The Bouvier in Herding  By Debbie Eckels - Originally appeared in The Herdsman January/February 1998
 
The Bouvier originated in Flandres. These Flemish farm dogs were influenced by Dutch, Belgian, French and American breeding. Bouvier is French for "cattle worker." The breed was strongly influenced by both world wars. Many dogs were lost because of limited food and poor living conditions. They became military dogs at this point in their history.
 
The bouvier were distinguished from smaller sheepdogs as being "bigger, fiercer, more aggressive and has a bolder look. He accompanies livestock sellers in their wanderings through villages to fairs and markets and directs the herds along the roads*In all the small farms the cow dog has a guard role to fulfill. At night he becomes a watch dog." (from the book, Les Races de Chiens (The Breeds of Dogs), published in 1894 in Belgium.)
 
Most Bouviers who are inclined to work are gathering, fetching dogs with good balance and power to spare. When I test a large number of Bouviers, or observe, I see more diverse styles of working than in similar groups of some other breeds. This may reflect the diverse gene pool as well as many years of selection. Soundness is a basic consideration for physical characteristics and guard behaviors rather than herding abilities.
 
Testing dogs on well dog-broke sheep in a small, well fenced round pen (60 ft. diameter) is a good method of assessing Bouvier instinct. This first experience on stock may be very enthusiastic, or tentative. Some dogs will bark. A percentage of dogs will show no interest. Some dogs that show no desire to move the stock at first may "turn on" with repeated introduction to stock. I have encountered a number of dogs who only want to chase and select individual sheep, apparently for dinner rather than to control the movement of stock. These dogs are more suited to other dog activities. Some Bouviers who start tentatively will become very enthusiastic with repeated opportunities to work.
 
My training experience has been primarily on sheep. Other trainers tell me that their Bouviers wil readily switch to cattle. Some dogs do an excellent job with ducks or geese. When considering herding as an activity for Bouviers, there are several factors to consider.
 
Soundness
Soundness is the basic consideration. Dogs with unsound hips or other skeletal problems may experience pain with running and quick tturning. These dogs may not want to work at all, or perhaps may grip inappropriately as they tire.
Body Type
Body type may also be an influence. Large, heavy-bodied dogs may have difficulty holding up to much work. I recommend that herding dogs be kept very slender. Overheating may be a problem.
 Coats
Dogs whose coats are being kept groomed for the breed ring may damage their coats, depending on ground cover where they are worked. However, there are many dogs who do herding on a regular basis while being shown.
Getting Started
Before undertaking serious herding beyond an instinct test, Bouviers should have good basic obedience: Sit, down, stay and come. They need to clearly understand that people, not dogs, are to be in charge of situations.
Bouviers seems to enjoy real farm work. Many talented dogs reflect their "all purpose farm dog" heritage and understand the tasks involved. They are kind to the lambs, firm with the ewes, and careful of the horses. They have plenty of power to load trailers and push the stock through the chutes. At night, they will put the chickens and geese away. These dogs will willingly bring a large flock in from the pasture, although their outrun may not be picture perfect.
Bouviers that abound with stock sense and have the trainability to retain the necessary control are a joy to use in a farm situation. Unfortunately, because of their size, lack of speed and intolerance to heat, many Bouviers are not well suited to working for long periods of time.
Choosing a Pup
If you are looking for a Bouvier to do farm work, or competitive herding, you need a sound, athletic pup with good solid temperament. Selecting a dog from a breeding of dogs who work stock in a desirable manner is a good choice.
Training
Training Bouviers is best started in a small (60 ft. diameter) contained area with dog-broke sheep. If a dog is slow to turn on, lighter sheep may be helpful.
turning. These dogs may not want to work at all, or perhaps may grip inappropriately as they tire.
Body Type
Body type may also be an influence. Large, heavy-bodied dogs may have difficulty holding up to much work. I recommend that herding dogs be kept very slender. Overheating may be a problem.
 Coats
Dogs whose coats are being kept groomed for the breed ring may damage their coats, depending on ground cover where they are worked. However, there are many dogs who do herding on a regular basis while being shown.
Getting Started
Before undertaking serious herding beyond an instinct test, Bouviers should have good basic obedience: Sit, down, stay and come. They need to clearly understand that people, not dogs, are to be in charge of situations.
Bouviers seems to enjoy real farm work. Many talented dogs reflect their "all purpose farm dog" heritage and understand the tasks involved. They are kind to the lambs, firm with the ewes, and careful of the horses. They have plenty of power to load trailers and push the stock through the chutes. At night, they will put the chickens and geese away. These dogs will willingly bring a large flock in from the pasture, although their outrun may not be picture perfect.
Bouviers that abound with stock sense and have the trainability to retain the necessary control are a joy to use in a farm situation. Unfortunately, because of their size, lack of speed and intolerance to heat, many Bouviers are not well suited to working for long periods of time.
Choosing a Pup
If you are looking for a Bouvier to do farm work, or competitive herding, you need a sound, athletic pup with good solid temperament. Selecting a dog from a breeding of dogs who work stock in a desirable manner is a good choice.
Training
Training Bouviers is best started in a small (60 ft. diameter) contained area with dog-broke sheep. If a dog is slow to turn on, lighter sheep may be helpful.

 

PICTURES HERE!!
Pictures taken from: www.briarleabouvier.com  with permission