White and brown with black shading
Active families, those looking for a smart, suspicious working dog
Intelligent, protective, affectionate, active, eager to please
While they’re not a well-known breed, Belgian Laekenois are incredibly astute working dogs. Originally bred as sheepdogs, they’ve also been used as guard dogs, military pups, and of course, loyal pets.
They’re medium-sized but extremely sturdy and athletic, and they’re the type of dog that no one wants to tangle with when angry. Fortunately, though, they’re usually sweethearts — except when they detect a predator around their family, of course.
Chances are that you’re not too familiar with the Belgian Laekenois, so the guide below will serve as an introduction, filling you in on everything you need to know about these fuzzy little wonderdogs.
Belgian Laekenois Puppies — Before You Get One
Belgian Laekenois are extremely fluffy as full-grown adults, so you can imagine how adorable they are as puppies.
They’re not all just frizzy fur either. Their ears and legs seemingly come out fully formed, so they’re carrying around these oversized appendages on their tiny little bodies.
While these dogs are active and energetic as adults, they never stop moving as puppies. They’re intensely curious, so expect them to get into everything that’s not bolted down (and likely chew it to shreds while they’re at it).
Most Laekenois puppies are inquisitive enough to approach new people, so you should take advantage of this and socialize them as much as possible. Once they’re grown, they’re much more likely to be suspicious of strangers, but you can mitigate that with sufficient socialization.
Of course, while they may be willing to walk up to strangers as puppies, this is the time when they’re forming their bond with you — and for Laekenois, that bond tends to be lifelong and unshakeable.
3 Little-Known Facts About Belgian Laekenois
Given how rare these dogs are, you could argue that any fact about them is little-known. However, we’ve discovered three things that truly make these dogs unique.
1. These dogs don’t walk in straight lines.
No, your Belgian Laekenois isn’t drunk (we hope). If you notice them running in a curved or circular manner, there’s nothing to worry about — it’s simply what they do.
They move this way due to years of guarding livestock. A sheepdog needs to keep the animals in a tight mass so none get lost, and they also want to keep them moving to reduce stragglers. Running in curved arcs makes it easier to achieve both of those goals.
It’s now second-nature to a Laekenois, even if they don’t have any sheep around to protect.
2. They’re one of the newest breeds to be recognized by the AKC.
The Laekenois is an old breed, as they’re considered the oldest of the Belgian Shepherd group, which also includes the Malinois, Tervuren, and Belgian Sheepdog. Despite their age, they were only officially recognized by the AKC in July 2020.
What took so long? It’s partially due to their rarity. Experts estimate there are fewer than 400 Laekenois in the United States, so they don’t have many passionate advocates putting pressure on the AKC for recognition.
3. Laekenois are war heroes.
These dogs were used as messenger dogs in both World Wars, and they would fearlessly scamper through the most ferocious of battles. They would follow orders without a second thought, making them the perfect soldiers.
They were so good at their jobs that in WWII, Adolf Hitler put a bounty on them. This shows how valuable they were and explains why they’re so rare.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Belgian Laekenois 🧠
Belgian Laekenois are like lovable drill sergeants. They’re not necessarily the most affable of characters, but everything they do has your best interests at heart.
These are lovable dogs that make great pets, but they’re working animals through and through. They thrive on having a job to do, and they won’t let anything get in the way of that — not even horsing around with you.
If you don’t have anything for them to do, then they’re going to have a ton of energy that needs to be released. That can make them demanding pets to own, as they’re not going to be happy just vegging out on the couch all day long.
They also tend to be a bit reserved, at least until they get to know you. They’re not aggressive, but don’t expect them to be too welcoming to strangers. This is a dog that plays their cards close to the vest, at least until they have you figured out.
However, their work ethic and extreme intelligence make them easy to train, as you can convince them to do just about anything.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡
Laekenois are working dogs. As a result, they don’t have much time for children.
That’s not to say that they can’t be trusted around kids — far from it. These dogs can be loyal and affectionate, and they’ll put their lives on the line to protect your little ones without a moment’s hesitation.
They just don’t really know what to do with kids. More often than not, they’ll try to herd them, which can be frustrating for both dog and child.
However, older kids can form a deep bond with one of these dogs, especially if they’re both engaged in a task beyond just being together. This is a dog that will gladly go exploring with your kids, but they may not see the point in just running around the backyard together.
They’re also incredible guard dogs, so if your family’s safety is a concern, you can’t do much better than bringing home a Laekenois. They won’t tolerate any shady behavior, but they’re not eternally suspicious of outsiders like some other protective breeds. You’ll be able to have guests over with a Laekenois in the house — just tell them to behave themselves.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽
Laekenois care about doing their jobs above all things. That includes spending time playing with other pups.
They’ll definitely enjoy romping around with another dog, but before too long, they’ll want to stop fooling around so they can get back to work. This can be frustrating to the other dog if they really have their heart set on playing (and frustrating to the Laekenois if their sibling interferes with their duties).
You shouldn’t have to worry about aggression issues, though, as Laekenois are generally tolerant of other dogs.
As far as cats and other small pets are concerned, the Laekenois doesn’t have the strongest prey drive, so they should be safe. However, there’s a good chance that if the Laekenois sees your kitty, they’ll decide to herd it. As you might expect, many cats don’t care for this.
