Belgian Shepherd Dog

 

For centuries, humans and dogs have been working together toward common goals, be it hunting prey for a hearty meal, or to protecting valuable assets such as property or loved ones.  Regardless of the goal, dogs were trusted human companions well before written documentation of such relationships was possible.  The herding and tending of livestock is one of civilization’s oldest occupations, and dogs have long played a part in this duty.

 

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
X-Large 55-90 lb
LifeSpan: 
12 to 15 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
High Energy
Protective Ability: 
Very Protective
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
May Be Okay With Other Pets If Raised Together
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

Records coming out of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, dating over 3000 years ago, indicate that dogs were kept to tend livestock even at this early time in pre-history. Pastoral themed vases found in Greece suggest that herding dogs were common in that society as well.  These vases often show scenes of the shepherd tending his flock and frequently include a dog assisting him in this task.

 

The Belgian Sheepdog, being of the herding type, therefore has an ancient past.  As far back as Roman times, certain tribes living in the area that would eventually become the European continent kept large herds of livestock.  The tribe of the “Belgae” kept herding dogs mentioned by Caesar in his writings that record the wars of the European Continental area.  The Belgae tribe would lend their name to the country of Belgium, and the Belgian Sheepdog would come about from the need for a highly intelligent dog that was strong in body and character, able to withstand a harsh climate. 

 

In Europe, by the Medieval period and continuing into the Renaissance age, records indicate that it was commonplace that a lord presiding over a larger area, or a village would employ a herdsman to tend the supply of livestock that was the common property of the group.  The “stockdog” as it would be known was an important part of the community.  The dog would assist the shepherd in taking the livestock from their pens to the grazing fields and back, securing their safety and maintaining the livestock in an orderly group during the trip. 

 

As time went on, the stockdog became more refined in skill and appearance.  Belgian Sheepdogs as we recognize them today began to be documented in the 17th century.  A reproduction of a French sketch from that time period is included in the 1923 book, “The German Shepherd in Words and Pictures”, by Von Stephanitz (the creator of the German Shepherd Dog), showing that a breed of specifically Belgian Sheepdogs already existed, as opposed to other types of sheepdogs in the area.

 

The Belgian Sheepdog can also be found in writings the 1700’s and 1800’s; in books produced for those individuals raising large flocks of livestock and considered at the time to be the “gentleman farmer”.  As far west as America, information like this can be found.  George Washington was a serious stock raiser and included among his writings, information about his livestock ventures. 

 

The Sheepdog as a group however, was not considered a nobleman’s dog.  The aristocracy of old Europe did not keep sheepdogs in their kennels, and the breed was not kept by their ladies as pets.  The Belgian Sheepdog was no different.  The breed is a worker and as such was similar in societal class to the peasant.  That being the case, both the Belgian Sheepdog and his master were viewed as insignificant and unimportant.  Therefore, the Belgian Sheepdog is less documented than the breeds of dog that spent their time tending the whims and fancies of the nobility. 

 

Of the documentation that has survived, it is indicated that the Belgian people generally used the method of herding common in France.  Over the course of history, Belgium has been occupied by many different countries.  During these years of occupation, neighboring countries would use their own breeds of shepherd dogs in Belgium to herd.  The shepherd type became generally known as the Continental Shepherd Dog and included breeds such as the German Shepherd, French Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, as well as the Belgian Shepherd.  Finally, in 1831, Belgium was recognized as an independent country. 

 

European Society, and eventually American Society, began to change with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  Railroads were introduced, also factories and other new technologies.  Urbanization spread, leaving many areas of land unsuitable for farming and the raising of livestock.  Many people abandoned farming as a way of life.  Some farmers remained however, and continued in the old way.  Belgian Sheepdogs were still used by these individuals, just as they had been used in years past. 

 

In the late 1800’s, Europe saw a rise in nationalism. Many European countries desired to have a national dog breed specific to their homeland.  These countries began developing breeds to precise standards that would separate them as belonging to one country or another.  In Brussels, on September 29th 1891, the Club du Chien de Berger Belge (CCBB) or the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club was formed. 

