The elegant and demanding Belgian Shepherd comes in four different varieties that are very different in appearance. They also have things in common such as their enormous urge to move and be active. This requires a lot of time and experience from the owner.
The former sheepdog not only had to protect his flock but was also responsible for the farmer and his possessions. Even today, the Belgian Shepherd still possesses all the qualities of an excellent watchdog. He is alert, lively, lightning-fast, and always ready to protect his “pack”. Due to his pronounced guarding instinct, he instinctively takes over responsibility for everything that belongs to his home. Owners of Belgian Shepherds need not be afraid of burglars.
Yet this brave four-legged friend is not a dog for scared or insecure people. The Belgian Shepherd needs an equal partner by his side who knows how to manage his temperamental character with a lot of sovereignty, empathy and consistency. To avoid nasty surprises, his protective instinct must be checked from the start. Professional education and good socialization are indispensable for a harmonious coexistence with the intelligent watchdog.
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Belgian energy bundle
Just as important as a consistent and loving upbringing is the willingness to engage in sporting and mental activities with the dog. It is absolutely necessary to take into account the enormous urge to move and be active in the Belgian energy bundle. If this is not taken into account, the purebred dog develops unpleasant behavior and has a tendency to exaggerated aggressiveness. To compensate, you can participate in dog sports in addition to training as a working dog with the police, customs, or rescue service. The playful four-legged friend can be enthused for almost all types of sports. Due to his high jumping ability, his high speed, and his extraordinary climbing skills, he mainly contributes to agility remarkable performance.
However, the Belgian Shepherd is not only notable for its sporting achievements and its vigilance. Just as remarkable as his inexhaustible energy is his pronounced willingness to learn. Thanks to his high intelligence and willingness to learn something new, he is an inquisitive student who wants to please his teacher at all times. The dog is eager to learn and people-oriented. This is very useful during education. Excessive strictness in his sensitive nature is not only inappropriate but also unnecessary. With love, patience, and a lot of time for joint (sports) activities, you can turn the watchful sheepdog into a loyal and reliable family dog that is always loyal to its owner.back to menu ↑
In terms of character, almost all Belgian Shepherds resemble each other. However, they are very different in appearance, so you would hardly believe that the different types are of the same breed. The current FCI breed standard, where the Belgian Shepherd is listed under number 15 of group 1 (sheepdogs and herders), section 1 (sheepdogs), defines the breed into four different varieties. These variations differ from each other by the length, growth direction, and color of the coat.back to menu ↑
The Malinois is the best-known type of this breed and is most similar in appearance to a German Shepherd. His short coat is – apart from the black mask – a pale red with a black glow. The ends of the hair are black and provide a dark shadow against the light background.back to menu ↑
The most original but nowadays rarest representative of this breed is the Laekenois Shepherd. The coat is pale red and short, just like the Malinois. However, the coat is rough. The coat feels hard and dry and looks untamed. Its tousled appearance is desired by the standard.back to menu ↑
The coat color of the Tervueren Shepherd is reminiscent of that of the Malinois: pale red with a black glow and a black mask. However, his hair is longer and, like the Groenendael, he belongs to the long-haired types of this breed.back to menu ↑
The long-haired Groenendael is the only one of the four types whose fur is black. As with all other types, a small white chest patch and white markings on the toes are tolerated in this type.
The four types have one thing in common: their proud appearance. Especially the long-haired Tervueren Shepherd and the Groenendael make an almost majestic impression. This is due on the one hand to the light physique, which, despite its size, never looks massive, and on the other hand, to the head that carries them high. Unlike their relatives, the German Shepherd, the representatives of the Belgian breed are more graceful and shorter in build. While the German variant has a more rectangular physique, the Belgian Shepherd is almost square when viewed from the side. Their corridor also takes up less space than the German colleague’s. Yet they sometimes surpass him in speed, maneuverability, and jumping ability.back to menu ↑
The ancestors of the Belgian Shepherd already stood out for their speed and agility. The dogs were initially kept as working dogs by shepherds and farmers. Until the end of the 19 e century, there were in Belgium many sheepdogs and cattle that have been interbred despite their different appearance “wild” – by breeding after all was their ability to work centrally. It was not until 1891 that a Belgian sheepdog club was founded in Brussels to put an end to this “disorder”. The first standard divided the Belgian Sheepdog into three types based on their coat: rough, short-haired, and long-haired.
In the history of Belgian sheepdogs, there was sometimes disagreement among breeders about the allowed colors and variations. It took a while before the four current types, which are named after Belgian places, were fixed. In the last centuries, the types have been changed again and again. As controversial as the coat’s appearance was, Belgian Shepherd breeders agreed on character, morphology, and usefulness. The breed has not changed in character and physique.
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Separation of the Dutch Shepherd
The physique and appearance the Belgian sheepdogs share with the Dutch Shepherd from the Netherlands. With the Dutch colleague, who is also admitted as a brindle type, no distinction is made between types. If you look at the overall picture, the sheepdogs of the Benelux countries are identical. They both come from roughly the same region and were only recognized as a different breed after the separation from Belgium.back to menu ↑
Breeding and health
Since there is a breed standard, the different types may no longer be crossed with each other. The breeders therefore only concentrated on one type: Malinois, Laekenois, Tervueren or Groenendael. The former is the most common, yet the Belgian Shepherd, unlike its German counterpart, belongs to a rare breed of dog. It is therefore not easy to find a suitable breeder in your area.
