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Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff) Dog Breed Information: Facts, Traits, & More

Thinking of welcoming a Dogue de Bordeaux into your home, but aren't sure if they are the right fit for your lifestyle? In this breed guide, we examine all aspects of the French Mastiff. You'll learn about their living conditions, temperament, nutritional requirements, lifespans, puppy costs, and more!

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: June 29, 2021 | 18 min read

Dogue de Bordeaux Outdoors

The Dogue de Bordeaux happens to be one of the oldest breeds of dog to come out of France. They are sometimes called the French Mastiff, as “Dogue” means “Mastiff” in French. The French Mastiff is a giant dog breed, which is very much apparent by just looking at them! They have large heads and a great tendency to slobber; this can be quite endearing.

Like most Mastiffs, the French Mastiff has very good protective instincts and can guard your home like the best of them.  However, these dogs are actually very sweet and can be quite docile when socialized properly. They are also incredibly devoted to their families. They will be happy both protecting the home and snuggling up with you. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more steadfast dog anywhere else!

Are you looking for more information about the Dogue de Bordeaux? You’ve come to the right place! This guide will outline everything you need to know about this massively spectacular canine. We will go over this breed’s history, temperament, and appearance. You’ll also learn about all the different areas of care they will need in their life. Let’s jump in!

Breed History

French Mastiff in Water
French Mastiffs were originally bred for many different purposes.

Much about the Dogue’s history has been lost to time; it’s difficult to determine their true origins in their storied past. It’s interesting to note that this breed was not known as the Dogue de Bordeaux until the 20th Century. Even still, this breed’s history goes back as early as the 14th Century, around the French region of Bordeaux– where they got their name. This is so far back that France was not even France yet! This makes this breed the most ancient breed of France.

Some sources surmise that the DDB was developed over thousands of years with French native dogs. Others suggest that the Tibetan Mastiff, along with Spanish dogs contributed to the breed’s development. Still, it is believed that DDBs come from the lineage of Bulldogs, Bullmastiffs, and Mastiffs. As previously mentioned, “Dogue” is French for “Mastiff”.

For some centuries, this dog came in two size varieties: the larger “Dogue” and the smaller “Doguin”. The latter breed disappears from history in the 18th Century, leaving us with the French Mastiff we know today.

Breed Uses

This breed has worn many hats throughout their colourful history. They are presumed to have guarded vineyards and farms. They were also used in the hunt, and hunted down bears, wolves, and boar. This breed is part of the molosser group of dogs, characterized by intimidating size, intimidating looks, and great strength.

Unfortunately, for this reason, the breed was used in fighting rings against bulls and bears. Past this stage, the DDB had a stint as guard dogs for the estates of the aristocracy. It’s for this reason that they experienced a decline during the French Revolution.

Many of these dogs were lost after their owners were brought to the guillotine. Thankfully, the resilient breed achieved resurgence because of butchers who found them useful for driving cattle. This gave them the nickname “the Butcher’s dog”. They also found work guarding flocks and pulling carts.

Early Years

In 1863, they first appeared at a French dog show. From here, they were re-bred until their numbers stabilized. The Dogue’s development continued until finally, in 1910, a standard was written for the breed.

While peril would strike them once more because of the two World Wars, the French Mastiff was kept alive through the work of enthusiasts who wanted to preserve the breed.

Present Day

The first dogs were brought to America towards the end of the 1950’s. However, they wouldn’t receive widespread popularity until 1989 with the movie Turner & Hooch, starring Tom Hanks and a very lovable French Mastiff named Beasley.

In 2008, the breed received recognition from the AKC, in the working breed category. As of 2020, Dogue de Bordeaux is the 71st most popular dog in America. Their popularity continues to grow today. If you’d like to help boost this amazing dog’s popularity, be sure to register your dog with the AKC!

Temperament

Dog Standing in Tall Grass
This breed is known as a gentle giant, and gets along well with both family members and other pets.

As far as personality goes, the breed has a lot to offer with their careful vigilance and deep love for their family. The AKC describes them as “loyal, affectionate, [and] courageous”– which sums the breed up quite well! They may seem intimidating with their giant bodies, but the Dogue has a very soft heart.

