Belgian Shepherd Dog
Who loves me will love my dog also. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux
As their name suggests, Belgian Shepherd Dogs were developed in Belgium as sheep herding dogs. In the late 1800s, Professor A. Reul of the Cureghem Veterinary Medical School undertook to create a strong, agile sheep herding dog suited to the rugged Belgian climate and terrain. His group gathered its foundation stock from four different the areas in Belgium: Tervuren, Groenendael, Mechelen, and Laeken.
By 1910 the four dog types had been established and named for the Belgian towns where they were most popular. They were introduced to North America after World War I as the Belgian Sheepdog. Today, the breed is known as the Belgian Shepherd Dog.
There has been continuing debate over whether the four different types of Belgian Shepherd Dog are in fact four different breeds or varieties of a single breed. Kennel clubs around the world support different sides of this debate. In Belgium (the country of origin) all four types are considered to be varieties of a single breed, differentiated by hair colour and texture. The Canadian Kennel Club follows the Belgian lead and considers them varieties of a single breed.
Belgian Shepherds are known in their own country for their intelligence and alertness, and were used during the war as messengers and rescue dogs. In addition to his original sheep herding function, the Belgian Shepherd Dog is widely used for police and security work, and is prized in obedience competition.
Photos displayed courtesy of Monique Boucher, Tervfect Reg’d, Ontario
The Belgian Shepherd Dog stands up to 26 inches (66 cm) tall at the shoulder. The four different varieties correspond to the four different coat types.
The Groenendael has a long-haired, solid black coat or solid black with very small white markings on the chest, between the pads on the feet, and on the tips of the hind toes. A sprinkling of frost on the muzzle and chin may also be seen.
The Tervuren is also long-haired and is either a rich fawn to russet mahogany, or gray. Both colour types have a black overlay. The coat is characteristically double pigmented, meaning the tip of each hair is blackened. In addition, the face has a black mask and the ears are mostly black.
The Malinois has a short and straight coat with a dense undercoat. In colour the Malinois ranges from a rich fawn to mahogany with a black overlay. He also sports a black mask and black ears.
The Laeken has a medium length coat that is rough-haired and appears unkempt. His undercoat is thick and woolly. His coat is light fawn to red brown, or gray in colour.
Regular grooming is important, particularly for the long-haired varieties.
An attentive and sensitive breed, the Belgian Shepherd is always aware of, and monitoring what is going on around him.
The Belgian Shepherd is intelligent, courageous, and devoted to his master. Protective and possessive of his people and territorial of his property, this dog is always on the alert. As a natural guardian, he is watchful and observant of strangers but not vicious or aggressive. With his family he displays the qualities of loyalty, friendliness, and affection.
As a breed, these dogs form very strong relationship bonds. Because they are excellent guard and watch dogs, they need early socialization to gain confidence in their owners and to accept other pets or children in other families.
As the name suggests, this dog was bred to herd and he is truly born to work. Always in motion, if left to his own devices he will create his own work by herding whatever is around: people, children, other pets, etc. As one might expect of a herder, he is very active and requires lots of daily outdoor exercise. He will best suit an owner who enjoys lots of outdoor activity such as walking, jogging, cycling, etc.
Highly trainable and responsive, Belgian Shepherds do very well in obedience training. Agility, tracking, and flyball are other activities at which they excel. Today’s Belgians are used as assistance and search and rescue dogs, and by the police, the military, and as narcotics dogs.
The four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dog: