brushing to ensure its good health for long years. Check its ears on a regular basis and clean them if they look dirty.
The Bouvier des Flanders is a self-assured, brattish and somewhat authoritative dog whose training requires substantial amount of efforts. The handler should demonstrate strong leadership qualities if he wants to deserve the obedience of this breed. That’s why the Bouvier is a bad choice for a novice or too meek dog owner.
The training should be based only on reward-based methods since physical enforcement will cause even more stubborn and wilful behaviour of your pet. The Bouvier has active and inquisitive mind and loves learning advanced tricks as long as its progress is encouraged with its favourite treats.
Due to its working background the Bouvier des Flanders is fairly demanding when it comes to its activity level. Nonetheless with maturity it starts to prefer more sedentary lifestyle and sometimes it should be induced to more vigorous exercise.
Sufficient mental and physical stimulation bears the outmost importance for the dog’s well-being so make sure to take your pet for a long and brisk walk each and every day. In spite of its considerable size this breed can be kept in an apartment if its exercise requirements are properly met. Remember that it’s highly predisposed to destructiveness in case of boredom.