ALL DOG BREED PROFILES

Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Belgian Sheepdog is known by many names like the Belgian Shepherd, Groenendael, and the Chien de Berger Belge and comes from Belgium which is located in Europe. This breed is akin to other sheep herders like the German Shepherd and the Dutch Shepherd.

While originally used for herding sheep, this breed has gotten off of the farm and into the line of duty, becoming a great breed for police work!

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityHigh
TrainabilityHigh
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group: Herding Dog
Height: 1 foot, 10 inches tall to 2 feet, 2 inches tall
Weight: 60 to 75 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years

The Belgian Sheepdog is one of the most notable hard working, energetic dog breeds out there. They do not enjoy being lazy, as they need something to do all the time.

Bred to herd sheep flocks, they are now most known for doing police work, like drug sniffing and chasing criminals. They do love a good chase, and will go after your mailman, joggers, and anyone passing by if there is not a fence in place, or if they are not trained properly.

The breed was developed in the 1800s in Belgium and was made with three other varieties at the time; the Malinois, Tervuren, Laekenois, and the Belgian Sheepdog or Groenendael. Mostly bred by Nicolas Rose in 1893, the breed was named after his home, Chateau Groenendael, which was near Brussels.

Interestingly enough, Rose had bought the two “foundation” dogs of the breed which were named Picard and Petite, whose lineage continues on to this day.

The breed gained massive popularity and quickly started careers as police dogs in locations like France and the United States by the 1900s. They were quite important during the first World War as they pulled carts for machine guns and the ambulatory services, as well as delivered messages.

They became famous because of this and their popularity soared after the war. Because they did so well at their job, they have been used again in World War II. Their popularity declined during the Depression but came back afterward.

You can expect a big personality out of your Belgian Sheepdog, as they are extremely smart and courageous. They stay on high alert to guard the ones they love, thus he has sharp skills when it comes to watching for danger.

One thing about this breed is that they are wary of strangers and must be trained and socialized with those they do not know or they can become aggressive. One thing this breed does not like is being left alone for too long. Your dog will need your attention, love and time, or they can become destructive of your home. Without mental stimulation, your dog will get bored and might not respect you. This breed is known to be shy as puppies, so socialization is important for them.

Your dog will have a double coat with long hair that is straight and somewhat harsh. The undercoat will be dense but very soft, which helps to protect against weather, and their tail is very furry. For the most part, this breed is all black, or black with small amounts of white on the feet or chest, and sometimes on the muzzle. Another interesting fact is that they shed all year long, with one or more heavy sheds in the year.

Main Highlights
  • The Belgian Sheepdog is great with children, but may nip at their heels because of their herding tendencies. Training can “nip” that in the bud quick! Always keep an eye on smaller children around dogs.
  • They are naturally wary of strangers and need to be taught how to socialize early on. Otherwise, you can expect them to chase the mailman, joggers, or anyone passing by if they are not separated by a fence!
  • If you enter your dog into competitions, you can expect him to excel at Herding, Agility, and Obedience competitions!
  • The breed belongs in an energetic home as they have lots of energy to burn! They need an hour of exercise each day, whether going for a walk, jog, or playing in the yard!
  • Due to their nature to chase, having a home with cats may not be the best choice, or a home with small animals. Any pet or animal that runs from him will be chased!
  • Despite their size, they love being around humans and getting attention. They will interact with everyone in the home and will enjoy partaking in family events!
  • The breed has their own club called the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America, and their own rescue called the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America Rescue.
Breed History

The Belgian Sheepdog was one of four varieties of sheep dog to be developed in the 1800s, with the other three being the Tervuren, Malinois and Laekenois. The Belgian variety was mostly developed by a man named Nicolas Rose who was a breeder and had kennels, in the late 1800s. The nickname of this breed is Groenendael, which is the name of the estate of Rose, who developed them.

Quickly gaining popularity, the breed swiftly began working as police dogs in the United States, Belgium and France. The breed was imperative to World War I as they pulled carts for the ambulance and machine guns, as well as delivered messages during the time.

It was after this war that the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America came about. During the height of their popularity, the Depression Era started and the numbers dwindled, even though they were put to use in the second World War, too. After World War II, the breed’s numbers went back up. Today they rank 122nd out of 155 breeds that are noted in the American Kennel Club.

Size

As with most dog breeds, the male version of this sheepdog is generally 2 feet tall to 2 feet, 2 inches tall and generally weighs between 65 and 75 pounds. The females of this breed are usually 1 foot 10 inches tall to 2 feet tall and weigh between 60 and 70 pounds if healthy and given proper nutrition.

Personality and Character

You can expect this breed to be very devoted to its family and those he loves. They are also known to be smart, courageous and on high alert for danger or anything unusual. Their character and natural drive will not let them be too lazy, as they are used to herding and moving around a lot, doing work.

Because they are smart, they need to be mentally stimulated often in order to not get bored and become destructive or aggressive. Proper training will help keep him confident and less shy, which is what this breed is prone to be.

However, they are natural protectors of their family and anyone on their land. For example, your dog may chase down small animals or even the mailman if they are not trained properly. On the flip side of that, they require lots of love and attention from their family and friends, and want to be the star of the show!

If they are left alone too long, they can become destructive, as they are very family oriented and therefore not suited to a family who is outside of the home for long periods.

Health and Potential Problems

You can expect this breed to have some health issues, especially if they come from a bad breeder. Not all dogs of this breed will get these issues, but it is important to be informed of what diseases they are prone to, so you will know the signs and symptoms.

