Belgian Sheepdog

Type: Herding

Height: Males: 24 - 26 inches; Females: 22 - 24 inches

Weight: 60.5 lbs. - 63 lbs.

Life Span: 10 - 14 years

Litter Size: 6 - 10

Country of Origin: Belgium

Activity: High. Belgian Sheepdogs need lots of exercises for continual physical and mental development.

Watch-dog: Very High. Sheepdogs are very alert and aware of their surroundings.

Guard-dog: Very High, will protect their family and property, but will not attack unwarranted.

Description: The Belgian Sheepdog is also known by the name "Groenendael." They are the most popular of the Belgian Shepherd Dogs which consist of the "Belgian Tervuren," "Belgian Malinois," "Belgian Sheepdog" and "Laekenois." All four dogs are spawned from the same breed, and closely resemble each other save for their coats. Belgian Sheepdogs, unlike the Belgian Malinois, has a fluffy thick coat that is completely black. The Groenendael is a medium-large sized dog who lives true to its herding and guarding instincts. Belgian Sheepdogs are graceful, swift, and agile on their feet. The "Chien de Berger Belge", as they are also know, do not tend to be friendly to all people, as they have been used over the centuries as guard dogs and herders and tend to remain quite reserved. It is recommended an owner be an experienced dog person. Although they may not always be friendly to everyone, they are very close and protective to their owners. The Belgian Sheepdog loves to be near its owner, and loves to be used to do a job. A truly well-rounded dog who can captivate your heart by being a devoted, hard-working companion, Belgian Sheepdogs are willing to give all to the ones they love.

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Other Names: Groenendael, Chien de Berger Belge

Colors: Black; black with limited white. Sometimes a frosting occurs on the tips of the hairs. Usually has white or grey hairs around the muzzle.

Coat: Long, straight and abundant, with an extremely dense undercoat. Belgian Sheepdogs' coats have long, feathery hair that is especially abundant around the shoulders, neck and chest.

Temperament: Belgian Sheepdogs are obedient, loyal, reserved, protective, intelligent, attentive, and very active. If not occupied for a long time, they may turn to mischief for entertainment. The Groenendael, as well as the Tervuren and Laekenois tend to be slightly more snappy than the Malinois. They tend to be one-person dogs, and seem to greatly enjoy being with their owner.

With Children: Yes, Belgian Sheepdogs are good with their family, but should not rough-house or play chasing games. May not tolerate other children.

With Pets: Needs to be socialized to other pets. Take extra care when socializing with a new pet. Belgian Sheepdogs have natural instincts to guard, and therefore should be trained very carefully when dealing with new pets.

Care and Training: Daily combing and brushing of the Belgian Sheepdog's coat is important. Clip out mats that form particularly in the ruff and on the legs. Clip hair from between their toes and on the outer ears. Bathe only when necessary. Shedding is bi-annual. The Belgian Sheepdog is a working dog and needs a lot of exercise, preferably off the leash as much as possible. Early training will prevent puppies from developing a sharp temper.

Learning Rate: Very High. Groenendaels are highly intelligent and should have mental exercises to utilize their learning skills. Obedience - Very High. The Belgian Sheepdog is designed to serve. Problem Solving - High. Overbearing training techniques may encourage fear-biting, careful choosing of training methods must be taken into consideration. The Belgian breeds are known for having a negative reaction to deterrence or punishment training, and should therefore be trained with a reward-based routine. Reward-based training is best, but the owner should not be overly permissive either, as the Belgian Sheepdog is very intelligent and can take advantage of such opportunities. Professional training courses or training by someone who knows how to do so is suggested.

Special Needs: Belgian Sheepdogs need attention, a job or activity, positive training and early socialization.

Living Environment: The Sheepdog adapts well to both an urban or country environment as long as they have a space to roam. A home with a fenced yard is essential. The most desirable environment for the Belgian Sheepdog would be a yard with a job to do and an experienced owner who can be with them most of the time.

Health Issues: The Belgian Sheepdogs are free from hereditary diseases a majority of the time, although problems such as epilepsy, hip and elbow dysplasia should be checked out. Possible health issues also include anesthesia sensitivity, cancer, PRA, thyroid problems, eye problems.

History: The Belgian Sheepdog was developed in Belgium for the guarding and herding of sheep. Belgian Sheepdogs were formally recognized as the Belgian Shepherd Dog in 1891. Present in the gene pool of this breed are alleles producing long coats, short coats, rough or wired coats and a variance of colors. This created the Belgian Shepherd Dog with four different varieties. The Groenendael (known simple as the Belgian Sheepdog), with a long, solid black coat, the Laekenois, a rough or wire-coat in fawn, red or brown, the Malinois, a short coat in fawn, red or brown and the Tervuren, a long coated fawn or dark red dog. All of these dogs originated from the variance of sheepdogs that existed in Belgium towards the end of the 19th century. In the year of 1890, a man named Monsieur Nicholas Rose of the Cafe du Groenendael found a completely black, long-haired Belgian sheepdog in a litter. After buying a dog similar to this one, Monsieur Rose used selective breeding to create the Belgian Sheepdog, or Groenendael. In 1891 the breed was decided upon to develop and separate three more versions of this dog at the Brussels Veterinary University. The American Kennel Club has recognized three of these four varieties. The United States and Belgium are the only countries to accept at least three of the four of them as distinguished from each other as four separate breeds. The British Kennel Club regards them as a single breed and the Federation Cynologique states one breed with four varieties. Because of this, the dogs are always registered on their coat type and color, not of their parents. The Belgian breeds were used as sentry dogs, messengers and even draft dogs in World War I, and continued to serve in World War II.

First Registered by the AKC: 1912 (was registered as the Belgian Sheepdog until 1959)

AKC Group: Herding

Class: Herding

Registries: AKC, ANKC, CKC, FCI (Group 1), KC (GB), UKC