Among the characteristics of the Belgian Shepherd stands out its energy and activity. With a loving, obedient and faithful character, it can live perfectly with family and children. It is also one of the dog breeds that performs with the greatest excellence in all sports modalities. At Petlifey, we explain everything about the Belgian Shepherd breed.
Characteristics of the Belgian Shepherd breed
Today, Belgian Shepherds enjoy great sympathy among the general public. The truth is that this good reputation is well deserved. They are beautiful, friendly and always ready to be educated, they overflow with fidelity and affection towards their masters.
Despite obvious differences in coat color and coat length and texture, the 4 varieties of Belgian Shepherd ( Groenendael , Tervueren , Malinois and Laekenois ) share a powerful and beautiful appearance. Along with a noble, dedicated and absolutely faithful character.
Physical characteristics of the Belgian Shepherd
From a physical point of view, the Belgian Shepherd is a medium-sized specimen, endowed with a solid and strong skeleton. And, a powerful , dry, elegant, elastic muscular conformation that guarantees rapid, explosive and harmonic evolutions of the animal.
One of the essential characteristics of this breed is that it has reached that difficult balance between power and elegance, since the best dogs should not be rough or show a weak and sickly appearance.
As with many other working dogs, the Belgian Shepherd’s body is square, with noble and elastic movements. It always carries its head high and proud, making it clear that its physical appearance responds unequivocally to its natural, haughty, noble, sporty, brave and generous temperament.
Due to this exalted temperament, when on the move it seems indefatigable. It tends to move in a circle rather than in a straight line and has a very elegant bearing, despite its long stride, which covers as much ground as possible.
Belgian Shepherd breed standard
- General Appearance: Harmoniously proportioned, elegant and powerful, has a very haughty head. It is lean and strong muscled. Rustic, it is used to outdoor life and resists atmospheric variations very well.
- Size: Large.
- Height at the withers: 60-66 cm (Male) and 56-62 cm (Female).
- Weight: 25-30 kg (Male) and 20-25 kg (Female).
- Varieties: Groenendael, tervueren, malinois and laekenois.
- Body: Its body forms a square, that is, its length is almost the same as the height at the withers. The length of the muzzle is equal to or slightly greater than half the length of the head. Its back is firm, short and muscular, it has an accentuated withers. The back is solid, short, broad and muscular, and the rump is slightly sloping and broad, although not excessively.
- Head: Tall and moderately long, straight, well shaped and thin.
- Skull: It is of medium breadth, in proportion to the length of the head. The forehead is flatter than round and the middle furrow is not very pronounced. The occipital crest is poorly developed.
- Muzzle: Of medium length and well molded below the eyes, gradually tapering closer to the nose. The lips are thin, close together and highly pigmented.
- Nose: Black in color.
- Eyes: Medium, neither prominent nor sunken, and somewhat almond-shaped, they are brownish in color, very dark, with the edges of the eyelids black. Ears: They are small, set high, triangular and with a pointed tip. On alert, the dog wears them straight and vertical.
- Ears: They are rather small, triangular in shape, rigid and pointed at the end. When the dog is attentive, they are held upright and in an upright position.
- Nose-frontal depression (stop): It is moderate.
- Jaws: The jaws are strong and developed, so that the teeth fit perfectly in the dental arch. The teeth are healthy and complete, and the bite is scissor or sometimes pincer.
- Neck: It is somewhat elongated, very muscular and without a double chin. It stands upright and flares out towards the shoulder area. The neck is slightly arched.
- Chest: It is not very wide, but it is well sloping. The ribs are arched at the top.
- Forelimbs: They are endowed with solid bones, but not heavy, and with strong and thin muscles. They are plumb and, seen from the front, perfectly parallel. Regarding the shoulders , the shoulder blade is long and oblique, well attached to the shoulders, and forms a fairly open angle with the humours. Forearms and arms are long and straight, and the arms are long and oblique, with firm elbows, neither set nor close together.
