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Old 02-16-2010, 01:50 PM
Carson Carson is offline
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Default Is a Bouvier des Flandres right for my family?

I am inquiring as a potential family for a Bouvier des Flandres. My family is interested in having a dog and I have been doing a lot of research on dogs and breeds to determine the best fit for my family. I want to discuss a few things with Bouvier owners and see what they think. I am seriously interested in the Bouvier because in objective evaluations of breed types, it meets many of our criteria but I didn't start my search with a Bouvier in mind. I had never heard of them before and I never really imagined myself as an owner of any kind of shaggy dog.

We have a typical suburban lifestyle. I have a wife and two children (2 and 3) and I go to work 8 hours a day. Fortunately I live in a rural area and I commute a mile down a country road so I can come home for lunch every day. We have a four bedroom house on 0.2 acres. It's a tract house with Masonite siding and all my neighbors houses are jammed up together like barracks. It's 50' to our neighbors house at best. Nevertheless, we've got plenty of parks and open space, forest, mountains and desert all walking distance or no more than 10 miles down the road.

I've had some experience with dogs in the past. I grew up with a dalmatian and a border collie. Yeah I know they're said to be two of the worst dogs for kids but I didn't know better and it was in the 70's long before 101 Dalmatians and Babe. I've also lived with two great Pyrenees, and I've cared for a rottweiler, an OES, and a few mutts. Besides that I've had lifelong experience with just about every animal on old MacDonald's farm but right now our current house only has an ant farm and the rest of my family has never had a dog before.

We've determined that we know we don't want a lap dog or a toy dog. My wife wonders what a dog is good for if he can't protect you -- she wants a protection dog, but I didn't initially limit our search on that criteria alone. She also wants minimal shedding. So do I but we would be willing to accept some shedding as long as we didn't have to change our entire wardrobe into nylon suits only. We looked at the popular sporting dogs but since I've stopped hunting they've lost some of their appeal.

Personally, I'm not the defensive type or seeking a defensive weapon but I can appreciate a dog that has the desire and capability to protect. But I don't have any misconceptions about the real-world capability of a protection dog. We determined that we're not just looking for a companion or family dog. We want a working dog and we have a job for him to do. His job is to protect the family and our property, and to help us raise our boys (2 and 3 years old now) by demanding strong leadership, command and control from all his human masters. After a lot of consideration, my family has agreed and determined to that we'd like to bring a working dog into our house that is naturally protective and capable of being trained further in protection.

We know that all of the working/herding dogs present some common challenges. They're big, they can be willing to dominate, they need substantial training, they need assertive, confident leadership, they need a significant amount of exercise, they need to be integrated into the family (not stored in a kennel), they need a job to do, and they require a significant amount of socialization to balance their temperaments.

Everyone in my family is very gentle but we can be assertive when command and leadership are in demand. I want a dog that will challenge us if we fail to maintain command, control and leadership. I do not want a dog that will just acquiesce in submissiveness. To me, it is a positive quality when the dog works to ensure there is a strong leader in the family even if it means he makes some trouble for the weak-willed. Even though I'm looking for a dog that needs consistent leadership, there is nothing we would enjoy about a continual on-going power struggle. Provided we demonstrate leadership, we need the dog to submit and obey. To obtain that, training for this purpose would be one of the ongoing activities we do with our dog whom we expect to need mental stimulus anyway.

Because we want to continually make progress in training, we want a dog that is intelligent enough that training can be an ongoing thing where we are able to advance further and further without coming to the dog's limits of either will or understanding. We would enjoy a dog capable of advanced obedience, commands in multiple languages, reading hand and body signals, and performing well off-leash. I'm learning a lot about dog training now. We want to train the dog to an advanced level of obedience but we're realistic about what we can probably achieve with our first dog. For me, I see the value in a dog that demands authority and responds to it magnificently.

We want to accept the challenge of a larger working/herding dog and have considered the tradoffs of the several breeds. We evaluated the Bouvier against the Doberman, the German Shepherd, the Malinois, the Giant Schnauzer and several other dogs. German Shepherds shed a ton, Giant Schnauzers need massive amounts of exercise, and Malis can be hyperactive, but Bouviers, according to what I've read are the messiest, smelliest and demand the most attention to grooming. We read the article "Don't buy a Bouvier" and have taken those things into consideration.

Exercising the dog with a jog or a bike ride to the park and a runaround the park everyday is not a problem for us, but if the dog absolutely needed 2 hours or more a day of exercise away from the house just to get tired enough not to tear up our house, we probably couldn't work with that. We're a lot more active away from the house on weekends but the reality during the week is I go to work, and my wife and kids have a lot of other things to do -- mostly at home. Our backyard is based on a 0.2 acre lot so the dog can play but not really exercise out there. I would probably be walking and playing in the field with him two or three times a day, morning, noon and night for a total of one hour a day but other than that he would have to get along with us in our activities around the house at least until the weekend came and we all got out for the day.

