Raising Your First Bouvier Puppy

I wrote this in 1985, based on my experiences with Keya and Chelsea. It was written for and published in The Bouvier des Flandres Book 1985, which was the catalog for the North American Bouvier Working Trials held in Ontario , Canada.
I am presenting this article just as written, but adding a few "Update notes" where ideas have changed or newer material is available or just for clarification.
This article pretty well reflects how I raised Bones from age 8 or 9 weeks. His record of working trial achievements speaks for itself, but I can add that he was always a pleasure to live with and a civilized gentleman in all public situations.

Hints On Raising Your First Bouvier Puppy

by Pam Green, Pied de Boue Bouviers, © 1985

This article is written for the person who has never raised a Bouvier before and who wishes to raise his puppy to become a marvelous companion and helpmate.

Bouviers are first of all dogs. Next they are large, powerful, intelligent, self-assertive natured dogs. Finally they are Bouviers. Thus in addition to the qualities common to all dogs, Bouviers have some special qualities of their own.

Before Buying

First you must learn all you can about the desirable and undesirable qualities of the breed. Perhaps a Bouvier is not the best choice for you.

Next you must locate a breeder who pays attention to temperament, behavioral qualities, and physical soundness, as well as show qualities. Remember that temperament and behavior are what you really live with. You soon take for granted the way your dog looks; but the way he acts will please or displease you every single day.

When talking to the breeder, be absolutely candid about your lifestyle and your previous experience in animal training. Also be very honest with yourself and with the breeder about personal qualities such as patience, commitment, self-confidence and leadership capability , etc. An experienced breeder will interview you carefully and attempt to select for you the puppy that will suit you best. My first Bouvier puppy, Keya (Chiaroscuro), was chosen for me by the breeder as being the "sweetest" and most responsive puppy in the litter. She was utterly marvelous and adorable, as well as being extremely easy to train. I could not possibly have chosen as well for myself, and it will be many years before I know enough to do so.

Update note : by 1986 or 1987 I did know enough that Keya and Chelsea's breeder entrusted me with selecting a puppy from the litter of a Southern California breeder who I knew fairly well from Working Trials. I actually picked her the smartest and boldest puppy in the litter, knowing she would be up to the challenge and worried that someone else less capable could get into a lot of trouble with this pup. "Houdini" , re-named "Lille" or "Lily", lived many years and was much appreciated by her family.

Before getting your puppy, read a few good books about-puppy rearing and training. I especially recommend "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" by the Monks of New Skete, "Mother Knows Best" by Carol Benjamin, "How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With" by Rutherford and Neil.

Update note : those are still very good books (see my reviews), but since then an even better one has come along. My absolute favorite today (in 2007) is Dr Ian Dunbar's "How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks" (see my review ; and I will be making reference to several of his key concepts in Updates below in this article).

General Training for Obedience and Manners

Between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 months, the puppy is especially receptive to education. He will regard you as a substitute parent : he will naturally tend to follow you and come to you upon the slightestencouragement. He will be eager to please you to gain praise and petting. He will be easily rebuked from undesirable behaviors by your snarl ("aach!", "No!'', etc.) and by a mild scruff shake or beard tweak for more serious sins.

Find a training class that uses "Puppy Kindergarten" methods. These are largely based on reward, encouragement, and gentle physical placement, plus natural substitute parent reactions. Do not use any methods involving rough physical handling, such as choke collar corrections. These are appropriate for the rebellious adolescent and the adult who already understand the meaning of a command but decline to obey. Every Bouv will rebel and test you a bit during adolescence; but a Bouv well trained as a puppy will get over this a lot sooner and with less frequent need for you to really crack down on him.

