Belgian Sheepdog (Belgian shepherd dog groenendael) is one of four breeds that make up the Belgian Shepherd family. The breed can credit its existence to Nicolas Rose, who established the first known kennel of the breed. His foundation pair, Picard d’Uccle and Petite, can be found in the lineage of most Belgian Shepherds today.
The Belgian Sheepdogs are superb working dogs. The dog breed has a very distinct look. All black (or with just a touch of white on the forechest), the dog stands tall, with head up and with pricked ears. The coat is luscious, with a heavier ruff around the neck and a plumed tail wagging slowly. Males are 24 to 26 inches tall and about 55 to 75 pounds; females are slightly smaller.
The Belgian Sheepdog’s coat is long, of medium harshness, and has a very dense undercoat. Although the coat is not prone to matting, tangles can form behind the ears or in the pantaloons. The coat should be brushed at least twice a week, although during the spring and fall, daily brushing can keep shedding under control. This dog breed was designed to work and likes to be active. Daily aerobic exercise is very important—running alongside a bicycle, jogging with you, playing a vigorous game of retrieve, or a quick run through the agility course.
All Belgian Sheepdog puppies should attend a puppy socialization class when they are young so they get to meet a variety of people. Training should be introduced early, in puppy class, and continued through adolescence, as the breed is very intelligent but can also be somewhat independent. Training should be structured yet fair and fun and should keep the dog challenged.
Belgian Sheepdogs are excellent watchdogs, yet are affectionate and loyal to family and friends. They can be good with children, although they often try to herd (circle) and control rambunctious kids. The breed can be good with other dogs and small pets, although these interactions should always be supervised. Health concerns include hip dysplasia, thyroid problems, and seizure disorders.
One reply on “Belgian Sheepdog”
The Belgian Shepherd is an extremely intelligent but challenging breed to live with. Athletic, agile, graceful, and elegant, the high-energy Belgian Shepherd is frequently in motion, often moving in quick, light-footed circles.
This working dog needs a lot of exercise (running, hiking, biking, fetching) to stay in hard condition. Even more important than physical exercise is mental exercise (advanced obedience, agility, herding, Schutzhund, or tracking sports). Belgian Shepherds become bored, frustrated, and prone to obsessive behaviors without something to do. This is a demanding breed who needs ongoing supervision.
Sometimes playing the mischievous clown, yet more often serious, the Belgian Shepherd is highly observant with strangers, typically reserved and aloof, and has strong protective instincts. As such, Belgian Shepherds need more extensive socialization than most breeds so that their watchfulness doesn’t become suspicion or sharpness. Shyness and spookiness are also present in a good number of Belgian Shepherd lines.
Most Belgian Shepherds are okay with other pets if raised together, but dog-to-dog aggression is not uncommon and many individuals have a high prey drive and will pursue anything that moves. Small animals should be introduced with great care and supervision.
Though extremely attentive and responsive to the direction of a confident owner, Belgian Shepherds can nonetheless prove difficult for an inexperienced owner to train.
The four varieties do have slight differences in temperament (though these generalities by no means apply to every individual).
The Malinois, for example, has become a top-notch competitor in protection dog sports like schutzhund and ringsport, and is frequently used by law enforcement as a police dog. Malinois typically have the highest energy level, a much more “driven” personality, and a more pronounced prey/chase drive. Malinois from working lines were never intended to be family pets and can be difficult to live with.
The Laekenois has also proven himself in protection dog sports and needs a confident owner who can control a dominant dog.
Some Tervuren are successful in protection dog sports, but this variety more often competes in advanced obedience and agility (obstacle course). Tervurens vary from high energy to more mellow, from happy-go-lucky to nervous and skittish.
Groenendaels (the black variety) often have a “softer” temperament and a less pronounced working drive, yet plenty of individuals are still top-notch competition dogs.