|Beginner's Guide to the Bouvier||| Print ||
Latest edition written and compiled by Kitty Korth for the ABdFC
With many thanks to: Arden Shaw, Charlene Berstler and Sally Terroux for their articles. Lyn St Clair artwork, courtesy of and sole property of Kathleen Kane.
© Copyright 1994-2001; Rev. 1998. No part of this publication may be reproduced without express written permission of the ABdFC.
Special thanks to Lyn St. Clair, the artist of the lovely Bouvier artwork found throughout the ABdFC's The Beginner's Guide to the Bouvier des Flandres and Kathleen Kane for allowing the ABdFC use of this artwork for publication of the ABdFC's The Beginner's Guide to the Bouvier des Flandres. All the Bouvier artwork found in the publication, The Beginner's Guide to the Bouvier des Flandres, and on the The Beginner's Guide to the Bouvier des Flandres web page for this publication is copyrighted by Kathleen Kane and may not be reproduced without the expressed written permission of Kathleen Kane. The publication, The Beginner's Guide to the Bouvier des Flandres, is copyrighted by the American Bouvier des Flandres Club and may not be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the American Bouvier des Flandres Club, © Copyright 1994-2001.
The ABdFC, founded in 1963, became a member of the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1971. The ABdFC exists to educate the public, dog fanciers and its membership regarding the Bouvier. The ABdFC, guardian of the breed standard, tries to impart the necessity that responsible breeding maintains and develops the breed's characteristics. Two excellent publications, THE DIRTY BEARDS ANNUAL and THE DIRTY BEARDS QUARTERLY are available to our members in hopes of enlightening them, and therefore improving the breed.
By writing to the ABdFC secretary, you can receive an application for membership, a list of breeders in your area and literature on the breed. It is sincerely hoped that the novice to the breed will avail themselves of the service provided rather than being introduced haphazardly to the breed via "puppy mills," pet stores, or unscrupulous breeders.
Through the ABdFC you have the opportunity to meet others with similar goals and interests: obedience, conformation, herding, carting, agility or socializing with your furry friends.
Have you asked yourself why you want a Bouvier? First and foremost, the Bouvier is a herding dog that possesses certain inherited instincts. It will be the owner's responsibility to channel these traits positively.
The Bouvier -- a versatile, intelligent and agile breed -- is not a dog for everyone. By virtue of its size and strength, it is essential that the owner be capable of providing the dog with kind and consistent training.
This handbook is being offered in the hopes that this information will clarify for you whether indeed this is the right breed for you. If, in fact, you are inspired more than ever to experience Bouvier love, then these articles will guide you toward a positive, fun-filled and rewarding life together.
For the right family the Bouvier can be the companion of a lifetime.
In the late nineteenth century, a program of selective breeding, that would eventually produce the dog we know today as the BOUVIER, was begun in the farming regions of Belgium. Documentation of his ancestry is cloudy, but his beginnings are loosely attributed to a type of sheepdog (berger), the Dutch griffon, and the barbet, or water dog.
By 1910, specific interest in this tousled-coated herder and protector grew as far as the cattle areas near the River Lys Valley. At that time, Bouviers were being used as drovers, draft animals, activators for churning mills, and farm and family protectors. Common characteristics were bobtails, cropped ears, a harsh tousled coat, and perfect instincts for guarding his flock, home and family. In those days, tails and ears were routinely shortened because they were easy targets for farm predators.
The first "standard" for the Bouvier des Flandres was developed in 1912. Then, during W.W.I (and later, W.W.II), as the home territory of the Bouvier des Flandres became a battlefield, their numbers were drastically cut – almost to extinction. Those who stayed worked as ambulance litter-pullers and military tracking aides. Only a few escaped to other countries.
Those who survived, some taken to France and the Netherlands, became part of discriminating breeding programs for a particular type. The Club National Belge du Bouvier des Flandres, formed in Gent early in 1922, formulated specific qualities of type for future breeding.
