Bouvier Belge des Flandres

G.F. van Gink - van Es

translated by Marjoleine De Waal Malefyt

These are portions of a book written in Dutch by a famous Dutch breeder of Bouvier, translated for me by Marjoleine De Waal Malefyt. This book is a wonderful one to have even if you don't know Dutch because the photos are wonderful. I especially enjoy the photos of Bouviers at work or in working trials.

exerpts from Bouvier Belge de Flandres

by G.F. van Gink - van Es, © MCMLXXXVI (1986)

translated by Marjoleine De Waal Malefyt, © 1987, 2007

(bringing up the young puppy)

Being alone and further education/upbringing.

(starts on page 180)

Being alone is very important. Often enough it happens that a dog can not come along . Even though you are not bothered by the dog howling (whining) or barking, it can be an enormous nuisance to your neighbors and cause irritation between you and them

Start a young puppy of by caging him for a short period of time .When it does start to cry or bark say "quiet". Be persistent and let them know that this is not OK behavior. Do not set the dog free when it is barking or crying, wait until he has been quiet for a while and reward him in a happy and upbeat way.

If you do not have a place to separate the dog, or you are afraid he will destroy or damage something ( young Bouviers are known for this) then tie his leash onto something. Take a chain leash , so that he cannot chew it, and attach this to the collar. Hook the end of the leash onto a hook a little higher up, giving the dog plenty of moving space. Put the dog in a spot where he is not in the way and where it cannot see you all the time. After he learns in the house not to have you around all the time or has the chance to follow you around, being alone will be a lot easier. Do not overdo the chaining down too much. A young dog needs exercise and has to be able to run and play.

Talk a lot to your dog .When you use the same words, your young dog will learn it's meaning and what is wanted of him very quickly.

A good tool to keep your dog occupied while alone are rawhide chew toys, they are easily digested. If you find these too costly you can also use a marrowbone (well cooked ) and fill it with liver sausage. The dog will try to get the sausage out of the bone and thus forget the misery of being alone. When he gets tired of it he will fall asleep. Again do not leave the dog alone for too long a period of time, a dog that is locked up for a long time never has the chance to learn something and become an unity with it's master or family. (group harmony )

Further education of the puppy

If more than one person is involved with the upbringing of the puppy it will be necessary that everybody uses the same commands. Everyone needs to be consistent in permitting or forbidding certain things, ( for example: is the dog going to be allowed to lie on furniture or not)

Give the dog his own place, a basket (crate) or a big pillow . It will be his and be always in the same place, preferably where he can see everywhere and still belongs to the group. It is a place where he will be able to go to sleep but also can retreat when you give him the "place" command. Remember to first say the dogs name before a command to get his attention, then follow with the command.



This is fairly easy with a young dog, When you feed him or give him a treat it is easy to say "sit". For this exercise stand to the right of the dog . Hold the collar with your right hand, pull it up a little while giving the command "sit" meanwhile pushing his behind down with your left hand . Again repeat the command "sit" and praise the dog.


Down is the command for the dog to lie down. Keep the leash short to prevent the dog from getting out of reach. If the dog is sitting or standing, first say it name and give the "down" command. The leash then is pulled in a short and sharp motion towards the ground. When the dog lies down put your hand on the back of the dog to keep him down, repeat "down" command, praise the dog.

If this doesn't work, try with the dog sitting, scooping his front paws up from underneath him while pushing down into the stay position. You can also put your foot on the leash which forces the dog down. Always talk to your dog so it doesn't become a quiet exercise.


When the "down" command has been learned properly the "stay" command will easily follow. In order to learn this hold the leash for now in the hand and walk backwards or around the dog. Keep looking at the dog and say "good dog", correct the dog immediately when it gets up by saying (for instance) "Picard down and stay".

This exercise is not very suitable for a very young dog or a long period of time. It has to stay fun for both parties.

"Drop it"

"Drop it" is the command to use when you want the dog to release something (from his mouth). If the dog is reluctant to do so, grab the object and give the command "drop it".

You can also take his muzzle and push with your fingers against the dog's lips and small molars, after which he will drop the object. After this you say " good dog"


"Shame" is used when he does something he shouldn't do.


"Heel" (lit. "follow") is walking to your left side without pulling on the leash. Teach the dog this with a leash of about 1 meter ( 3 feet, 3 inches). Give the command " Picard heel " If the dog walks too far ahead say "Picard heel". When this command is not followed give the leash a short pull. This has to be annoying for the dog. Once the dog heels praise the dog immediately, "good dog".


"Foot" is the dog sitting to the left of you.