 

Later, in November of 1891, Professor Adolph Reul of the Curegham Veterinary Medical School, gathered 117 specimens of shepherd dogs from the surrounding areas to examine them; with the goal being to decide whether a specific breed could be found that was unique to the region.  He determined that sufficient uniformity existed between the specimens to verify that fact that there was indeed a native shepherd type in the region that displayed generally consistent physical characteristics. However, he also noticed some variance in coat type, texture, and color based upon the specific region of the dogs development.  In 1892 a breed standard was created and issued for the Belgian Sheepdog, also called the Belgian Shepherd Dog.  The standard recognized the varieties as: dogs with long coats, dogs with short coats, and dogs with rough coats. 

 

The dogs used in the study were categorized by these physical variations and called by names alluding to the area from which they are most commonly found or where the variety was bred.  The long coated black variant would be known as the Groenendael, the long coated fawn colored variant would be the Tervuren, the short coated fawn color would be called the Malinois for the area of Malines, and the short rough coated variant is named the Laekenois for The Chateau de Laeken, a royal residence where the variety was preferred.

 

The CCBB first petitioned the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert (SRSH), Belgium’s equivalent of the American Kennel Club (AKC), in 1892 to have the Belgian Sheepdog recognized as its own unique breed.  The CCBB was denied this first request, and the breed had to be further developed and become more firmly established before the Belgian Sheepdog would be recognized by the SRSH.  This recognition finally occurred in the year 1901. 

 

With the dog show phenomena gaining in popularity, Belgian breeders wanted to compete with neighboring countries and as a result, they began to abandon “herding” as a requirement for the Belgian Sheepdog.  Their focus changed to qualities such as appearance, for which the dogs might do well with the show judges.  Because of this, the Belgian Sheepdog breed split into two types; the long haired dogs were used more often in the show circuit, and the short haired type generally continuing on as working dogs. 

 

A man named Nicolas Rose, of Groenendael, is credited with the establishment of a kennel which would produce the foundation of today’s black Groenendael variety.  At this time, there were still herding trials being held for the Belgian Sheepdog.  Louis Huyghebaert, a member of the group promoting the Malinois variety argued that these types of trials were inappropriate as there were very few sheep left in Belgium to herd.   Huyghebaert challenged the herding trials being held for the Belgian Sheepdog by the CCBB.  He suggested that there were three attributes that were necessary to a dog breed of the shepherd variety; these being the ability to excel in obedience trials, a high level of intelligence, and intense loyalty.

 

Because of Huyghebaert’s challenge, new trials were developed for the Belgian Sheepdog.  These trials would test the Belgian Sheepdog’s abilities and skills; such trials would include exercises like leaping over obstacles that are high or long and swimming, as well as obedience tests.  Until this time, the Belgian Sheepdog had always been praised as an excellent herding breed, but with the results of these new trials, it became clear that the Belgian Sheepdog was so much more.

 

The Belgian Sheepdog became known as a resourceful dog, able to be trained easily and of a high intelligence when it came to learning.  When it became evident that this versatile breed was able to be taught to perform well in many different duties, interest in the Belgian Sheepdog grew.   The breed would soon find a new job to excel in, far beyond the pastoral duties for which it was so highly valued in the past.

 

The Belgian Sheepdog was the first dog breed to be used in police work, by Belgian law enforcement officers.  In March of 1899, three Belgian Sheepdogs were introduced into service alongside officers, in the city if Ghent.  In the early 1900’s, Belgian Customs Officers would take the dogs along as border patrol; their ability to assist in the capture of smugglers was greatly praised.

