or Belgian Sheepdog is a name that can actually apply to four distinctive dogs including the Groenendael, Malinois, Tervuren, and Laekenois. Each one is similar in general appearance and size but coat, colors and even the length of hair is very different.
All four dogs have a solid, muscular body and a very intelligent appearance. They have alert, triangular ears and a slightly tapering muzzle. The front legs are parallel to each other and the back legs are powerful and muscular. The tail is long and slightly curved to create an arch just at the back hock. The colorations and coat variances with the four breeds include:
Groenendael – solid black, moderately long straight double coat
Malinois – short, thick coat, fawn to tan with black mask, ears and legs. Some white acceptable.
Laekenois – wiry, medium coat in fawn to mahogany with black
Tervuren – medium to long straight coarse hair in browns and grays with some black, some white acceptable.
Temperament of the Belgian Shepherd
Belgian Shepherds are a very loyal and intelligent breed that love to be with their families. They are highly motivated to work and will become bored if not challenged with activities. Easy to train, they can become somewhat timid if not socialized properly or if trained using harsh methods. They respond very well to positive praise and attention. They are good guard and watch dogs and can be excellent family pets with children if properly socialized and trained. They are naturally wary of strangers and may not respond well to other children. The breed often goes through a stubborn or timid stage around the age of two years, and will require constant socialization at that time.
Grooming & Shedding
The shorter haired Malinois breed requires regular brushing with a pin brush, but the other three breeds require a bit more brushing, at least on an alternate daily basis to keep their longer, thick coats free from tangles and debris. There tends to be a problem with mats forming between the pads of the feet so the feet should be checked regularly and the hair kept well trimmed at all times. The dogs will shed their coats completely twice a year and are average shedders.
History of the Belgian Shepherd
The four different breeds, although not all officially recognized in all registries, originated from various mixings of the herding and guarding dogs used in the areas in and around Belgium. As the breeds became more distinctive there were efforts made to recognize each of the four variations as separate breeds. The all black Groenendael, named after the kennel that originally bred the breed, is universally recognized as the Belgian Shepherd or Belgian Sheepdog. It has been used a police and military dog as well as a companion, herding dog and watch dog.
Health Issues of the Belgian Shepherd
Major Concerns: none
Minor Concerns: epilepsy, eye problems, skin allergies