Dogs have always played an important role throughout the history of warfare, perhaps never more so than in the Great War when one breed of was all but wiped out, writes Frances Bevan.
The Bouvier des Flandres was first bred by the monks at the Ter Duinen monastery in Flanders, by crossing local farming dogs with imported breeds such as Irish Wolfhounds and Scottish Deerhounds to create a working dog with boundless strength and stamina. They were used on the Belgian farms to herd and protect cattle and to pull small carts.
During the Great War the Bouvier des Flandres were employed in their thousands on the Western Front. These intelligent, easy to train dogs were used in the trenches as both messenger and rescue dogs, able to drag wounded men to safety and to haul supplies.
By the end of the war the Bouvier had almost disappeared, but thanks to a small group of enthusiasts began a selective breeding programme in the Netherlands and France to re-establish the breed.
In World War II the Bouvier yet again proved its worth on the battlefield although according to legend Hitler was responsible for almost exterminating the breed for a second time. The story goes that Hitler was considering establishing the Bouvier as the official guard dog of the Third Reich when one bit him. The dog was shot and Hitler supposedly ordered that all Bouviers were shot on sight.
Closer to home dog behaviourist and puppy trainer Janet Garrett who runs Janet’s Puppy Skool in Haydon Wick, has owned Bouvier des Flandres for more than 15 years.
“I have had all sorts of breeds of dog over the years but Bouviers are the closest to my heart,” said Janet who owns Gus an 8 year old black male, Mack a 2 year old blond male and Riff a 6 year old blonde female.
“I love their loyalty, their big brains and trainability, their temperament, their size and the way they look after me. All mine are trained to assist and will pick up anything I drop or bring me something I need.”
Janet is not alone in her enthusiasm. Bouviers are still earning their keep and can be found worldwide working for the police, as guide dogs and also in the military.
Find out about Janet’s Puppy Skool