"Wait" or "Stop"

"Wait" or "Stop" is the command you use when you want the dog to stand still before getting of the sidewalk or when you want to take the leash off.


"Free"(or "go play") is the command for free play, running around. Give it only where the dog is safe and it can run without hurting himself. Refrain from calling the dog to come to you when it is not necessary, in the long run the dog might ignore the " come " command when it is really important.

" Front "

" Front " (lit. come front) is for when the dog needs to come to you and sit facing you. Don't walk towards the dog, rather walk backwards away from the dog so that it will have to come to you. With a young dog squat, you will be on the same level as he is this way. Call the dog in an affectionate and loving tone so that the dog wants to come to you. You can also give it a treat.

Never punish a dog for not coming to you fast enough .The only thing you will gain will be reluctance on the dog's side to come the next time, as he is afraid of any punishment when he doesn't come fast enough.


Never punish a dog for something he doesn't understand, it could be he hasn't progressed to the point where he understands what you want.

Don't lose your patience when training isn't going smoothly. End the exercise with something the dog does know, so you can praise him. After this give the command "free" and play with the dog so that all frustration can be forgotten. You can start all over after this or call it a day and try again tomorrow.

Don't expect too much from the young dog in the beginning. A Bouvier stays puppy for a long time even when bigger and that is easy to forget.

After the puppy has been vaccinated and the incubation time has passed take the dog where it can walk freely. Do this in a safe place so that the dog can't get harmed. The woods, beach are good places. The young dog will follow you but also has a chance to explore. Play hide and seek, praise the dog once it finds you. When the dog gets older they explore more and more and might not respond to your voice. They have not been trained yet and run faster than we do.

The young dog needs plenty of exercise but don't overdo it as their skeleton is not yet sturdy enough. The cartilage is still very soft and the muscles and tendons are not at their full strength. There is no need to overexert your dog. It is good for the young dog to be able to play with other dogs several short times a day.

Your Bouvier will be more relaxed in the house and less likely to destroy something. Be on your guard as it can happen that a puppy doesn't destroy anything now, but later in it's adolescence will

(further training of the more mature dog)

Collars and leashes and how to use them.

(begins on page 285 ; this deals with more formal training, dog past early puppyhood)

Buy a cheap and thin collar for the young dog. He can wear it for the first few days inside the house so that he can get used to having something around his neck. Walk with the dog on the leash through the rooms and hallway to get used to walking on a leash. Repeat this a few times a day for several days. Limit the time to a few minutes.

If you want to give the dog when he is older some more freedom and you do not want him to be totally free, than you can take a long leash (5,10 or 15 meters) and have this trail behind the dog. Your dog will be free but not so free that he can take off. In case the dog does take off you will be able to grab the leash and pull the dog to you while giving the command "front". Don't get angry when he is sitting in front of you. Even if you are upset with him running off, act as if he came to you by himself and praise the dog. If you punish him he will not come the next time.

Coming on command.

We begin with this when the dog is older and his puppy collar has been changed to a leather or training collar. Use a strong leash.

Have the dog sit facing you in front. Call it's name and give the command " come front" Keep the leash short so the dog has no chance to move to the side. While giving the command "come front" walk backwards several steps, the leash will pull the dog with you. Stand still, hold the leash up a little bit while pushing the dog's behind down with your other hand into a sitting position. Reward the dog and have it sit in place for a minute.

Expand this exercise by making the leash longer and longer and without pulling on the leash. Always walk backwards or stand still, NEVER walk toward the dog. He will have to come to you and sit correctly in front of you. When the leash gets too short get a longer one. When the dog has learned the "come front" command properly you can start by taking the leash off. By this time the dog has learned the "down", "stay" and "down stay" commands that came from the beginning.

"Heel" on the leash can be a very hard exercise and when the dog is older calls for a more strict approach. A leather leash with a choke chain can best be used. Don't use a nylon or chain leash as this can hurt your hands when you have to pull hard. Put the choke chain on correctly with the long side on the top, this will enable the collar to loosen after being pulled on.

Give the dog the command "heel" with a slack leash, if the dog ignores the command give a short pull and say in a gruff voice "heel". Reward the dog this will do more good than punishment.

The Bouvier is a dog that likes to work but is not a servile kind of dog. Teaching a Bouvier to heel and do about turns can be a chore. For young Bouviers some of these exercises might be too hard. As long as the dog understands "sit", "down", "down-stay", "place" you have gained a lot. Have the puppy enjoy his youth until he is over one year old and then start training him in all earnest.

You can start teaching him how to show. Once the dog has learned how to follow, you can dispose of the choke collar.

