The elegant and demanding Belgian Shepherd comes in four different variants that are very different in appearance. They also have things in common, such as their enormous urge to move and exercise. This requires a lot of time and experience from the owner.
The former sheepdog not only had to protect his flock but was also responsible for the farmer and his belongings. Even today, the Belgian Shepherd still has all the qualities of an excellent watchdog.
He is alert, lively, lightning-fast and always ready to protect his “pack”.His instinctive guarding instinct instinctively takes over responsibility for everything that belongs to his home. Owners of Belgian shepherds need not fear burglars.
Yet this brave four-legged friend is not a dog for frightened or insecure people. The Belgian Shepherd needs an equal partner by his side who manages to manage his temperamental character with a lot of sovereignty, empathy, and consistency.
To avoid nasty surprises, his urge to protect must be checked from the outset. Professional education and good socialization are indispensable for a harmonious coexistence with the intelligent watchdog.
Belgian energy bundle
Just as important as a consistent and loving upbringing is the willingness to be sporty with the dog. It is imperative to take into account the enormous movement and activity urge of the Belgian energy bundle.
If not taken into account, the purebred dog develops unpleasant behavior and tends to be overly aggressive. As compensation, you can do dog sports in addition to training as a working dog at the police, customs or rescue service.
The playful four-legged friend can be enthused for almost all sports types. Due to his high jumping ability, his high speed, and his exceptional climbing skills, he delivers remarkable performances, especially with agility.
However, the Belgian Shepherd is not only notable for its sporting performances and vigilance. Just as remarkable as his inexhaustible energy is his outspoken willingness to learn.
Thanks to his high intelligence and willingness to learn something new, he is an inquisitive student who always wants to be appreciated by his teacher.
The dog is eager to learn and people-oriented. This is very useful during education. Exaggerated severity is not only inappropriate in its sensitive nature, but also unnecessary.
With love, patience and a lot of time for joint (sporting) activities, you turn the watchful sheepdog into a loyal and reliable family dog that always faithfully assists his owner.
In terms of character, almost all Belgian shepherds are alike. However, in appearance they are very different, so you would hardly believe that the different types are of the same breed.
The current breed standard of the FCI, where the Belgian Shepherd is under number 15 of group 1 (sheepdogs and cattle breeders), section 1 (sheepdogs), defines the breed in four different varieties. These variations differ by the length, direction of growth and color of the coat.
The Malinois is the best-known type of this breed and most resembles a German Shepherd in appearance. His short coat is – apart from the black mask – pale red with a black glow. The hair tips are black and provide a dark shadow against the light background.
The most original but rarest representative of this breed today is the Laeken Shepherd. As with the Malinois, the coat is pale red and short. However, the coat is rough. The coat feels hard and dry and looks untamed. Its tousled appearance is desired by the standard.
The coat color of the Tervueren shepherd is reminiscent of that of the Malinois: pale red with black glow and a black mask. However, his hair is longer and, like the Groenendaeler, he belongs to the long-haired types of this breed.
The long-haired Groenendael is the only one of the four types whose coat is black. As with all other types, this type also tolerates a small white breast mark and white markings on the toes.
The four types have one thing in common: their proud appearance. The long-haired Tervueren shepherd and the Groenendaeler, in particular, make an almost majestic impression.
This is on the one hand due to the light physique, which never looks massive despite its size, and on the other hand to the head they wear high. Unlike their relatives, the German Shepherd, the representatives of the Belgian breed are more graceful and shorter built.
While the German variant has a rather rectangular physique, the Belgian Shepherd is almost square when viewed from the side. Their hallway also takes up less space than with the German colleague. However, they sometimes surpass him in speed, maneuverability, and jumping ability.
The Belgian Shepherd’s ancestors already stood out for their speed and maneuverability. The dogs were initially kept as working dogs of shepherds and farmers. Until the end of the 19 e century, there were in Belgium many sheepdogs and cattle that have been interbred despite their different appearance “wild” – by breeding after all was their ability to work centrally.
Only in 1891 was a Belgian sheepdog club founded in Brussels that put an end to this “disorder”. The first standard divided the Belgian Sheepdog into three types based on their coat: rough, short and long-haired.
In the history of the Belgian sheepdogs, there was sometimes disagreement among breeders about the allowed colors and variations. It took a while for the four current types, which are named after Belgian places, to be established.
In the last centuries, the types were changed over and over again. As controversial as the appearance of the coat was, with regard to character, morphology, and practicality, the breeders of the Belgian Shepherd agreed. The breed has not changed in character and physique.
Separation from the Dutch shepherd
The Belgian Shepherd dogs share the physique and appearance with the Dutch Shepherd from the Netherlands. With the Dutch colleague, who is also admitted as a brindle type, no distinction is made between types.
If you look at the big picture, the sheepdogs of the Benelux countries are identical. They both come from roughly the same region and were only recognized as a different breed after the separation from Belgium.