Update note : today most good puppy classes use "lure" or "target" methods rather than gentle physical placement into positions; but for some pups physical placement may work better than luring with treats. the main point is that classes use gentle methods and make learning fun for the puppy.
I might not use the word "rebel" today, as it connotates a more adversarial state of mind than I think is really the dog's outlook and as I don't want the trainer to take an adversarial mentality. But it is true that dogs tend to make little checks to see if the rules have changed , and they especially do so during adolescence and as they approach the age of social maturity, thus especially between age 9 months to 3 years. Remember that a dog is always continuing to learn about what works for him and what doesn't work for him, ie what benefits him and what doesn't, so you have to continue to take charge of what lessons are available for him to learn.

Your most important training tool is your voice and body language. Teach your pup various words of praise (eg. "good dog! good dog!"), spoken with warm enthusiasm or even somewhat manic tone and body language. Never hesitate to praise lavishly, especially if your pup has done something difficult or has finally given in and done something he didn't want to do. Times when you don't really feel like praising, because the little monster has been very stubborn but finally yielded and did what you asked, are the times that you must pour on the most lavish praise. Teach the pup your word of release (eg. "0.K.'' or "At Ease''), in a relaxed cheerful tone. Release means he is free to do as he likes for the moment; this vacation may last for several hours or several seconds. Teach him your words of correction and rebuke "NO ! , "Leave it!'', and the snarling guttural "Aaach!'') in a harsh, growling, snarling tone. This tone will almost certainly cause him to interrupt whatever he was doing, whereupon you should immediately praise with a quick warm "good dog!'', then give him a well understood command to do something simple, such as to come or sit, and praise him lavishly as soon as he complies. A soft, but firm "no" can be used to give the pup information about limits. This is appropriate when you see him about to begin doing something undesirable or untimely or when you see him asking whether he should do it. Similarly as you see him hesitantly beginning an approved activity, soft crooning praise can be used to encourage him and let him know your approval.

Update note : while many trainers today quite rightly emphasize teaching the puppy to do what you DO want him to do, rather than emphasizing teaching him NOT to do what you don't want him to do, I think it is still true that you need to set limits as well by use of some kind of rebuke. If you don't like the word "no" use something else. If you find that "no" seems to be 90% of what you are saying, then you need to re-evaluate your methods and change your main emphasis to teaching and praising desirable behaviors.

Other basic equipment is a collar, a leash, and a lot of toys. The first collar should be a simple soft strap and buckle collar. A cat collar is fine: if it has an elastic section, you won t have to worry about the collar getting caught on something; if it has a bell, you will be informed when the pup wakes from his nap and begins moving around. Choose a light colored collar and write your phone number on it with a laundry pen. Later on the collar can be changed to a soft leather or nylon strap.

Update note : using an indelible laundry pen to add your phone number is a temporary measure until you can get an engraved tag with that information. It's a good idea to always have a spare tag on hand, in case one gets lost. Note that in 1985, while a few people were doing tattooing for permanent identification, the microchip was still undreamed of and unavailable. A collar tag is always your first line of defense, but a microchip is your essential backup defense against a lost dog remaining lost forever.

Sometime between 6 months and never, a nylon slip collar or a chain slip collar (= "choke collar") may become necessary: such a collar allows you to give mild, medium, or strong corrections (physical discomfort) for sloppy performance of known commands. The puppy leash can be relatively light, eg. 3/8'' X 6 foot. Ieather or cotton web; as the pup grows, a stronger heavier leash 3/4" X 6 foot leather will be better. A 20 foot. to 50 foot. long-line of light but strong material will also be needed at some stages of training. Finally a 6" tab or grab leash will be used when making the transition to off leash work.

Update note : this was written long before head halters were generally known and available. Today I would be more likely to switch to a head halter rather than a slip collar. I wouldn't use either on a young puppy because of concerns for possible injuries. And for dogs who do not respond well to a halter, I might use a pinch collar rather than a slip chain. Whatever tools you use, they are just tools, and the real art is in how you use a tool rather than in what tool you choose.

A basket of toys kept where the pup has ready access to it is both a means of keeping the pup out of trouble by letting him amuse himself and a means of further education through games that evolve into useful work. Balls, squeak toys, chew toys, and tug and shake toys are most useful.