There are many collars that serve the same function as the choke collar. One of them is the collar ("sliplijn" illustrated on the top of page 286 : this is a limited slip collar and leash combination). This collar can be pulled to a desired tightness and slipped over the dog's head. This leash should not be too short, the dog when coming to a standstill can pull it out of your hands. This collar and leash are most suitable when you want to take the dog with you next to your bicycle. You can start with this at 7 to 8 months of age. Have the dog walk to the right side of the cycle and start with short distances.

Another collar is the regular leather collar. The disadvantage of the collar is that they are fairly wide, hair under this collar "chokes" and breaks thus leaving a bald line on the dog's neck. this also happens with the metal collars. If you want something to hold the dog back with when needed, use a thin leather collar that is loosely fit around the dog's neck.

Let your dog off leash only where it is absolutely safe. Many dogs get killed because they cross the road unexpectedly by running after something. Teach your dog to come on command , but also the command down and stay are of great importance.

Fighting dogs

(on page 294 : about preventing dog fights)

A dog that fights is a terror. He can not be let of leash and is avoided by everybody. This bad habit needs to be nipped in the bud from the beginning. Bouviers are compared with other breeds not very combative , so one should not encourage a Bouvier to be a fighter.

As a puppy the Bouvier should play and socialize with other dogs, whatever the breed. Young dogs are not yet combative as almost any dog they meet is an older dog and their instinct tells them that they are no match for them. Older dogs are less likely to bite a young dog. If they do bite a puppy they are cowardly or mentally unstable.

Don't let your dog chase other dogs, this practice is just as bad as fighting.

But even all our precautions can not eliminate the chance encounter where they meet and hair is raised, backs arched ready to attack. What I do is walk away a slight distance from my dog, and call my dog in an upbeat happy voice. l try to place myself in my dogs position. He can not walk away from the other dog without losing face, the other dog might think he is afraid and attack him. But when your master is calling you from a distance as a dog you should come. Your dog-honor is saved, you turn your back to the other dog and simply walk to your master who will praise and pet you.

Real fighters need to be extremely disciplined to break the fighting habit. The nose of a dog is the most sensitive spot and only that place will do for a severe correction. Fold the leash double, holding the clasp in your hand, and slap your dog on the nose with the leash. I find this a horrible form of punishment and have a hard time every time I have to use it. But in order to "unlearn" certain behaviors I have no choice.

When your dog is repeatedly attacked without provocation by the same dog he should be allowed to fight back. I keep on walking and at a short distance call my dog in a gruff (lit. scolding) Whatever you do with your dog try to be fair and only be strict with him at the right moment when needed.

(the Bouvier as a working dog)

Training for utility dog

(begins page 296)

To make a dog through instruction and practice usable for a certain purpose.

For this we need to start at the beginning of this century when the Bouvier was called Boeuf, Pic , Vuilbaard (lit dirty beard).

Back then the dog-fanciers encouraged people to have their dog registered and visit agricultural exhibitions. Occasionally somebody would do this, but this did not give the Bouvier recognition. It was considered the poor man's dog that had to work for its living.

Poverty driven owners sometimes used their dog for less legal practices. Undoubtedly they were smugglers or poachers who found out that with patience and determination the "pic" could learn a great deal. The dog seemed to sense or hear danger before its master and would start to growl. Not afraid of gunshots the dog would be quiet and ready to go when his master wanted him to. All these special abilities were noticed by the custom officers and gendarmes. They were they opponents of poachers and smugglers, when arresting them they found these dogs to protect their masters fiercely. When the opportunity arose the gendarmes and custom officers bought, for a high price, the pic puppies from the crooks and trained them to be police dogs. It could happen that the crooks would be caught by de dogs they sold! The stories of these captures and the role the dog played in it were published in the newspaper. Thus it became that people found an interest in the Bouvier, and soon wanted one of these Flemish "cowdogs" (lit. Vlaamse koehond)

The practice of breeding and training a dog for a certain purpose has been done for centuries in Belgium. Mostly hunting dogs were bred and trained for the rich, the "poor" and their dog didn't come into the picture.

After it was found the "pic" was capable of extraordinary deeds all this changed rapidly. Soon groups were forming and together they started training the dogs. Of course they also started to breed with the dogs, the puppies they liked were kept and the others were sold to people mostly in cities for a nice profit. There was no unity of dog type, but that was not of the utmost importance. What counted was their work ability.

The real devotees came from a group of people who practiced as a '"sport". They started to look at appearance of the dog.