This aspect also has a positive side because it occurs relatively rarely, the Belgian Shepherd is a very healthy breed of dog. So there are few breed-specific diseases that you should be afraid of. Although susceptibility to epilepsy or elbow dysplasia is mentioned from time to time, the dreaded hip dysplasia (HD) – which occurs in almost all breeds of dogs this size – is rare. Nevertheless, diseases can of course also occur in Belgian sheepdogs and you should always keep a close eye on your dog so that you recognize changes in behavior and appearance in time. It could be a sign of an illness that may require veterinary treatment.back to menu ↑
Do not worry. To diagnose infections and illnesses in time, you don’t have to examine your dog for hours on a daily basis. With the appropriate care of your dog, you are already taking care of his health enough. Brushing the coat regularly, clipping the nails, and cleaning the teeth and ears can not only prevent possible infections but also ensure that you are busy with the dog and therefore look at him well. Changes in his coat, bald or inflamed spots or major weight changes will automatically be noticed during the care.back to menu ↑
How time-consuming is the care of a Belgian Sheepdog?
In general, the time it takes to care for this breed is manageable. Coat care can vary greatly depending on the different types. Malinois and Laekenois should be brushed about once a week. Groenendael and Tervueren Shepherds, on the other hand, require more frequent brushing due to their dense coat. Especially twice a year when the sheepdog is molting and loses a lot of hair, the coat care must be intensified. In general, the hair of the long-haired types does not tangle quickly. Unlike the hair of other long-haired dogs, it is quite easy to care for.
Sit still, please!
As with other dogs, regular checking and care of the ears, eyes, teeth, and gums are common with this breed of dog. Nail trimming is also an important part of physical care. It is important that you let your temperamental dog get used to the care in time. With regularity, consistency, and loving patience you can calm the dog – who does not like to sit still – so that he can also be examined.back to menu ↑
For good health, a good and balanced diet is just as important as appropriate care. But which one is dog food the best for the Belgian Shepherd? Unfortunately, this question cannot be answered in general for all varieties of this breed. Although they have the same physique, their energy needs can vary greatly depending on age, weight, and activities. When choosing the right food, you should therefore also pay attention to the individual circumstances of your dog. A young dog needs food other than a senior dog and an active working dog other than a family dog.back to menu ↑
What does the adult dog need?
Regardless of the individual criteria, which you absolutely have to take into account, the rule of thumb applies that an adult dog’s food should consist of 70 to 80 percent meat. Meat is the most important source of protein for dogs for healthy development. To prevent allergies, you can also feed exotic meats such as ostrich, kangaroo, or water buffalo. Other important ingredients are vegetables and fruit, which provide the four-legged friend with important vitamins and nutrients.
However, fruits that are too sweet and too many carbohydrates – just like too much grain – should be avoided. Sugar and other sweeteners have no place in dog food. Spicy food and other food scraps are also unsuitable for your four-legged friend. If you want to please your sheepdog, give him special dog snacks, or even better: take him outside into nature so that he can enjoy himself.back to menu ↑
Attitude and upbringing
Lots of exercises not only have a positive effect on your dog’s weight but also on his physical and mental satisfaction. Belgian Sheepdogs make high demands on this and need much more exercise and activities for their mental well-being than other dogs. Daily blocks are by no means sufficient for these energy bundles. Sheepdogs used as assistance dogs at the police and customs authorities are automatically sufficiently challenged mentally and physically. Representatives of the breed that are kept as a family dog, on the other hand, need sufficient activities.back to menu ↑
What is a life without sports?
Dog sports should be a mandatory part of a Belgian Shepherd’s life. He can be found in almost every dog sport and always achieves great success in competitions. The dog likes to work, is intelligent, and has an excellent physique. These qualities, combined with his speed, agility, and strength, meaning that almost no dog can keep up with him when it comes to dog sports. It is especially impressive how high the dog can jump. For example, a Belgian Shepherd Dog can jump over a wall of 2.50 meters without any problems.back to menu ↑
Who is a Belgian Shepherd suitable for?
It goes without saying that such sporty and temperamental dogs are best served by active dog owners with experience. As the owner of a Belgian Shepherd, you especially need a lot of time and desire to be actively involved with your dog. Mentally and mentally challenged dogs are not only healthier and happier but also more obedient and easier to train. Especially with this breed, which has a certain basic sharpness, insufficient training can lead to dangerous behavior.back to menu ↑
The right balance between consequence and resignation
In addition to a lot of exercise and activities, sheepdogs also need consistent training and early socialization to adapt as a family dog. You have to remember that these dogs have a very sensitive nature and that in addition to consistency, they also need love, peace and resignation. Excessive strictness is experienced by the dogs as disturbing and this does not lead to the desired upbringing effect. They enjoy cuddle moments as much as they enjoy joint activities. Dogs that are sufficiently challenged mentally and physically are calm and balanced at home. They are loyal companions that keep their owners happy for years to come.