The Bouvier came to America in the late 1920's, and now extends throughout the US and Canada.
The legacy of the Bouvier has produced many admirable qualities in this breed. He is a square, powerfully built dog, rugged and formidable in appearance. His harsh double coat protects him in all types of weather; his keen sense of smell and watchful gaze make him a most suitable farm dog. (He thrives on plenty of room to work and exercise, but he is not an "outdoor dog"; he must live with his loving people -- his "flock," his "pack".)
He is agile, alert and intelligent, with character of great spirit and fearlessness; yet, he is serene in disposition, and has an even temperament.
The average size of a Bouvier male is about 26" at the withers (25" for a female), with approximate weight span of 70-110 pounds. Coloring ranges from black to gray, some are silver, salt & pepper, a few are fawn .
Today, the Bouvier des Flandres acts as farm dog, family friend and protector, shepherd, and guide dog for the blind or hearing impaired. His intelligence, sense of threat discrimination and keen scent qualifies many Bouviers to excel in police work, tracking and drug detection.
Owning a Bouvier, like many dogs, requires patience, love, a lot of grooming, a willingness to exercise the dog and pay for regular health care, a desire to have a companion who follows you around the house keeping an eye on you, and a commitment to complete at least one set of good obedience classes.
Consideration of your family's lifestyle is critical. Ask yourself honestly what your expectations, finances and time availability will be. Little bundles of fur turn into very large dogs in need of SOCIALIZATION, TRAINING, GROOMING, AND EXERCISE.
SOCIALIZATION: Bouviers are social animals. Meeting your dog's social needs is as important as giving him food or water. The family gives your dog a social structure and a sense of security, which helps him develop into a well-behaved, happy animal. The house becomes his "den," a safe place where he can rest and relax with his family. In short, IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE A BOUVIER A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY, DO NOT GET ONE!
TRAINING: If puppies or adults are to grow into welcome additions to the family and the community, they must be taught proper ways of behaving. If you are lucky enough to have a good dog trainer in your area, see if they offer a puppy kindergarten or beginner's obedience class. Training and socializing your Bouvier gets your relationship off on the right foot. Train with fairness, consistency and lots and lots of praise, and do start as soon as possible. Most dogs react more quickly to praise than to corrections. OBEDIENCE IS A BOUVIER MUST!
A Bouvier, being a long-haired breed, must be kept clean and well groomed for the comfort of both the owner and the dog. Basic maintenance is not done simply for the esthetics but for the overall health and well-being of the dog. A healthy coat is best gained through good nutrition, exercise, and weekly brushing.
The unique qualities of the Bouvier coat keep shedding problems to a minimum. The longer, harsh guard hairs of the outercoat tend to keep the shedding undercoat from falling to the floor or being deposited on furniture or clothes. Instead, the dead hairs become matted in the coat if a weekly procedure of grooming is not observed. Grooming should be a simple and enjoyable matter for the owner and animal. An hour or less a week spent on a thorough brushing will keep the coat from becoming tangled and matted and will also remove all loose hairs. All that is required is a thorough line brushing followed by a combing to the skin. Cut his nails and clean his teeth with a tooth scaler, followed by a scrubbing with baking soda on a damp cloth or toothbrush. Clean his outer ear canal thoroughly with a cotton ball dipped in ear cleaner, then dust with ear powder and pull the long hairs from the canal. Ask your breeder for a demonstration of the basic grooming techniques necessary to keep up with the Bouvier coat.
Grooming is best begun as early as possible and is most easily done with the dog on a raised platform or grooming table. Time spent in grooming can also double as a training session to teach your dog such helpful commands as "stand", "stay", "sit", and "down". Owner and dog will build a greater rapport with one another if grooming remains positive. Patience is the keyword here.