The French Mastiff is hardly ever aggressive and can be gentler than other Mastiff dogs. They love being around their family and will always be ready to make them smile. However, the Dogue has a bit of a stubborn streak, which can make them difficult to handle if you aren’t an experienced dog owner.

These pups have plenty of need for structure in their lives, and will require a firm and confident master. Still, their sweet personalities make them a good choice for a variety of families, as long as you can keep up with them– and their drool!

In the Home

French Mastiffs are excellent family pets. They do great with children, and are very patient around them, provided they are socialized properly from an early age. The same holds true for other pets.

However, it is still important to supervise interactions between this dog and other members of the family, especially smaller children. Given their powerful size, it’s very easy for them to topple over anybody if they aren’t being careful. This is why training them from an early age is highly important, so they learn to behave appropriately.

Since this breed has a lot of affection to give, it’s no surprise that they are quite sensitive. They can take being left alone as punishment, so be sure not to leave them by themselves for too long. This helps curb destructive behavior caused by separation anxiety.

This breed has a great track record as protectors of the home, and will make a great guard dog. They do not bark as often as a lot of other breeds do, though, so keeping watch should go to a more vocal member of the family.

When given enough time to be introduced to new people, the Dogue is polite and friendly. They are always happy to make new friends. Their eagerness to please their owners make some a great candidate for work. If you live in a more rural area, they’ll be happy to help you postcards and even take care of the livestock. These adorable dogs also make surprisingly good therapy dogs!

Size and Appearance

Giant Dog in Field
Although smaller than their English cousins, French Mastiffs are still considered a giant breed.

There is absolutely no denying it, this breed is massive! These dogs are classified as giant size, which is frankly very apt. Males stand at 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder, while females are smaller at 23 to 26 inches tall. These dogs are very heavy, with males weighing anywhere from 120 to 145 pounds, while females weigh 99 to 130 pounds.

These dogs have huge heads  that are broad and angular, albeit a bit short in height. Their faces are covered in wrinkles and excess skin that gives them their characteristic grumpy appearance. Their eyes are oval and set wide apart, with a frank expression. They can be colored hazel to dark brown if the dog has a black mask, while lighter eyes are tolerated for dogs with brown masks or without masks at all.

Their muzzles are powerful and broad, albeit short in length. Their noses are also broad with wide nostrils, and are self-colored according to the mask. They have thick, droopy upper lips and strong jaws with an undershot bite. Their jowls are what give them their drooling abilities!

This breed has a powerful body to match their massive head. They have very strong, muscular necks that are almost cylindrical in shape. These are broad at the base and flow smoothly into the shoulders. The withers are well marked, and the topline is almost perfectly level, with just a slight dip before the withers.

Their chests are deep and broad, hanging lower than the elbows. Their tails are very thick at the base and taper down to the hocks. They have shoulders that are muscular and sturdy. Their forelegs are also quite muscular; the hindlegs are the same, allowing for a good running speed. AKC standard describes the Dogue’s gait as being “free and supple”.

Coat and Colors

Two Big Dogs in Snow Outdoors
The DDB only has one standard color, although it can be varying shades of that color.

It may not be apparent from just looking at it, but the French Mastiff has a very soft coat. It is fine and short, as well, at the same length throughout the body. However, these pups shed a fair amount, which makes them ill-suited for allergy sufferers.

The Dogue is self-colored, which means they only have one uniform color all throughout. They come in varying shades of fawn, which is a light yellowish tan color. The AKC standard describes the coat as coming in a dark red fawn to a light fawn.

You may occasionally see a Dogue with small white patches on their forechest, pasterns, and toes, though the AKC doesn’t prefer this. They can also have darker coloration on the face, called a mask, that comes in either black or brown. This mask isn’t widespread and does not reach very far across the skull.

Exercise Needs

Dog with Toy on Beach
DDB’s do not need only moderate amounts of exercise each day.

These gentle giants do not need a lot of exercise, which is a good thing for busy families. Still, like all dogs, their exercise needs should not be neglected, as they will always need some form of activity. This is especially true because they are large dogs. Giving them a daily walk of 30 minutes to an hour each day will be more than enough for them to feel content.

In order to prevent destructive tendencies stemming from boredom, always try to give your Dogue something to do. Playing games with them, as well as giving them toys can really help to keep them content.

