Belgian Sheepdog Breed Info: Pictures, Personality & Facts
Solid black (may have a small white marking on chest and toes)
Intelligent, alert, and brave, with confident, outgoing personalities; always eager to please
The Belgian Sheepdog is a medium-to-large sized dog that is one of four varieties of Belgian Shepherd (Groenendael, Laekenois, Malinois, and Tervuren), all of which are anatomically identical dogs that are differentiated only by the color, length, and texture of their hair.
In Belgium, the breed’s country of origin, the four varieties of Belgian Shepherd are the same breed. However, in some other parts of the world, each is recognized as a separate breed. In the United States, the jury is still out as the United Kennel Club considers them all to be the same breed. In contrast, the American Kennel Club considers each of the four to be a separate breed.
Whichever side of this argument you fall upon, we’re sure that you’ll agree that the Belgian Sheepdog is simply a magnificent dog.
Belgian Sheepdog Puppies
Bred originally as working dogs, Belgian Sheepdogs are highly active and intelligent dogs. They love being with people and need an owner who has both the time to spend with them and energy to keep up with them. They’re best suited to homes with a secure yard in which they can play and run around or a rural property with plenty of outdoor space. To keep them at their best, they need a great deal of daily exercise.
If you think that the Belgian Sheepdog may be the dog for you, the most important step that you need to take toward owning one is selecting a breeder. Far too many people get fooled into buying dogs from a puppy mill, a mass breeding facility set up to breed and sell as many dogs as possible while having little regard for the welfare of their dogs or their offspring.
Responsible breeders will always have the interest of their dogs at heart, and this means they’ll make sure that their dogs are well looked after and that all dogs get appropriate health checks and screenings to reduce the incidence of any known hereditary health conditions.
As with all of life’s big decisions, it is important to do your homework, and the best place to start is with the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA), which maintains an up-to-date list of registered breeders. All the breeders on the list are in good standing with the BSCA and the American Kennel Club and have agreed to abide by the BSCA’s breeder code of conduct. Of course, if you find a breeder that isn’t on the list, it doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t reputable, but it does mean you should be more diligent in checking them out.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Belgian Sheepdog
1. The Belgian Sheepdog was first recognized in 1891
The Belgian Shepherd, including the Belgian Sheepdog variety, was first recognized as a breed in 1891, with the formation of the Club du Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) in Brussels.
2. The Belgian Sheepdog is exceptionally fond of people
While wary of strangers, Belgian Sheepdogs bond closely with their families and tend to sulk or become destructive if separated from them for long periods. Despite being a dog that needs a great deal exercise and a yard to run about in, they do not do well if made to live outside. Instead, a Belgian Sheepdog will be most happy when they share their owners’ home and get let out for play and exercise several times a day.
3. Belgian Sheepdogs love to work
These dogs have been bred to work and naturally like to be kept busy and mentally stimulated. On a rural property, that might include involving them in herding tasks or some other form of work. While in suburbia, this could involving training for obedience or agility trials or even engaging in dog sports, like flyball.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Belgian Sheepdog 🧠
Belgian Sheepdogs are confident and outgoing dogs that should neither be timid or aggressive. They tend to do best with an owner who is a calm and strong leader, ideally someone capable of setting boundaries and who can teach and guide them in a consistent manner with encouragement and positive reinforcement.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a clever breed, capable of learning in quite a short period. They adore their human families and are eager to please, but they can be a bit mischievous or destructive. This is particularly the case if they are left alone for long periods, as without sufficient mental stimulation, you may find your Belgian Sheepdog develops a digging habit or starts to destroy toys, shoes, or clothes that are left hanging out to dry.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡
Belgian Sheepdogs have a natural guarding instinct and will fiercely protect their family and their home from any perceived threats. When not under threat, they are calm and playful dogs and make for great family pets.
The breed gets on well with children of all ages. Still, young children must always be supervised and never left alone with them, as a Belgian Sheepdog can easily misinterpret a child’s rough play as aggression and react inappropriately.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽
If well socialized from a young age, you are unlikely to have any issues keeping another dog with your Belgian Sheepdog. However, they are not the best dogs to have in a household with other smaller animals, like cats or rabbits. The Belgian Sheepdog is a herding dog, and their constant attempts to herd your cat or chase your rabbit will quickly become problematic.
