Belgian Sheepdogs have an alert expression, a pointed muzzle, and triangular, erect, prick ears. These dogs are strong and solid, but not bulky. Their coat is either completely black or black and white, and their shiny, long hair makes them appear elegant. They have shorter hair on the lower legs, head, and outer ears, and long and abundant hair around the neck. Their abundant guard hairs are straight and long, and they are neither wiry nor silky. The undercoat is very dense, but may vary a bit depending on climate. These dogs measure 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 40 to 75 pounds. Belgian Sheepdogs generally live up to 14 years with proper care.
They are devoted to their human companions, and they make great companion animals for active families.
Naturally protective, Belgian Sheepdogs tend to be watchful, alert, courageous, and intelligent. They are devoted to their human companions, and they make great companion animals for active families.
The hair of the Belgian Sheepdog can be collected, spun into yarn, and then used to knit hats, sweaters, socks, afghans, and other items.
These dogs are happiest when kept busy with chores. They get along well with older children and easily adapt to rural or suburban living, provided they are given plenty of opportunities to exercise. They love to play fetch and other games, and they will act out if bored.
Intelligent and protective, Belgian Sheepdogs make great watchdogs. They are adaptable, affectionate, and playful, and they tend to do very well with children and cats, although there may be some issues with other dogs. These dogs tend to follow their human family members around, and they are rarely shy or fearful.
Their size and tendency to bark make them unsuitable for life in an apartment or condominium. Ideally, these dogs should live in a home with a large, secure, fenced back yard. They are ideally suited to life with an active family that regularly engages in hiking, bicycling, running, and other high-energy activities.
Belgian Sheepdogs are more prone than some other breeds to hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cancer, hypothyroidism, and certain eye diseases, such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, an inherited condition that leads to total blindness. Skin allergies are also common in these dogs, and shampoos and other skin products should be hypoallergenic, non-irritating, and pH balanced for use on dogs.
Genetic diseases are not generally a major risk when adopting or purchasing Belgian Sheepdogs, but no dog can be guaranteed to be free of disease. Because of this, it's important to use only reputable breeders, to research the puppy's line, and to see a veterinarian regularly for routine examinations and care.
With proper care, a healthy and balanced diet, and regular exercise, Belgian Sheepdogs can live 10 to 12 years.
Belgian Sheepdogs are highly trainable and intelligent. They respond best to positive reinforcement. Harsh correction and overly firm training methods may result in stubbornness and poor mood. Training must be consistent and firm, but it must also be handled with a gentle touch.
These dogs are territorial, wary of strangers, and make excellent watchdogs. They also have high exercise needs and require a lot of physical activity and mental stimulation to keep them healthy, happy, and out of trouble. In fact, as one of those most active and energetic breeds in its size range, Belgian Shepherds seem to be constantly moving. However, these dogs should be controllable enough to remain still when under command, and their activity should be purposeful.
Early socialization can prevent shy, fearful, and aggressive behaviors and ensure the Belgian Sheepdog becomes tolerant of other animals. These dogs will benefit from puppy kindergarten and trips to the dog park during their first year.
These dogs need weekly brushing to remove dead hair, and their coats must be brushed down to the skin using a technique known as "line brushing." A professional groomer can demonstrate this technique. Additionally, Belgian Sheepdogs need the hair between their paw pads trimmed using electric clippers or blunt-tipped scissors. Necessary grooming supplies include a slicker brush, a medium pin brush, an undercoat rake, and a mat comb.
Shedding occurs only once or twice each year and generally responds well to more frequent brushing. During shedding seasons, it is normal to see wads of loose hair floating around and piles of hair along baseboards and under furniture. Frequent, warm baths and blow-drying will help remove dead hair, and any patches of thinness on the dog's coat will grow back once shedding ends.
The nails should be trimmed every few weeks and the teeth require frequent brushing to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
This breed is traceable back to the late 1800s. In 1910, this dog became known as the Groenendael after being differentiated from other Belgian herding dogs. The name Groenendael came from the kennel that had been breeding the dogs.
These dogs are versatile and have spent time working as watchdogs, herders, and companion animals. They were used in New York and Paris for police work during the early 1900s.
During World War I, this breed distinguished itself as a top military dog. Belgian Sheepdogs served as ambulance dogs and message carriers, and they even pulled machine guns. Today, the breed is often employed in search and rescue. These dogs also make good therapy and guide dogs.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Belgian Sheepdog in 1912.