I know some dogs are the other half of their owner's life but we can't offer that. The dog has to fit into the whole family. I can't be coming back from the park at my kids bedtime because I needed to be out all evening exercising the dog just to keep him from bouncing off the walls. That's a tough fit for some of the highest energy, most active dogs but I think the Bouvier can work with it.

On the other hand, I can see that the Bouvier is going to take a lot more time to keep clean and groomed and he'll add to our time spent cleaning the house. We think we can work with that. Clipping, brushing, raking... that's something I can do. Our dog will probably get a good brushing every day whether he needs it or not because I would enjoy the time with my dog and with my family (as opposed to endless excercise away from the house). I know that brushing isn't just caressing flowing locks but it usually means sorting out tangled hair and stuff stuck to the coat. Even if we do brush and groom a lot, I realize that won't stop all the crud, and mud and swampy stuff from coming in our house and I'll be picking weeds and ticks and whatnot from the dog but we're ready for that. Our house is all one stone floor and there's no upholstered furniture. I fixed it up to be proof for active kids and for my wife and my own practical lifestyle. Our yard is all landscaped so there's no open areas of dirt for mudholes or anything, but I can definitely see some pond mess coming from just down the road. The cab in our pickup is already full so he'll have to ride in back -- probably in a kennel. I might get a truck cap but I'm not sure that is safe enough by itself.

We're thinking the Bouvier might fit our situation best because we would rather deal with cleanup and grooming than with extra hours of exercise everyday, or massive shedding. We think the Bouvier's indoor activity level would suit our house best. The dog that matches us next best is the Doberman who is comparatively a far neater dog. The Doberman matched many of the things we are looking for but I have a serious concern about how he might connect with my 2 year old son. My major concern with the doberman is that his personality might be inclined to being obsessed with one person and he may not bond as well with our children as a herding dog might. Although I believe some Dobermans can be very good with children, we're hoping a Bouvier will have the best chance of becoming their best friend.

Both my boys are very gentle, peaceful and sensitive. A lot of breed profiles rank compatibility with children based on boisterous, rowdy and abusive kids but mine are far from that. I am more concerned about how well a Doberman or any dog would really connect with my gentlest and affectionate son. My 2 year old will especially enjoy a dog. He's been showing a lot of interest in them for over a year now. When we go to the dog park or we meet one on the street, he's always very reserved but the dogs can sense his attentiveness and he's always the one that gets licked. He's definitely into dogs but while dogs elicit his admiring thoughtfulness, sincere affection, and care, he's not likely to just tackle them with an embrace, but instead his thoughts will dwell on them long afterward. I am sure that he would ultimately prefer to have a great friend in a dog and not just a servant or even an opponent in a competition of wills. I would give up a lot of what we hope for from a dog to make sure my little boy gets a friend.

I realize the Bouvier's affection has been described as more reserved and he is not as playful or puppy-like as other dogs but I believe my son is sensitive enough to perceive the Bouvier's affection, loyalty and devotion if it is there and if it includes him and isn't more exclusively toward another member of the family. I can see how it would be counter intuitive for some dogs to form a strong bond with anyone besides the one it has learned to trust for the things it depends on but I'm hoping the a Bouvier will relate to my family beyond the bond of dependency. As an experienced Bouvier owner, what do you think?

I'm mostly interested in verifying my logic and reasoning about the Bouvier's fit for my family. I would love to hear what you think. I know if we determine to get one, we'll get a puppy rather than an adult or a rescue dog because my kids are not older and Bouviers are not popular enough that it's likely we would find a perfect match in a shelter. I know we should go to a responsible breeder -- but that's easier said than done. I really need names and contact information because looking around I have mostly found breeders that don't qualify any better one than the other, or they haven't any available or planned litters announced.
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Old 02-17-2010, 03:56 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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Welcome, Carson. I think there are some truths in what you posted but I think you also are missing some of the finer points of who and what a Bouvier is and can be for you and your family. I also think you may be taking some lititure a bit to literly and you might be over analysing it too much. But other than that, it's good you are doing your homework.

Oh, I hate to tell you this, but if being a lap dog is a deal killer, scratch the Bouv. They are very much a lap dog... at least they think they are. We have several that like nothing better to do than climb up in our laps when we are sitting or curl up next to us when we are laying in bed watching TV. Not all of them, but many of the Bouvs are what you would call a touchy feely type dog. They want to be near their people, they want to be touched and petted. Of course just like cats, when they have had enough, they don't mind finding a corner or high spot out side to just kick back.

