The Belgian shepherd is a medium-sized herding breed indigenous to Belgium. It is one of the four sheepdog breeds developed in the late 19th century in Belgium, eventually recognized separately by the American Kennel Club.
Some of the prominent physical features of this medium-sized athletic herding breed include a long and slender head, erect, triangular-shaped ears, long, well-balanced muzzle, almond-shaped eyes, and a low set bushy tail. Their overall temperament is varied and versatile from alert to intelligent, devoted to courageousness, making them excellent house pets.
Belgian Sheepdog Pictures
|Other Names||Belgian Shepherd, Groenendael, Chien de Berger Belge|
|Coat||Double-coated; Topcoat– Abundant with long and straight hair that might be moderately harsh but not wiry or silky; Undercoat– Soft, dense, and weatherproof, though the thickness varies according to the climate this dog thrives in|
|Color||Gray, sable, silver, silver and black, gray and black, wolf gray and black|
|Height||Male: 24-26 inches |
Female: 22-24 inches
|Weight||Male: 55-75 pounds |
Female: 45-60 pounds
|Litter Size||6-10 puppies|
|Personality||Loyal, courageousness, affectionate, intelligent|
|Good with Children||Yes (especially if socialized)|
|Barking Tendency||Moderately high|
|Climate Compatibility||High (can adapt to hot and cold climate)|
|Apartment Compatibility||Moderately good (if exercised regularly)|
|Do they shed||Yes, throughout the year|
|Are they hypoallergenic||No|
|Average Cost||$1000 -$2000 (for puppies)|
|Competitive Registration Qualification/ Information||AKC, FCI, UKC|
History and Origin
Belgium has always been the hub of dairy and livestock farming, one of the main reasons for raising herding dogs. At one point in time, the country had about eight herding dogs. However, there are four prominent Belgian Shepherd dogs known to us, identical in several aspects, but mainly differing from each other in texture, color, and the length of their coat.
Besides the Belgian sheepdog or Groenendael, the other three Belgian Shepherd dog varieties include Belgian Malinois, Belgian Laekenois, and Belgian Tervuren. The long-haired black dogs are the Belgian shepherd, the rough-haired, fawn varieties are the Laekenois, the dogs with short hair and a fawn body has been categorized as the Malinois, while the long-haired fawn breeds are the Tervuren.
The Belgian sheepdogs (all four breeds) owe their lineage to a specific herding breed that was also the ancestor of the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, and Bouvier des Ardennes. They closely neared extinction by the 19th century, when Club de Chien Berger Belge developed to promote their development and breeding in 1891. The name eventually changed to the Belgium Shepherd Club for nationalistic purposes.
Coming to this breed, its development precisely dates back to 1885, with a breeder named Nicolas Rose, who also owned the Chateau Groenendael restaurant near Brussels being its creator.
The founding stock in this breed’s creation includes Rose’s pet ‘Petite,’ a black female Belgian shepherd dog, and another male dog named Piccard D’Uccle owned by a Belgian shepherd. As a result of this crossing, the first descendants were named Baroness and Duc de Groenendael, which was, in turn, crossed with Belgian shepherds (including all four breeds) of varying appearances. However, the black varieties were prioritized more.
Its creator initially desired to call it Rose, but that could clash against its black body. Therefore, the name was finalized to Groenendael, after his restaurant, still used in Europe to refer to these dogs.
By the 20th century, their popularity spread outside their place of origin. Because of their efficient working skills and alert nature, they were even used as police dogs in certain parts of Europe, like France, and also USA.
The AKC recognized these dogs in 1912 as a distinct breed, while the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America developed in the year 1949. Since this time, there has been no looking back, and this breed excelled as great search, rescue, guard, police, service, and show dogs.
They are brave, alert, curious, and courageous, but at the same time affectionate, devoted, and loyal to their family.