 

The Belgian Sheepdog made its first appearance in America in 1907, when a dog of the Groenendael variety arrived there.  By 1908, the Paris and New York police departments were using the Belgian Sheepdog amongst their patrol officers.  Police dog trials began to be held, and Belgian Sheepdogs and their handlers began to win prizes regularly.  As the popularity of these trials grew, more and more prizes would be won by the impressive Belgian Sheepdog.  From 1908 to 1911, a Groenendael called Jules de Moulin with its handler M. Tedesco, would win the World Champion title at trials.  In Belgium, a Groenendael by the name Polo won the first tracking trial held there.  The Groenendael and Malinois varieties were the more popular of the Belgian Sheepdog types, and they began to appear around this time, in the stud books of such countries as America, Canada, Switzerland, Argentina, and Brazil.

 

In 1912, the AKC recognized the Belgian Sheepdog as a distinct breed, which encompassed all four varieties of the dog.  These first Belgian Sheepdogs to be registered with the AKC were imported by a man, native to Belgium, named Josse Hanssens of Norwalk, CT.  The Malinois were sent to be bred at a Guttenbrg, NJ kennel by breeder L.I. De Winter. The Groenendaels were sent to a Mr. Harris of Long Island, NY.  The lineage of Belgian Sheepdogs currently being registered with the AKC does not lead back to these first four members of the breed imported into America.  The European ancestors of those imports do however show up in the pedigrees of some currently registered Belgian Sheepdogs.

 

With the onset of World War I (WWI), the Belgian Sheepdog found a further calling in the service of man.  The Belgian Sheepdog was put to work in a number of varying capacities in the war effort.  The breed proved itself to be an asset to the military and was known to excel at the duties of carrying messages across the battlefields, carrying luggage and equipment, and as Red Cross/Ambulance dogs.  Some Belgian Sheepdogs may have even been tasked with the duty of pulling machine guns into battle.

 

Because of their successful service in WWI, the fame and popularity of the Belgian Sheepdog grew a great deal.  The Belgian Sheepdog had firmly established a reputation as a hard-working, brave, strong, and loyal companion.  AKC registrations reflected this sentiment.  The Belgian Sheepdog was ranked in the top 5 AKC dog breeds by the end of the 1920’s. The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA) was formed in 1924.  Soon after its inception, the BSCA became a member club of the AKC, for the breed.

 

In this same decade, the AKC began to recognize that the Belgian Sheepdog had two distinct varieties.  The Groenendael name would be assigned to all Belgian Sheepdogs with long coats, of any and all variant in color, and the short coated Belgian Sheepdog would be known as the Malinois.

 

Following WWI, the Great Depression would take its toll on America.  Its destructive effects would not only devastate an entire nation, by it would leave little time or resources for the breeding of dogs.  During this time, the BSCA disbanded.  After the Great Depression, the numbers of Belgian Sheepdog registrations was so low that the AKC removed the breed from the Herding Class at the 1930’s and 1940’s dog shows, and placed it into the Miscellaneous breed class.   World War II (WW II) continued to wreak havoc on the West and little interest in the Belgian Sheepdog was evident in America during this time.

 

After the Great Depression, and both World Wars, people began to make progress.  Survival was no longer the only concern, and as governments and individuals began to recover from the devastation, their former ways of life slowly returned.  There was again time for their old hobbies and interests; this included dog breeding.  Breeding of the Belgian Sheepdog resumed, and registered numbers of the Groenendael variety began to grow.

 

By the 1940’s, all registrations of Malinois with the AKC had ceased.  That would change when John Crowley imported two Malinois and began his “Nether Lair” kennel.  He began to show his dogs and interest in the Malinois variety was again established.  Several more kennels were created for the breeding of Belgian Sheepdogs of the Malinois variety. 

