One of the things about the Bouvier des Flandres breed that is often overlooked by people who don’t have them is that they were bred to herd cattle. (Most people who work Bouvs these days use them to herd sheep.) But that heritage has left the breed with some interesting traits. There is nothing a Bouv likes better than herding, and they’ll herd anything. Kids, other dogs, ducks, you name it, they’ll herd it — whether you want them to or not. My previous Bouv, who’d never had a toy before she came to live with us, herded her dog toys. She kept them in a big pile, and if you moved one or tried to get her to play with it, she’d gently take it away from you and put it back in the pile. I kept waiting for her to lay on it like a dragon on its treasure, but she never did. She lay beside the pile and guarded it in case one of the toys made a break for it.
Dawg, on the other hand, herds people. Anyone he can, of course, but mostly us. He’s never happier than when we’re both in the same room, but if someone (me for example) gets up and, say, heads toward the bathroom, he follows and tries to cut me off before I can get away. If I do manage to “get away”, he follows me and stands there the whole time, staring, looking very sad, knowing that his “herd” has been broken. There’s no such thing as a closed door in our house because he’ll butt his head against it until the stray person opens the door. He has to be with me (or whoever left the herd). I warn visitors that they have to use the upstairs powder room if they want any privacy from the dog. The stairs have a kiddie-gate on them to keep Dawg downstairs. Upstairs is Kat’s domain.
Dawg and Kat get along, in a weird sort of way. Dawg tries to herd Kat; Kat laughs and runs up the stairs. Dawg gets frustrated and lies on the bottom step, staring longingly at the gate. I don’t know if he’s trying to figure out how to open it or if he knows it takes opposable thumbs and is wishing he had some.
Bouvs have another odd distinction. Because cows don’t like being herded by dogs (they think wolves are after them), cows kick at stuff that gets behind them. Because the arc of the hoof leaving the ground is upward to an impressive height, Bouvs dodge the kick by dropping flat on the ground. They also do it whenever they’re startled. All four feet go straight out to the side and they imitate an instant bear rug.
Oh, that reminds me — Bouvs make good apartment dogs because they don’t mind sleeping 23 hours a day if you don’t have anything better to do. Yep, they’re lazy if they’re not working. So apartment Bouvs tend to gain weight around the middle. And that weight shifts side-to-side when they walk, out of time with the feet. If you’ve ever seen a bear walk fast, that’s exactly what a Bouv looks like (or a sheepdog — same issue). Which I guess is why so many people name their Bouviers “Bear” … or maybe it’s the haircut.