Belgian Sheepdog

A bright, obedient, high-energy dog

Belgian Sheepdog

A Bright, Obedient, High-Energy Dog Who Needs Vigorous Activity and Consistent Guidelines

Although there are four types of Sheepdogs from Belgium, differentiated by their place of origin as well as by coat type and color, only one has claimed official use of the term Belgian “Sheepdog.” While the Malinois, the Tervuren, and the Laekenois are considered Belgian Sheepdogs as well, this breed, the most popular, also known as the Groenendael, or Chien de Berger Belge, is the one and only distinctive Belgian “Sheepdog.”


In the late 1800s, Prof. A. Reul of the Cureghem Veterinary Medical School led a group of dog fanciers in efforts to collect foundation stock for the Belgian Shepherd Dog, from four areas of Belgium: Tervuren, Groenendael, Malines, and Laeken. The first officially recognized club, the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club (or the Club du Chien de Berger Belge) was established in Brussels. The first standard for the breed was written in 1892, with official recognition established in the Royal Saint Hubert Society Studbook in 1901. By 1910, the breed standard was firmly defined except for coat type and color which continue to remain a topic of debate today.

Once the breed was actually recognized, interest in Belgian Shepherds developed quickly. Before World War I, it was clear that the Belgian Shepherd was very trainable, keenly intelligent, and able to perform a number of functions. In fact, the Paris police used the Belgian Sheepdog in the first decade of the 20th century, as did the New York police. In 1908, four Belgian Sheepdogs were imported to work next to a Groenendael Belgian Sheepdog that had been born in America. Belgian customs also used Belgian Sheepdogs for border control, where the dogs were instrumental in capturing smugglers. They also served as effective watchdogs, herders, and companion dogs.

During World War I, they became battlefield heroes, as well, assisting with ambulance work, carrying messages, and pulling machine-guns. Although they were first registered in the United States around 1911, they became very famous after the war. In 1919, the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed, with shows increasingly held in the 1920s. In 1926, the Belgian Sheepdog ranked 42nd in popularity out of 100 registrations by the American Kennel Club.

During the Great Depression, however, the Belgian Sheepdog's popularity dropped off markedly, to 97 out of 100, but it again showed its brilliance and versatility on the battlefield during World War II. After the war, the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was reformed in 1949. Breed "stock" continues to grow with many importations of the original Groenendael breed.

As of 1959, the American Kennel Club only recognized the Groenendael as the Belgian “Sheepdog,” with the Belgian Tervuren and Belgian Malinois recognized separately. The Laekenois is currently only recognized as foundation stock but in time will possibly gain recognition as well. Originally, the Groenendael and Tervuren were recognized as the same breed with different coat variations by the American Kennel Club, but the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America successfully petitioned to have the breeds recognized separately.


A muscular and athletic breed, the Belgian Sheepdog has a square body and tight skin with an elegant, proud bearing. Many say that this is the most beautiful of the four Belgian herding dogs, and it is certainly the most popular. The breed currently boasts a long-haired black coat, sometimes with white on the toes, chest, and/or chin. The coat is weather-resistant and has a ruff of fur around the neck and "feathering" on the legs, underneath the body, and on the tail. The ears are erect and triangular, with a moderately pointed muzzle; and a flat, as opposed to rounded, skull. In adulthood, the Belgian Shepherd will weigh between 60 to 75 pounds and stand 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder.


Bright and obedient, this dog will want to be a member of the family right from the very start. Naturally territorial and very protective, it will need expert training from an early age, as do most dogs. Provided with consistent rules from a confident, natural, and kind owner, this lovely dog can be an ideal pet for an extended family or a single owner.

Very high-energy and with an exceedingly watchful, intelligent nature, this breed excels as a superb guard dog in addition to being a loyal companion. However, it is imperative that you train this type of dog as a puppy to accept and respect small children. Prone to becoming dominant, this dog must have the strong influence of a forceful owner who acts as “pack leader” to provide clear guidelines for behavior, which with enough reinforcement will eventually become the dog’s habitual conduct.

Classified by the AKC as a herding dog, this breed needs to be kept occupied with “work” at all times. A pet like this will not be happy unless you provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation. The Belgian Sheepdog will instinctively act as a natural protector of your family and feels most secure in their presence. Don't adopt the Belgian Sheepdog if you don't intend to spend most of your time with this noble animal. This is not a dog that can tolerate loneliness for long hours or confinement to a kennel. If given daily vigorous exercise, consistent training and warm companionship, including gentle leadership from you, the "alpha dog" owner, this breed will be an excellent pet.

Not especially enamored of other pets, particularly small non-canine animals like rabbits or rodents, this dog’s strong inbred herding traits can surface which can lead to an unsafe environment for such animals.

Make sure you provide plenty of outdoor activity, including long daily walks and time off-leash where the dog can run to exhaust its boundless energy.


The Belgian Sheepdog is hearty and healthy with no major health problems reported. As with many dogs, hip or elbow dysplasia, skin allergies, and epilepsy may be problems. Average life expectancy is 13 to 14 years.


The long, medium-length, straight and heavy outer coat and dense undercoat need to be brushed and combed on a daily basis. Belgian Shepherds shed profusely twice a year but are moderate shedders the rest of the year, as well. Mats may form in the ruff on the neck and on the leg and tail feathering, and should be clipped out. Also clip hair from between the toes and outer ears.


AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Belgian Sheepdog.

Retrieved September 29, 2013.

Belgian Sheepdog.

Retrieved September 29, 2013.

Belgian Shepherd.

Retrieved September 29, 2013.

Belgian Shepherd Dog Breed Review.

html. Retrieved September 29, 2013.

Belgium Shepherd (Belgian Shepherd Groenendael) (Belgian Sheepdog)

(Belgian Groenendael) (Chien de Berger Belge) (Groenendaeler).

Retrieved September 29, 2013.

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