 

In 1947, Rudy Robinson started a kennel called “Candide”, a Groenendael kennel created to breed and promote the Tervuren (non-black long coated) variety of the Groenendael.  With the increase in registration numbers, and a growing interest in the differing varieties that the Belgian Sheepdog displayed, a second Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1949.  Further importation of Tervuren Belgian Sheepdogs occurred in 1953 and 1954.  By 1958, with a Championship title won by Tervuren import, D-Jimmy du Clos Saint-Clair, these imported dogs began overshadowing the American-bred Groenendael Belgian Sheepdogs.  Despite Robinson’s efforts to popularize the Tervuren variety, the new BSCA did not look fondly on these imports.  The BSCA argued that the imports were not historically well documented and were of foreign decent, making their acceptance by the club difficult to secure. 

 

The AKC breed standard for the Belgian Sheepdog had not been altered or adjusted since first established in the 1920s, it only allowed for the Groenendael and Malinois varieties at the time.  Because of the recent show success of the Tervuren variety, some Groenendael breeders and enthusiasts suspected and accused Tervuren owners of interbreeding the two existing varieties to produce the newly successful variety.  These Groenendael breeders began to petition the AKC to separate the breeds.  They protested that each variety of the Belgian Sheepdog was separate and distinct; perhaps not even variations of one breed, but completely unique breeds of their own.

 

In response to the petitioning of the Groenendael breeders, the AKC sent out a questionnaire to owners of registered Belgian Sheepdogs to determine their opinion on the subject.  The AKC sought to gather information as to the breeders’ thoughts on conformation standards and whether inter-variety breeding was acceptable.  In July 1958, the AKC received the results from the surveys and the Board of Directors voted to separate the varieties.  The Groenendael kept the name “Belgian Sheepdog”.  The Malinois and the Tervuren had the term “Belgian” added to the beginning of their names, thus distinguishing the three varieties as separate and all originating out of Belgium.

 

The name was not the only change, further changes would occur within the Belgian Sheepdog community as well.  The BSCA maintained its name and its position as supporters of the Groenendael variety.  In 1959, Bob and Barbara Krohn started the American Belgian Tervuren Club (ABTC).  The Belgian Malinois was still rare in numbers at this time.  The AKC approved three distinct breed standards for the Belgian Sheepdog varieties by the summer of 1959.

 

Although always a popular breed itself, the Groenendael variety would soon see a rise in the popularity of its rival varieties.   In the last few decades, the Tervuren boasts more consistent success in obedience and conformation tests than any of the other Belgian Sheepdog breeds; and the Malinois has continued to receive attention and notoriety for its work and contributions in the law enforcement field.   The Malinois has even been deployed to work in the military field, with such assignments as patrol assistant and bomb detection.  The Malinois has also had success as a search and rescue dog.

 

In 2010 a further distinction was made in the breed standards of the Belgian Sheepdog.  The Laekenois variety is thought to be the oldest and rarest of the Belgian Sheepdogs.  The AKC decided to distinguish the Laekenois as its own variety of Belgian Sheepdog, with its own breed standard.  It was not however, recognized as a completely separate breed, as the other three varieties are.  With the addition of the Laekenois, the total varieties of Belgian Sheepdog was settle at four, each unique, and each with its own breed type. 

 

The history of all four types of Belgian Sheepdog is more closely tied to one another than it is separate.  Each variety developed and evolved throughout time alongside the others.  In many countries, including their native Belgium, the Belgian Sheepdog has remained four variations within a single breed.  However, the AKC is not alone in its recognition of the dog as separate breeds; the Australian National Kennel Club and the New Zealand Kennel Club also recognize the Belgian Sheepdog as separate and distinct breeds.  The 2010 AKC list of most popular dog breeds ranks the Belgian Sheepdog (Groenendael variety) as 116th, the Belgian Tervuren as 108th, and the Belgian Malinois as 76th.

 

Appearance: 

 

Stout, and of medium size, the Belgian Sheepdog is well proportioned.  It carries itself proudly and with grace.  It is a strong and genial dog; adaptable, able to spend extended time in the elements and built to withstand the ever changing and difficult climate of its native Belgium.  With a reputation for its harmony of form, the Belgian Sheepdog is known for its stately appearance. 