Specific Training

The basic obedience commands are to come, to lie down, to stay, and to walk reasonably close to your side. For a Bouvier, I also find it advisable to to teach commands for getting in and out of the bathtub, getting in and out of the car, and going in and out of the house, and commands to take something into his mouth and hold it and a command to drop whatever he is holding in his mouth. After these basics are mastered, you may wish to expand your obedience repertoire a little or a great deal. The more different words and responses a dog already knows, the easier it is to teach him new ones.


Most puppies are only too willing to come the moment you invite them by squatting down and calling "Bear, Come!" in a cheerful tone, and opening your arms wide to welcome him in. He will be especially willing to come when you are away from home on unfamiliar territory. If he does not respond to this invitation, turn around and run away so that he has to chase you a bit. Praise and cuddle when he arrives of course. If you don t have a safe place (preferably fenced) to do this, then put your 20 to 50 foot long line on; that way you know he really can't get away and you can reel him in if needed. Later when he's older and bolder, you will need the long-line for sure.

Walking beside you.

Many good puppy trainers teach the pup to walk beside without a leash before they try to put the pup on leash. Off leash you encourage the pup by patting your thigh, by encouraging words, and occasionally a tidbit. On unfamiliar territory the puppy will naturally stay close to you, his parent for security. This is especially true during the age of 12 to 16 weeks. If you should suddenly need to take him somewhere (eg. the vet's) before he is leash trained, then just crate him or pick him up and carry him.

Update note : when you are going to the vets with a puppy who is not yet fully immunized, you will be carrying him in your arms or in a crate anyway because you do not want him touching floor where other dogs have walked. Indeed, you may want to arrange to meet the vet at her clinic back door and never enter the clinic at all.
When you do put the leash on, do it while he is still much smaller and weaker than you are. Do not allow him to think of it as a pulling contest, as too soon he will be able to outpull you. I have referred to this training as "walking beside" rather than as "heeling" because the latter term implies a relatively precise position that the dog must maintain. This is better taught at a later age, as it requires a lot of concentration from the pup, and may require a lot of collar corrections to obtain precision. For the pup it is enough that he stay close and that when on leash, he not pull or jerk or hang back draggingly or otherwise take the slack out of the leash. If you do not intend to teach precision heeling later, then you can use the word "heel" for walking beside. If you think you might want to teach precision heeling later, then use some other word now, such as "walkies" or "side" or "close" or "let s go". For a Bouvier puppy, don t be too discouraged if the pup wants to walk a bit ahead of technical heel position; in precision heeling, most Bouvs tend to lag behind, which is harder to correct than is a tendency to move ahead.


Some puppy trainers use a toy or tidbit to attract the pup to move its head into a position that will cause it to lie down. Some watch the pup carefully so they can quickly slip in the word "down" just as they see the pup is about to lie down of his own will; this word association method is a bit slower, but it works very well and without any resistance by the pup. Probably most trainers still use the conventional method of physically placing the pup into the down position; this works just fine so long as you are gentle about it. Bouvier puppies will catch onto the meaning of "down" pretty quickly anyway. It is a natural and comfortable position.

Update note : actually the lure and reward method is probably the fastest of all. The pure word association method can be fast if you are a good observer and if you reward the pup when he completes the motion. Gentle physical placement works just fine too. Use whatever works best for you and for this puppy.

"Sit" and "Stand".

Like "down", these commands can be taught by any of these 3 methods. These positions require muscular effort to maintain, but they are natural positions.


Most trainers, especially those used to adult dogs, teach the sit-stay first. I have found it easier and more natural to teach Bouvier puppies the down-stay first. A Bouvier who intends to remain on one spot for even a short time almost always chooses to lie down. Bouviers learn the meaning of Stay easily. I just keep gently and quickly putting the pup back into its position the instant he moves. They catch on within a few lessons. There are 3 ways of ending a stay: by a release ("Ok"`, by walking/heeling away on command, or by a "come". Rotate among these 3 endings in random order.