All in all, you should have little to fear in regard to your other pets when there’s a Laekenois around. However, you’ll have to guard against frustration from those animals when they discover that they’re apparently livestock instead of pets.
Things to Know When Owning a Belgian Laekenois
Most people will go their whole lives without even seeing a Belgian Laekenois, let alone owning one, so you can be forgiven for not knowing how to care for one of these dogs.
If you’re thinking about adding one to your pack, though, there are definitely a few things to think about first. Below, we’ll walk you through key things to keep in mind when it comes to owning a Laekenois.
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
When used as sheepdogs, Laekenois would be expected to work extremely hard from dawn to dusk, with little food in between. As a result, they can handle being fed less than similar dogs their size.
We’re not suggesting that you cut their rations, but you should be careful about how much you feed them, as you don’t want them to become overweight. You shouldn’t leave food out for them to free-feed, but rather portion out their meals carefully. They may only need to eat once a day after they mature as well.
Try to feed them a high-quality kibble that’s loaded with protein, as that will give them the long-lasting energy that they need to get all their work done. Look for one that has quite a bit of fat and fiber too, as those will keep them feeling full all day long (and keep them regular).
Be wary of foods loaded with carbs, as these will give short bursts of energy but won’t have much lasting effect. They can also lead to weight problems if your dog isn’t active enough.
Avoid ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, or animal by-products, as these are cheap fillers that do nothing for your dog’s nutritional needs. Instead, look for ingredients on the label that are actually recognizable as food, like spinach, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and the like.
Exercise is like air to the Laekenois. It’s not something that you can negotiate or that they can do without. If you don’t give them all the physical and mental stimulation they need, it will have a powerful effect on their demeanor.
That’s why it’s best to give them a job that they can focus on all the time. This way, even when they’re not actively running around, they’ll still be on high alert, which taxes them mentally.
As you might expect, this is not a breed that’s suitable for apartment life. They’re not even really suitable for living in a house unless there’s a giant backyard. They need tons of room to roam, and the larger the perimeter they have to guard, the happier they’ll be.
They’re often used on farms and ranches, where they’re allowed to roam off-leash as they investigate the goings-on all over the property. While we’re never fans of letting dogs off-leash, the Laekenois is obedient enough to be trusted (assuming that they have proper training, of course).
If you don’t have any sheep for them to tend or valuables for them to protect, you’ll need to find other ways to drain their energy. Given how intelligent, athletic, and obedient they are, agility training is a perfect fit for the breed.
There aren’t many breeds that are easier to train than the Laekenois. They are razor-sharp and eager to please, so they’ll do anything that you ask of them without question.
They’re even willing to put up with monotony to please you, so you won’t have to change up your training as much as you would with some other intelligent breeds. We still think that you should vary your methods to keep things fresh for both of you, but they won’t punish you for being predictable.
You can teach them to do absolutely anything. That’s why they’re so popular with police departments and the military, as they’re more than happy to do what they’re told.
It’s best to rely on positive reinforcement to train them, as they’ll become distrustful if they’re abused. They’ll run through fire for a few kind words, though, so giving them praise or a treat will be more than enough to keep them motivated.
It’s important to note that if you don’t train them on how to behave and what’s expected of them, they’ll fill in the gaps on their own. That doesn’t mean they’re prone to misbehaving, but rather that they’ll try to figure out what job you want them to do if you don’t make it abundantly clear on your own.
The Laekenois coat is wiry and tweedy, so if you want a soft and fuzzy animal to snuggle with, you might need to keep looking.
You can forget about getting their hair to cooperate too. The frizz has a mind of its own, and no amount of brushing or combing will get it to lay down.
You should still groom them at least once a week, though, and regularly check their coat for brambles and similar issues if they’re allowed to roam around freely.
Pay attention to their feet as well. Their nails shouldn’t be allowed to grow too long, or else they could break and cause injury. However, if they run around all day, they’ll probably file their nails down on their own.
They shouldn’t need to be bathed unless they’re visibly dirty, but clean their ears out a few times a month to prevent infection. Also, brush their teeth as often as you can — every day, if possible.
Health and Conditions ❤️
The Laekenois is a healthy breed, but that’s assuming they’re fed properly and given all the exercise they need. If they’re allowed to become obese or live sedentary lifestyles, they’ll be more likely to suffer from a variety of health issues.
While you shouldn’t have to deal with many medical issues, there are a few things to be aware of.
Male vs. Female
Male and female Laekenois are similar in terms of both size and temperament. Males might be a bit bigger, but not so much that you’d notice.
Females might be a bit more protective of their humans, but again, any difference is likely to be minimal.
You might have a bit of a time tracking down a Belgian Laekenois, as these dogs are far from commonplace. However, if you manage to locate one, you’ll have a workhorse that loves nothing more than to put in a hard day’s work.
Many people don’t need a dog that works that hard, though, so if you’re more of a couch potato than potato farmer, the Laekenois might be more pup than you need. They need to work, so if you don’t have anything for them to do, you might not be a great match for one another.
There are few animals as energetic and dedicated as the Belgian Laekenois, and anyone with the room to spare should think about adopting one. Best of all, they won’t judge you if it turns out they work harder than you do (just kidding — they’re totally going to judge you).
Featured Image Credit: Marry Kolesnik, Shutterstock