Bouvier des Flandres

Michelle Diener, DVM
By Michelle Diener, DVM on Dec. 21, 2023
gray bouvier des flandres standing in a valley

In This Article

General Care

A large and powerful herding dog from Belgium, the Bouvier des Flandres began as a farmer’s dog, capable of herding cattle and hauling carts of heavy milk jugs, according to the American Bouvier des Flandres Club.

These dogs are broad and muscular, standing 23.5–27.5 inches at the shoulder and weighing 70–110 pounds. Aside from their size, the dogs are recognizable by their double coat that comes in a handful of colors: black, brindle, salt and pepper, gray, and fawn. They have mustaches and beards that accentuate their face.

Caring for a Bouvier des Flandres

Bouviers are affectionate, loyal toward their family members, and often patient with young children. Bouvier des Flandres puppies need early and consistent training, as this breed is intelligent and strong-willed. They also have a lot of energy and need to learn how to behave calmly around people and other pets early on.   

Because they are herding dogs, Bouviers need to expend their energy through physical and mental stimulation. They need at least two hours of exercise every day—otherwise, they can be destructive if left to entertain themselves.

This breed has a waterproof, protective double coat made of medium-length rough fur that covers a softer, denser undercoat. Their coats do shed a moderate amount, and brushing your Bouvier des Flandres once or twice a week is necessary to minimize shedding and prevent matting. They only need a bath when their coats are dirty, but their beards often require more frequent cleaning.

Bouvier des Flandres Health Issues

The Bouviers des Flandres are usually healthy dogs, but they are predisposed to certain medical conditions. It’s important to find a reputable breeder who only breeds Bouvier des Flandres that are healthy, PennHIP-certified (have undergone a hip evaluation), and represent the breed’s standards.  

Bloat and Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Dogs with deep chests, such as the Bouvier des Flandres, are prone to bloat, which means their stomach fills with gas and suddenly makes their abdomen look distended. This condition is uncomfortable, but it’s treatable by placing a temporary tube to remove gas from the stomach.

Sometimes, however, bloat can lead to a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This occurs when a gas- or fluid-filled stomach twists, cutting off blood circulation to the stomach and other organs. GDV is an extremely painful condition that can be fatal if emergency surgery is not immediately performed.

To minimize the risk of bloat and GDV in your Bouvier des Flandres:

  • Have a prophylactic gastropexy (stomach tack) done at the time of your dog’s spay or neuter surgery

  • Feed your dog two to three meals a day, instead of one

  • Avoid using elevated food bowls

  • Prevent exercise one hour before and one hour after eating

Degenerative Myopathy

Degenerative myopathy is an inherited muscular disorder that causes Bouvier des Flandres dogs with this condition to have difficulty swallowing food and water. Dogs often become dehydrated, underweight, and can develop aspiration pneumonia.

There is no cure for this condition and, due to the poor prognosis, humane euthanasia is usually pursued to prevent suffering. Bouvier des Flandres breeders should not breed dogs with degenerative myopathy or dogs that have a family history of this condition.

Eye Conditions

Bouviers des Flandres can develop certain eye conditions, including cataracts and glaucoma.

A cataract occurs when the lens within the eye becomes cloudy. The cataract’s size determines the degree of vision impairment, and surgery to remove the cataract may be needed to restore eyesight.

Glaucoma is an inherited eye disorder caused by increased pressure within the eye, occurring in Bouvier des Flandres dogs under 2 or 3 years of age. Symptoms include excessive blinking, red eyes, swelling/bulging eyes, eye discharge, and blindness. Medications and surgery are often needed for management of this condition.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition where the hip joint doesn’t properly align, causing pain and eventually arthritis. Some Bouviers des Flandres are born with congenital hip dysplasia, while others can develop this condition during their senior years. Hip dysplasia can be managed with joint supplements and certain medications, but in serious cases surgery may be required.

Similarly, elbow dysplasia encompasses several inherited orthopedic conditions that ultimately lead to degenerative joint disease in the elbow. X-rays or CT scans are used to diagnose elbow dysplasia, and the condition is treated with surgery, joint supplements, and/or anti-inflammatory and pain medications.


