DOGUE DE BORDEAUX: Breed Information
The Dogue De Bordeaux, Bordeaux Mastiff or French Mastiff or Bordeaux dog is a French Mastiff breed. The Dogue de Bordeaux is one of the most ancient French breeds. Bordeaux are very powerful dogs, with a very muscular body. The breed has been utilized in many different forms, from using their brawn to pull carts or haul heavy objects, to guarding flocks and used to protect castles of the European elite. The Dogue de Bordeaux was known in France as early as the fourteenth century, particularly in southern France in the region around Bordeaux. Hence, the city lent its name to these large dogs.
The Dogue De Bordeaux is a well balanced, muscular and massive dog with a powerful build. The Dogue’s size should come mostly from width and muscles, rather than height. The body of the Dogue de Bordeaux is thick-set, straight top-line and a gentle rounded croup. The front legs should be straight and heavy-boned, well up on pasterns, down to tight cat like feet. The straight tail begins thickly at the base and then tapers to a point at the end. It should not reach lower than the hocks. The tail is thick at the base and tapers to the tip and is set and carried low. The breed is to be presented in a completely natural condition with intact ears, tail, and natural dewclaws. It should be evaluated equally for correctness in conformation, temperament, movement, and overall structural soundness.
The breed standards specify a minimum weight of 100 pounds (45 kg) for a female and 115 pounds (52 kg) for a male. There is no formally stated maximum weight, but dogs must be balanced with regard to their overall type and the conformation standards of the breed.
The massive head is a crucial breed characteristic. The Dogue de Bordeaux is claimed to have the largest head in the canine world, in proportion to the rest of the body. For males the circumference of the head, measured at the widest point of the skull, is roughly equal to the dog’s height at the withers (shoulders). For females the circumference may be slightly less. When viewed from the front or from above, the head of the Dogue forms a trapezoid shape with the longer top-line of the skull, and the shorter line of the underjaw, forming the parallel sides of the trapezoid. The jaw is undershot and powerful. The Dogue should always have a black or red mask that can be distinguished from the rest of the coat around and under the nose, including the lips and eye rims. The nose colour in red masked dogs should be brown, in black masked dogs this must be black. The muzzle should be at most a third of the total length of the head and no shorter than a quarter of the length of the head, the ideal being between the two extremes. The upper lips hang thickly down over the lower jaw. The skin on the neck is loose, forming a noticeable dewlap, pendant ears top the head, but should not be long and houndy.
The standard specifies the coat to be ‘short, fine, and soft to the touch’. Color varies from shades of fawn (light, coppery red) to mahogany (dark, brownish red) with a black, brown, or red mask, although the red mask is true to the breed.
As with other large breeds of canine, the life expectancy of the Dogue is fairly short. According to data collected by the Dogue De Bordeaux Society of America the average lifespan of the breed is 5 to 6 years. The oldest dog in the record was 12 years old. The Society is actively recording dogs that are 7 years old or older to celebrate the longer-lived dogs.
Because of their brachycephalic head, they can be affected by breathing problems. Some may be heat- and exercise-intolerant as a result. The FCI standard considers excessive shortness of breath and raspy breathing in the Dogue a severe fault. The brachycephalic head shape can also encourage ectropion—an outward rolling of the lower eyelid— which can lead to conjunctivitis (eye inflammation) and bacterial infections.
Aortic stenosis is a disease of the heart valve in which the opening of the aortic valve is narrowed. Symptoms include exercise intolerance, exertional syncope (fainting from physical exertion) and sudden death. One study suggests a high predisposition in the breed. No severe cases were found in adult dogs, and most moderate to severely affected dogs died before one year of age, leading the authors to speculate that the disease is more severe in the Dogue than in other breeds.
Another heart problem in the breed is dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently. Some affected dogs may die suddenly without showing any signs of problems. Others may die from congestive heart failure after several weeks or months. Affected dogs are often euthanized at an early stage to avoid suffering.
X-rays submitted voluntarily to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals shows that more than 50% of Dogues in the database are affected by hip dysplasia. A small number of dogs may be affected by footpad hyperkeratosis, a thickening of the footpad and sometimes nose.
