Where can you find more action than the Super Bowl, more hair spray than a beauty pageant and more drama than a soap opera? The annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, of course. The 136th annual parade of pooches begins Feb. 13 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Learn about those pedigreed pups before they strut their stuff, starting with the Bouvier des Flandres.



Bouvier des Flandres began as herding dogs on farms in Belgium. Fans of the breed describe it as a strong, sturdy and extremely loyal canine companion.


“The name actually means ‘herder from France,’ and Bouviers live up to that name,” says Marcia Proud, national director of the American Bouvier Rescue League. “As a herding dog, they are naturally protective. You become their herd and they are going to take care of you.”


During the dog show, you will find Bouviers competing against other notable herding breeds such as Australian cattle dogs, collies and German shepherds.



“They are willful because they were bred to work without human supervision for many of their duties,” says breeder Chris Redenbach, a certified dog behavior consultant and director of Park Training Academy in Tucker, Ga., noting that this protective breed worked as police dogs in Belgium and Holland. To ensure that prospective owners understand the time investment required by Bouviers, she conducts several extensive interviews before people even see her dogs.


“Between being kind of willful and protective, they can be a handful for most people,” Redenbach says.



Bouviers resemble sturdy poodles or giant Schnauzers. Thick, double coats make them popular in northern states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Bouviers also have beards and mantles that fall over their eyes. This combination requires careful grooming and weekly brushing to avoid matting. Since the breed loves to run and romp outside, you may spend a lot of time cleaning and detangling these big dogs.


Also, these are not small dogs. The average Bouvier ranges from 23.5 to 27.5 inches tall and weighs 70 to 110 pounds, according to the American Bouvier des Flandres club. Size and temperament make training imperative, Proud notes. Hours of fetch probably won’t do the trick.


“You have to reward and encourage them in a different way,” she says. “They are not easily satisfied with the repetitive nature of fetching.”


The North American Working Bouvier Association features events that allow Bouviers to flaunt their agility, herding and protection abilities.



Common health issues

If you are considering a Bouvier, the Bouvier des Flandres club offers a breeder referral list. Proud says that prospective owners should ask plenty of questions and request proof that the breeder has conducted extensive health tests. Elbow and hip dysplasia, heart murmurs and glaucoma are known health problems for the breed.


“Ask if you can see the litter of puppies,” she says. “You want to see that they are kept clean and that whatever they are telling you is true.”


Bouviers are scheduled to compete on Feb. 14. For more information about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, visit westminsterkennelclub.org.


Thumbnail photo: Jan Rifkinson/Flickr

Meet the breed: Bouvier des Flandres
Bouvier des Flandres began as herding dogs on farms in Belgium. Fans of the breed describe it as a strong, sturdy and extremely loyal canine companion.