 

Although the Belgian Sheepdog has been separated into distinct breeds by the AKC, all varieties share the same basic musculoskeletal structure, and many physical characteristics.  The variations in the breed are mostly found in the coat and coloring of the individual.  Characteristic of the breed is its square and proportional frame.  With its height at the withers being between 22 and 26 inches, and the length of the body being roughly equal to its height, the Belgian Sheepdog is agile and is able to move quite gracefully for a working dog.  The average weight for the Belgian Sheepdog is 45 to 65lbs.

 

All varieties of the Belgian Sheepdog breed have a head that is moderately long and chiseled, with a softly flattened forehead.  An unpronounced centre line leads to a squared, but slightly tapered nose that is black in color and possesses open nostrils.  A modest stop, and cheeks that are well muscled are also evident in the Belgian Sheepdog breeds.  The eyes of the Belgian Sheepdog are dark, brown in color with black rims; soft and almond shaped, with a direct and enquiring gaze.  The ears are upright, straight and pointed, triangular in shape and set high on the skull.  The wide mouth has strong jaws with thin but firm lips.  The teeth are strong and should display a precise scissors bite.

 

Developed to be a herding dog, with surprising stamina and a predisposition to be involved in fast activity, the Belgian Sheepdog was intended to be strong, enthusiastic, and hard working.  To that end, its body structure certainly suggests such goals in its breeding.  A slightly long but supple neck leads into well boned, strong, and distinct shoulders.  The forelegs are straight and long.  The Belgian Sheepdog’s body structure is commanding yet elegant. The chest and abdomen create a harmonious curve on the underside of the body. 

 

The breed boasts a straight topline with ribs that are well sprung in its deep chest.  The Belgian Sheepdog has powerful hindquarters that are well let down and impressively muscled.  The feet of the Belgian Sheepdog are dense, and well padded with dark claws and tight, close toes.  The Front feet are round in shape with the back feet having a faintly oval shape.  The moderately long tail is set firmly on a strong base.  When the dog is active the tail should be lifted with the tip carried just above the line of the back.  Never curled or held to one side; when the dog is standing the tail should simply hang down and possess a small curve just at the tip.

 

The coat is where the Belgian Sheepdog varieties split in appearance.  The Groenendael and Tervuren share a coat that is nearly the same in length and texture but varies in color.  While the Malinois and the Laekenois possess very different coats completely.

 

Temperament: 

 

The Belgian Sheepdog combines the energy and stamina of a working dog, with loyalty, intelligence, and gentility; making it an ideal companion.  Of this wonderful breed, Vero Shaw wrote, in The Illustrated Book of the Do, 1881:  “the Sheep-dog holds a very high place among our domestic dogs, to which his great usefulness and high intelligence fully entitle him.”

 

Originally a herding dog, the Belgian Sheepdog, as a breed, is always lively, cheerful, and enthusiastic.  Bred for endurance, speed and agility the Belgian Sheepdog will require an active lifestyle, and any potential owner of a member of this breed should be fully committed to such a lifestyle.  Being of the working class of dog breeds, the Belgian Sheepdog craves a “job” or regular work to do.  This breed is not content to lie around the house and relax for long periods of time.  Whether their work consists of herding, police/military service, skill trials, or playing with its family; the Belgian Sheepdog requires lots of exercise, at least an hour a day. 

 

As it is a herding breed, the natural instinct of the Belgian Sheepdog is to chase.  This breed will chase anything that it perceives as out of order or not in-line with the “flock”.  Any number of moving things may capture the Belgian Sheepdog’s attention as they may appear to be getting away from the group.  Things such as runners, cars, bikes, squirrels, and other small animals may be a distraction for the Belgian Sheepdog and he may attempt to chase and “herd” the moving item.  This breed does best in a home environment that includes a large fenced yard so that the dog has ample room to run about and play, but is safe from escape.  Apartment living and kenneling are not recommended for the Belgian Sheepdog. 

