When I was a kid, I saw the movie Turner & Hooch, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Especially if you are a fan of Tom Hanks, it’s a nice family friendly film. The basic premise is that Tom Hanks is a police officer, and he ends up working with this dog. From the moment the dog first appeared on screen, I knew I would own one some day. How could you not love one of these:
Ok, maybe it’s just me then… but I think they’re awesome. This is a Dogue de Bordeaux, a.k.a French Mastiff. Their history is mostly speculation, and they almost disappeared entirely, but because of the good work done by Raymond Triquet in the 1960s a new standard was written and the modern day DDB was born. An exceptional guard dog, fiercely loyal, not aggressive, good with children and other pets, doesn’t require a lot of exercise… what more could you want?
I had mentioned to a coworker that DDBs were my favorite dog and I wanted to get one some day. Not long after, his Mom happened to stop by Pet Smart and one of our local dog rescue organizations, Saving Grace Pit Bull Rescue, was there… and lo and behold they happened to have a young Dogue de Bordeaux. He gave me a call and let me know and my wife and I immediately headed down there.
That’s where we found Jemma, she was extremely skinny, could see every rib. Turns out the rescue hadn’t had her long, she had just gotten spayed and hadn’t had a chance to gain any weight yet. Seems the previous owner had surrendered her because she had heartworm and they couldn’t afford the treatment, so Saving Grace got her healthy again. She was in a crate next to a female boxer, and they were snarling and barking at each other something fierce, but as soon as they got her out of the crate and let us take her for a walk around the parking lot she calmed down and we got to see how she really was. I immediately wanted to take her home, but we already had Huckleberry the Beagle so we had to make sure they were going to be compatible.
So we ran back to the house and got him and brought him back to the event and proceeded to let him meet Jemma and then took them on a walk around the parking lot. They seemed to get along famously, so we filled out the paper work to adopt her immediately. Here’s a couple of pictures from the day we brought her home, you can see how skinny she was. She’s already small for a DDB, but I think she only weighed around 60 pounds in these pictures.
The rescue was not sure how old she actually was, but they guessed around two years. She was already house trained, and knew some commands… you could tell that her owner took care of her at one point. She could sit, lay down, shake hands, and she walks on a leash fairly well. You could also tell that someone had been mean to her at some point as well, she was abnormally afraid of loud noises… to the point that if we dropped something in the house she would jump up and bolt out of the room. She also had an aversion to laying down when you walked near her, she would immediately jump up and back away… if you tried to touch her with your feet she would freak out, which leads me to believe she got kicked quite often.
We had a bit of a mishap the first evening, I had a brain fart and just put two food bowls down to feed both Jemma and Huckleberry, didn’t even think about the fact that this might cause an issue. She put on a good show of growling/barking/snapping at him, but wasn’t really trying to hurt him. We immediately got them separated and we still feed them separately today, but I’m pretty sure at this point he could go over and take her food bowl away and eat it right in front of her and she wouldn’t blink an eye.
We keep the dog crates in the kitchen, that’s where they sleep at night… on that first night, Jemma just was not having it. She immediately started making the most pathetic whining noises… I don’t know if she was scared, or lonely, or just wanted to be close to us. The only way we could get her to stop was by moving her crate into our bedroom. This is when we discovered just how loud DDBs snore…. I’m pretty sure she can rattle windows. The next night we moved the crate to the doorway of the bedroom, the following night into the hallway, and the night after that into the bedroom across the hall. By that point she was comfortable and we were able to put it back in the kitchen and she has been fine ever since.
We got her probably 3 months after we got Huckleberry, so he was still a puppy at the time. I’m pretty sure she thinks she is his mother because they are now inseparable. If we take him to the vet or groomer by himself and leave her behind, she just goes crazy until he’s back with her. Watching them play together is fairly hilarious, even though she is over double his weight now she is submissive to him and will fall down and roll over on her back to let him win during their exchanges. Sometimes the two of them really remind me of Spike and Chester:
It took right around a year for her to become a normal dog and realize we weren’t going to try and hurt her. These days I could drop a cookie sheet right next to her and let it clatter around and she won’t even open an eye, and she also allows us to get close to her when she’s laying down, and even pet her with our feet as we’re walking by. I have learned that DDBs are extremely stubborn, if she doesn’t want to do something, she is going to do everything possible to avoid it… but at the same time, they don’t want to displease you, all I have to do is add a little note of disappointment to my voice the way you would when scolding a child and she will acquiesce.
Having owned one now, I don’t think I could ever not have one again. She is an excellent guard dog, I can tell by the tone of her bark whether she is playing, just barking at a person walking by, or wants our attention. I’m fairly certain she has kept our house from being broken in to on at least 2 occasions. You can literally tell when she is guarding, she will sit down with her ears forward and seem to be staring into space, but she is hearing every little thing happening. While she is a big dopey mastiff, and would generally just prefer to laze around and take naps, she is also beguilingly quick when necessary.
Originally the rescue told us that she was not good with other female dogs, as evidenced by all the growling/snarling/etc with the female boxer that was next to her at the event. I don’t think that is the case though, I think she had just really had a tough time for awhile and was trying to protect herself and her territory, she had become a product of her environment. These days, I trust her 100% with any other dogs, cats, babies, etc…. I don’t think she would hurt a fly, unless she thought it was trying to hurt me or my wife. We board them at a local kennel occasionally and they tell us that all of our dogs get along great with other dogs, so they get to stay out in the play area all day every day. It’s funny when we take her out for walks, or to Pet Smart, people are scared and will cross the street or go down other isles in the store to avoid us. Meanwhile, if I was going to be afraid of one of them it would be Huckleberry, he’s a bit of a grumpy Gus and will occasionally growl at us if we disturb his sleep or try to take something out of his mouth… but even he has never so much as snapped at anyone.
Jemma is almost 8 years old now, and has come up to her full weight… she fluctuates around 80-85 lbs, which is around 15-20 pounds lighter than the breed average for a female. She has a snaggletooth, and tends to sleep with her tongue lolling out of her mouth, and she wants nothing more from this life than to be petted non-stop 24 hours a day. To answer the question, no she doesn’t drool like Hooch, she’s a pretty messy water drinker, but that’s as bad as it gets.