Breeding and health
Since there is a breed standard, the different types may no longer be crossed. The breeders, therefore, concentrated on only one type: Malinois, Laeken Shepherd, Tervueren Shepherd or Groenendael.
The former is the most common, but, unlike its German counterpart, the Belgian Shepherd belongs to a rare dog breed. Finding a suitable breeder in the area is therefore not easy.
This aspect also has a positive side because it is relatively rare, the Belgian Shepherd is a very healthy dog breed. So there are few breed-specific diseases that you should be afraid of.
While the susceptibility to epilepsy or elbow dysplasia is mentioned from time to time, the dreaded hip dysplasia (HD) – which occurs in almost all dog breeds of this size – is rare.
Nevertheless, of course, diseases can also occur in Belgian sheepdogs and you should always keep a close eye on your dog so that you recognize changes in behavior and appearance in time. It could be a sign of a disease that may require veterinary treatment.
Do not worry. You do not have to examine your dog for hours every day to diagnose infections and diseases in time. With appropriate care of your dog you already take care of his health. Regular brushing of the coat, clipping of the nails and cleaning of the teeth and ears can not only prevent possible infections but also ensure that you are busy with the dog and therefore also look closely at it. Changes to his coat, bald or inflamed areas, or major weight changes will automatically become apparent during care.
How time-consuming is the care of a Belgian sheepdog?
In general, the time it takes to care for this breed is manageable. The coat care can vary greatly depending on the different types. Malinois and Laeken herds should be brushed about once a week.
Groenendaelers and Tervueren herders, on the other hand, should be brushed more often because of their dense coat. Especially twice a year when the sheepdog is in the molt and loses a lot of hair, the coat care should be intensified.
In general, the hair does not tangle quickly with the long-haired types. Unlike the hair of other long-haired dogs, it is quite easy to care for.
Please sit still!
As with other dogs, regular monitoring and care of the ears, eyes, teeth, and gums are also common in this dog breed. Cutting nails is also an important part of physical care.
It is important that you get your temperamental dog used to the care in time. With regularity, consistency and loving patience you can still calm the dog – who does not like to sit still – so that he can also be examined.
A good and balanced diet is just as important as good care for good health. But which dog food is best for the Belgian Shepherd? Unfortunately, this question cannot be answered in general for all varieties of this breed.
Although they have the same physique, their energy needs can vary greatly depending on age, weight, and activities. When choosing the right food, you must also pay attention to the individual circumstances of your dog.
A young dog needs food other than a senior dog and an active working dog food other than a family dog.
What does the dog need?
Regardless of the individual criteria, which you absolutely have to take into account, the rule of thumb is that an dog’s food must consist of 70 to 80 percent meat.
Meat is the most important protein source for healthy development for dogs. To prevent allergies, you can also feed exotic meat such as ostrich, kangaroo or water buffalo.
Other important ingredients are fruit and vegetables, which provide the four-legged friend with important vitamins and nutrients. However, too much fruit and too many carbohydrates – like too much grain – should be avoided.
Sugar and other sweeteners have nothing to look for in dog food. Seasoned food and other food scraps are also unsuitable for your four-legged friend. If you want to please your sheepdog, give him special dog treats or even better: go outside into nature with him so that he can enjoy himself.
Attitude and education
A lot of exercise not only has a positive effect on your dog’s weight, but also on his physical and mental satisfaction. Belgian sheepdogs make high demands on this and need much more exercise and activity for their mental well-being than other dogs.
Daily blocks are not nearly enough for these energy bundles. Sheepdogs used as service dogs in the police and customs are automatically challenged mentally and physically. Representatives of the breed kept as a family dog, on the other hand, need adequate pursuits.
What is a life without sport?
Dog sport should be a mandatory part of a Belgian Shepherd’s life. He can be found in almost every dog sport and has great success at competitions.
The dog likes to work, is intelligent and has an excellent physique. These qualities, combined with its speed, agility and strength, mean that in the field of dog sports, almost no dog can keep up with him.
It is especially impressive how high the dog can jump. For example, a Belgian sheepdog can jump over a 2.50-meter wall without any problems.
For whom is a Belgian shepherd suitable?
It goes without saying that such sporty and temperamental dogs are best suited to active dog owners with experience. As an owner of a Belgian shepherd, you especially need a lot of time and desire to be active with your dog.
Mentally and mentally challenged dogs are not only healthier and happier, but they are also more obedient and easier to educate. Especially with this breed, which has a certain basic sharpness, insufficient training can lead to dangerous behavior.
The right balance between consistency and resignation
In addition to lots of exercise and activities, sheepdogs also require consistent upbringing and early socialization to adapt as a family dog.
You must remember that these dogs have a very sensitive character and that in addition to consistency they also need love, peace, and resignation. The dogs experience excessive severity as disturbing and this does not lead to the desired upbringing effect.
They enjoy cuddle moments as much as they enjoy joint activities. Dogs that are challenged mentally and physically sufficiently are calm and balanced at home. They are loyal companions who make their owners happy for years.