Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Dogue De Bordeaux dog breed French Mastiff
Nick Ridley / Getty Images

One of the oldest breeds in France, the Dogue de Bordeaux is an immense, 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.

The Dogue de Bordeaux is an excellent dog for most households. They can get along quite well with kids, but make sure to be careful around small children. Giant dogs are not always aware of their size. Overall, the Dogue de Bordeaux is an excellent choice if you want a large dog that makes a wonderful protector and companion.

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder 

Weight: 99 to 150 pounds

Coat and Colors: Short coat in various shades of fawn, ranging from light to dark red; small patches of white may be present

Life Expectancy: 5 to 8 years


Characteristics of the Dogue de Bordeaux

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 throughout time.

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

Dogue de Bordeaux Care

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.

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. 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.

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). That being said, 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. An untrained dog of this size can become utterly uncontrollable.

This breed can have a strong instinct to chase smaller animals such as cats. They 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 is very important. However, remember not to overdo it. This large breed dog may be prone to orthopedic problems. 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 dog home it he cannot make it through a walk on his own.

Training french mastiff
elisacicinelli / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Dogue de Bordeaux typically has a shorter life than smaller dog breeds. They most often die of cancer or heart disease, especially sub-aortic stenosis. Another 15 percent die from gastric dilatation/volvulus, 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.

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. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed.

These breed is prone to both hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia is a genetic disorder which causes abnormal growth of cells in the joints. This, in turn, leads, to malformation of the joints, pain, and, if not properly treated, lameness.

To prevent problems while puppies are growing, they should not be over-exercised and they shouldn't be allowed to put on excessive weight.

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 in his diet, feeding schedule, and exercise with your veterinarian.

Pros

  • Loyal

  • Courageous and protective

  • Affectionate and even-tempered

Cons

  • Slobbery

  • Nutrition needs can be expensive

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

Where to Adopt or Buy a Dogue de Bordeaux

The Dogue de Bordeaux Society of America is the best place to start your search for a dog of this breed. They provide a directory of breeders who are in good standing with the club, as well as contact information for a rescue group representative. Dogue de Bordeaux Rescue is another group that is dedicated to the breed and provides leads on adoptable Dogues.

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.