Breed of the Week: Belgian Sheepdog

What do you think of when you hear about a shepherd dog?  For most of us, that would be the German Shepherd Dog.  However, there are actually many more shepherd dogs than just the German Shepherd.  This week we’re going to be taking a look at one of those breeds, the Belgian Sheepdog.

We took a look at the Schipperke last week; the Belgian Sheepdog is thought to descend from the same ancestor – the Leuvenaar.  The Belgian Sheepdog is also known as the Belgian Shepherd, the Black Belgian Shepherd Dog, the Chien de Berger Belge, or the Groenendael (pronounced Groo-nun-dahl).  In Belgium, the Belgian Sheepdog is thought to be one of four varieties of the same breed of shepherd under the blanket term Belgian Shepherd Dog.  These breeds are, the Groenendael, the Laekenois, the Tervuren, and the Malinois.  Their overall confirmation and structure are the same; they are separated only by coat length, texture, and color.  In many other regions, however, each of these varieties are considered separate and distinct breeds.

The Belgian Sheepdog is highly trainable and learns new commands easily, however, they are not a dog recommended for first-time dog owners.  The Belgian Sheepdog is a high energy breed and requires plenty of exercise as well as mental stimulation to prevent them becoming destructive or developing separation anxiety.  For this reason, many Belgian Sheepdog owners compete with them in obedience, agility, flyball, Frisbee, sledding, tracking and, of course, herding.  They are also often used as search and rescue dogs, guide dogs, and therapy dogs.  Those that intend to keep the Belgian Shepherd as just a family pet should understand that this means spending time and effort socializing, training, and exercising their dog because of their high energy and intelligence that can otherwise get them into trouble.

Although the Belgian Sheepdog was bred to be a working dog first and foremost, they are extremely loyal to their families and develop deep bonds with their family members.  These deep bonds often result in a dog that thoroughly enjoys being involved in every family activity and one that wants to be with their people as much as possible.  They do not like being left on their own and will demand attention if they feel they’re not getting enough.  They can and often are wary and distrustful of strangers and unfamiliar animals.  This can be mitigated with enough socialization early on and continued socialization as they get older.  Without such socialization and proper training, they may become aggressive toward anyone outside their immediate family pack.

As a herding dog, the Belgian Sheepdog loves to chase.  It is advisable to supervise any play with children as they may take the children’s running about as an invitation to herd and, therefore, might start nipping at their heels and pant legs.  This behavior should not be encouraged and should be corrected or guided in another direction (such as toward herding balls around or toward a goal) early on to prevent worse problems later.  Their instinct to chase and herd also means they require a securely fenced backyard as otherwise they might just decide to go herd local joggers, the neighborhood kids on their bikes, or people in cars on their way to work.

The coat of the Belgian Sheepdog should be all or mostly black with only some white between the pads of their paws, on the fore-chest, and/or some “frost” on the chin or muzzle.  Though the Belgian Sheepdog’s medium length coat only requires the occasional brushing to keep it free of knots and mats, the fact that they have a double coat and are heavy shedders year-round may have owners brushing them daily to remove loose fur and prevent it flying all over the house.  Should owners decide only to brush their Belgian Sheepdog occasionally, they should not be surprised to find fur on their couch, their clothes, their floor, their curtains, and even in their food!

If you’re interested in purchasing or adopting a Belgian Sheepdog, please do your research!  This dog is high energy; you must have the time to exercise and play with them on a regular basis!  This is also a dog that gets bored quickly and easily.  You must be prepared to provide stimulating activities to keep their mind active and engaged.

Fun Fact:  The Belgian Sheepdog was used to carry messages and pull ambulance and machine gun carts in World War I.

Do you or have you owned a Belgian Sheepdog?  Tell us about him/her in the comments below!  I would love to hear about your experiences!

Have suggestions?  Leave a comment below!

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