Bathtub commands.

Teach your puppy a command to get into the tub (eg. "tub") and to wait your word of permission (eg "OK" or "exit") to get out of the tub. Begin this training while the pup is still small enough and light enough that you can lift him into and out of the tub. Later help him climb in and out. Of course there should be a rubber mat in the tub. While he is in the tub, praise, pet, and perhaps give him a few tidbits or even a whole meal. After he is at home in the tub, foot washing, beard washing, and full baths will be easy and pleasant for both of you.

Car Commands.

Bouviers become addicted to going for rides in the car. But teaching good manners is essential for your safety and for his. Teach the pup he must wait for your word of permission to get out (I use "OK") followed by "sit" or "heel" as soon as the dog is on the ground to prevent the dog from dashing off into street traffic. While riding teach the pup that his fanny must remain in contact with the seat, ie. he may sit or lie down and shift back and forth between these two positions, but he may not stand up; this prevents the sort of moving about and jumping around that can be extremely dangerous by causing you to loose control of the car. Fanny on the seat is taught as a habit rather than as a command. Anytime he stands up, tell him "No" or "Aaach" and then "sit" or "down" him. It's not a stay because he can move about a bit or shift from sit to down. (Alternately you might prefer to down-stay your dog whenever he is in the tar, but this could be uncomfortable for him on a long ride.) Also you must teach him as a habit to remain in the car with the windows rolled completely down. Teach him this with the car parked at home or other safe place where you can watch and scold him impressively if he tries to come out the window. Repeat the into the car command as you leave the tar, just to make clear to him that you want him inside, ie. to remain inside. Most Bouvs love their car and really don t want to leave it anyway.

Being able to leave the windows down all the way is truly necessary if you are even going to leave your Bouv in the car during warm weather. Cars heat up very hot very fast due to the greenhouse effect of the sun on the remaining glass. Bouviers have less ability than most breeds to endure heat, since they are bred for a cold, wet, windy climate. So if your Bouv cannot be trusted with the windows down, you must either leave him home during warm and hot weather or else only take him on those trips where he can accompany you out of the car on all stops, or else cover the insides of all windows with some kind of screen or grill so the dog cannot jump out the open windows.

Update note : although I taught Keya and Chelsea to stay in a car with all windows completely open, I discovered that this has the disadvantage of allowing people to stick their hands into the window. So now I have screen guards over my windows : actually the guard is a wire refrigerator shelf (or any other wide mesh screen barrier) that is strapped to the coathanger railing over the window and held in place with a bungee cord. The window is then open or 3/4 open when car is parked, closed or only somewhat open when car is in motion. I also have a front-to-back barrier (commercially made) because I sometimes am carrying dogs just liberated from the pound, and I don't know how they will behave in the car, thus want to ensure that the dog cannot interfere with my driving.
All car training that is done with the vehicle in motion should first be done on roads where there is no traffic. Next get a friend to drive or or ready to correct the dog while you drive. Most Bouviers soon become trustworthy enough that it is safe to drive alone, knowing that a fast voice command or voice correction is all that will be needed.
Update note : a barrier between front and back seat is a good safety device. Or you may want to use a body harness that attaches to the seat-belt to limit the dog's range or motion.

By the way, many Bouviers teach themselves to jump into a car through an open window in the hopes that this will cause you to take them for a ride. On several occasions when my "Chelsea" has disappeared, I have found her waiting in the car. (Once inside, she won't come out without a direct order.) I haven t trained her out of this because it is harmless and amuses me.

NO dog should ever ride loose in the back of a pickup truck: the danger of being thrown out to be maimed or killed is too great. The only safe way for him to ride in the truck bed is inside a strong, well ventilated crate that is bolted down to the truck or securely tied down to the truck.

"Chelsea" has also proven adept at remembering where we have parked and at finding our car in parking lots. I just put her on leash, say "where's our car?!" and let her tow me to it.

Inside the Home : commands, useful hints on living together.