- Hind limbs: they are powerful, without the appearance of heaviness. Seen in profile, they are plumb and, seen from behind, they are perfectly parallel. Its legs are of medium length, they are broad and muscular, with medium and robust thighs. Knees plumb to hips. Hocks well lowered, broad, muscular and angled.
- Feet: Rounded in shape, the so-called “cat feet” have the toes bent and close together. The pads are thick and elastic, and the nails are dark and thick.
- Tail: Well set, strong at the base, of medium length, reaching over the hock. At rest, the dog carries it hanging, with the tip bent back at the hock; in action, the portal is taller, but without exceeding the line of the back, and with the tip more curved, although at no time adopting the shape of a hook.
- Skin: It is elastic and well stretched over the entire body.
- Hair: In the groenendael and tervueren varieties the hair is straight and long, especially on the chest and neck, where it shows off a collar and dewlap. Shows “pants” on the back of the thigh. In the Malinois variety, it is short on the body but more abundant on the tail and neck, and has fringes on the back of the thighs. The laekenois has shaggy, rough, and dry fur. It is about 6 cm long on the body, but shorter on the top of the head, on the forehead and on the limbs. The tail does not form a pompadour.
- Color: The groenendael is chestnut black (the popular black Belgian shepherd ). The tervueren, carbonado (fawn, reddish or grey, with a black mask, the Malinois, carbon red with a black mask, and the laekenois, red, with traces of carbon on the snout and tail.
- Movement: At high speed, the feet approach the median plane; in the trot, the amplitude is medium and the movement, regular and easy, with a good impulse of the hind limbs, without the forelimbs rising too high. It is capable of suddenly changing direction while sprinting.
Character of the Belgian Shepherd
The Belgian Shepherd has a vigilant and active character, has great vitality. It is a tenacious and ardent defender of its master, and has all the qualities of a perfect shepherd, guard, defence and service dog.
Its impetuous and alert temperament , and its confident personality, without any sign of fear or aggressiveness, are evident in the attitude of the body and in the haughty and alert expression of its bright eyes.
On the other hand, the Belgian Shepherd is a dog that overflows with tenderness towards its master. It establishes a very close and unbreakable affective bond with them, and that is a great advantage as long as it is used to obtain some kind of response to training.
In addition, as it is a dog very needy of affection, it must feel loved and live in a climate of trust and friendship.
This breed of shepherd closely watches over its environment both through sight and with hearing and smell, an attitude that is derived from its excellent guard dog conditions. In the presence of an unfamiliar person or animal, you will always behave wisely.
- Energy: High level. It is a very active dog that needs regular exercise.
- Temperament: Vigilant and active, it is the best guardian of the herd and a great companion animal. It is attentive and courageous, and lacks aggressiveness.
- Adaptability: Medium / high. It lives well in the city if exercise is guaranteed.
- Sociability: Very high. A companion for walks and sports, it is a loving member of the family.
- Health: Good. Little prone to inherited diseases.
- Longevity: Medium. Live between 1 and 12 years.
- Utility: Very versatile. Due to its character, it can be educated as a shepherd dog, guardian and defense, tracking, disaster rescue, drug and explosives detection, obedience or agility.
- Utilization: Grazing, guarding and service.
- Other names: Belgian Shepherd Dog / Berger belge / Belgischer Schaferhund.
The Belgian Shepherd is considered one of the most aristocratic shepherd dogs that exist due to its harmonic structure and its extreme intelligence.
These basic characteristics have made this breed one of the most widespread worldwide. It is present and is recognized by all the national and international canine organizations of importance within the official cinophilia.
Despite being presented in four different varieties and the fact that in some countries crosses between them are allowed without the need to request authorization from the breed club.
The truth is that the Belgian Shepherd is solidly established, with very broad breeding bases that allow the evolution and stable development of each of the varieties. Even in the case of the most unknown of them, the laekenois.
This solidity in the bloodlines is very important when it comes to breeding or giving the assurance to fans who approach the breed that undesirable backward leaps will not occur. As happens in some breeds with a less solid genetic heritage.
Likewise, a firm and homogeneous base is also the best way to guarantee a stable temperament and according to some essential postulates.
