Dogue de Bordeaux: The Mastiff Breed That Can't Be Exterminated
Cats may have nine lives, but the Dogue de Bordeaux (DDB) has enjoyed at least three lives, having barely escaped extinction twice in its long history.
To get the most accurate facts on this ancient and rare breed that has been resurrected, I interviewed Sharon Sakson, who is an accredited American Kennel Club dog show judge and author of Paws and Effects: The Healing Power of Dogs.
Here is her expert view of the lovable Dogue de Bordeaux and her opinion of why they make happy, dependable, and loyal friends.
War and Hitler Could Not Kill Them
The Dogue survived two brushes with extinction. The favored darlings of the French aristocrats, these dogs enjoyed a pampered lifestyle with their elite owners. When the nobles fell out of favor, however, the dogs did too. The breed was nearly wiped out when they were slaughtered alongside their humans; only a handful survived.
Adolf Hitler made the second attempt at eliminating the breed. Enraged by their loyalty and devotion to their masters, he ordered the dogs killed.1 Once again, a remnant was saved and provided the base stock for the preservation of the breed.
According to the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), the breed was revitalized in the 60s and enjoys a renewed popularity today. According to Sakson, there are approximately 2,000 Dogues de Bordeaux registered with the AKC at the time of this writing.
Facts About the Dogue de Bordeaux You Probably Didn't Know
Here's some fascinating and little-known facts about this ancient and regal breed:
- The breed originated in the Bordeaux region of France.
- Their alternative names are French mastiff, Bordeaux bulldog, or Bordeaux mastiff.
- Ancestors of the breed include: Tibetan mastiff, Neapolitan mastiff, Bullmastiff, and bulldog.
- Dogues belong to the AKC Working group.
- They were originally used for guarding, hunting, and fighting.
- Dogues have a short lifespan of about 8 to 10 years.
- These are massive dogs that stand about 23.5 to 26.5 inches high and weigh from 99 to 110 pounds.
- The coats are various shades of fawn, with red, brown, or black masks.
- Dogues are imposing, haughty, and arrogant but lovable and eager to please.
- Their grooming needs are minimal: just brush the coat regularly, trim their nails, clean their ears and facial wrinkles, and you are done.
- The need for attention is high, and these dogs should be exercised at least twice daily.
- The breed's known health problems are hip dysplasia, heart murmurs, demodectic mange, eosinphilic panosteitis (growing pains), and bloat.
- They have a high intellect with well-developed guarding instincts.
- Dogues are friendly, non-aggressive dogs that love social interaction.
Characteristics of the Dogue de Bordeaux
In spite of their giant size, these are graceful, agile dogs of the molosser (mastiff) type. They are extremely easy going and people oriented. In fact, they endure with patience being dressed in hats and articles of clothing.
Because of their highly developed guarding instincts, however, they require early socialization and obedience training to be good dog citizens. Sakson suggests that owners begin training early as it has been her experience that whatever a dog experiences during the first 5 to 12 weeks of life becomes what it believes for life. She recommends that you take your Dogue puppy with you during your daily routine, and expose him or her to lots of new people, places, and environments.
While they are assertive and confident, they are not aggressive. Their huge ego matches their enormous body, and they may try to dominate or attack other dogs if they feel their “family” is threatened.
An Expert's Point of View
In overall appearance, the head of the Dogue de Bordeaux is rounder than the typical square mastiff head. It is well proportioned with a short, big muzzle, wide nostrils, and rounded drop ears.
The wrinkled face and forehead have a frank facial expression. The jaws are prominent and strong and should meet evenly. The chest is broad and deep with large lungs.
The overall appearance is one of massiveness and strength because of their large bone structure. Their powerful legs end in huge paws. The tail is deep set and carried low. Hooch, the canine actor in the movie "Turner and Hooch", is a Dogue.
My Dogue de Bordeaux expert Sharon Sakson says “They just seem to me to have a happy, clown-like appearance. If you did not know their temperament, you would probably be afraid. However, about two years ago in south New Jersey, I judged over 60 Dogues at the National Specialty Weekend. Without exception, these dogs showed no apprehension or aggression; in fact, a Dogue named Crusader seemed to be grinning at me as he entered the ring.”
Special Needs of This Giant Breed
Gigantic dogs are giant responsibilities in every way. Their chew toys must be heavy duty and sturdy, or the dogs will destroy them easily. They require more floor and yard space than a Chihuahua or smaller breed and cleaning up after them is a bigger job. They eat more, play more, and love more.
The Dogue is predisposed to bloat (a condition where the stomach twists). Sakson describes bloat like this: The stomach gets too much air, swells, and twists on both ends. The twist at the stomach end prevents the dog from throwing up, so he cannot relieve himself. The twist to the intestine prevents him from passing anything and is very painful. Fortunately, bloat is uncommon, according to Sakson.
The best way to minimize the dog’s risk is to feed him two or three small meals each day, rather than one large meal. Avoid exercise for at least an hour prior to feeding time, and do not exercise them for at least two hours after eating.
Specially designed food bowls to force them to eat slowly and gulp less air or a raised food dish are best. Sakson also recommends that owners soak the kibble to reduce the risk of bloat, and allow the animals to rest in their crates both before and after eating.
According to Joseph Janish, author of The Dogue de Bordeaux, these dogs are “very sensitive to anesthesia. A “normal” dose can be lethal.” He recommends that owners of DDB make sure that their veterinarian is familiar with the breed and their hypersensitivity.
The Dogue de Bordeaux Gets Its Name from the Bordeaux Region of France
Why Dogues de Bordeaux Make Great Pets
Sakson mentioned that she plans to get a Dogue in the near future, and I asked her why. Here is her opinion on why this breed is a good choice for an intuitive, delightful companion animal:
- great attitude
- big, but athletic
- protective, but friendly and non-aggressive
- wonderful companion
However, she also stressed that potential owners should consider their living space—the Dogue requires lots of room—and the lifetime cost before getting such a large dog. These dogs also require lots of exercise and daily interaction with their people to stay happy and healthy.
While a mammoth-size dog is not for everyone, for those who make the time and financial investment, the Dogue is an excellent family dog and gives many years of love and friendship.
If you would like to find out more about Sharon Sakson or her work, please visit her website, The Healing Power of Dogs.
References and Sources
- 1: American Kennel Club (AKC)
- 2: The Dogue de Bordeaux, Joseph Janish
- Sharon Sakson, AKC accredited dog show judge and author, telephone interview, 11/20/2010
- The Complete Dog Book, Official Publication of the American Kennel Club, 18th edition
- The Original Dog Bible, edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe
- Dogs: 101 Adorable Breeds, Rachael Hale
Share Your Two Cents!
Please chime in with your opinion on these large and lovable pooches.
Would you consider getting a Dogue de Bordeaux for a pet, or do they seem like too big a responsibility?
Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below.
Questions & Answers
My 7-month-old DDB vomits frequently. Sometimes it's water and soaked undigested food; sometimes it's yellow slime. But after vomiting, he's fine and appears healthy and happy. This happens every other day. Is this normal? My vet said I should maybe try something like Zantac or Prilosec. Is this a sign my dog may have serious digestive issues like megaesophagus or that he will get bloat down the line?
Your vet is in the best position to answer questions like these or have an opinion on your pet's future health.Helpful 6
© 2011 Donna Cosmato