Entry and Exit commands :

Teach your puppy a word for going into the house. I use "house" to mean "go to the house and go to the back porch door if it's open or wait next to the door if it's closed. " This is taught by saying the word then leading the dog to and into the house. Most Bouvs consider this to be a word of permission : they like going into the house. Since muddy feet are a fact of Bouvier life, you will probably want this entry word to refer to a door that leads onto a mud-proof floor. Keep a towel by the door and get the pup used to having his feet wiped before going further into the house. Or put a thick cheap throw rug at the door to absorb the worst of the dirt. Once the dog has learned the meaning of "house", you can begin to systematically send him to the house from various distances and directions; if you live on a farm or ranch this can be a useful way to send messages (tied to the dog s collar). You may also want to teach a "leave the house" permission word (I use "world", since "out" means "drop it out of the mouth" to my dog.) Just open the door and give the word and lead or shove him out. The main point of teaching an exit word is that the dog should also be taught not to go out through an open door until and unless he is given this word of permission. Charging out the door just because it's open is especially dangerous if you live on a busy street. You may also want to teach words for going into and out of your fenced yard.

Note : at the time I wrote this, and still to the present day, I lived in a farm house in the middle of large tracts of crop-land. It's a mile to the nearest paved road. So letting Chelsea go back to the house on her own was really quite safe. It would be totally unsafe in an urban or suburban setting of course.

Dog door.

This is a boon to housebreaking and lets your dog protect both inside and outside of the house from burglars. For an adult Bouv 10" wide X 16" high (12" X 18" for an extra large Bouv) will do nicely.

Update note : some people fear that in addition to being a "boon to housebreaking" a Bouvier sized dog door could be a "boon to house-breakers", ie to burglars. Others are concerned with possible entry of cats or raccoons or other unwelcome guests. Some don't want their own cat able to escape the safety of the house to the dangers of the outside world. Some have similar worries about the escape of a very young child from parental supervision. So there are many legitimate reasons why you might not want a dog door and would consider those reasons to be more important than reduction of risks of accidents to your floors.

Sleeping place.

The very best place for your Bouv to sleep is in the bedroom of his principal person. All dogs are most protective of the place where they sleep, so let this be next to the most valuable thing you own, which is surely either your own body or that of your child. Most persons prefer the Bouv to sleep on the floor near the bed rather than on the bed. Think carefully before deciding to invite your Bouv to sleep on your bed ! Those usually muddy feet will bring a lot of gritty dirt into your bed and the adult dog will occupy about as much room as an average adult sleeper. Bouvs prefer the coolest part of the room as their sleeping place. A puppy may appreciate a small "den" : a cardboard box with a hole cut for entry works well and costs nothing.

Update note : in the era in which I wrote this, practically all dog training writers were giving strong warnings that letting your dog share your bed would "lead to the dog thinking he is your equal" (to which Chelsea replied "I would never sink so low !") and would cause him to challenge you for leadership. My own thought was that if a dog is obeying you in dozens of ways throughout the day, sharing your bed will not cause him to forget that you are the leader. Certainly Chelsea and Bones shared my bed every night of our lives together, and it never caused any problems other than my having to remind Chelsea to "move over" or "your side of teh bed" from time to time. It has since been shown that bed sharing does not cause behavior problems, as while many problem dogs share owner's bed and equally high percentage of non-problem dogs do so as well. So it is really a matter of available space and the gritty dirt issue, just as I said so many years ago.

Your furniture.

It is entirely up to you whether or not to permit your Bouv to get on the furniture. Put be aware that a Bouv on the couch means a fair amount of dirt ground into the couch too.

Update note : for many years I've been advising that if you allow dogs on the furniture or on specificed pieces of furniture, put some kind of easily cleaned throw cover over that furniture. For example a bedspread tossed over the couch will serve well.

Water dish.

Whenever your Bouv takes a drink, his beard will soak up water then drip it onto your floor. A cheap thick throw rug (bathroom rung with rubber back) under the bowl will catch the worst of it. As a last resort you could trim off the beard, though this greatly takes away from the '"Bouvie-ness" and makes him look less intimidating to potential intruders, etc.