  • Hip Dysplasia is a genetic condition where the thigh bone and hip joint do not fit together perfectly. There will be pain in the area, and the dog will not use the affected area much. Not only is this condition genetic, but another factor like high-calorie diet, or any injury can cause it.
  • Elbow Dysplasia is a condition that is genetic and very common in dogs like this. It is caused by various growth rates in the elbow that cause pain in the joints. This can lead to your dog not using the affected area. Medication and surgery are possible solutions.
  • Epilepsy is a condition where your dog can have seizures, which can be caused by metabolism, infections, poison, tumors, or injury to the head. If your dog staggers, runs around for no reason, or hides a lot, they could be affected. This cannot be cured but can be handled for the duration of the dog’s life with medication.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an eye disorder that will lead to blindness because there are not as many photoreceptors in the eye as there should be. This can be prevented by regular visits to the vet. However, there are many blind dogs that live a great life!
  • Cancer can be a deadly disease for both dog and human but it’s certain that each case will be different. Surgery for tumor removal is necessary and it will be treated with medications and chemotherapy.
  • Sensitivity to Anesthesia is common to this breed. A physical exam and lab work will be done before giving any anesthetic and the dog’s vitals will be watched all through any surgery it has.
  • Hypothyroidism is common in dogs and is caused by low levels of hormones in the glad. Some signs include, low energy, weight gain, loss of hair, and abnormal heat cycles. The dog will need daily medication for its life in order to be happy and healthy.
  • Cataracts can occur in any dog, which causes the lens of the eye to become cloudy, and the dog will have blurry vision. The dog can go blind if surgery is not performed. Usually, genetics is the main cause, but your dog can get cataracts because they are old or have been injured at some point.
  • Diabetes can happen in any dog breed and it occurs when the body cannot process sugar in the right way. Symptoms can include thirst, high appetite, and several potty trips. Insulin can be a life saver and the dog will probably need it for the rest of its life.
Care Features

The main objective for this breed is to give them lots of love and attention and keep them busy! The breed is versatile, as they love to be in the home with its family and play with them, or they can be outside, chasing squirrels, playing Frisbee, or running around!

If you have a fenced in yard, this is key, as they can chase down people who come by like joggers, cars, or squirrels. They require about an hour of exercise every day, so they can go for walks, jogs, hikes in the woods, or just play with you in the yard. Either way, they must burn off energy or they can gain weight and become destructive in your home.

One thing about this breed is that they can have an independent streak, so training them is not only necessary, but it will give you peace of mind when you are away, that they are acting properly. When training, do not use any form of negative influence, like yelling or moving the dog along. Be firm and fair, and offer rewards, so they will feel accomplished.

Feeding Schedule

For proper nutrition, your Belgian Sheepdog will need 1 to 1.5 cups of dry kibble twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. Be sure to give your dog fresh water when they need it, especially on hot days.

Using a dog food that has higher quality nutrients and vitamins will keep your dog in top shape. Consult your vet if you have any questions about dog food, especially if you think your dog has an allergy.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Your Belgian Sheepdog will have a double coat, with the top portion having long hair that is harsh and straight. The bottom portion will be soft and the density will protect from the weather and elements. You will notice short hair on the head but mostly long hairs everywhere else. There is even a tuft of hair around the collar. You can expect them to shed all year around, having one or more heavy sheds in the year.

The breed is generally all black, though there are some versions that are mostly black with white bits on their feet, chest, or chin. Having any white on the toes goes against the breed’s standards.

You will spend about 20 minutes each week combing through your dog’s hair to remove any dead hairs and prevent it from matting. During the times they shed heavily, you can bathe them to help loosen hairs. You can brush their teeth each day, or at least twice a week so that bacteria are killed.

Their nails need to be trimmed only when you hear them clacking loudly on the floor, and be sure to do a weekly check for sores, scratches and infection on the skin, as well as doing a check in the ears, eyes, nose and mouth. If there are any irregularities, consult your vet. Early detection of infection or growth can prevent further disease.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Belgian Sheepdog should be trained around children and other pets, but for the most part, they are extremely loving to children within the home. They will protect and love them, though small children need to be supervised around any dog. You should also make sure your children know how to interact with a dog and not hurt it by pulling on its tail or poking at it.

If you have other dogs in the home, your sheepdog will get along with it, especially if it was raised with other pets around. They may not get along with cats so well because of their prey drive and chasing instinct. You can train your dog to get along with other animals, but you should always keep an eye on them because of the potential for danger.

Also, it is not recommended to bring in other animals for visits. Strange dogs can be the target of aggression from this breed, as they feel their territory is being invaded. As always, training your dog will lessen the aggressive instances in your home.

Overall, you can expect a great watch dog and family member out of the Belgian Sheepdog. Once trained, they are extremely lovable and crave attention from you.. They will guard your property and be a fantastic exercise companion!

They love children and other dogs in the home, and are smart, easy to train, and downright loyal. You can expect many happy days of play and fun with the Belgian Sheepdog!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Meredith Jonas

    What an amazing breed.. They require a light hand on the leash, but also know their own mind and can have dominant tendencies, so you must project firmness and leadership at all times.
    Belgians can literally read your facial expressions and body language, and pick up every little movement you make, and they constantly anticipate what you’re going to do next

    • John Walton

      They are strong-willed, which can be toned down through proper socialization and training. They are also very bright and will try to outsmart you if you give it the opportunity.

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