I think you are also putting too much into the "smelly" part. Yes, they can have gas that will clear a room, but just like with people, a lot of it depends on their diet. If you feed them a good diet and have plenty of water for them, they won't be any different than any other human.

They don't shed, but they can lose hair. By that, I mean they can lose hair while playing, running around, rolling on their backs to scratch them, rubbing up against something to scratch, etc. We really didn't have a hair problem (as in dust bunnies) until we went over 3 Bouvs. Then we started noticing more hair needing swept and vacumed up. With six, we do notice it because they are always busy and the younger ones like to play and jostle each other. This causes hair to be pulled out. This can be controlled by grooming since the grooming will strip out the lose hair and undercoat. And yes, a Bouv has a long coat, but they don't have to be kept in a long coat. A lot of working Bouvs are kept clipped short, just leave the beard, fall over their eyes and leg furnishings. Those are their trade mark and take awhile to grow back out if you clip it. But there have been times that we've even cut the beard back. They also all usually get a short clip when our summer starts heating up around here as it lets them be cooler. We don't show our dogs so the hair cut isn't as important as it is for show dogs. Sue keeps her service dog in a good business trim though, since he is out in the public a lot.

On protection and defense... this is something that you need to evaluate very carefully for temperment. You want a Bouvier that is very good at evaluating the situation and only using only what is necessary for the situation. Our Alpha gal we had knew when just a stare was enough or when it required a snort, a stiff body posture, a very deep woof. She knew what was needed.

Anyway, it's good you are doing your homework. And again, welcome.

Mike
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Old 02-18-2010, 06:38 AM
Carson Carson is offline
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Thanks for the reply. I was hoping this forum wasn't abandoned. It hasn't been as easy to find a concentration of people with Bouviers to verify my logic and reasoning with as it has been with German Shepherds for example. I have heard a number of people bring up the Bouvier on other forums but it hasn't been as easy to find a quorum.

I know it might seem like I'm taking the "warnings" concerning the Bouvier too seriously, but I've also seen a lot of video of one, two, even three Bouviers in homes quite a bit more immaculate than our own. The fact that anyone would keep three Bouviers in their house is testament that they are not intolerable.

I plan to experiment with the clip. I have seen pictures of shorter cut or "shaved" Bouviers and that might work for us. My plan is to allow it as long as it doesn't create excessive problems for us. I have a good Oster Classic 76 clipper and I clip my own hair and my two boys. I just need to get the right A5 animal blade and combs for the dog.

As for protection, I explained the same thing to my wife that you're saying by making an analogy to a body guard. You don't want a body guard that is going to go around being aggressive and intimidating to everyone you come across. He needs to be alert and discriminating or he will end up attracting more trouble than he fends off.

I am doing my homework on puppy selection testing but I know that a good breeder can help me a lot not only with selection but also by having dogs with the right temperment available. I'm looking for an ~8 week old pup this Spring or Summer timeframe. So far the options are pretty limited but I'm hoping more planned litters and puppy announcments come out in the next month or so.
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Old 02-22-2010, 05:21 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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You are welcome. Actually, a lot of people read, but it's getting them to post that is the problem. This forum is part of a e-mail list, which a lot of people seem to be more comfortable with than logging into a forum to have to post. I've been part of message forums of one type or another since the 80's and I like them better than e-mail lists. On a forum like this you can post pictures and read posts that were written in the past. On a mail list you usually can't post pictures and unless you can access the archives (if there is one) you don't know what was taked about before you joined.

We have 6 Bouviers right now and not counting new puppies that haven't gone to their homes yet, have had more than that at one time. Yes, there can be issues if the dogs aren't raised right and sometimes even when they are, some dogs just do not belong in a home with other dogs or more than a couple anyway. We have had several dogs that would have been a lot happier had they been the only house dog. But for the most part most of ours have always gotten along other than the occasional spats just like having a house full of kids.

It seems a lot of people with Bouviers don't have just one. And a lot don't just have Bouviers. Either they have Bouviers and another breed or they have another breed and a Bouv. We had a miniture Dacshunand for 14 years that raised several litters of Bouvier pups and who could still bring them to their knees to hug the ground and kiss his face. We just lost him about a month ago. He was Uncle Scooter to all the Bouvs and other than teaching the Bouvier puppies proper manners and respect, he loved it when their were puppies because there was always a lot of squeeky toys for him to hunt down and gut the squeek out of them. He could de-squeek a squeeky toy faster than any do I've ever seen. The Bouvs didn't seem to mind, they had plenty.