The first World War destroyed the native region of the Bouviers, 250.000 people died as a result. After the war the Bouvier was in the public eye again, this time stories of heroism in the trenches and with the Red Cross appeared in the newspapers. Unfortunately not many dogs were left in Belgium .What amount had survived was scattered all over the country.

Around the turn of the century Bouviers, or dogs that closely resembled them, could be found in the Netherlands. Some were registered as Flemish cowdog, but as in Belgium they belonged mostly to the poor and the working-class. Little groups were formed here also to train the dogs. Again appearance was not important, even mongrels were introduced to these clubs, the only requirement was that the dog had zest for to attack, have courage and be fearless. They were pre-eminently the big dogs, biters and rascals of olden times who had always worked with people. No luxury dogs, but dogs who, like the boeufs, had to prove themselves in order to be useful.

As in every sport the dog sport wanted to measure their achievements of their dogs against dogs from other clubs. In order to hold competitions rules had to be made, judges appointed, dates and places decided on. In 1907 the Royal Dutch Police-dog Association (K.N.P.V.) was formed. This association made all the rules and is still considered the main organization to support this branch of the dog sport. Every club has it's own independence but is connected to the K.N.V.P.

From the development of the Bouvier one can see that the Bouvier is a mixture of several different utility dogs, capable of many tasks. The dogs that excelled in a certain task were sought after to be bred with. A herding dog that had to make many turns was of a lighter build than a guard or court dog. The way they looked changed throughout the years to fit the tasks they performed. With certain descendants these exterior marks were coupled with character. This is the way it went with the Bouviers suitable for police work. They had to be big and imposing with a unwavering character. They had become a separate type of dog. These dog were considered perfect training dogs.

Bouviers are described as high, not too broad in the chest, level ribs, but with above all a longer, narrow head and fierce look in the eyes. The light eyes from the first dogs have disappeared. The short and close to the skin coat, causing a small amount of leg and body hair can still be found. The owner of the show or test dog is recommended to keep the dog's coat short. Longer coats are a good protection against the elements but can cause the dog to get stuck in undergrowth causing tangles. A thick coat can be a hindrance in the water too. When breeding good character for a good training dog, looks have been neglected. The dogs are not winning any prizes at competitions.

Bouviers can be traced all the way back to the relatively small population that existed after the 1 st world war in Belgium. The trainers have bred with, as in earlier years, the best utility dogs to train them for police dogs. In order to get a good looking dog one can have a hard time even with beautiful parents, because it is hard to see ahead of time how genetics will favor the new litter. It is even harder to breed on courage or fearless dogs. You can not predict the outcome. It is therefore that nobody has ever been able to breed a genetically perfect Police dog.

Bouvier trainers and Bouvier lovers have the same dog but they have different requirements for the dog and form two different groups. l don't know if these groups will ever get together. The trainers don't think that show Bouviers have a good character and believe they are dogs that are scared. The other group finds the training Bouvier undependable. Neither of the two opinions is totally true.

The Bouvier did not get known for his beauty but for his good character. First as a herding dog and later for it's excellent work as a police dog, which yielded the show Bouvier.

At the moment he is very popular as a domestic dog because of his good nature. Because there is a lot of breeding by people with hardly any experience the Bouvier is not really as good looking as he should be, but this doesn't seem to bother their owners.

Veterinarians find the Bouvier an easy dog to treat.

Training a Bouvier is a sport and sole hobby for many and it takes a lot of time and dedication.The dog needs to be housed and fed which can cost a fair amount of money.

The police force is dependent on the dogs trained by sport trainers. For them the certificate is very important. Bouvier are sought after for their imposing stature which seems to deter criminals.

Training a Bouvier to be a Police dog is done but it's not a process that is short. The Bouvier is strong willed and will rebel and not give in that easy He is not a servile dog and not all Bouviers are interested in working. The domestic Bouviers are less trained , less disciplined, and this can be a problem in training them to become a police dog. It seems that dogs that spend their days in a kennel or run are more eager to be trained as they enjoy the outing and are willing to please more. While training this dog he is extremely happy to do good and loves to be rewarded. When work is their only relaxation he is more than willing. The down side is that when the dog doesn't want to train the punishment needed is more severe. Bouviers suitable for this kind of training are not the nicest dogs, but once they learn something they never lose it. They just take more time and patience.

Lately there has been a need again for utility dogs. They can be found at large sporting events to help keep the public from getting out of hand and as guard dogs for large companies. These dogs can get a certificate with the K.N.P.V.

Four year old Paula, owner Th. Jansen, became in 1978 the first champion in "object guarding". When she was two years old she passed the K.N.V.P. certificate test, a year later got a diploma for police dog. Paula is very gentle with Mr. Th. Jansens' grandchildren and is a Bouvier to be proud of.