To trim and shape the coat, begin grooming with an efficient brushing. Start at the head with a stiff bristle or pin brush and brush forward toward the head, making sure the coat separates to the skin and that you are not just brushing the surface. Next start at the rear and brush the hair back into place. Legs should also be brushed up and then down. This method insures good stimulation of the skin and removal of loose hair. Trim the top of the skull to 1/2" in length with thinning shears, scissor eyebrows diagonally from the outside corner to the center of the eye -- leaving the fall and eyebrows full. The coat should be left approximately 2 -1/2" long with a level topline. Remove wild hairs. Legs should be full with straight lines. Cut hair from between toes with blunt-nosed scissors and shape the foot to roundness with thinning shears. Try to find a groomer that can help you with your first few groomings until you are comfortable grooming your Bouvier yourself.
Every dog should have his own fenced yard to play in and relax. Every dog deserves a daily walk or play with his owner, too. Active time together provides you the opportunity to build a strong bond of affection with your dog. It's a great time to brush up on obedience practice, too. Dogs on a walk get to socialize with other dogs and people. The more they go out, the better behaved they will become. The dog that is seldom walked will become overly excited and hard to control with all the new sights and smells. What should have been an enjoyable activity for you both has now become a chore.
Most dogs do not run around the yard enough to get the exercise they need to stay healthy and fit. Yard bound dogs become bored. Bored, inactive dogs can easily develop behavior problems, such as chewing, digging, barking, jumping and destruction. These problems are their way of venting frustration and stress. Dogs were bred through the centuries for working, herding, and other jobs, and they still need an outlet for their energy. A good walk or lively game of fetch will help keep your Bouvier fit to live with.
Housetraining : The method for housetraining a puppy or an adult dog is very similar. Even if your new dog is supposed to be housebroken, it is wise to follow these guidelines until he has adjusted to his new home.
Dogs are happiest when their days follow a routine. Once you decide on the schedule, you must follow it every day -- even on the weekend! Choose logical times to take your dog out for a potty break: immediately when he first wakes up in the morning, immediately when you first get home from work, immediately when he wakes up from a nap, and an hour or so after each meal, etc. Always use the same command -- "outside", "go potty", etc. Take him to the same spot every time so he recognizes the odor and gets the idea of what is expected. You MUST stay with your dog so you can praise him when he goes. If you're not there, he'll have no idea why he's outside and may be so interested in getting back in the house with you that he'll forget to go.
Be patient! If you do not follow up every day, rain or shine, it will take longer for your dog to be housetrained. If you are religious with his routine, your dog should begin to get the idea after the first week, but to be completely reliable could take several months, especially for puppies.
Crate Training: Once you understand the idea of crate training your dog, you will find a crate can be a humane and effective solution to a list of common problems:
1) A crate is a safe haven for your dog.
2) Crating prevents chewing and other types of destruction.
3) A crate prevents house soiling.
4) A crate is a safe place to ride in the car.
A crate should be big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in when he is full grown. Start out slowly and never force your dog into the crate. This should always be a positive experience. Throw a treat in and let him get it and run right back out. Repeat until he is comfortable going in and out.
Start feeding your dog in the crate with the door open, putting the food a little further back in the crate with each meal. When he shows no fear of being inside (this can take days) quietly shut the door for a few seconds, praise him and then open the door, letting him come out. After a few days of this, shut the door and sit outside for a few minutes. He may fuss at first, but just ignore him. Praise him and let him out as soon as he settles down. Gradually increase the amount of time he spends in the crate and the distance you are from the crate. Never give him attention when he is fussing or whining, neither sympathy nor correction.
Do not leave a dog in the crate too long. Four hours during the day is enough, with shorter times for puppies.
The crate should always be a safe, happy place for your dog. It is not a place to punish him. You can keep the crate in your room at night, so he can be with you without getting into mischief. You will rest easier and have a happier dog if he is crate trained! !
House Proofing: When bringing a new dog, or puppy, into your home show him the toys that are his. Replace an inappropriate object that he may find with one of his own toys.
Put away anything dangerous (such as certain plants) or valuable items (books, remote controls, tapes, shoes, etc.). Sometimes spraying Bitter Apple on items that are not easily put away can deter the dog's attention to something acceptable.