Known for their guard and watchdog skills, it is evident that they would deal with firmness towards strangers, alerting their masters of any impending danger. If not socialized well, this reservedness could transform into aggression, resulting in untoward incidents. However, a well-trained Belgian sheepdog would attack only when the need arises, primarily to protect its family and their property.
With its near and dear ones, it’s an absolute joy full of affection and love. However, these dogs detest living by themselves, and periods of prolonged loneliness could make them bored and destructive. When socialized, they would do fine with kids of the family. However, their interaction with young children needs close supervision due to their nipping tendency.
They even mingle well with dogs and cats of their family but could develop an instinct to chase the smaller pets, so make it a point to keep the latter out of their reach.
As herding dogs, they require a good amount of exercise everyday. They would need up to 45-50 minutes of daily activity, including one 30-minute or two 15-minute walks, alongside some jogging and play in a fenced yard. The sensitive dogs they are, the Belgian shepherd would enjoy exercising with their masters more than roaming around on their own in the yard or garden. Also, make provisions for them to participate in events like tracking, agility, obedience, or dog sports such as flyball.
Never miss out on the leash, lest it would get difficult for you to control if they get into their chasing mode when out for a walk or run.
Their double coat needs minimal grooming, sufficing with a 15-20 minute weekly brushing throughout sans that time of the year when they shed heavily. They would need to be brushed three or four times a week then, to remove the dead hair accumulated in large numbers.
While a pin brush would do good for the long hairs, a slicker brush helps remove the shorter hairs on the body. Bathe them once a month or on occasions when they get messy.
However, during the shedding season, give them a warm bath frequently to eliminate the dead hair. Also, brush their teeth daily or thrice a week to prevent bacterial infection and tartar buildup. Trim their nails once every month, and check their eyes and ears regularly for any redness of infection.
Though a healthy breed with a decent lifespan of about 12-14 years, the common problems they suffer from include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye problems, allergies, and epilepsy.
They are intelligent with an eagerness to please, which makes training easy. However, an experienced master could handle these confident, courageous dogs better than a novice master.
Socialization: It is essential to train them on socialization from the moment you bring them home as puppies. They display intense wariness upon encountering strangers. This is why you must expose them to varied experiences and even people. In this way, they would eventually start understanding a threat from a pleasant situation and bark for a cause. Also, acquaint them with dogs of different sizes and colors by taking the Belgian shepherd to a dog park. In this way, they would get used to other canines outside the ones belonging to their family and also not display aggressive behavior upon seeing them.
Crate training: They bond strongly with their family and detest staying alone. Hence, it is essential to train the Belgian shepherd puppies to live in their crate at least for some time of the day. Decorate their crate well with all their favorite stuff so that they would find interest in getting inside. First, it could be for a short span, like just a couple of seconds, then a few minutes, and then some hours of the day. You can even counter-condition your dog before they go inside by giving their favorite toy or perhaps even their favorite goodie sometimes. However, even if you train them to stay by themselves, ensure that you provide them with quality time, too. Otherwise, they could get destructive without your time and attention.
Obedience: Teaching them basic commands like ‘No, ‘Stay,’ and ‘Stop’ would help discipline them to a certain extent.
If you have to teach your dog the command ‘stay,’ then ask him to sit first (for which you would have to teach that command). Once seated, open your palm and say ‘stay’ in a loud and clear voice. Move a few steps back, and reward him if he follows your command or at least makes an attempt. Gradually increase the steps to go back before giving him his treat. This is a useful command that helps exercise self-control in your Belgian sheepdog.
This working breed needs good quality dog food, readymade or homemade rich in all the essential nutrients from protein to carbohydrate to vitamins and minerals. Keep treats to the minimum as an excess of it could result in obesity, which in turn may worsen certain conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia these dogs are prone to.
- The Belgian sheepdog played a significant role in both the World Wars. While in World War I, the Belgian army used these dogs for varied purposes, from tracking wounded soldiers to sending out messages. In the Second World War, their role as efficient and courageous war dogs remained unchanged.