 

The Belgian Sheepdog is a highly intelligent breed.  In Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, the Belgian Sheepdog is listed as 15th in intelligence.  This puts the breed into the “Excellent Working Dogs” category, meaning that the Belgian Sheepdog will understand new commands within just 5 to 15 repetitions and will obey a first command 85% of the time or better.  Because of their level of intelligence, the Belgian Sheepdog will not be satisfied to just run back and forth around the yard and fetch.  This breed needs a challenge; it needs to be both physically and mentally stimulated to thrive.  Variety of available activities is important for the Belgian Sheepdog as it can become bored easily.

 

This breed is not recommended for people who work long hours or are too busy with home life to devote the many needed hours to cultivate the personality of a Belgian Sheepdog.  If left on its own for long stretches of time, the Belgian Sheepdog will find a way to amuse itself.  The dog may become destructive and damage to property is often the result.  The breed has a history of excellence in, and greatly enjoys thinking games such as obedience and agility trials, as well as Schutzhund.  Schutzhund is a dog sport developed in Germany to test for traits that would be appropriate for highly demanding work such as police work, search and rescue work, and odor detection. 

 

Because it is such a smart and energetic breed, training for the Belgian Sheepdog should begin early and should be reinforced often.  The breed is a people pleaser by nature and greatly enjoys games as it has a naturally high “play drive”.  Early and consistent training, as well as regular socialization are important to the successful development of all dog breeds, and with the Belgian Sheepdog, it is absolutely vital.  This breed is prone to the display of dominant personalities and behavior.  Training should be positive in nature and fun for the dog.  The Belgian Sheepdog may not respond well to harsh treatment.  Behavioral and attitude corrections should be quick, consistent, and fair.  Desirable behavior should be responded to with positivity and praise.  Frustration and boredom may increase negative behavior in the Belgian Sheepdog.  Therefore, early exposure to new people, places, things, and experiences will help to ensure that the Belgian Sheepdog grows into a well-adjusted adult.

 

Because the Belgian Sheepdog is extremely energetic and highly intelligent, the breed also possesses a strong will.  Further, due in part to its training as a police and military dog, the Belgian Sheepdog is skilled at understanding and interpreting body language and facial expressions, and it has fast reflexes.  The Belgian Sheepdog is therefore, not recommended for a first time dog owner.  Shaw documents these characteristics in the breed when he states: “The narratives…which tell of his wonderful devotion to his master…the obedience with which he regards not only the voice, but even the slightest gesture of his owner when they are at work together…”

 

The Belgian Sheepdog is good at anticipating the needs of its owner and may attempt to outsmart its trainer by being one step ahead at all times.  The Belgian Sheepdog can be unforgiving to errors or weaknesses in its training.  This clever breed is gifted at evaluating the actions of people, therefore timing when correcting behavior, and in giving commands and praise should always be spot-on in order to ensure that the Belgian Sheepdog is being taught successfully.  The person training the Belgian Sheepdog must be able to project a matching or superior level of intelligence as the dog possesses in order to guarantee that the trainer remains “Alpha dog” between the two. 

 

The Belgian Sheepdog enjoys being part of a family.  It is a loyal and devoted breed, extremely protective.  The Belgian Sheepdog makes a great guard dog and can be counted on to protect the “flock”.  When properly socialized, the Belgian Sheepdog makes a confident guardian, but the dog is not known to attack without provocation and good grounds for such a response.  The Belgian Sheepdog is lovable, affectionate, and friendly with its family (including children) and people who are known to it.  But once properly introduced and supervised with new individuals, the Belgian Sheepdog will warm up to them as well, and be friendly and polite. 

 

Because of their herding instinct, until introduction is made, the Belgian Sheepdog can be somewhat distrustful of strangers, not to mention highly observant of them.  The Belgian Sheepdog is often reserved or aloof around unfamiliar people and will watch for their actions, as well as watch for strange sights or sounds in the area.  The breed has a tendency to be shy and will need more thorough and in-depth socialization then most other dog breeds, so their observant watchfulness does not become suspiciousness of strangers, but remains a healthy curiosity instead. 