Puppy or Adult: If you have the time and family situation that welcomes a puppy be sure to take the time and effort to find a qualified breeder. In this way you can find the best puppy for your family situation. (See Finding a Breeder)
Young dogs and puppies require a great deal of attention, training and time if they are to become a pleasant part of your life. Leaving for work at 7:30 AM and coming home at 6:00 PM five days a week does not leave much time for working with a four-legged baby.
They say wine improves with age. So can dogs. With the busy lifestyle many people now lead, adopting an older dog is often better than getting a puppy. Take heart if you want a dog, yet realize that a puppy may not be for you. Check with a local breeder or a Bouvier rescue group. Given time and care, an older dog can bond just like a puppy .
Leash Training: Your dog must be taught to walk freely on a leash and have good manners. Start first with a soft nylon or leather collar and switch later to a light choke collar. Leave the collar on for short periods at first, then attach a leash that can be dragged along behind. Face the puppy/dog while backing up, and call him towards you. Have him come with you by occasional short, sharp tugs on the leash interspersed with a lot of pats and "good boys." As time progresses, exert a little more force with the tugs.
A choke collar should be removed after every exercise. NEVER leave a choke collar on a loose dog. The dog can get his paw stuck through the collar or catch the collar on a fence or other protrusion and choke to death trying to free himself. Thousands of dogs die an agonizing death this way each year. A choke collar should only be used when attached to a leash.
Children: The parent who teaches a youngster proper behavior with a puppy or dog is establishing a lifelong pattern for the child. Parents should never allow a child to pick up or carry a puppy. When a child plays with a puppy it should always be at ground level. The child, who helps train the puppy, with adult supervision, also gains a sense of responsibility while learning about canine behavior. Both the puppy/dog and the child should be taught that there is a special place in the house where the dog can go to be alone. A crate, a dog bed, a corner or a spot under a table should be reserved for the pup and the child should be taught to respect the dog's solitude. Please remember: Young children should never be left alone with a dog.
Discipline, when necessary, must be done correctly. If something inappropriate occurs, have the child walk away. The discipline should be done by an adult. DO NOT ALLOW CHILDREN TO DISCIPLINE !
Bouviers grow to be quite large. Do not allow the puppy to play or interact with children or adults in a way that would be unsafe when he is 80 pounds plus (i.e. Jumping up). It takes time, effort and commitment on the part of the parents to develop mutual respect and love between dogs and children.
Care/Training Providers: You will need various qualified specialists to assist you with your Bouvier -- veterinarians, groomers and trainers (obedience, herding, agility, etc.). This is not the time to settle for the closest or least expensive provider. Ask around, and get the best referrals possible. Cutting corners at the start can be very expensive in the long run. Find someone you can work with and call with your questions, and someone who really wants to help you and your dog. Your breeder should have some suggestions of Care/Training Providers that can be of great help in your area.
By Sally Terroux
Over 50% of the puppies raised in the US are raised by people who NEVER have another litter. Relatively few of these people are well informed, prepared for the experience, and do a good job. They don't usually stand behind their puppies. Very few are equipped to take adequate care of all puppies until they can be placed in good homes, regardless of how long that takes. Another LARGE PERCENTAGE of puppies are raised by "PUPPY FARMS" that sell numerous litters of many breeds, or sell to retailers for resale.
That leaves a relatively small percentage of puppies being raised by experienced people who are dedicated to one or two breeds and raising puppies for reasons other than maximum profit. Not all of these breeders are knowledgeable and conscientious.
1. When you inquire about a puppy, the breeder will interview you. You know they will not sell you a puppy simply because you want one and have the money to pay for one. They want to know that you can house and raise their puppy appropriately and that their puppy will have one permanent home for his entire lifetime.
2. You will talk to and buy the puppy from the breeder who raised the litter and owns or co-owns the mother (or the dam). Conscientious breeders don't trust other people to screen puppy buyers for them and would never offer a puppy as a prize or for an auction. Their puppies don't cost any more because there is no "middle-man". All puppies will have had at least one DHLP and Parvo vaccination and a worm test or a worming.
