Grooming the Bouvier des Flandres

This section isn’t intended to produce a show prepared Bouvier, but rather to help a new owner manage the challenges of the Bouvier coat without having to resort to the “Often unsatisfactory” grooming parlour. This is not meant in any way to disrespect the many great grooming salons nationwide. Most professional groomers are at the disadvantage that they never meet a Bouvier and almost definitely will not be shown how to groom one during their training, because Bouviers are simply too rare.

I’ve lost count of the “devastated” phone calls I’ve received from new puppy owners who have just collected their puppy from its first grooming appointment and it now looks like a mutant schnauzer.

My best advice if you really can’t face the prospect of grooming your Bouvier yourself, is to arm yourself with as many photographs as you can of “properly groomed Bouviers”. Hand them over with your dog and some strict instructions that you expect your dog to resemble something similar when you return. And most definitely NOT A SCHNAUZER.

Grooming a Puppy

When you first collect your new puppy it should already be well accustomed to the grooming table, brushes, combs, scissors and clippers. The breeder will have trimmed it into a basic “Bouvier Shape”, clipped its ears and skull and tidied its feet, so you’re off to a good start.

At this stage it’s important to maintain the routine of the grooming table. Your puppy over its lifetime is going to spend many hours on a grooming table so it is essential that this is established as a regular and enjoyable experience for both you and your dog, as early as possible.

Neglecting this until your puppy is a big 6 month old rumbustious hairball is disastrous and will resemble a wrestling match with a sheep.

  • A grooming table with a grooming arm is a godsend. Grooming on the floor is a back-breaking and hopeless exercise.
  • A grooming table contains your puppy in a defined space, and a grooming arm with a grooming noose keeps your puppy safe from leaping off at an unexpected moment and seriously damaging itself.
  • 5 minutes daily with a slicker brush and a Poodle Comb just to keep the coat matt free is much better than a mammoth 3-hour session once a week.
  • Approximately once every 2 weeks a gentle rake through the jacket (never the head or legs) with a CoarseCoat King. This will remove loose puppy fluff and assist in bringing the adult coat through.
  • A tidy round with thinning Scissors, following the shape your breeder has already trimmed into your puppy. This will keep your puppy looking neat and tidy.
  • Carefully snipping around the shape of the foot with curved scissor sand between the pads with toe scissors will stop the paws turning into mud collectors.
  • Some hair serum through the beard will deter mats.
  • Trim the hair short and neat around the bottom with curved scissors to keep things hygienic.
  • Clipping of ears and skull once a month with a 10 blade and some decent clippers (not pet store clippers, they’re useless on a Bouvier coat) will keep that “Bouvier Look”.
  • A check of ears and any long stray hairs plucked after the application of Thornit Ear Powder and that’s your puppy grooming routine complete.

Grooming The Teenage Bouvier

For the purposes of this section we’ll call “Teenage” the 8 month – 18 month period, and this is where the work starts.

  • Your teenage Bouvier is now at the “Kevin” stage and likely to be quite naughty and uncooperative at times. ALWAYS use a grooming noose to safely contain your teenager on the table. A sudden leap whilst you’re trimming a hind foot will result in your scissors buried in your eye ball and your Bouvier in an injured heap on the floor.

Every Bouvier puppy reaches a stage when it changes it’s coat from soft fluffy puppy coat to much crisper and easier to manage adult coat and whilst that change takes place its essential that very very regular raking, brushing and combing takes place. Failure to keep removing the puppy fluff at this stage ends up with a matted, felted dog with the feel of a boil washed Mohair jumper. If a coat reaches this stage there is 1 solution and 1 solution only – Total Shave Down. If you are forced to shave you have the prospect of 12 months before your Bouvier grows all its coat and furnishings back.

The best advice during this time is to continue with your very regular grooming routine but  include your Coat King and careful use of a Matt Zapper at every groom. You’ll find you remove small mountains of hair and it will seem a never ending task, but keep at it and the more work you invest now, the better and easier the adult coat will eventually be.