It’s worth noting that this dog is prone to orthopedic problems, and as such should not be vigorously exercised until after they are 18 months old. Low impact exercise is required for Dogue puppies; they should not be allowed to run up and down the stairs or jump from anything higher than their back.

Swimming can be a great low-impact exercise for these pups at any age. Take care not to overexert your dog as they may develop difficulty breathing, given their short noses. Allowing them to pace around in a well-secured yard is a safe activity, provided it’s not too hot or cold outside. It’s important that your yard is well fenced in because they still have a prey drive and may run after smaller animals, thus getting lost.

Living Requirements

Dog Behind Fence in Yard
Given their size, a fenced-in yard is a must for the French Mastiff.

Given the size of this breed, it’s not very feasible to expect them to live happily in a smaller dwelling or apartment. Without ample space to move around, the Dogue can end up knocking things over! Provided your home is spacious enough, the breed can adapt to it well– even in urban settings! They do not tend to bark very much, so you will have little trouble with the neighbors.

This breed does not tolerate anything more than mild weather very well. They cannot be in extreme heat or cold, and even something slightly above mild may be uncomfortable to them. Always keep your dog indoors regardless of the weather. If it is cold outside, it’s a good idea to give your dog a sweater when going out for a walk.

This can be especially cute given the Dogue’s tough exterior! Indoors, ensure that your heater is working properly. In the summer months, be sure to keep your dog in a well-shaded area, and give them lots of water to prevent them from overheating. Air conditioners and fans will also be beneficial to your dog at these times.

Training

French Mastiff in Training
French Mastiffs need to be trained from a very early age.

Training your Dogue de Bordeaux should begin from the moment they are brought home. Begin with obedience training and leash training. Doing this as early as possible will help curb any stubbornness that may manifest.

This breed is prone to being willful and headstrong, but at the same time, they are very sensitive. For this reason, you should always have a gentle approach to training. You must be firm and confident, but never harsh and unkind. These pups take mean behavior to heart, and may quickly grow resentful of their trainer if they aren’t treated well.

The best way to get your dog to behave is to treat them well. Giving them positive reinforcement is the best way to go about training them, as this provides an incentive. Pets, praise, and treats are always welcome, and may just be the ticket to helping your dog understand what you need from them.

Training is critical. This is a very strong and hefty dog. You must teach them how to behave when on a leash, so you don’t end up being walked instead of walking them! This goes similarly for some of their socialization; these dogs can topple people over with very little effort, so they must be taught to behave properly in social situations.

Exposing them gently to people, animals, places, and situations will help them become well-rounded dogs. This also curbs shyness, anxiety, and aggression. Combining socialization with their obedience training will help prevent mishaps. For puppies, it is a good idea to enroll them in a puppy kindergarten class, so they can learn to behave appropriately around other dogs.

Health

Happy Dog Drooling Outdoors
These pups have a shorter lifespan, as with most giant breed dogs.

Since they are a giant breed of dog, the French Mastiff, unfortunately, has a shorter lifespan than many other dogs. They are also prone to various health issues, so take care to ask your breeder what your dog has been screened for.

Responsible breeders will do orthopedic and cardiac screenings for this breed, as they are prone to ailments in those areas. The breed typically lives only around 5 to 8 years. However, by taking care of their health, you can extend the time they have with you, in addition to giving them the best quality of life.

Since your dog is going to be susceptible to illness, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to be prepared.  We have listed three of the most common conditions this breed is most likely to develop. while they may not develop any of these illnesses, it’s always good to be informed. This way, you will be able to report to your veterinarian in the soonest possible time in order to get treatment underway.

Hip Dysplasia

Given their size, it may be possible for your Dogue de Bordeaux to develop hip dysplasia. Responsible breeders will always screen for this disease, so be sure to ask your breeder about the chances of your dog developing this disorder.

Hip dysplasia is a condition where the dog’s thigh bone does not fit properly into their hip socket. This can lead to degenerative arthritis, as well as lameness. This is a very painful condition for your dog, and as such, must be addressed immediately. Signs of hip dysplasia include limping, irregular posture, and a strange way of walking. Veterinary treatment will likely include anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and weight loss if your dog is overweight.

Heart Disease

There are a few different heart diseases that your Dogue may be prone to. One of them is dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. This is a condition where the dog’s heart becomes very large, thin, and weak, and thus cannot pump blood to the body properly anymore. Symptoms of this disease include tiredness, fainting or collapsing, labored breathing, and coughing. This can be treated with medication and dietary supplementation.