Hypothyroidism is an endocrine disorder that happens when the thyroid gland loses its ability to produce thyroid hormones, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Unexplained weight gain

  • Decreased energy level

  • Recurring skin and ear infections

  • Thinning of the fur

  • Dry, scaly skin

Bouviers des Flandres are predisposed to hypothyroidism and typically develop symptoms during middle age. Although this endocrine disorder is common, it can be managed with lifelong medication.

Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis is when the folds of the larynx (located in the back of the throat) do not open properly when a dog takes a deep breath. The inability to breathe can then cause anxiety, leading to rapid breathing and respiratory distress

Bouviers des Flandres can develop this condition at a young age due to an inherited trait. A veterinarian can diagnose laryngeal paralysis by examining the movement of the laryngeal folds while a dog is sedated, and treatment requires surgery.

Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC)

Exercise-induced collapse (EIC) is an inherited disease that first affects the hind limbs. A Bouvier des Flandres with EIC will have hind limbs that suddenly become weak after exercise or excitement, which can lead to incoordination when walking and collapse.

Bouvier des Flandres puppies with EIC usually start having episodes when they’re under 1 year old. Dogs usually recover but can have more episodes of EIC later on. During an episode, a dog’s temperature can reach 107 degrees Fahrenheit, which is life-threatening. Your veterinarian can help determine the best action plan if your dog experiences EIC.

Subaortic Valvular Stenosis (SAS)

Subaortic valvular stenosis (SAS) is a genetic heart condition that Bouvier des Flandres puppies inherit from their parents. It develops during the first year of life, so responsible breeding is key to ensuring prevention of this condition.

SAS occurs when fibrous tissue slowly forms in the heart, obstructing blood flow. Over time, this condition causes the heart to stop functioning properly, resulting in heart damage.

Bouvier des Flandres dogs with SAS often have a heart murmur that can be heard during a routine physical exam, but dogs with mild to moderate SAS may not show symptoms. However, those with severe SAS are lethargic, tired after short periods of exercise, may collapse, and can die suddenly.

What To Feed a Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres puppies have rapid growth spurts, so feed them a high-quality puppy formula designed for large breeds until they are 1 year old. Puppy food will provide the extra calories they need to grow to their full potential. Once they reach adulthood, they need to slowly transition to a high-quality adult formula for large breeds.

Make sure the dog food you choose meets the nutritional guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

How To Feed a Bouvier des Flandres

Bouviers des Flandres do best with twice-daily feedings—one in the morning and one in the evening. They should be fed a diet based on their life stage: puppy, adult, or senior.

If you notice your dog gobbling down food, consider a slow-feeding device. This will regulate the amount of food your dog can eat at once and reduce risk for regurgitation, upset stomach, and GDV.

How Much Should You Feed a Bouvier des Flandres?

Follow the feeding guidelines on your dog food packaging for guidance on how much to feed your dog. Your vet can give further instruction on the proper feeding amount based on your dog’s health, age, and lifestyle.

Once your Bouvier des Flandres is 1 year old, slowly transition their food to a high-quality large-breed adult formula—which has fewer calories than puppy food—to prevent unwanted weight gain. Bouviers des Flandres are prone to being overweight, so measure out their food to avoid overfeeding, and make sure they exercise daily. 

As with all dogs, their daily diet should consist of 90% dog food and only 10% treats.

Nutritional Tips for a Bouvier des Flandres

Bouviers des Flandres should receive all essential nutrients in their AAFCO-approved dog food.

However, this breed is prone to joint disease and obesity, so your veterinarian may recommend starting your Bouvier on a joint supplement early in life to help slow down or reduce arthritis. Never give your dog a supplement without veterinary guidance.

Behavior and Training Tips for a Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres Personality and Temperament

Bouvier des Flandres dogs are highly intelligent with a lot of energy, so they thrive when they have a job that will keep their body and mind stimulated. Bouviers enjoy being with family for a hike or run, working to herd cattle, or competing in dog sports. They need at least two hours of exercise every day, and Bouvier des Flandres dogs can become destructive without enough mental stimulation.

