There’s no doubt that the Dogue de Bordeaux (also known as the Bordeaux Mastiff or French Mastiff) has an intimidating appearance that is characteristic of many more aggressive dog breeds. However, despite its big jowls, long canine teeth, gruff face, and muscular chest, this breed is not well-known for being aggressive. That’s not to say they don’t attack, because they do, but, for the most part, they are calm, alert dogs. This is a case in which you should not necessarily judge a book by its cover.
This large French mastiff breed has survived extinction twice and used to enjoy the finer things in life as the preferred breed of the French aristocracy. When the French aristocracy was ousted, the mastiffs were basically terminated alongside their owners—this was the first time they survived, almost being completely wiped out.
These flat-faced dogs were also on Hitler’s list, and the Gestapo was ordered to kill them because of their loyalty to their owners. An ancient breed dating back to the Roman Empire, the Dogue de Bordeaux has pulled carts of animal carcasses from the farm to the butcher shop, protected livestock, and even been involved in competitive dog fighting.
With a history that is actually older than France itself, the Dogue de Bordeaux breed is indeed muscle-bound and powerful. Due to their shortened skulls, they often develop Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. This condition commonly affects short-snouted dogs and makes it difficult for them to breathe.
Just like bulldogs and pugs, the French Mastiff has a life expectancy of just 5-8 years compared to other full-snouted dogs that commonly live up to 12-15 years. Known for being affectionate, protective, sensitive, and stocky, the French Mastiff is a family guardian that can weigh over 100 pounds. Like other mastiffs, it has a wrinkled brow and underbite with a large, powerful jaw. As a guard dog, the Dogue de Bordeaux remains alert, easily detects danger, and is in sync with the owner’s sense of “fight or flight.”
The strong-willed, somewhat stubborn Bordeaux Mastiff becomes attached to his or her owners. Because of their massive size and strong temperaments, they are best with experienced, consistent owners who can manage their size. If properly socialized and well-trained, they can be quite sweet and calm, especially as they get older. The male Dogue de Bordeaux can express dominant tendencies, particularly as they transition into adulthood. At their worst, these dogs can be willful and obstinate, challenging for the role of “leader of the pack.” The breed is not banned for coverage by homeowners insurance policies, but some homeowners associations do have rules against them.
These French Mastiffs have been known to even act in a protective manner towards strangers they encounter, which can create sticky situations sometimes. Again, proper socialization is essential to ensure these big, sometimes independent-minded dogs stay friendly. The more they are exposed to gentle people, the better. If they are isolated, they can grow to be suspicious of every knock on the door, every person passing on the sidewalk, and so on. Others may develop submissive, fearful tendencies if they are isolated too much.
Like many dog breeds, the Dogue de Bordeaux does not like encountering other Dogue de Bordeaux dogs of the same sex. Their instinctive response is quite often that they need to establish a pecking order with the other dog, which means it’s not uncommon to see normally laid-back dogs start growling and snapping, or worse. Likewise, they can even become aggressive with other mastiffs of the opposite sex as well. Clearly, this animal is capable of inflicting serious injury and even killing if it decides to do so.
Many people may not fully understand the needs of a Dogue de Bordeaux before they adopt or purchase one, which can lead to risk for the family, their guests, and their neighborhood. Here are some mastiff habits often overlooked by dog owners that can prove problematic:
Despite having a sweeter disposition than other dogs of their size and breeding, the French Mastiff has one of the strongest bites—more powerful than a Doberman, boxer, German Shepherd, pitbull, Chow Chow, bulldog, or Rottweiler. Take a look at the 20 strongest-biting dogs and how their bite force/jaw strength compare:
A French Mastiff’s bite is twice as hard as a German Shepherd, Doberman, Chow Chow, or pitbull. To put this “pound per square inch” (psi) figure in perspective, a human being’s bite force is just 120-140 psi, and one of the strongest biters alive, the crocodile, has the jaw strength for a 3,700 psi bite.
When these dogs are well-trained, they are typically calm, docile, and affectionate. Because the Dogue de Bordeaux is also tough-biting, sinewy, alert, and stubborn, it requires a proper training regimen followed by a great deal of consistency and socialization. Trainers rate the French Mastiff’s level of trainability as “medium.” Because this dog wants to impress its owner and is generally on the more intelligent side, this can be leveraged to balance out their otherwise obdurate nature. If at all possible, because of how large a French Mastiff can get, start taking this dog to obedience school at an early age.
