Belgian Sheepdog (Groenendael)
Breed Group: Herding
Temperament and Behavior
Keenly intelligent and always ready to work, a Belgian Sheepdog is a strong, active, responsive dog that throws himself into whatever he is doing, whether it is playing, guarding, agility competition, police work, or search and rescue. At the same time, they are loving of family including children, and have a need to be around their people. The Belgian Sheepdog is not a dog for someone who spends long hours away from home or travels frequently. Also important is keeping them occupied physically and mentally. Denying them the companionship they crave or letting them become bored will lead to obsessive behavior. These are not dogs you can put in the backyard and forget about. A walk around the block won’t do either. They need hard exercise such as running, hiking, or chasing a frisbee. Advanced obedience, tracking, and agility training can give the mental challenge they need. They are exceptional watch and protection dogs who communicate freely with their voice. They are reserved with strangers and territorial with other dogs. If raised with them, they will likely accept other pets but may still view cats, rabbits, and birds as prey and should be introduced with caution. Many poke or nip in an effort to herd.
Physical CharacteristicsBelgian Sheepdogs are large agile, well-muscled dogs. They give the impression of being strong without being bulky. Males stand 25 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. Females are an inch or two shorter and about 10 pounds lighter. They have a long black coat that, as a result of its length, needs more grooming than the other Belgian Shepherds and tends to shed more as well. Because of their black coats, they do not do quite as well in heat as the Belgian Malinois or Belgian Tervuren.
Trainer's NotesTo prevent Belgian Sheepdogs from becoming shy or suspicious, they need more attention paid to socialization as young puppies than most breeds. They are thinking dogs that learn very quickly but are not for a novice owner or trainer. They will challenge all but the best trainers to keep up with them learning bad habits as quickly as those that are intended. Some are sensitive dogs that need a light touch while others are “harder”.
Belgian Sheepdog (Groenendael)
HealthBelgian Sheepdogs are generally healthy dogs. Their most common health problem is Elbow Dysplasia which affects less than 5% of the breed. Another 3% suffer from Hip Dysplasia. Less frequently seen is Epilepsy and Gastric Cancer. They live to be about 12 years old.
PopularityRanked 111th in popularity with about 400 dogs registered per year, the Belgian Sheepdog is one of the less popular AKC breeds. They are much more popular in Europe, especially in France and Belgium. Young dogs that are too rambunctious for a novice owner or who fail to meet the requirements for police work are often available through the breed rescue organization.
Breed HistoryThe Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Tervuren were originally three local variations of one breed called the Belgian or Continental Shepherd. With roots that can be traced to the late 1800s, it was originally bred to guard and herd livestock. It was officially named the Groenendael by the Belgians in 1910 in recognition of the kennel that bred the black colored coat. In the United States, the American Kennel Club recognized the Belgian Sheepdog as a separate breed in 1959.
Additional InformationIn Europe, the AKC breeds called the Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Tervuren, together with the Belgian Laekenois (a wire-hair variety the AKC does not recognize) are viewed as the same breed (all called the Belgian Shepherd), with different coat colors and textures. To complicate things further, the AKC calls this dog (the Groenendael) the Belgian Sheepdog. The National (US) Breed Club is the American Belgian Sheepdog Club of America.