There is nothing worse than acquiring a dog, of whatever breed it may be, without the possibility of knowing with more than approximate certainty what type of character the new owner is facing, what it can expect from its dog and what it should be willing to offer. .
Belgian Shepherd puppy
If you are considering adopting or buying a Belgian Shepherd puppy, there are a number of aspects that you should know.
For example, being a dog that requires a lot of affection and a very stable environment, friendship and trust, we must point out that the best time to acquire a Belgian Shepherd is when it is still a puppy.
For in this way the first phase in which it forges its character, the one in which the broad features of its future conduct will be strongly marked, it will pass along with what should be its definitive family.
For this reason, Belgian Shepherds do not tolerate changes of ownership well. For them, a brutal separation from those to whom it has given themselves completely during its childhood and adolescence is a shock. An affective trauma that can be long-lasting and damaging to the balance of your character.
Belgian Shepherd puppies are always willing to play, especially if it involves physical exercise and participation with the owner. This stage is the most appropriate to establish the foundations of a good relationship.
The Belgian shepherd must be given physical exercise and some mental task with which to keep them busy and to reach its full maturity. For this reason, when choosing a Belgian Shepherd as a pet, the needs of the family, and the temperament and hobbies of its members, must be taken into account.
Above all, it is essential to assess what will be the amount of time that can be dedicated to them on a daily basis. This aspect is almost more important than the size of the house.
Even so, although this breed is quite adaptable, the ideal place to raise a Belgian Shepherd is not exactly a small apartment in the center of the city. Dogs are routine animals and must be able to lead an orderly life, not subject to constant changes of plans.
Belgian Shepherd Education and Training
This breed is extremely intelligent and lively, which is not only a main character trait, but also one of its greatest attractions.
It is also an animal endowed with an enormous capacity for adaptation that can function with ease in any task it performs .
Nowadays, it is almost impossible to find a Belgian Shepherd that does herding work; Not even in its country of origin is it still used for such work and, unlike what happens in Germany with the German shepherd, herding has not been adopted as a sporting activity.
On the contrary, all lovers of canine sports have found in the Belgian Shepherd a versatile and easy-to-train weapon, since it is a very effective defence dog .
In fact, the Malinois variety is recognized as the number one worldwide in the disciplines of guard and defense, and in many others.
In addition, the Belgian Shepherd is endowed not only with an excellent sense of smell but also with a great olfactory memory, which makes them one of the best dogs for tracking. And it is that this breed is characterized by an incredible dynamism, always in action, in constant movement.
Some see in this behaviour a sign of nervousness, but in reality it is the anxiety that the animal feels about doing the work for which it has been trained.
This effusiveness makes their training easy, since the desire to learn and the subsequent desire to do what they have learned are infinite.
For a full use of the natural qualities of the Belgian Shepherd, the character and leadership capacity of the owner or guide is almost as important as the nature of the dog itself.
A Belgian Shepherd can only bring out the best in themselves if its owner is trained to do so. The Belgian shepherd’s bond with its family, and especially with its master, is very close; It likes to feel like an important part of the herd, to know that it has a relevant site and that it is taken into account on a day-to-day basis.
If you feel loved and live in an environment of trust and friendship, you will consecrate your existence at the service of yours.
If educated and trained with a firm but fair hand and with great doses of patience and kindness, the Belgian Shepherd will naturally adapt to everything that is demanded of them, regardless of whether it is country or urban life.
Belgian Shepherd diet
Regarding food, the Belgian Shepherd has very high energy needs, but its morphology and lifestyle must be taken into account.
The usual thing will be to divide the daily intake into two doses and give them at times of the day without much stress, that is, neither before nor immediately after going to work, and avoiding the hottest hours of the day, especially in summer.
You should look for a food with a high level of protein intake and a high rate of metabolism.
This means that the availability of energy per amount of food ingested is very high and thus avoids having to give excessive portions that can cause digestive problems.
It is important to reiterate the need to control the Belgian Shepherd’s diet, not only for aesthetic reasons, but fundamentally for health reasons.