Update note : depending on your climate, you may want to add an outdoor water bowl that has a self-filling ability, with a float valve connected to a garden hose. I would not rely on this as the only source of water because you might not notice a malfunction. A bowl or bowls on the kitchen floor remain the mainstay of canine hydration. I don't much like letting dogs drink out of the toilet bowl , and you should be aware that some toilet bowl "self-cleaners" that might be in the tank can be deadly poisons. If you want to utterly prevent the dog from flipping the seat cover up, use a seat lock sold for preventing young children from drowning in the toilet bowl.

Chewing on things.

The bad news is that young puppies really need to chew. So put anything precious and irreplaceable completely out of his reach until he is completely finished with this stage (until age 2 or later). The good news is that it is not that hard to teach him to restrict chewing to his own toys. Every time that he begins chewing on anything of yours (ie. not his own toy), tell him firmly "No !" and "Drop it !" and open his mouth and gently, but firmly remove the object (DO NOT let this be a tug of war'). Then immediately give him the nearest of his own toys and say "0K". For things like electric cords or furniture legs, smearing it with "Bitter Apple" or with tabasco sauce or alum paste or quinine may discourage chewing. When you are not going to be around to watch the puppy, confine him to a puppy-proof area, such as a crate or room with a baby gate across the doorway.

Update note : for electric cords, products like "Ben Gay" work well and have a strong odor that serves as warning. Annoint the cord several times a week until you are certain the pup avoids touching it. Alternatively you might run all electric cords through metal conduit.
This type of product is also good for discouraging chewing on the leash or grabbing the leash in play. Since a dog's rear teeth can sever a leash in a heartbeat, leaving you with an off leash dog in circumstances where being off leash could be deadly dangerous, you do not ever want to allow your dog to take a leash into his mouth.
Dr Ian Dunbar advises that the puppy always have access to one or more toys that have food stuffed inside them, thus causing the puppy to "self-train" to chew on these toys.

During teething something cold to chew on gives the pup a lot of relief. I like taking severall cheap terry washcloths, dipped in water, wrung out, then placed in the freezer, to be given the pup to chew on when frozen.

Update note : some people give their puppies ice cubes or ice cubes made from chicken broth or beef broth to chew on and soothe themselves with.

Chewing on people.

Puppies normally chew on each other and on their parents. This is a normal part of play and is not intended to hurt, despite needle sharp teeth.

Teaching the pup to be "soft mouthed" within the family, ie. not to bite other than very gently, is taught the same way puppies teach this to each other. Whenever he bites down a little too hard say "Ouch !" in a pained voice and withdraw yourself from the puppy for a minute or two. He will soon learn that biting too hard means rejection. (Of course you may choose to regard any touch of his teeth as too hard, ie. teach him never ever to bite; but since you probably do want him to be protective as an adult, it is actually better to teach him to restrain himself to very soft mouth pressure with family members.) In any case do not make the mistake of wearing gloves to spare yourself the pains of the teething stage; the result can easily be a dog who does not know how to soften his bite at all and has no inhibitions about biting members of the family.

Update note : Dr Ian Dunbar recommends that you first target the harder bites for this "ouch" and ignore procedure, then later you can target the medium bites, and finally if you like you can target even the gentlest tooth touch.

Barking issues

Watch dog barking. Territorial barking appears in the Bouv by about 4 months of age. Most Bouviers, with the aid of some guidance from their leader-person, soon become very discriminating about what to bark at.

Commands to stop barking. If you are able to teach your dog to bark on command I suggest "Watch him !" or "Get ready !" as better words than "speak"; you may want to someday use the command to someday bluff someone of who you are suspicious. For the stop barking command, I suggest you NOT use "hush" or "quiet'' or "shut up", since it is possible a burglar would try these. I use "Taisez"~ (= French. for "Shut up"), but you might like "Cool it" or "enough" or "golden". To teach it, just place your hands gently about the pup's mouth shutting it and thus stopping the bark. Hold briefly while quietly telling the pup "good" . Then release; repeat if needed.