3. The breeder will know the ancestry of the puppies. Not just parents, but grandparents and beyond. Not just titles and colors, but strong points and weak points of personality and structure.
4. The breeder will tell you what genetic screening (such as OFA Xrays) is necessary for that breed, and will be willing to discuss problems and show proof of genetic screening.
5. You won't see multiple litters of multiple breeds. One to three breeds is typical and one to three litters a year TOTAL is typical. You will see evidence (photos, books, possible awards) of long term interest and activity in the breed. The puppy's environment will be clean with ample room for exercise. Puppies confined to a small area can't grow normally and are difficult to housetrain.
6. The puppies will not have been separated from their mother and littermates at less than 6 weeks of age. Many breeders consider 7-8 weeks ideal, some later. But if you look at puppies over 12 weeks of age, be certain they have had enough individual attention and separation from one another, that they are more bonded to people than to other dogs.
7. All things discussed and implied will be written down in a contract. The breeder will be there to help and advise you throughout the life of the puppy. Even to the extent of replacing a puppy in the case of an inherited defect. Many breeders will ask you to bring the puppy (or dog) back to them at any age if for any reason you can't keep him.
8. Unless you are very serious about becoming a student of your breed and a conscientious breeder, you will be encouraged to take a spay/neuter agreement or an AKC non-breeding registration. The breeding of dogs is a responsibility that shouldn't be entered into lightly. The prevention of overpopulation and haphazard breeding is the responsibility of the person selling the puppy.
9. The breeder will insist that you prepare an appropriate place at home for your puppy before you take your puppy home. They will give you thorough personal instructions on puppy feeding and care and a record of vaccinations and worming.
10. If an AKC registration application is not yet available, the breeder will furnish you with the registered names and numbers of the sire and dam, birthdate of litter and name, address and phone number of breeder as the AKC requires.
Bloat: This can be a life threatening disease that usually affects deep chested dogs in the prime of life. Bloat involves a swelling up of the stomach from gas, fluid, or both. The signs can be a combination of any of the following: excessive salivation, drooling, extreme restlessness, attempts to vomit and defeca~e, and abdominal distention. In nearly all cases there is a history of overeating, eating fermented foods, drinking excessively after eating or vigorous exercise after a meal (within 2 or 3 hours).
Bloat calls for IMMEDIATE veterinary attention. All dog owners should make sure they are thoroughly acquainted with both the symptoms and cures for the condition.
Heartworm: Your dog needs to be put on a heartworm preventative and kept on it for life. If you live in an area where mosquitoes are a year-round problem you must treat him year round. If you live in a seasonal climate you may only need to give treatment from May until the first frost. Ask your veterinarian which treatment is appropriate for your dog. If you do not treat year-round the dog must be retested each year before resuming treatment.
In the following "Canine Disorder Quick Reference Table" you will find tables on common dog ailments and their symptoms and treatments. These tables are not all-inclusive but may be used as a ready reference. As always, CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN at the first sign of illness or injury.
Following, you will find tables on common dog ailments and their symptoms and treatments. These tables are not all-inclusive, but may be used as a ready reference. As always, CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN at the first sign of illness or injury.
Common Puppy and Dog Diseases
By Charlene Berstler
Many individuals would rather not buy a puppy because of house-breaking, chewing, etc., but are interested in an older dog. What about rescue?
DON'T get a rescue dog if:
*You don't have the interest in providing extra large doses of love and attention.
*You are too specific about color, age, sex, previous training (or lack of), etc. Rescue may never be able to place a dog with you that meets all your specifics.
Rescue makes every attempt to provide the new owner with a sound, healthy dog. Special emphasis is placed on temperament and health. Some dogs have been physically abused and need extra patience to learn that you aren't going to hurt them. Some dogs have been left uncared for and need severe haircuts to clean up their coat and let it grow as it should. Some dogs have other special needs. Some dogs just need a new home and have little or no problems.