 

Belgian Sheepdogs do very well with children, and other dogs and animals in the household if introduced to them as puppies.  Once grown, and because of their herding instincts, the Belgian Sheepdog will look upon unfamiliar animals as a possible threat to the herd and therefore may always be suspicious of them.

 

A dedicated owner that spends adequate time on their dog’s training will find the Belgian Sheepdog to be quick to learn and eager to please.  Given the proper levels of mental and physical stimulation the dog will possess boundless energy and enthusiasm; it will be willing to do just about anything that is asked of it.  It is a highly demanding dog with a strong personality and will expect the same from its owner.  The Belgian Sheepdog is truly a dog admired for its versatility as a companion, protector, and worker.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

There are some requirements that apply to all varieties of the Belgian Sheepdog breed.  As with all dogs, frequent grooming sessions help detect any problems that may arise.  Nails should be clipped regularly and the dog’s eyes, ears, nose, and teeth should be cleaned and inspected for irritation and abnormalities.

 

As far as grooming of the coat goes, each variety has specific requirements.  The long, straight double-coat of the Groenendael and Tervuren varieties should be brushed and combed through for mats, two or more times a week.  During these brushings, dead, loose hairs should be removed as well as burrs and hair balls that may be present.  The Belgian Sheepdog is a year round shedder, but the loss of hair is moderately light.  The male Groenendael/Tervuren will have a heavy shedding period once a year and the female will experience this twice yearly.  During this time, daily brushing will be mandatory to maintain a healthy coat.

 

Grooming standards for the Groenendael and Tervuren varieties include trimming around the outer ears, and in between the pads of the paws.  Often, this variety is left in its natural state as its long and stylish coat is a distinctive feature of the breed.  When bathing the Groenendael and Tervuren varieties of the Belgian Sheepdog, it is recommended that a mild shampoo be used so as not to irritate the breed’s skin.  Also, because of its extremely thick double-coat, extensive rinsing and even blow-drying of the dog’s coat is recommended to prevent dampness to remain on the dog’s skin causing further irritation.

 

The Belgian Malinois variant is a less fussy individual when it comes to maintaining its coat.  The Malinois is kept in its natural state and is extremely low-maintenance when it comes to its grooming requirements.  The hair of the Malinois is very short and therefore requires no clipping or trimming.  The Malinois also sheds lightly year round and heavily once a year.  However, because of the length of the coat, weekly brushing is all that is needed.  Bathing should be as needed, but never excessive so as not to strip the natural waterproofing feature found in the Malinois’ coat.

 

The most interesting feature of the Laekenois type of Belgian Sheepdog is its wiry and rough coat.  The coat is slow growing, and owners of the Laekenois variety should avoid shaving the dog; it can take an extensive period of time (possibly years) for the coat to grow to its full length again.  Dogs that possess a coat of this texture often require what is known in grooming as “stripping” or “plucking”.  The hair that makes up the Laekenois’ top-coat grows long, but then falls out from the root.  During shedding, these hairs will not “blow out”, like many other coat types do.  The hair requires assistance and must be pulled loose in order to be properly shed.  The Laekenois should be brushed regularly to remove debris and dirt, as well as to spread the natural oils of the coat throughout.  As with the Malinois, bathe the Laekenois only as needed and never to excess.

 

Health Issues: 

 

The Belgian Sheepdog is a generally healthy breed.  The average life expectancy for the breed is approximately 12-14 year.  Like all dogs, the Belgian Sheepdog will have health concerns that are characteristic to the breed.  These include but are not limited to things such as:

 

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia.  These conditions are commonly found in dogs classified in as a Working Dog breed.  Dysplasia is a condition in which the soft tissue around the joint develops improperly and may cause a subluxation (when the two adjoining bones separate within the joint).  Pain and an altered gait may be symptoms of the Dysplasia. 

 

Other less common health concerns include:

 

 

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