Breed Family: Belgian Shepherds
Country of Origin: Belgium
Size: Medium/Large, height 61-66cm, weight 29-34kg
Also Known as: Belgian Sheepdog
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Care Requirements: High
Exercise Requirements: High
General information and Appearance
These elegant dogs originated as sheep herding dogs. Their long coats, pointed ears and intelligent heads give them the appearance of readiness. Historically bred for hard work, the Belgian Shepherd enjoys performing various tasks and jobs, as well as being physically and mentally stimulated.
Overall, the dogs are large and powerful, but they are not thick or heavy. They have muscled limbs, particularly the hindquarters. The chest is deep and slopes back towards the hind end, giving the dog an elegant shape. The head has a more flat skull, and a narrowed muzzle.
The coat of Belgian Shepherds is medium/long and very weather-resistant. The dense undercoat is woolly and thick. Most of these dogs have feathering about the head and legs. The hairs of this breed are thick and very rigid. They are able to withstand very cold temperatures, snow and rain without feeling damp or cold. The Tervuren variety of this breed has varied coat colours including fawn and mahogany. There are some with grey as well and many dogs of this variety have black-tipped fur. The Groenendael variety is usually either solid black or black with white markings on the chest and toes.
Intelligence is one of the most dominant features of this breed. They have a high capacity for training and enjoy having something to occupy their time. Varieties of this breed can be found as police dogs, guard dogs and shepherds. They also work in therapy and as guide dogs. This breed is also highly sensitive. Early socialisation to other people and dogs is important to prevent shyness in this breed. Additionally, because of this sensitivity, the trainer of this dog must be firm but gentle. Any mistreatment will lead to backlash from the dog but a gentle hand will encourage loyalty and obedience.
This breed has very high exercise requirements. Without enough exercise and stimulation, the dog is likely to act out. A long walk is necessary, as well as opportunities to run off-leash in safe areas. Occupation is also a good way to keep this dog satisfied, so this breed can often be found in dog competitions.
As a family pet, this dog is a great choice for experienced dog owners. They need a consistent pack leader and proper socialisation. Consistency in rules will also help this dog to succeed. This dog has a very high capacity for success, but without a trainer with proper understanding of dogs, that success cannot be actualised. Beginning strict training from puppyhood is the best way to train this breed.
Belgian Shepherds are generally very healthy dogs. There have been some instances of bloat with this dog, which is a serious gastrointestinal problem that occurs when the dog gulps too much air. The easiest way to prevent this is to reduce the amount of excitement associated with eating. Feeding small meals throughout the day, as well as releasing the food more slowly will prevent bloat. Some additional problems occasionally seen in this breed include epilepsy, skin allergies, hip dysplasia and eye problems. This breed is a hardy one and health problems are rare. Most breeders are exceptionally vigilant about ensuring pure bloodlines.
Grooming and Care
The grooming requirements for this breed are high. The coat needs to be combed and brushed daily to prevent matting. Mats that do occur need to be clipped out. The most common places in need of grooming are on the legs, between the toes and near the ears. In addition to year-round shedding, this dog also sheds heavily twice a year.
Suitability as Pet In Australia
Belgian Shepherds can be family dogs or working dogs. They enjoy herding immensely and would be successful on a ranch. They would also enjoy a life in the countryside with space to run. These dogs can be kept in homes where they are given sufficient exercise and a place to get their energy out.
These dogs are not recommended for first-time dog owners as they can be a bit difficult to train. The owner of this dog must be a strong alpha with a gentle touch. These dogs, once trained, are able to do incredible things both in competitions and utilitarian roles. These dogs are good fit for anyone seeking a working dog.
Additionally, this breed is well suited for guarding. They will be very wary of strangers. Without proper training, this can turn into aggression, but can be quite useful for protecting people and property.