ALL rescue dogs:
*Must not be left tied out.
*Must have regular veterinary care.
* If not trained, should be worked in obedience to enable them to be good citizens in your environment.
* Must be returned to Rescue if they cannot be kept.
Rescue participation can be heart-wrenching, however, it is always very rewarding. Finding a large dog who is matted to the point you have to really know the breed to see what he is, who is afraid of your hand even when you are holding a treat, who doesn't have the vaguest idea what a lead is, and one who is severely underweight can make you want to cry ... BUT when he looks at you with those big wonderful brown eyes, wags his tail, and gives you a big Bouvier kiss, you know how minor the things are that you see as wrong. With love, care, and time you and this dog will become great friends and he will never feel unloved again (and you won't either)! Experience shows that once you win a rescue dog's trust, they are exceedingly loyal pets who bond very tightly with their new owners. Adopting a rescue dog takes a special person, because these are very special Bouviers.
A PEDIGREE (the family tree of a dog) follows a universally used format and contains a great deal of information. It usually reflects at least three generations, but may cover as many as there are room for on the page. The basic format is:
Only titles issued by the American Kennel Club will appear on their official pedigrees. However, most breeders prepare their own to give purchasers a more complete picture of the dog's heritage. The pedigree may contain additional information, such as birth (whelping) dates, country of origin, registration numbers, colors, titles earned/awarded.
The variety of titles that may accompany a dog's name can look like alphabet soup to the untrained eye. Some are intended to precede a dog's name, some follow it. Here are what the letters mean:
BIS - Best in Show. Awarded to a dog judged best of all participating dogs at an all breed show.
BISS - Best in Specialty Show. Awarded to the dog judged best of all participating dogs at a show of one breed.
BPIS - Best Puppy In Show (Canada). An award to a dog less than one year old judged best of all participating puppies in a specific show.
CD - Companion Dog. A title given a dog that successfully completes Novice Obedience by obtaining three passing scores (170 out of a possible 200) at three AKC or CKC licensed dog shows.
CDX - Companion Dog Excellent. An advanced obedience title given successfully Qualifying in Open Obedience class three times at AKC or CKC licensed dog shows.
OTCH - Obedience Trial Champion. A title a dog earns by winning the number of first places and points in competition as specified by current obedience regulations at AKC/CKC dog shows.
CGT - Canine Good Citizen Tested. Successfully passed the test to evaluate temperament and behavior sanctioned by the American Kennel Club.
CH - Champion. A title awarded to a dog that has acquired the minimum number of points (l5 - US-, 10 - Canada) to attain championship level by defeating specific numbers of dogs under at least three different judges at licensed AKC or CKC shows. (This title may be preceded by Amer. CH or Dutch CH, etc. indicating in which country the title was obtained.)
CQN - Certificate of Natural Qualities. Awarded by the International Canine Federation. (Europe, exc. England) Title awarded for completion of a breed working test as a prerequisite for a conformation championship.
HIC or HCT - Herding Instinct Certified or Herding Capability Tested. Title offered by The American Herding Breed Association certifying the presence of natural instinct to herd livestock.
HT - Herding Tested. A title carried by demonstrating the ability to herd livestock on a prescribed course at two AKC licensed Herding Tests. PT - Pretrial Tested. A more advanced herding test title. HS - Herding Started -. HI - Herding Intermediate. HX - Herding Excellent. HC - Herding Champion. More advanced herding titles earned on progressively more intricate courses at AKC licensed Herding Trials.
KNVP - abbrv. for Royal Dutch Police Dog Assoc. (Holland). The dog holds the Dutch Police Trial Certificate. ('Met lof' means 'with honors')
OFA - Certified to have dysplasia-free hips, after two years of age, by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
ROM or POM - Register of Merit or Producer of Merit. Award offered by a breed club to dogs and bitches who produce a certain number of titled offspring.
