Belgian Tervuren (Terv): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Belgian Tervuren in field of heather grass.

AvanHeertum / Getty Images  

The Belgian Tervuren, also referred to as a Terv, is an intelligent breed originating from (unsurprisingly) the Belgian town of Tervuren, where the dogs are known as Chien de Berger Belge. This medium sized herding breed is known for its love of hard work, as well as for its brilliant Shepherd coat. And though they’ve been around for many years, it’s only been rather recently that Tervs have established themselves as an independent breed separate from their other Belgian Shepherd peers. In addition to their smarts and energy, Belgian Tervurens are known for their affable personalities and the strong bonds that they build with their humans. 

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Height: 24 to 26 inches (males); 22 to 24 inches (females)

Weight: 55 to 75 pounds (males); 45 to 60 pounds (females)

Coat: Thick, double coat

Coat Color: Red, fawn, or gray and black, with black muzzle

Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Belgian Tervuren 

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

History of the Belgian Tervuren

Today’s Belgian Tervurens didn’t come about by accident. The breed was purposefully created by Tervuren resident M.F. Corbeel, who in 1895 bred two of his tawny-haired dogs—Tom and Poes—to produce a puppy named Miss, the first of the Tervuren line. In creating Miss and then breeding her with other tawny and black dogs, Corbeel was responding to a need among Belgian farmers for highly intelligent Shepherds who could herd as well as they could guard. Interestingly, it wasn’t just work that Belgian Tervurens were poised for. Miss’s son, Milsart, became the first show champion of the breed in 1907.

Corbeel wasn’t the only one interested in propagating herding dogs in the area. Belgian Tervurens are one of four breeds originally classified as Belgian Shepherds—a group that also includes the Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog), Laekenois, and Malinois breeds. The different breeds are so similar in appearance and temperament that they were originally considered to be just one single breed.

As farming in the area changed with industrialization in the early 20th century, so too did local farmers’ needs. Belgian Tervurens, with their sharp minds and affinity for hard work, were put to work in other areas, including police work, military work, search and rescue, and even acting (those are Tervs playing the wolves in the 1984 British movie The Company of Wolves, and they were the preferred choice for playing police dogs in Hogan’s Heroes).

Modern Tervurens are still recognized for their skills in various fields, but they’re also celebrated show dogs. They first started to make their mark in the American show circuit in the 1950s, and a Belgian Tervuren was the first recorded AKC herding dog champion. 

Belgian Tervuren Care

Belgian Tervurens have a lot of energy (they’re described by the AKC as “always moving”), so while they can absolutely make fantastic family dogs, it’s important that they get the sufficient physical and mental stimulation they require. Even pampered family Tervs love hard work, so challenging activities like agility and nosework are a favorite. Because they also love spending time with their humans, getting a Belgian Tervuren engaged with sports is an excellent way to both fulfill their exercise needs and strengthen their relationship with their caregivers. This isn’t to say that a Terv won’t happily relax on the couch at the end of the day, but they do require caretakers who prioritize exercise and will make sure they get enough of it.

Training a Tervuren isn’t just easy—it’s also pretty much a requirement for a happy dog. Tervs excel in obedience training, and do require socialization training at a young age to ensure they can behave around other dogs (those steadfast personalities don’t always translate well to dog friendships without proper socialization). Use training as a way to provide Belgian Tervurens with an additional exercise outlet, and stick to positive reinforcement methods for best results.

As for grooming, all that fur in a Terv’s double layer coat has to go somewhere, which means frequent brushings may be required, particularly during their once-or-more-a-year shedding seasons. Brushings can be pared down to once a week or so during the rest of the year, though it is recommended that they stay a regular occurrence. In addition to brushings, Tervs require the same other grooming tasks as other dogs, including nail trims, ear cleaning, and regular dental care. 

Belgian Tervuren puppy with toys in front of white background.
 AvanHeertum / Getty Images
Tervuren dog sitting outside next to fence.
Eric Metz / Getty Images
Belgian Tervuren standing near agility equipment.
Eric Metz / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Belgian Tervurens are generally pretty healthy dogs, though like all breeds, there are some common health problems that you should be on the lookout for. A reputable breeder will take care to evaluate their dogs for these ailments before breeding them to mitigate the risk of passing these illnesses on, but it is still important to be aware. These conditions include:

The National Breed Club recommends that Belgian Tervurens are provided with a hip and elbow evaluation, an ophthalmologist evaluation, and a thyroid evaluation. 

Diet and Nutrition

Belgian Tervurens, like most dogs, do their best on a high-quality, high-protein diet. Be sure to tailor your dog’s diet to fit their specific needs, for example their age, activity level, and any relevant health characteristics. Tervs should be getting enough exercise to offset weight gain, but if you notice your Tervuren gaining weight you will either want to cut back on their daily calories or talk to your vet—a healthy weight is necessary for a long and healthy life. 

Pros
  • Incredibly smart

  • People-oriented and make great family dogs

  • Easy to train

Cons
  • Need a lot of exercise

  • Can be headstrong, stubborn, and shy, and may become overly protective of their people

  • Shed a lot and require frequent grooming sessions

Where to Adopt or Buy a Belgian Tervuren

We always recommend looking at rescue first. Check out Belgian Tervuren Rescue Inc. to find a Tervuren for adoption, and browse adoption sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet to see if you can find your perfect match. If you are looking to buy a Belgian Tervuren, visit the American Belgian Tervuren Club for support and guidance in selecting a good breeder.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

There are so many good dogs out there! And if you love the Belgian Tervuren, you may be interested in these breeds as well:

With a big heart and a little bit of research you should have no trouble picking out the right dog breed to add to your family.