One thing that can be a blessing or a curse with a Bouvier... if you have someone come over to the house, they are going to want to question them, pat them down, do a background check, interregate them as to why they are visiting and then, if they pass muster, let them in to their house to visit. Once they are in and accepted, they are ok, although still watched. Now most dogs, once someone is accepted in the house, they seem to have a life time pass to come back. Not with most Bouviers. Once they leave the front door, when they come back, they go through the same routine, even if they just went outside to get something from their car. This can be great if you have someone come to your house, make friends with your dog, then think they are going to come back when you aren't home and break in. But it can be a little annoying sometimes if you have people visit a lot. They do tone it down if it's someone that comes over a lot once they get use to them. And of course some Bouvs are more laid back and than others and some never let their guard down to anyone outside of their "family". And nothing gets rid of a door to door pan handler faster than the sound of a few Bouviers before they even ring the dog bell. For those brave enough to wait at the door, usually all it takes is our opening the door enough to look out, with several big black heads all trying to get their heads out as well.

Mike
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Old 02-26-2010, 09:51 AM
CarolCorley CarolCorley is offline
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Default Is the Bouvier right

As an owner of Bouviers on and off for more years than I care to count, I thought I'd jump into the conversation.
Right now I have 2 Bouvs -- a male with very stable temperament, and a female who is over the top reactive to strangers. I've had Bouvs with children and they've been wonderful. However, it is very important to always supervise, especially if the children are young. Bouvs have a high prey drive and a running child might trigger that drive. Also, Bouvs are protective, and you need to expose them to your children's friends and supervise, supervise, supervise. You don't want someone getting bitten because a strange child tackled your child and the Bouv decided your child needed reinforcements.
Generally, except for young puppies, I have found Bouvs very calm in the house, and very active when someone's willing to play with them.
They need positive training and leadership, not dominance and force training.
Bouvs don't shed -- but they shed. They have a harsh outer coat and a softer undercoat. When the undercoat sheds, it is held by the outer coat and can result in mats if not brushed out weekly or more. They drop Bouvie bunnies (lost hair) which is quite easy to pick up. If some gathers under a chair and you don't see it, you might notice a Bouvie mouse.
It is important to socialize a dog like a Bouv by taking it out in public right from the start. They say a dog should experience 100 different things in the first 3 months of life -- people of different colors, ages, noises, cars, motorcycles, wheelchairs, bicycles, other dogs, etc.
Good luck with your decision.
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Old 03-26-2010, 01:52 AM
Sarah Alling Sarah Alling is offline
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>>We would enjoy a dog capable of advanced obedience, commands in multiple languages, reading hand and body signals, and performing well off-leash. I'm learning a lot about dog training now. We want to train the dog to an advanced level of obedience but we're realistic about what we can probably achieve with our first dog. <<

Mike will tell you I am into performance activites with my dogs. I have done ( & continue to do) agility, obedience, rally, tracking , herding, therapy work, & carting with my dogs. I will tell you from experience that you can/will achieve with your your dog--even if it's your first one-- what ever you are willing to "pay the dues" for in time & work-wise to achieve. Finding a positive, good trainer/mentor to work with is a key factor at the beginning. Not that you can't do it on your own, but feedback from someone who's been there is very helpful. Bouviers are "thinking" dogs, which makes them very receptive to clicker training, which, I find, gets great happy dog results. I want a dog who wants to work with me because it's fun for her, and clicker training creates that atmosphere for them.

>>I realize the Bouvier's affection has been described as more reserved and he is not as playful or puppy-like as other dogs <<

I have found that the Bouvier is not as playful with those outside their family as other breeds perhaps, but with their own family, my Bouvs have always been silly and very playful. But they DO reserve that side of their personality for their family.

Both of my boys--who are now in their, ahem, 20s, were raised with a Bouvier. She was a very patient dog with my boys. Of course, you never leave the kids alone with any dog for any reason (for the dog's protection as well as the kids). A Bouv with a nice temperament raised with children can be a win-win situation.

Good luck in your pup hunting!
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Old 03-31-2010, 11:50 AM
Sue Sue is offline
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I think that in general Bouviers are very bonded to their own family and tend to blow off other people. That said, Bob, my cart guy tends to be very physical with dogs he knows well , wrestling, picking them up and throwing them over his shoulders, etc. Sam would positively turn himself inside out when he saw Bob because he knew it was time for the big boys to play together.

I've also had more than a few people comment on how happy their Bouviers are to see me. I think that's probably due to several reasons... the dogs know that I like them, they know I have cookies on me, and they know I'll play some fun games with them too.
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