SchH - abbrv. for Schutzhund. (Germany) Title for German Protection Dog in levels I, II and III. FH indicates advanced Schutzhund tracking title. Neither the Dutch or American Kennel Clubs recognize these titles. In Belgium and France the designation is IPO I through III. In America, there are breed working organizations which sanction these title events.
TT - Temperament Tested. Successfully passed the test to evaluate temperament balance, given by a representative of the American Temperament Test Society.
TDI - Therapy Dog. A title given by Therapy Dog International to dogs who pass a temperament (CGC) test and do work in situations that provide therapy to humans.
TD - Tracking Dog. A title earned by a dog passing an AKC or CKC tracking test. TDX - Tracking Dog Excellent. A title earned by a dog that has passed advance requirements on an AKC or CKC tracking course.
UD - Utility Dog. An advanced title a dog earns by winning certain minimum scores in Utility Obedience classes at a specific number of AKC or CKC licensed obedience trials. When combined with the TD or the TDX, the designation would be UDT or UDTX.
WDX - Working Dog Excellent. A title awarded for weight-pulling proficiencies. WRB - Well Rounded Bouvier. Award offered by a breed club for obtaining a certain number and variety of titles.
by Arden Shaw
Choosing a puppy of any particular breed requires a combination of instinct, skill and breed knowledge. If possible, consult with someone with experience with Bouviers -- not just owning one or two, but trainers and handlers as well as breeders. For the sake of your family and in the best interest of your future family member, NEVER let this be an impulse or emotional decision.
Let's assume that you have done your research into known characteristics of the breed, understand the Bouvier's size, grooming and exercise needs, strengths and bad habits and have decided that this is absolutely the right breed for you. And you have researched different breeders. (Referrals are made from dog clubs, veterinarians, professional dog groomers, and other Bouvier owners.)
Picking a breeder is as important as picking your puppy. A dedicated breeder will be well recommended by others, not hesitate to answer your questions, be most willing to share information. This is someone you may need to stay in touch with for some time to come.
Re-examine your reasons for wanting a Bouvier – Family companionship? Obedience competition? Herding and farm work? Schutzhund or police work? Therapy work? Search and rescue? Conformation showing? Several of the above? Consider asking the breeder you visit if an expert in your field can accompany you to visit the litter.
No matter how you and your Bouvier plan to spend your life together, make yourself a checklist of priorities. What characteristics are most and least important to you? If color and price are more important than temperament and trainability, you may want to reconsider this purchase altogether.
There are those who will say that working instinct is most important. To some, it is. But you will have to decide. Most Bouvier lovers enjoy them for their natural instincts as family companions and protectors, not what they can be taught to do. Whether exhibited in the show ring or trained in a working skill, a Bouvier still spends the majority of its life being a family member. So, good social skills and house manners are critical.
In addition to having done your homework, let us also assume that the Bouvier litter you are selecting from is: 1) HEALTHY (supported by the breeder's written guarantee of good health and freedom from hip dysplasia and the fact that there may be many aged relatives still around), and 2) STRUCTURALLY SOUND (breeders who breed for working or show quality Bouviers and can support this by introducing their titled dogs and by producing pedigrees rich in accomplished relatives, not just a champion or two), and 3) MENTALLY WELL BALANCED (neither too shy or extremely aggressive, and intelligent). Bigger is not always better or healthier. Most breeders aim for balance in size and longevity and freedom from hereditary diseases.
Please keep in mind that there are NO perfect puppies or dogs (just as there are no PERFECT owners). What you should try to achieve is the best match of puppy personality to owner wants and family lifestyle.
Experts agree that temperament is at least 50 percent influenced by genetics and those first critical weeks with the dam, the balance is affected by environment and training, i.e., life after the breeder. Meet one or both of the parents and as many other relatives as possible.
Most litters will contain one or more assertive, vocal puppies; one who seems happiest playing by himself or responding to the assertiveness of others but is never the instigator; and many in between.