They’re affectionate dogs that enjoy being around children and other large dog breeds. But Bouviers also have a strong prey drive, so it’s best not to have this breed around cats, small dogs, or pocket pets unless introductions are done properly and slowly. They may see these smaller animals as something to chase.

Bouvier des Flandres Behavior

The Bouvier des Flandres dog breed is known to be affectionate and loyal toward their family members. They can be good with young children and other large dogs when introductions are supervised and done properly. 

Bouvier des Flandres puppies need early socialization that stays consistent throughout life, as they may be suspicious around new people and bark. Socializing will help your pup be comfortable around new people and learn to stay calm when there are visitors.

Bouvier des Flandres Training

Due to their high intelligence and loyalty, Bouvier des Flandres puppies are easy to train. They should take socialization classes, puppy training classes, and obedience training when young.

Obedience classes will teach a Bouvier des Flandres puppy to listen so you can train them to be calm around children, to not jump up on people, and to not be destructive inside the home.

Fun Activities for Bouvier des Flandres

Bouvier des Flandres Grooming Guide

Bouvier des Flandres dogs have a medium-length coat that consists of two layers: a soft, dense underlayer and a coarse, waterproof topcoat. These dogs shed a lot and can develop mats, so regular brushing (once or twice a week) is important for getting rid of loose hair.

Skin Care

Bouvier des Flandres dogs need a bath when their coat gets dirty or has an odor, but frequent baths are unnecessary. They do not require special skin care.

Coat Care

The Bouvier des Flandres breed does not require professional grooming appointments, but having a groomer care for them as needed can be helpful. Bouviers shed a lot and can get extremely matted if their coat is not frequently maintained.

Brush your Bouvier at least once or twice a week to reduce shedding and prevent matting. Their longer beards must be cleaned weekly to be free from tangles, matting, and debris.

Eye Care

Bouviers des Flandres may occasionally have normal tear staining that needs to be removed with a moistened washcloth. Because they’re susceptible to a few eye conditions, contact your veterinarian if you notice changes in your dog’s eyes.

Ear Care

Some Bouvier des Flandres puppies have their ears cropped when they are 6–12 weeks of age, though this is a controversial practice and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes the procedure.

The breed can develop ear infections due to their large ear canals and the hair within, which can trap moisture. It’s important to clean a Bouvier des Flandres’ ears with a routine ear cleaner every two to three weeks, and after every bath or swimming session.

If your Bouvier des Flandres shows signs of an ear infection, such as head shaking or pawing at the ears, schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible.

Nail Care

A Bouvier’s nails should be trimmed every three to four weeks to keep them at a good length to prevent splitting or breaking.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Bouvier des Flandres are extremely affectionate, hardworking dogs that love to please their family members, but they do require a good amount of exercise, grooming, attention, and training.

As members of the herding group, Bouvier des Flandres have lots of energy. They need at least two hours of exercise daily, so living in a home that has a large fenced backyard or on a farm would be perfect. 

This breed would not do well in an apartment, a small home, or a home without a large fenced yard. Bouviers des Flandres need a job to do or to go on a long walk, run, or hike every day for exercise. If they are not able to release their energy, this breed will become destructive as they try to find other ways to keep themselves busy. 

Bouviers enjoy being around their family as much as possible, so they’ll do best with people who work from home or those who bring their dog along on errands—though their giant size might make this difficult in some situations. Like all dogs, Bouvier des Flandres puppies should take socialization classes, puppy training classes, and obedience classes so they are well behaved around new people, young children, and other dogs.

Bouvier des Flandres FAQs

Is a Bouvier des Flandres a smart dog?

Yes, a Bouvier des Flandres is an intelligent dog that needs ample mental stimulation.

How much does a Bouvier des Flandres dog cost?

Bouvier des Flandres can cost $1,200–$2,500 from a reputable breeder.

Do Bouvier des Flandres dogs have hair or fur?

Bouvier des Flandres dogs have a double coat of medium hair. The top coat consists of bristly hairs that are waterproof and protect well against harsh weather. The undercoat consists of soft, thick hair that provides insulation.

Featured Image: ~User7565abab_575/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Michelle Diener, DVM


Michelle Diener, DVM


I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I obtained by BS degree in Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 and my DVM degree at NCSU in 2006. I have...

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