Remember, when joggers see a burly dog like this out on the sidewalk, they are going to assume the worst and cross the street. If a Dogue de Bordeaux owner doesn’t want everyone they encounter to be scared and stay away, training is key. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to socialize a dog that no one wants to be near. Regular trips to the dog park starting from a young age can go a long way in turning this mastiff into a gentle giant instead of a bully.
A huge part of any dog behaving in an obedient manner is whether they are in a suitable environment. The Dogue de Bordeaux can have a somewhat high prey drive, which means bringing this breed into a house with three cats, two bunnies, a bird, and a hamster can be unwise. Safety first! The prey drive risk can be reduced with proper training and exercise, but it is a lot of work and a huge commitment for the owner.
As a working dog, the Dogue de Bordeaux is open to doing jobs or projects like pulling a cart or fetching a stick. They do not require a lot of treats to be trained properly—praise is usually enough to motivate this dog. Here are some things you need to constantly reinforce when training this breed:
Two highly recommended tricks for training a French Mastiff include turning your back on bad behavior and growling like the puppy’s mom would have when the puppy misbehaved under her care. Responding to a puppy’s hyperactivity with a stern “grrr” sound is very effective and plays off of what the puppy’s mom already demonstrated—bad behavior gets you a nasty growl.
Typically, a puppy only needs to remember the mother’s painful nips that followed her growls to fall back into line upon hearing your growl. Another sound a puppy is already familiar with as well is a yelp. If he bit a sibling too hard during playtime, a yelp cry would cut through the air. Speak in the language the dog already knows with growls and yelps. “Time out” or “Stop that” are not phrases little French Mastiffs are familiar with.
Likewise, another way to “speak” in terms a Dogue de Bordeaux can understand is with body language. If the puppy nips and gets too excited, take a step away, turn your body away, cross your arms, and be still. This calmly communicates that getting too jumpy and hyperactive is not OK. This body posture says, “Your behavior is unacceptable,” much more clearly than wagging a finger at the dog, saying, “Get down! Get down!” or yelling and getting agitated.
There’s no better way to understand the kind of injuries a French Mastiff can inflict than looking at real attacks these dogs have carried out:
From these six examples of real Dogue de Bordeaux attacks, we can see that children are far more at risk, that these dogs have a penchant for freeing themselves from enclosures, and that no provocation whatsoever is needed for them to unexpectedly snap one day. Interestingly enough, statistics reveal that 67% of children attacked by dogs were not with their parents when the attacks occurred. This scenario also clearly plays out in these examples.
The most common injuries sustained in a French Mastiff attack include:
As you might extrapolate from the tragic stories above, the average dog bite victim is a 5-9-year-old boy. This demographic is a whopping five times more likely to be attacked. Experts believe that’s because this age group is often loud, lively, and rambunctious. Not far off from puppy behavior, is it?
Children are often targeted in dog attacks because the dog sees an opportunity to establish dominance and/or because the dog sees the lively, childish behavior as playtime, forgetting that humans aren’t built for rough play like dogs are. We have thin, hairless skin, weak jaws, small teeth, and no claws. Whether a Dogue de Bordeaux has gotten carried away in playing too hard, is trying to establish dominance, or is instinctively responding with its high prey drive, a bite is a bite.
This breed is prone to “play biting” until they reach about two years old. Amongst themselves, a mom French Mastiff or older sibling responds to “play biting” by biting back much harder. Eventually, the puppy will stop biting when it realizes that a play bite has a “punishment” or negative consequence. Usually, by eight weeks, puppies stop “play biting” because they’ve learned their lesson. However, without adequate training, exercise, food, space, stimulation, or socialization, Dogue de Bordeaux can keep on biting.
If you are bitten by one of these enormous French dogs, follow these steps:
In general, the Dogue de Bordeaux breed is not considered dangerous. They may be calm and vigilant and even affectionate and kind. Humans are probably safer around them than other animals are. Nevertheless, they do attack, and when that happens, the New Jersey Dog Bite Lawyers are here. Our firm deals exclusively with dog bite claims, so we know our business. Our team is passionate, dedicated, and experienced. Call us at 866-259-4377 for a free legal consultation or reach out via our web contact form.