Dogues de Bordeaux

Most of us first encountered the Dogue de Bordeaux at the movie theater in 1989 when the breed stole the movie "Turner and Hooch" from star Tom Hanks. Since then, the imposing dog has made headway into people’s hearts and homes. He’s related to the Mastiff and is characterized by a massive head, muscular body and a serious expression on his deeply wrinkled face. His personality ranges from aloof to outgoing and comical. The Bordeaux is a guardian breed with a fighting history, but these days he’s primarily a companion and show dog.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The DDB is vigilant and courageous, loving and devoted, but he's not an easy dog to own and should not be the choice of a first-time dog owner. He is strong and stubborn and requires strong leadership, firm and fair training, and early, extensive socialization. Without them, he can become aggressive toward other dogs and impossible to handle by an inexperienced owner.

This is not a breed that can be chained up in the backyard. The Bordeaux loves his people and always wants to be with them, so expect to share your couch and bed with him. Because he is brachycephalic --short-nosed --he is sensitive to extremes of heat and cold. Keep him in air-conditioned comfort. He can die quickly if left outdoors or exercised in the heat of the day.

Slothful and calm unless his services as a guardian are needed, the DDB has a low activity level and is content to snooze the day away, with the occasional break for a short walk or brief playtime. Get him a basketball that he can chase and toss around. The DDB is also seen competing in agility and weight pulling, and some are therapy dogs.

With young children, the Bordeaux is loving and protective, and his laidback nature means that he's unlikely to send a toddler flying. That said, no dog of any size should ever be left unsupervised with children. The Bordeaux can also get along with cats and other dogs if he's brought up with them from puppyhood.

Thanks to his short coat, the DDB is easy to groom. Once a week, brush him to remove dead hairs, and wipe out his wrinkles with a damp cloth. Dry the folds thoroughly to prevent skin infections. Check the ears weekly and clean them if necessary, brush the teeth as often as possible, and trim the nails regularly.

Carry a hand towel for wiping his wrinkled face after every meal or drink of water. When he shakes that big head, he slings gobs of drool everywhere. He also sheds heavily, so you'll be spending plenty of time sweeping and vacuuming.

Because the puppies are extremely appealing, be on the lookout for puppy millers and irresponsible breeders. They'll be very happy to cash your check or run your charge card, but not so happy to answer your questions about health testing and temperament in their dogs.

Health Issues Common to Dogues de Bordeaux

Like any dog with a short face, deep chest and giant body, the Bordeaux has health problems. He is susceptible to heart and orthopedic problems, gastric torsion (bloat) and heatstroke. The breed has a tragically short lifespan of only six to eight years, although some are living to ages 10 and 11. Common causes of death in the breed are cancer, primarily lymphoma; dilated cardiomyopathy and aortic stenosis; and bloat. Many DDBs have functional hip dysplasia, an improvement from the days when many members of the breed were crippled by the condition, but still a concern.

At a minimum, expect a breeder to show proof that a puppy's parents have OFA-certified hip and elbow scores of Excellent, Good or Fair, or a PennHIP score that ranks in the top 25 percent of the breed, plus OFA certification of heart health. Really great breeders will show OFA certifications for shoulders, patellae (knees) and thyroid, as well as certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. A DNA test for canine multifocal retinopathy, an inherited eye disease, is available for the DDB.

The Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America has a Healthy Stars program recognizing breeders who obtain various health certifications for their dogs. Its website includes a list of requirements and breeders whose dogs have earned them.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Elbow Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$4,000
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat) High $1,500-$7,500
Cardiomyopathy Medium $500-$1,500
Aortic Stenosis Medium $500-$1,500

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Dogue de Bordeaux Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Dogues de Bordeaux. Look for your puppy elsewhere.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Dogue de Bordeauxs aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out.

Puppy or adult, take your Dogue de Bordeaux to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Dogues de Bordeaux

Pet insurance for Dogues de Bordeaux costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Dogues de Bordeaux are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Dogues de Bordeaux are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Dogue de Bordeaux is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.