Another condition is aortic stenosis, where there is a partial obstruction of blood flow as it leaves the heart, thus requiring the heart to work harder. These will have similar symptoms to DCM, so be sure to bring your dog to the vet to discuss treatment options. With sufficient care, your Dogue will be able to live a normal life despite these ailments.

Gastric Torsion

Since they have very deep chests, Dogue de Bordeaux are prone to developing gastric torsion, or bloat as it is more commonly known. This is a serious medical condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.

Gastric torsion occurs when the stomach and intestines become distended with gas, and then twist. Since the dog is unable to vomit, their blood pressure drops, and they go into shock. Some signs of gastric torsion include retching without vomiting, restlessness, a distended belly, and excessive drooling.

Fortunately, bloat is easy to avoid. It occurs when your dog eats too much and too quickly, drinks too fast and in excess, and exercises too soon after eating. You can prevent bloat by giving your dog appropriate amounts of food and water. For their safety, only allow them to exercise if an hour has passed since their last meal.

Nutrition

Puppy Looking at Food Bowl
French Mastiffs need to be fed an age-appropriate dry kibble, especially as puppies.

Ensuring your dog’s health begins with giving them a proper, balanced diet. Good nutrition is the foundation for good health in all living creatures, and your dog is no exception! Proper nutrition is what gives your dog the growing power necessary to develop a healthy body in their puppyhood.

Puppyhood is definitely the most important developmental stage of any dog’s life. Adult and senior years will have a different focus when it comes to nutrition. Instead of growth, we now look to maintaining health and overall vitality. It’s important to nourish the body they spent a lot of time growing when they were puppies!

Since there are so many different types of food available on the market, shopping can be a confusing endeavor. Thankfully, the most convenient kind of food to give your dog is also the best. All-natural, dry kibble is not only easy to give your dog but is also complete with all the balanced nutrients required for good health.

It’s no secret that this is a big dog breed. Big dogs eat more food than smaller dogs; and these pups can devour 50 pounds of food in a month! It’s important to monitor their portion sizes. Deciding this will depend on a few different factors, namely: age, size, and activity level.

If your dog is more active than other dogs of their breed, they will need to eat more food in order to make up for the calorie deficit. DDB puppies need giant breed nutritionally dense kibble to help them grow up healthily. Their portion sizes will change drastically as they reach adulthood.

Adult dogs need more food than their puppy counterparts, though it need not have as many calories this time around. Seniors need lots of protein in order to keep their muscles strong, so you should ensure they get the required amount, despite them eating less than the other life stages.

Grooming

Big Dog Getting Bathed
These pups need regular grooming and need to have their skin and fur well dried after bathing sessions.

It is unfortunate that the breed is not hypoallergenic. Like other Mastiffs, this breed sheds a good amount. You can keep their shedding in check with a rubber curry brush, or a shedding blade. Take care to brush them a few times a week, if not daily. This helps keep the coat shiny and will have your Dogue looking their best!

It is a good idea to give your dog a bath once every 4 weeks. You may increase the frequency if it is necessary, like when your dog has rolled around in the mud. Use warm water and mild dog shampoo, and take care to rinse well so that no soap residue remains.

Dry your dog thoroughly; this is especially important for Dogue de Bordeaux. They drool very often, and will need to be kept clean with a good wipe-down. Their wrinkles will need special attention each day, cleaning and drying them so that no bacteria grows and causes an infection. In between washes, wiping your dog down with a towel can help them look and smell fresher.

You should clean your dog’s ears regularly to help prevent infection. Using a cotton pad and ear cleaning solution from your veterinarian, wipe at the visible parts of your dog’s ear. This will remove excess debris and wax.

Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly can help prevent dental problems and heart disease. Use a special toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for dogs, and try to brush a few times a week. Be sure to trim your dog’s nails at least once a month in order to prevent splitting, cracking, and injury.

Grooming can be stressful for both dog and human, but it doesn’t need to be this way. It should be a bonding experience for you and your DDB. Take care to soothe your dog into enjoying the grooming process. You can make this as easy as possible by employing basic obedience commands and a gentle touch.