Grooming The Adult Bouvier

By 18 months a Bouvier should have a full adult coat with a nice crisp texture that you can hear when you rub the hair between your fingers. This coat is much easier to manage as it is far less prone to matting.

  • A weekly thorough brush with a slicker brushfirst, followed by a poodle combwill keep the coat in good shape. Line brushing in sections will make sure you get right to the bottom of the coat. Remember you have a double coat and simply brushing the top will leave a very matted dog underneath. Areas to pay special attention to are behind the ears and in the armpits. These are the places most inclined to mat

I like to start at the rear and lift the coat forward in sections, brushing well into the undercoat down to the skin.

Once that is done a good comb through in the direction of the hair growth will remove any remaining knots and loose hair.

Take care on legs, belly, groin and beard not to comb too harshly as you will remove far too much hair, leave a rather bald dog and cause a lot of discomfort.

  • Clip the ears inside and out with a 10 blade, stopping just before the area the ear joins the head (you can blend this area later with thinning scissors)
  • Clip the skull flat from just behind the stop to where the front fold of the ear joins the skull. DONT clip down the sides of the head, you are aiming for a flat skull, not a rounded domed skull.
  • I personally find straight cut eye holes very ugly and clownish. You can trim a much more natural eye brow and eye hole with thinning scissors.
  • The hair between the eyes (the “fringe” or “fall”) should never be cut shorter than the nose. This is a vital part of the “Bouvier Look”
  • All trimming except round pads and around the anus can be done with thinning scissors. This gives a natural look, a good harsh texture and is much more forgiving as its impossible to accidentally cut a chunk in the wrong place.
  • You are aiming for a nice square profile so keep this picture in your mind whilst trimming your Bouviers rear and front. Excess hair in these places make a Bouvier look very unbalanced.
  • Check carefully and trim between between the toes and pads with toe scissors – hidden mats can be found deeply buried in the feet and can be so sore your Bouvier develops a limp !
  • Top line should be straight and level
  • Tails seem to be open to debate, but my preference is for a tidy but full and curving tail. A tail trimmed short just looks like a stick that was attached as an afterthought and doesn’t balance with a coated dog.
  • Once you have trimmed your Bouvier into a suitable shape, a good rake along the top line and jacket with a Coarse Coat King will remove excess undercoat and leave a nice finish. The Coat King will also shorten the coat to some extent and keep a tidy outline. Always use a Coat King with caution, over enthusiastic use can quickly leave big holes in the coat and its possible to catch skin in the blades if used incorrectly.

When viewed from above your Bouvier should have a figure like a curvaceous lady – Hour glass shaped with full curves front and back and a distinct waist in the middle

  • Other than Beards and “undercarriage” there’s rarely a reason to bath a Bouvier. Mud and dirt tends to drop out and brush out once dried and over bathing can soften a coat unnecessarily. If you must bath there is one golden rule –


If a matted Bouvier is bathed without having those knots brushed out first, they become baked in, felted and impossible to remove except by cutting them out.

  • If you plan to bath regularly a blaster / dryer is a must. A Bouvier can take a long time to dry and a human hair dryer simply won’t do the job. A decent blaster not only dries, but also blows dead hair, debris, dead skin and small knots out of the coat.
  • A good blast of a dry coat, with a powerful Blaster, can be an effective coat cleaner / refresher, so definitely a time saver and worthwhile investment.
  • Monthly ear plucking and application of Thornit Ear Powder will keep ears clean and healthy.

A groomed Bouvier should look tidy without being over sculpted.

Compact, Natural, Neat but Rustic” is a good description.

It should have a dense, dry, non glossy jacket, well covered but tidy legs, round feet, neat ears and a well brushed full beard and eye brows. If the hair flaps, flops, ripples or rolls when your Bouvier moves, you have too much hair !!

Most people new to grooming Bouviers have a horror of making a mess of their lovely dog and tend to be over cautious about removing hair, so it’s worth remembering – – –

The Only Difference Between A Good Haircut and a Bad Haircut is about 3 weeks