There are only 2 secrets to housebreaking : (l) dogs instinctively do not want to defecate or urinate inside their own den (or even near the den for adults) and (2) puppies feel the strong urge to urinate or defecate soon after they eat, right after waking, and right after vigorous play. So (l) whenever you are not going to have your eye on your pup, confine him to his sleeping area, using either a crate or a pen, and (2) after eating, sleeping or playing, immediately take him outdoors to the spot you prefer as his "outhouse" area. Give a word of encouragement and wait til he "does something" , and when he does, praise him as if it were made out of solid gold!! If there is an accident in the house, well it's really your own fault; just clean it up and use a deodorizer specially made for dog excrement (from a dog store or vet). Only much later when the pup really knows the rules and breaks them would punishment be appropriate, and then only if you catch him doing it. For the young pup, take up water in the evening and don't make his last meal too late in the day; this will help him make it through the night. As an adult, just be sure he gets to visit his outhouse fairly early in the morning and again before retiring at night. Oh, yeah, until you're really absolutely sure, store your good rugs up in the attic or shut off the room with a baby gate.

Update note : while taking up the water dish a few hours before bed is still good advice, for some puppies feeding the last meal of the day very late in the day works better than feeding it earlier. You really have to experiment to learn your own puppy's "intake to output" time schedule. The type of food can also effect this time interval and how hard it is for a puppy to "hold it" for more than a few seconds.


Socialization is a fancy word for taking your pup out into the world and teaching him to have confidence about strange places and strange people. Basically you just take the puppy with you whenever you go anywhere. By your example, you let him know everything is fine, even if it is a bit weird; and you make sure nothing really bad happens to him. Bringing people to your home is also a form of socialization.

One caution: During the 8th week of his life, your puppy is particularly vulnerable to bad effects of being hurt or scared. This is a "fear imprint period", meaning a bad experience makes a deep and lasting impression. Since this is likely to be the 1st or 2nd week in his new home with you, he has quite enough to adjust to within the new home.

Visitors to your home. As the leader, you must set an example for your puppy of how he is to behave towards the various types of visitor; dogs have a natural tendency to mimic and emulate their pack leader. So if you greet each of your welcome visitors with an obvious or exaggerated display of warmth and welcome, your Bouv will understand that they are to be permitted entry. If you greet unwelcome persons with an obvious coolness, your pup will pick up on your suspicion (it should not be hostility). In the rare event that the person does not have a good reason to be there and you really distrust him, let that distrust show; and when your pup responds with increased vigilance, let him know that you approve and appreciate this. What you are trying to teach the pup is to have his reaction appropriate and proportionate to the niceness or nastiness of the visitor. You do not want to teach him to be more aggressive than the situation warrants. (Fortunately Bouvs are naturally disinclined to be excessively aggressive.)

About food.

Normal meals: Most Bouviers have hearty appetites. Get in the habit of measuring out your pup's food so you know how much he's getting and can increase it or decrease it slightly as soon as you notice him getting too lean or too chubby. Because Bouvs are a breed subject to hip dysplasia, it is safest to keep your pup fairly lean as he is growing up. His hip ridges (ilium), the tops of the vertebrae of his croup and his ribs should all be easily felt through the fur and skin. Bouvs are a breed subject to bloat, therefore it is safest to sub-divide his daily ration into a large number of small meals. Even as an adult, division into two meals is wise. He should not be fed immediately after exhausting exercise, nor should he exercise strenuously within an hour after eating.