( caption under photo of Paula sitting between three children on page 308 : "Paula, born 1974, N.H.S.B 747137, breeder/owner Th. Jansen,Father Brunno of Emmazicht,Mother Dona of Mereveld, POLICE DOG but also friend of children." Other photos show Paula doing attack work quite dramatically. )

The certificate

This is given by the Royal Dutch Police Dog Association and called the K.N.V.P. certificate.

In order to join a K.N.V.P. test the owner or trainer has to be member of this society. The dog taking the test should be between 21 and a half inches and 27 and a half inches from shoulders to floor. He should have good teeth and coat and meet all the criteria for a well built healthy dog. Pedigree dogs are mostly wanted. Requirements for owner and dog will follow so you can see for yourself what they are. It is very important that owner and dog form a good unity as it is their joint efforts that get the job done.

There are three judges who divide the judging amongst themselves. Independently they judge the achievements of the dog and give them marks : 5-excellent, 4-very satisfactory,3-relatively good,2-insufficient,1-not finished or very bad

All dogs that participate have to do the exercises in the same order. First the males, then females and finally the females in heat.

The judge gives directions to the helper (dressed in a leather padded suit) and the dogs trainer. The rules for this are decided on and revised every five years.

During the test food will be left all over the test area.The dogs are not allowed to touch it. A leader sees to it that the test is conducted in a smooth and eventless way. It is strictly forbidden to use electronic devices to correct the dog. A person can be disqualified immediately. Rowdy or uncontrolled behavior by the trainer can result in taking away points.The way the dog is controlled by its handler is also a the test and is seen as a different part of the test.

The minimum amount of points for part one is 40 . If the dog fails this part it is excluded from the test. Rightly so as a police dog should be well under control by his handler at all times.

The 3rd test requirers the following :

Tracking is hard for the dog and exciting for both handler and public : will the dog find the man ? The dog has 7 minutes to overgrown piece of terrain for a person or object . Once he finds this he should bark loud. The dog is not allowed to leave the person or object but should guard it until the judge gives the sign to the handler to join his dog. If this test should go wrong, the dog saw a rabbit and chased it instead of tracking or the handler forgot to mention the dog could not be trusted, than the points are not given for this test.

The test with the gun demands a great amount of courage, chasing and aggression on the part of the dog. The dog are not tied up to begin this test.

Every test is graded on different subjects with 0 to 5 points. They are :

Stopping a man using a gun is tested in this manner At about 100 meters a man in a padded suit is hiding. At the judges mark he comes out, shoots in the air and flees. The judge then gives the sign to the handler who says " stop police, don't move" He repeats this one more time making sure the judge has heard it.The dog should stay at the starting line during all this. Only when the judge gives the signal to release the dog is he allowed to follow the man. The handler should stay at the starting line until the second shot is fired. At this moment he is allowed to move 25 meters toward the dog and has to drop out of the dog's sight. Once the dog is 25 meters removed from the man in padded suit he will fire in the dog's direction and move away again. The dog is not allowed to show fear and has to stop the man.Should the dog in grabbing the man miss one point will be deducted, unless he instantly grabs for the man again.Once the man is stopped he has to guard him. His handler from 25 meters away has to give the command " let go" once. More then once will cost points. Once again the handler has to drop out of sight during which time the man can decide if the dog is guarding him in the proper way. The manner in which the dog chases and his fighting spirit is very important. If the dog doesn't get a good mark for this test all the other tests will be marked lower and as a result the dog will not be awarded 18 points.

Stopping a man holding a stick is even harder. When the dog is 25 meters removed from the starting line a shot will be fired. Only after the shot is fired can the handler run after the dog. The man in the padded suit at first will be clearly visible to the dog but after the shot he will move out of the dog's vision. When the dog is 25 meters removed from him he will suddenly reappear, flee and than turn around screaming and waving a stick.Sometimes he will even hit the dog with the stick. Some dog's will avoid the stick the first time, but the man will attack again. The dog is not allowed to show any fear for the stick and is supposed to grab the man in order to make him not flee. The worst thing for a handler is a dog that gets scared by the man or a dog that doesn't guard well enough but instead goes to his handler who is standing a little further away. One needs a great deal of self control not to show disappointment in the dog. It is sad that the dog did so well during the day and many handlers are sure their dog will make it. But dog's sense the tension a handler feels for the test and the dog will sometimes react differently.A dog is not a machine but a living being after all.


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site author Pam Green copyright 2003
created 8/29/07 revised 8/29/07
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