The Dogue, like all modern members of the mastiff family, is descended from the earlier bear fighting, boar hunting, and war dogs that have lived with people since at least the time of the Roman Empire. At one point there were three variations of French Mastiff; the Dogue is the result of a standardizing of breeding of French Mastiffs.
The first standard for the breed, Le Dogue de Bordeaux was published in 1896. A second standard was published in 1910. The breed underwent a further standardizing process in the 1960s, which culminated in a new written standard in 1970/1. The latest standard modification was completed in 1993.
The modern Dogue is one of the shorter, physically dense members of the mastiff family. The Dogue is meant to be an athletic and powerful dog, although in the house they are not overly active. Moderate exercise works for a Dogue once they are physically mature; puppies are of course more energetic.
One of the Dogue’s trademark features is the heavy head with upper lips that droop down below the bottom jowl. Dogues drool. The heavier the face and more profuse the jowls the more drooling one can expect. This is not a bred for people who appreciate a fastidious dog feeding/drinking area. Face it, when a dog has that much face in the food, the food and water are going to get a rather liberal spreading. A post-eating wipe down of the Dogue’s face may be called for.
Long used as a guard dog, the Dogue is watchful without being unduly aggressive. This breed is known for a loving, loyal temperament; very devoted to their own people; naturally suspicious of strangers, and behavior that is unusual within their environment. Dogues were designed to be neither aggressive nor fearful and should be as balanced in temperament as they are supposed to be in physical build (except for the head of course.) The head has been compared to a lion’s head.
Dogues should never have a black face mask – this is considered a sign of inbreeding/influence from the English Mastiff family. They may have white markings on the chest; earlier members of the French Mastiff family would sometimes have considerable white markings, including white legs but these extensive white markings are not part of the modern Dogue standard.
With their unique faces, muscular build, and faithful personalities the Dogue is enjoying growing popularity. As happens whenever a breed becomes more popular, the number of members available through rescues and shelters also increase. For a breed that is still sometimes referred to as ‘rare’, there are a surprising number of Dogues and Dogue mixes available for adoption.
If one is looking for a big loving dog, whose appearance alone will make sure no one walks into their house uninvited, then this is certainly a breed worth considering. The great thing about Dogues is, this isn’t just another dog with a pretty face – these are canine companions who usually have a heart of gold.