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Q My husband and I have only recently become aware of Bouviers des Flandres and have come to believe that this just might be the breed for our family. [...]

I have a few concerns I would like you (any of you) to comment on, if you would:

1. We have read about the fragrant nature of these dogs [...]

2. I've also noticed a few people talking about their Bouvs being aggressive toward the cats [...]

3. And, just from reading this list I'm beginning to wonder about those who write about having "yappy" Bouvs. [...]

[...] I've been thinking about the questions you raised several days ago & I decided to respond to them. First of all, I think you've demonstrated great responsibility in researching different breeds of dogs before accepting one into your household. My hat's off to you. It can save heartache & worse both for your family & the dog. 

However, I'd be interested to know why it is that you "have come to believe that this might just be the breed for [your] family"?  Most dogs I've ever lived with fart, bark & chase cats naturally. 

What were the attributes of the Bouvier that attracted you, that made you lean towards this breed?

I find the three questions you asked pretty inconsequential in terms of the entire Bouvier experience.

Perhaps you already know a great deal from your own life, from reading Pam Green's article "Don't Buy A Bouvier" & talking to some Bouvier owners via email, but let me just run down a couple of things about the Bouvier which will occupy much more of your attention than the 3 items you've mentioned:

Bouviers *need* training -- you have to take them to obedience classes if you don't know how to do it yourself. And even then, you probably should go anyway. An untrained Bouvier is extraordinarily difficult to live with because they are strong willed, extremely intelligent, imaginative, will fill up a power vacuum in no time flat & run circles around you, your family, your furniture & cats before you know what hit you.

Bouviers *need* grooming. I know there are groomers but it's more fun to do it yourself. This process takes about an hour or two a week once you get their coat into shape. And you have to *train* them to accept grooming or it is a giant pain in the butt -- theirs & yours. During the winter or rainy seasons, wiping feet, de-icing beards & bodies will become part of your daily existence because most Bouvs just love to play in & around water, mud & snow.

Bouviers *need* to be with their families so having them around means that, like many an intelligent two or three year old child, they need attention, conversation, entertainment & *more* training. They go through the terrible twos but with them, its the terrible ones. They constantly test, probe, challenge your authority, decide what's right for them to do & what's not worth doing. They cannot be beaten or scared into submission; they must learn to respect you as a strong but *fair* leader. And they will try your patience, make no mistake. If you perform admirably then they will follow you anywhere, unlike children.

Bouviers *need* exercise. Now some breeders, like one kennel in the Philadelphia region states in their "brochure" that Bouviers don't need a lot of exercise & therefore make great apartment pets. Baloney. They *need* exercise just like you do. Bouviers can live in apartments; I lived with one in this way for many years but every day we went to the park to run, play & swim. His name was Bogart.

Many Bouviers, as you've probably read on the mailing lists, *have* health problems. Pretty serious ones at that -- heart, eyes, thyroid, hips. Only a good breeder can help ameliorate these problems thru very responsible breeding, but even then problems can & do occur. Animal medical insurance is really non-existent for all practical purposes so you have to be prepared -- but hopefully never have to -- reach deep into your pockets to take care of your canine child. Finding the *right* breeder is crucial. I cannot stress that enough. 

Bouviers are big, bulky, playful, aggressive, possessive, mischievous & sensitive animals. They are, in short, a
handful. They need constant supervision, attention & care. They don't mature fully both emotionally & physically until the age of 4 so it can be a long haul.

So whether they fart every once in a while, yap every so often, or chase the cat is not the question. The question is are you & your family *committed* to the responsibilities of owning a Bouvier? I don't know the answer; you do.

If you are, the questions you raise will be taken care of  for the most part.

I might suggest that you also go to shows, meet Bouviers & their owners, research breeders, take your time & read a very fine Bouvier Buyer's Guide which can be found @ www.bogartsdaddy.com/bouvier/buyersguide 
If *any* breeder tells you they are the best, most famous Bouvier breeder, turn around & *run* out. 

The Buyer's Guide contains extremely good information about buying or adopting a Bouvier. And if at the end of your research, you decide that you are going to commit to a Bouvier des Flandres, the people in the Bouvier community will be extremely supportive & helpful in answering more questions, making suggestions & guiding you over the rough spots that are sure to come.

Whatever you decide, the best of luck. Having a canine companion as part of your household just can't be beat. If it turns out that the Bouvier is, after all, not for you, there are other wonderful breeds or mutts that may be easier & just as much fun to live with.

Jan Rifkinson

JanRif, Truman & Sabrina
Ridgefield, CT


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