Breeders and Puppy Costs

Puppy Playing with Ball Outdoors
Purebred puppies will cost around $1,000 and up from a reputable breeder.

Adopting your Dogue de Bordeaux from a reputable breeder is a great idea. However, the operative word is “reputable”; do lots of research before you select a breeder!

There are many unscrupulous breeders who run puppy mills, where there is no consideration given to the care of the dogs. Profit is the only thing kept in mind. Conditions in these places are unclean and unsafe, with little access to fresh air, food, and water. Avoid these breeders at all costs and do your research thoroughly!

On the other hand, there are many breeders who truly have utmost respect for the animals they raise. These breeders will be more than enthusiastic about the breed, and will be very eager to show you where the puppies live.

Good breeders will also insist for you to get to know your puppy in the weeks before bringing them home. This will help your transition to home life be much easier. A good breeder will be happy to answer any questions that you have about your puppy, plus tell you the most important things you need to know about raising your dog. They will also give certification from the vet as to screenings done for illness, as well as any vaccinations and deworming done.

We recommend searching the internet for forums and social media sites for dog lovers who may be able to point you in the right direction of a reputable DDB breeder. The AKC also has a great resource for breeder referrals, so be sure to check there. Purebred puppies cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,750, with show-quality dogs even more costly than that.

Rescues and Shelters

Older Dog on Beach
It’s quite possible to find one of these fantastic pups at a reputable rescue center.

We always advocate for sourcing your pets responsibly. As such, All About Dogs recommends that you first try adopting before purchasing from a breeder. It may be possible to find a French Mastiff among the dogs at the shelter. Many of these dogs are seniors or have special needs who will need the extra care in order to get back to living a good life. This makes them less adoptable than other pets, leading to them staying at shelters longer.

When picking out a dog to rescue, ask the staff everything you need to know about your new furry friend. Understanding every bit of them, especially their temperament and special needs, will help give you a head start on providing the best life possible for the newest member of your family.

Dogs from a shelter are going to be more sensitive than other dogs. Your new rescue dog may be frightened and distrustful, so be kind, gentle, and patient with them. Remember that this is a temporary situation and that you can show them the love that they actually deserve.

Be sure to introduce them to other members of the family slowly. Allow them to get to know everybody at their own pace; this will help them feel safe. Accommodating their needs will allow them to get back to their special selves in no time at all.

As Family Pets

  • Dogue de Bordeaux are very large dogs.
  • They require plenty of space in the home.
  • DDB’s will not be comfortable in cramped places.
  • The breed needs a lot of structure in their lives.
  • They benefit best from an owner who is firm, confident, and can take leadership.
  • French Mastiffs do not do well in extreme weather.
  • This means they shouldn’t be left in the heat or the cold.
  • French Mastiffs are not hypoallergenic.
  • However, giving them a thorough brushing a few times a week will help with shedding.
  • They are affectionate and sweet.
  • Their love for human companionship can make them prone to separation anxiety.
  • They are good with children.
  • They can also do well with pets as long as they are socialized early on.
  • French Mastiffs will need to be trained as soon as they get home for the first time.
  • They can be stubborn, so early training can mitigate willfulness.
  • They drool excessively, so you’ll need to wipe them frequently.
  • You’ll need to accept that your furniture and clothes will be caught in the slobber.
  • French Mastiffs have plenty of wrinkles that must be cleaned and dried in order to prevent infection.
  • They may topple people over when they are excited, due to their size.
  • They do not need a lot of exercise.
  • Young dogs should not engage in strenuous exercise until they are 18 months old.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has shed enough light on the magnificent, regal Dogue de Bordeaux. These dogs have come a long way from being pets of the aristocracy. From their rich and storied past to the dignified present, these dogs have always been excellent companions and colleagues.

While there will always be some difficulty in raising a new dog, we believe that this slobbery giant is more than worth it! This breed is marked by its incredible devotion, so be sure to return that devotion with all the love and care you can manage.

Dogue de Bordeaux are incredible, valiant, sweet dogs who will be more than happy to accompany you on all of life’s adventures. Ensure that you make the journey count by helping them live their best life possible. With the knowledge from this guide, you should be well on your way to fulfilling all of your dog’s wants and needs. With a face as adorably wrinkly as theirs, you will very quickly find your Dogue drooling their way into your heart.

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