In addition to scrupulous journal-keeping from birth to the time they go home, many breeders will aptitude/temperament test the litter at about seven weeks. This gives additional insight into placement in the proper homes based on puppy character and family lifestyle.
A puppy who rarely makes eye contact may not make the best obedience dog; in fact, an extremely shy pup may be difficult to train, if at all.
A puppy who cannot calm himself after being stressed may have behavior problems later on, or may be destructive. A shy, quiet puppy will most likely not fit in with an active, boisterous family. If withdrawn or fearful as a pup, he may become a fearful, even biting, adult. A puppy who needs less sleep than his littermates, is always exploring and getting into things, may be extremely intelligent and need a busy, working life (e.g., daily running, flyball, serious obedience, herding, etc.). It is necessary to channel this puppy's excess energy and wonderful curiosity or he will simply be a pest!
If selecting for conformation, study basic good structure and movement for the breed. One book that well illustrates this is Rachel Page Elliott's Dogsteps. Familiarize yourself with the breed Standard of the American Kennel Club. Ask the breeder to critique the puppy's parents and grandparents. (A mistake commonly made in breeding is to look ONLY at the parents; every dog is the reflection of an entire genetic pool in a line, not simply the phenotype (looks of two parents.) Consider their strengths AND their weaknesses and what is apparent in the puppies at this age. (Remember, no perfect dogs.) Puppies are commonly evaluated at eight weeks, just prior to going to their new homes. It is helpful if the puppies are trimmed. Neck, back and rear should be clipped short enough to see the outline and movement.
Evaluate head shape and proportion, jaw composition, bite (front, side occlusion, detention), length of neck and shoulder layback, coat density, length of leg elements, parallel hocks when standing, tailset, angulation in the rear, and width of hips compared to shoulder, spring of ribs and coupling (length of loin), and natural easy movement. Other than bites, the correctness of these attributes will usually carry through into adulthood. Carriage and self-confidence are extremely important to the success of the show dog. Look for these as well in the potential show pup.
Areas that vary more dramatically as the puppy grows up are: jaw width, coat texture, forechest, topline, stifle bend, some rear angulation and true movement, and side movement. If a dog toes out as a puppy, this could correct when the chest drops and fully matures. Beware of one which is a little too perfect in front as a youngster; he may toe in when the chest develops.
Color may change more than anything. The lightest puppy in the litter can turn to a black by two or three, and the eight-week-old black puppy may turn out to be a silver! So it's not wise to let color be too high of a priority in choosing your Bouvier.
There will be some variance by familial lines in individual attributers and the rates at which change occurs. Here again, the breeder can be a wealth of information.
One note about puppy assessments ... any evaluation of puppies is only good for the day on which it is done. Puppies change rapidly and at any given day the quality of one may appear better or worse than a littermate. The older the puppy, e.g., six months, twelve months, etc., the more accurate an evaluation can be made.
The selection of the correct puppy is an art. There may not even be the right puppy for you in a particular litter. The experienced breeder or other knowledgeable breed enthusiast can best advise you. A concerned breeder may select your puppy for you or suggest you wait for another litter. Don't be offended. Both you and the puppy you eventually adopt will have happier years together if the "match" is a good one! Your patience and scrutiny will be well rewarded!
Pure-Bred Dogs/American Kennel Gazette
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Dirty Beard Quarterly-ABdFC
The Art of Raising a Puppy-The Monks of New Skete
Bouvier des Flandres-by Claire McLean
Bouvier des Flandres, the Dogs of Flanders Field-by Jim Engel
Dog Steps-by Rachel Page Elliott
Don't Shoot the Dog-by Karen Prior
Everyday Dog-by Nancy Johnson
Mother Knows Best-by Carol Benjamin
Second Hand Dog-by Carol Benjamin
Sirius Puppy Training Video-by Ian Dunbar
Training the Companion Dog-by lan Dunbar
AKC breed tape of the Bouvier
|Last Updated on Monday, 17 October 2011 03:03|
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