Due to its temperament, the dog can eat more than necessary if its ration is not controlled, so it should be cut back in the event of any obesity symptoms.
Likewise, the right food is what will allow the animal not only to develop properly during the growth stages, but also to reach the power it needs to perform the functions for which it is intended.
Belgian Shepherd breed health
As with other breeds, such as the German Shepherd, the physical development of the Belgian Shepherd from puppyhood to adult size is very rapid.
For this reason, extreme care should be taken at this time and not subjecting puppies and young dogs to great efforts, despite their early need for activities, in order to avoid the appearance of joint problems.
In reality, the best prevention against diseases is physical exercise ; the Belgian shepherd, like all shepherds, needs a lot of recreation, since it is a light, nervous animal and endowed with a strong temperament.
There are also ways to prevent other types of problems; For example, puppies ears should not be caressed, as they would lose the ability to lift them to their normal upright position and this could lead to the appearance of otitis and other ear diseases.
Apart from exceptional circumstances, visits to the veterinarian should not go beyond the usual annual vaccinations and a periodic review, semi-annually if possible, in which special attention should be paid to dental and ear canal hygiene .
Thus, to keep the Belgian Shepherd in perfect health conditions, only minimal care is necessary, which an owner attentive to the well-being of its dog will be happy to implement to ensure a good quality of life.
In any case, to ensure that a specimen is healthy, when purchasing it it is essential to choose a good breeding line, with little consanguinity.
And the subsequent breeding must be adequate, otherwise this will affect the beauty of the animal, giving heavy specimens, lacking in distinction or with weak health.
Belgian Shepherd care
Given that the four varieties within this breed are fundamentally distinguished by the type of hair, it is evident that the care and maintenance of this has to be specific for each one of them.
The groenendael, like the tervueren, has a double coat, with a dense undercoat that acts as an insulator and a long, straight, well-textured top coat. As with other double-coated breeds, the undercoat and the surface coat must be worked separately.
For the first, a rake or a king coat type tool is used. When the good weather arrives, the long-haired varieties of the Belgian Shepherd show quite a strong molt.
Therefore, during this period, the frequency of brushing should be increased, while the rest of the year it is enough to do it once or twice a week .
The covering hair is worked with a brush with long metallic bristles and a metallic comb. Neither strain needs a specific cosmetic fix, beyond the occasional trimming of excess interdigital hair.
Some specimens of the groenendael variety may require the application of a product that protects their hair from the effects of the sun, to prevent it from burning and acquiring a reddish tone, especially on the fringes and the tail.
In neither of the two varieties is it advisable to shear the dog, as it would damage the natural beauty of the coat, which takes a long time to regain the appropriate length for the essential beauty of the animal.
The laekenois variety, on the other hand, has a very characteristic, rough, curly and tight coat, with a very rustic appearance and easy maintenance .
It is enough to work it with a metal barbed comb, opening the strands, hollowing it so that it airs and facilitating the fall of dead hair, although one of the peculiarities of this variety is that it hardly sheds the hair.
Sometimes, it may be convenient to clear the facial layer a bit, especially if it is excessive and prevents adequate vision.
The Belgian Malinois has short hair, close to the skin and with a strong texture. Its maintenance is very easy; It is enough to subject it to a basic routine once a week using a metal card with which the coat is worked in depth, as this action helps to eliminate dead hair and stimulates the epidermis.
Then pass a horsehair or rubber glove all over the body to bring out the shine provided by the natural oils of the coat.
The Belgian Shepherd should receive the fewest number of baths possible. You only have to do it when it is really dirty. And always, for any of the four varieties, it is necessary to use a good specific shampoo with a suitable pH to avoid the appearance of flaking.
If due to the circumstances, it is necessary to bathe them very frequently, it must be careful not to always do it in depth. This prevents the dog’s skin from losing its protective oils.
In addition, the coat would lose its classic roughness and gain a certain shine that would damage it. Well, the coat of a Belgian Shepherd should never be very silky or shiny. A thorough examination of the condition of the eyes, ears, mouth, nails and anal glands should always be included in the hygiene routine.