Things to Know When Owning a Belgian Sheepdog
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
The American Kennel Club recommends that a Belgian Sheepdog should be fed with high-quality, age-specific dog food that is either commercially manufactured or home-prepared under the guidance of your vet.
While some owners do choose to go down the route of home-prepared meals, the simplest option is to select a premium quality commercially prepared dog food. In the United States, all dog foods need to meet certain standards. Any dog food you select will provide you with nutritional information on the label, including details of the full list of ingredients, the nutritional value of the product, and a comprehensive feeding guide.
Being a highly active working breed, Belgian Sheepdogs need a fair amount of daily exercise to keep fit and healthy. Even as young puppies, they need to get time to play outdoors, and from about 4 months of age, they will need to be taken out for at least a half-mile work each day and have outdoor play. Once they are about a year old, your daily walks will need to increase to at least a mile.
You may also find that your Belgian Sheepdog enjoys dog sports such as agility training or frisbee games, and a good romp around your local dog park with other dogs will likely be an enjoyable activity for them.
The key to training a Belgian Sheepdog is to earn their trust. They are highly intelligent dogs that can be trained to an exceptionally high standard. Yet, because they are independent thinkers, they won’t fully commit to their training if you are abusive or aggressive toward them.
As with most dogs, Belgian Shepherds respond best to positive reinforcement, and this breed will simply shy away and withdraw from any activity in which you lose your patience with them. On the other hand, if they see that you are supportive and encouraging, they will see their training as an exciting game that they get to play with you, and they will quickly get on board with the program.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a double-coated breed. They have a soft undercoat that will vary in thickness depending upon the time of year and the climate in which they live, as well as a long, straight outer coat that is moderately harsh but not wiry to the touch.
The breed sheds moderately for most of the year and will need to be brushed at least weekly to ensure that their outercoat remains free of tangles and looking its best. However, at least once a year, usually at the start of summer, they will “blow” their undercoat. When this occurs, they will require hours of brushing over a short period to remove all the loose fur from their undercoat. Alternatively, when your dog starts to molt like this, you can take them to a professional dog groomer and have them de-molt your dog for you.
Belgian Shepherds don’t tend to need much bathing, and you can limit this to whenever they get particularly smelly or they’ve rolled in something messy that won’t simply brush out of their coat.
In addition to brushing and occasional bathing, a Belgian Shepherd will need to have their nails regularly clipped, a task that requires care and is not something you should do yourself unless you have been shown how to do so by a vet or a professional groomer.
Health and Conditions ❤️
Belgian Shepherds are generally a healthy breed. However, like all dogs, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Many of these have been greatly reduced through careful and responsible breeding practices, so the best defense you can have is to have your breeder show you the health clearances for both of your puppy’s parents.
Health conditions to which the breed is most prone include:
- Anesthesia sensitivity
- Eye infections
- Ear infections
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
Male vs. Female
The main differences between male and female Belgian Sheepdogs relate to their physical size and strength. Males tend to be taller, heavier, and stronger than females. However, unlike giant-sized breeds, these physical differences don’t tend to have many practical advantages or disadvantages.
There are, of course, a few minor differences in the behavior of between male and females Belgian Sheepdogs. However, these are almost always eliminated, or at least greatly reduced, by spaying or neutering. So, unless you have a desire to breed from your dog, you don’t need to be too concerned about these.
The one time we would suggest that you should be selective about the sex of your puppy is if you already have another dog. Belgian Sheepdogs tend to get on with other dogs, but if they do have a problem, it is almost always going to be with a dog of the same sex. Hence, if you already have a male dog, you should consider getting a female Belgian Sheepdog and vice versa.
If you are looking for an intelligent, loving, loyal, and outgoing family pet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dog more suitable than a Belgian Sheepdog. Though not as popular as the Belgian Malinois, which is used extensively in law enforcement and military service, they are essentially the same dog in a slightly more appealing and less threatening coat.
Belgian Sheepdogs have a long and proud history as working dogs. While still used on many farming properties throughout Europe, they are equally good pets and companion animals.
A Belgian Sheepdog is an okay dog for a first-time dog owner, provided that you have the time to look after them and you are patient and consistent with their training. However, they are not at all suited to apartment living and instead, need a home with a large and securely fenced yard.
Featured Image Credit: xkunclova, Shutterstock