Begging at the table. The most prudent course is never to feed your pup from your own meal. But if you enjoy it exceedingly, then I suggest you insist the pup lie down while you eat your fill and then give a few small tidbits from your leftovers. In the wild, the top dog eats his fill, then lets the rest have his leftovers. Act accordingly as the pack leader. Don't forget to subtract such treats from his total daily ration or he will turn into a furry blimp.
Update note : a better plan is to let the human family eat first, then give the puppy his bowl of kibble and then , while the puppy is eating, walk up and add a few bits of leftovers to the puppy's bowl. In doing so you will be teaching the puppy that having people come up while he is eating, even having them touch or pick up his bowl, is a very very wonderful and welcome event, because they are coming to add a tasty treat. Thus the puppy is being "behaviorally vaccinated" against becomeing a "food guarder" or "food bowl aggressive."

Food as a reward in training. This is a controversial subject. For training in tracking, there is no doubt that food on the track is a powerful and natural motivator. For obedience training, food can easily degenerate into a bribe. The best way to use it is on a "random reinforcement schedule". This means that you are a slot machine that only pays off rarely and unpredictably, so the dog, like any slot machine addict, keeps performing his tricks in hopes that this time he'll hit the jackpot. Remember that all forms of dog competition forbid the use of food rewards during competition. More important, there may be a life and death situation in which you can't wave food in your dog's face as a bribe. So use it, if at all, as an extra to brighten up your dog's performance.

Update note : this article was written before the seminal book on training with positive reinforcement , "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor, came out in paperback and was discovered by dog trainers. Today, in 2007, using food as a positive reinforcement in all kinds of training is no longer controversial. But my comments about not letting it become a bribe and the need to switch onto a slot machine schedule are still absolutely valid. Also remember that food is not the only possible reward. Dr Ian Dunbar coined the term "life rewards" for the process of rewarding the dog for doing something you asked him to do by giving him permission to now do something he really wants to do, ie something he natually enjoys doing. Life rewards are especially relevant when training dog in various working tasks.


Start early with short, gentle grooming sessions. Teach your pup to hold still cheerfully. Include careful toenail clipping and gentle tooth de-scaling.

Grooming is going to be a daily or alternate daily part of your dog's life and of yours, so you'd better both learn to enjoy it.

For really hot weather, or for year round convenience, you may wish to consider some sort of "working clip" in which the coat is kept short or semi-short throughout except for the beard which is left longer. I live in the Central Valley of California, where summers are very hot indeed, so I use a working clip. At the start of the hot weather I clip everything but the beard with a #4 blade and thin the beard with thinning shears. Later in the summer I re-clip the body but not the legs with the #4 blade. By Christmas, Chelsea is a bear again, but the contours of her coat follow those of her body quite handsomely. Photographs of the Bouviers of 50 years ago show a shorter and sparser coat, partly the result of breeding and partly the result of grooming (stripping rather than clipping); the appearance is that of the working clip.

I will not attempt to discuss show grooming (grooming for breed ring competition), because I know nothing about it. Your dog does not need to be show groomed to compete in AKC Obedience, AKC Tracking, Schutzhund, or any other form of Working Trial. If you want to learn how to how groom your dog, take lessons from a good professional. Don't despair if you make a serious mistake: it will grow out eventually.

The beard and coat will collect whatever burrs and stick tights that grow in your neighborhood. These will pull out of wet hair a bit more easily. For really bad burr collections use a hair de-tangler product or else mineral oil or spray on cooking oil. If you use oil, you will have to shampoo it out afterwards. The Bouvier's shaggy feet are very vulnerable to "foxtails", which is a general term for a number of types of plant awns common in California (and other western US states) in the summer. Foxtails may enter any of the body orifices or enter the feet between the toes; they then burrow into the flesh causing damage including the possible loss of a leg or even death. The very best prevention is to cut the hair from the upper surface of the area between the toes; the underside of the foot seems less apt to pick up foxtails, but you can de-hair it to. You can use blunt nosed scissors or dog clippers. Whether or not the foot has been de-haired you must make a daily habit of examining feet, checking between toes once a day throughout the foxtail season. Once a foxtail has entered the body, its removal is a job for the vet. Do not delay in removal.

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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 8/18/07 revised 8/18/07
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