The Dogue has a mean litter size of 8.1 puppies. The breed has a high stillborn and early neonatal mortality rate. Excluding stillborn and early deaths, the mean litter size is 6. UK Kennel Club data shows that 27.8% (5 of 18) of Dogue litters were delivered by caesarean sections
Grooming the Dogue de Bordeaux is easy if you have the right tools for the job. Dogues have extremely short coats, an occasional rubdown with a grooming glove designed for short-haired dogs will help to remove dead hair or skin from the Dogue’s body.
One specific challenge when grooming the Dogue de Bordeaux is the problem of its wrinkled face. It’s important to bathe the Dogue on a regular basis–or simply to wash its face–in order to clear out any dirt that may be trapped in the folds. This will help to prevent any skin infections or irritations and keep the Dogue healthy.
Although one wouldn’t necessarily think it (given the Dogue’s massive size), the Dogue de Bordeaux doesn’t require a great deal of exercise in order to stay healthy. Quite the reverse is true, in fact–too much exercise during the dog’s first year of life can result in underdeveloped or overstressed bones and muscles, which can result in severe health problems (or even in early mortality.) So it’s wise to restrict the Dogue de Bordeaux’s exercise during its early years, only playing with the dog for perhaps an hour a day.
The energy level of the Dogue de Bordeaux is low when compared with its potential power and strength, and this should be respected when exercising even adult Dogues. One or two walks (or more) per day should be considered a given, but can for older dogs also often be considered sufficient. Giving the Dogue free reign to run and play is also a good idea if you have the space for it.
If you do give the Dogue free reign at any point during outdoor exercise, it’s important to be careful to look out for other dogs or other threatening animals in the vicinity–although the Dogue de Bordeaux is slow to anger, it has a reputation (and a genetic history) as an extremely fearsome and dangerous fighter, and you certainly don’t want to put that reputation to the test with someone’s helpless pet. As a rule, the Dogue de Bordeaux won’t fight animals that it perceives as smaller or weaker than it, but it equally won’t hesitate to fight larger dogs or even other Dogues. (Fortunately for you, not many animals that you’re likely to see in a suburban or even lightly-populated rural area are going to be much larger or stronger than your own Dogue de Bordeaux.)
You’ll need to train your Dogue de Bordeaux extremely well for one simple reason: a male adult Dogue de Bordeaux can easily weigh upwards of one hundred and fifty pounds. This limits the amount of control anyone can have over a dog!
Surprisingly (given the Dogue’s size and strength), active physical training should be kept to a minimum until the Dogue reaches adulthood at about one year. This is for a practical reason: all large dogs are especially susceptible to joint problems (hip dysplasia in particular), and the more active a large dog is in its youth, the more likely its skeleton is to develop problems in its adulthood. So it’s wise to focus the young Dogue de Bordeaux’s training on more basic commands (heel, sit, and the like), and only later to introduce more complex tricks or other athletic training.
Positive methods should generally be relied on when training the Dogue de Bordeaux (or any breed of dog), but a few negative methods can be effective for curbing the Dogue’s natural enthusiasm. The Dogue thrives on human companionship and tends to view being left alone as a punishment for bad behavior. If you feel that your Dogue is not responding well to training and continuing in extremely undesirable patterns of behavior, you can simply leave the Dogue on its own for some space of time. Ideally you should do this in a place without many breakable objects or targets for vengeful destruction, but the Dogue de Bordeaux’s sense of honor and shame will most likely prevent it from causing any havoc in your absence, and with any luck the old negative behavior pattern will be significantly less strong as a result.
More excitable negative methods, however–in particular shouting or striking the dog–should definitely be kept out of your training repertoire. While the Dogue de Bordeaux is as a rule a fairly calm breed, its instinctual history of fighting and protection can come into play very quickly when the dog feels threatened–and with the dog weighing in at more than one hundred pounds, this can lead to serious problems for you. Loyalty will more than likely keep the dog from actually harming you, but negative methods will cause the dog to lose a great deal of its respect and sense of authority, two things which are vital to any successful training effort. Instead, remain calm and consistent in training, relying on positive methods far more often than negative, in order to see results.
And remember to be patient–although the Dogue de Bordeaux is intelligent, his fairly low energy level may make it unwilling to devote long periods of time during a single training session to master a command or trick. So training sessions should be kept short–perhaps an hour at most–and should if at all possible dovetail into general play, exercise, and companionship in order to keep the dog’s attention and to create bonds of respect and affection. Even with these shorter training sessions and this lower energy level, the Dogue de Bordeaux will eventually catch on and be willing to obey.