Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff): Characteristics & Care

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The dogue de Bordeaux is an immense French working dog with a short fawn coat. One of the oldest and rarest dog breeds in France, this mastiff is a muscular, stocky, and well-balanced dog with a massive head. It is sometimes called the French mastiff—dogue means mastiff in French. Despite its powerful appearance, the dogue is quite gentle in demeanor. On the other hand, its intense loyalty makes the breed a highly effective guard dog.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Working

HEIGHT: 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder 

WEIGHT: 99 to 150 pounds

COAT: Short, soft

COAT COLOR: Various shades of fawn, ranging from light to dark red; small patches of white may be present

LIFE SPAN: 5 to 8 years

TEMPERAMENT: Devoted, even-tempered, vigilant, loyal, companionable


ORIGIN: France

Characteristics of the Dogue de Bordeaux

The imposing dogue de Bordeaux is an excellent dog for most households. It can get along quite well with kids, but make sure to be careful when the dog is around small children. A giant dog is not always aware of its size. Overall, the dogue de Bordeaux is an excellent choice if you want a large canine that makes a wonderful protector and companion.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Low
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Dogue de Bordeaux

Though the dogue de Bordeaux did not become eligible for AKC registration until 2007, it is considered one of the oldest breeds in France. While its true origins are not completely clear, the dogue is likely a relative of the bulldog and bullmastiff.

The dogue was classically used to protect, herd cattle, hunt, and bull bait. The breed was historically found in wealthy French homes, but it endured many hardships and attempts at extinction throughout time.

In the 1960s, enthusiasts further developed the breed, leading to its increased popularity. The dogue de Bordeaux is perhaps best known for its lovable role in the 1989 film "Turner & Hooch."

Dogue de Bordeaux Care

The dogue de Bordeaux can have a strong instinct to chase smaller animals such as cats. The breed also may not tolerate another dog in the household, especially of the same sex. While socialization and training can help prevent problems, it may not be able to eliminate the risk.


The dogue de Bordeaux is moderately energetic for its size and needs a proper outlet. Along with training, adequate exercise, such as one long walk or a few shorter walks each day totaling about 45 minutes is very important. However, remember not to overdo it because this large breed dog may be prone to orthopedic problems. Walk the dog at a comfortable, not vigorous pace.

Additionally, the dogue is a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed that can possibly overheat or develop breathing issues. Make sure you have a firm understanding of your dog's endurance level. You won't be able to carry this mega-size dog home if it cannot make it through a walk on its own four paws.


The dogue de Bordeaux has a very short, soft-hair coat that requires little attention. Occasional use of a grooming mitt or glove should be sufficient for coat care.

However, the numerous skin folds on the dogue's face do require routine cleaning to avoid irritation and infection. Because of its giant size, a grooming routine should be established early on so your dog gets used to it. Brushing the dogue's teeth regularly (daily if possible) will help to prevent dental disease. Although the dogue's nails may wear down naturally, check them periodically and trim the nails as needed. Your dog should only need bathing a couple of times per year.


An untrained dog of this size can become utterly uncontrollable. A rigorous training program should be established as soon as possible after getting a dogue. Socialization is equally important. This is, in part, due to the massive size of the breed.

Training french mastiff
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Common Health Problems

The dogue de Bordeaux typically has a shorter life than smaller dog breeds. There are some hereditary health problems that can occur in this breed. Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. Owners can prevent some problems while puppies are growing by not be over-exercising or overfeeding them so that they put on excessive weight.

Here are common health problems to watch for with the dogue de Bordeaux breed:

  • Cancer: This breed is prone to developing canine lymphoma. This type of cancer affects the formation of a certain type of white blood cell. The disease is treatable and the prognosis for the dog is usually excellent.
  • Heart Disease: Many dogs of this breed die from heart diseases, including dilated cardiomyopathy (the heart muscles do not pump or contract properly) and sub-aortic stenosis (when a dog's aortic valve is abnormally narrow).
  • Gastric Dilation/Volvulus: This condition is also known as bloat and stomach torsion. In this condition, gas is produced in the intestinal tract, and the stomach twists, which leads to a medical emergency.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A condition where the hip is abnormally developed, affecting the joints and sockets, and eventually resulting in lameness.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Dysplasia is a genetic disorder that causes abnormal growth of cells in the joints, resulting in the malformation of the joints, pain, and lameness unless it is properly treated.
Dogue de Bordeauxs as Pets

Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Adult dogs need four to seven cups of dry food each day, which should be split into two meals. You will need to take care that your dog does not gulp down a large amount of food at once as that increases the risk of bloat and stomach torsion. Feed the dog twice a day and don't allow free-feeding or exercise for one to two hours after a meal. Have clean, fresh water available.

This breed is prone to food allergies, especially wheat, and you may have to provide a special diet. Luckily, there are good-quality commercial large breed dog foods that are wheat-free.

These dogs can be expensive to feed as an adult male will eat a 50-pound bag of dry food per month. Monitor your dog for weight gain and discuss any needed changes with your veterinarian in your pup's diet, feeding schedule, or exercise needs.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Dogue de Bordeaux

The breed is still rare in the United States and in its native country. It's unlikely you'll find a rescue, but not impossible. If you work with a breeder for a dogue de Bordeaux puppy, expect to pay between $1,400 to $2,500, and a show-ready puppy could fetch up to a hefty $5,000. The best places for your to start your search include the following:

Dogue de Bordeaux Overview

  • Loyal

  • Courageous and protective

  • Affectionate and even-tempered

  • Slobbery

  • Expensive nutrition needs

  • Does not get along well with other pets, particularly other dogs

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think the dogue de Bordeaux is the right breed for you, do plenty of research before you get one. Ask for advice from veterinarians, dogue de Bordeaux owners, breeders, and giant dog rescue groups.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.

  • Is the dogue de Bordeaux aggressive?

    By nature, the dogue de Bordeaux is a vigilant and fearless protector but is by no means considered an aggressive breed. This giant dog breed will do what it takes to defend its family but is generally quite gentle and docile, and even goofy at times.

  • Why does the dogue de Bordeaux drool so much?

    If you are interested in this breed, take note—this dog is a slobbery one. You'll probably want to carry a "drool rag" and duck for cover if it shakes its head. That's likely because it's a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed and all those pushed-in wrinkles and jowly areas tend to collect the dog's saliva.

  • Why does this breed have such a short life span?

    Giant dog breeds generally tend to have a shorter life span than small- to medium-sized dogs. Researchers aren't sure why that's so other than that massive dogs "age" faster since they grow large very fast. But the dogue's large body and deep chest seem to make the breed primarily prone to many heart issues that put its life at risk at an early age.

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