Belgian Sheepdog Breed Profile

belgian sheepdog looking at camera

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The Belgian Sheepdog is the epitome of a hard-working herding dog. Highly trainable and extremely intelligent, it’s a breed that has been designed for hard work—but yet they have a sensitive, gentle temperament that craves human companionship, making them ideal family dogs.

A strong-willed, elegant breed, the Belgian Sheepdog is often referred to as “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” and with good reason. They are exceptionally loyal dogs that tend to be workaholics who aim to please and are ready for any adventure. As such, these eager, athletic dogs will always give their all when participating any sort of activity or sport...or just playing in the backyard with their favorite humans.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Height: 22 to 26 inches

Weight: 55 to 75 pounds (male), 45-60 pounds (female)

Coat and Color: Thick double-coat, black color

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Belgian Shepherd

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Shedding Medium

History of the Belgian Sheepdog

The industrious Belgium’s terrain and climate is ideal for both livestock and dairy farming. Today the country may be known as the world’s leading exporter of milk chocolate, but at one time, Belgian farmers were focused on cattle herding...as well as the breeding of herding dogs. In fact, there were once eight varieties of shepherd dogs that were unique to Belgium. These dogs were officially classified for the first time in the 1890s, and today there remains the Belgian Sheepdog (also known as the Groenendael or Chien de Berger Belge), Tervuren, Malinois, and Laekenois, which are all anatomically identical but with coats that vary in terms of texture, color, and length.

The Belgian Sheepdog is the solid-colored (black), long-haired variety of the four Belgian shepherd dogs that exist today. At the time, the name Groenendael was given to these dogs by a man named Nicolas Rose, who was a renowned breeder of the time and operated a restaurant near Brussels called the Chateau Groenendael. In fact, Rose is thought to have purchased the foundation couple of what would become the Belgian Sheepdog breed.

The Belgian Sheepdog was listed in the Chien de Berger de Races Continentales (Continental Shepherds), which is a group that also includes German Shepherds, Briards, Hollander Herders, Bouviers, and Beauceron. It was also in the late 1800s that efforts were being made to propagate a “Belgian” dog for nationalistic purposes, which is what led to the creation of the Club du Chien de Berger Belge, or Belgian Shepherd Club, which ultimately led to the development of the Belgian Sheepdog.

By the turn of the 20th century, Belgian Sheepdogs were becoming well-known for their versatility and hard-working nature both inside and outside of Belgium. In fact, both Paris and New York began relying on Belgian Sheepdogs as police dogs in this era, and they were often employed by customs agents on border patrols to help identify smugglers. During World War I, these dogs worked as ambulance dogs, messengers, and freighters of heavy gunnery, and during the Second World War, Belgian Sheepdogs served as war dogs.

The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1949, and since that time this breed has been known to do everything from working as police and service dogs to competing as show dogs to performing search and rescues…and, of course, they’ve come to be known to make loving, loyal family pets.

Belgian Sheepdog Care

When it comes to coat maintenance, the Belgian Sheepdog’s double-layer coat—which consists of a dense undercoat as well as a a coarser outer coat—is easier to maintain than you might think. However, during its shedding season once per year, these dogs will begin to shed heavily and require thorough daily brushing to remove all of the dead hair. During the rest of the year, a weekly brushing is sufficient, and only occasional baths are necessary (unless, of course, the dog has gotten into something messy while spending time outdoors). Their nails should be trimmed regularly.

Thanks to the fact that it’s a herding breed, the Belgian Sheepdog will require a sufficient amount of daily exercise. These are not dogs that will enjoy laying around the house all day; as a herding breed, they are alert, active working dogs that thrive when given a job to do. However, letting them roam the backyard alone isn’t going to be good enough for these dogs, as they so strongly crave time with their humans. As such, they won't be an optimal choice for anyone who works long hours outside the home, because they will likely become bored and possibly destructive in the house and potentially develop separation anxiety. Sheepdog owners will also have to keep safety in mind, as these dogs are hard-wired to chase sheep and will not hesitate to take off after animals, joggers or cyclists, or even cars...so leashed walks and a fenced-in yard are must-haves.

Owners of Belgian Sheepdogs should expect to participate in daily exercise sessions with their dogs, whether it’s going for a long walk or run, playing fetch, or training for canine sports such as flyball or competitions in agility, tracking, or herding. Since Belgian Sheepdogs are so intelligent and easily trainable—and, like many dogs, just want to make their owners happy—this is also an ideal breed for obedience competitions. However, any training should be kept positive and fun, as this is a particularly sensitive breed that can also have a tendency to be strong-willed.

Common Health Problems

The Belgian Sheepdog is a study, robust breed and tend to be healthy dogs. Some conditions that may affect this breed include eye issues like progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, epilepsy, elbow and hip dysplasia, and certain forms of cancer. Owners of these dogs should note that Belgian Sheepdogs are particularly sensitive to anesthesia should the need for surgery ever arise. Their ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and teeth should be brushed regularly.

Diet and Nutrition

The Belgian Sheepdog should perform well on a high-quality dog food, either manufactured or prepared at home under veterinarian supervision. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times for this active breed.

Pros

  • Intelligent

  • Loyal

  • Hardworking

Cons

  • Prone to separation anxiety

  • High exercise needs

  • Easily bored

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

When determining if the Belgian Sheepdog is the right dog for you, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other Belgian Sheepdog owners, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. Check out these other similar dog breeds. With a little bit of research you're sure to find the dog breed that's right for you!