Other names: Malinois, Groenendael, Tervueren, Laekenois
The Belgian Shepherd is a keen working dog, a little nervous, overflowing with energy and vitality and always ready to carry out tasks given. Naturally the herder of flocks, they are also used to guard a property. Four varieties exist: the Malinois, who was specifically selected for guarding, defence and sporting activities; the Groenendael, the Terveuren and the Laekenois, who preserve the calm and bold side of the shepherd.
Key facts about the Belgian Shepherd
- Life expectancy : Between 10 and 14 years
- Temperament : Affectionate, Playful, Intelligent
- Size : Medium
- Type of coat : Hard, Short, Long
- Price : Between £595 and £820
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Belgian Shepherd
|Female dog||Between 22 and 24 in|
|Male dog||Between 24 and 26 in|
|Female dog||Between 44 and 55 lb|
|Male dog||Between 55 and 66 lb|
The Groenendael has a black coat.
The Malinois and Tervueren have all shades of red, fawn, grey with black overlay.
The Laekenois has a reddish fawn colour with black shading, principally on the muzzle and tail.
Type of coat
There are three varieties of coat: long hair (Groenendael and Tervueren), short hair (Malinois) and coarse hair (Laekenois)
The hair is dense and tightly-packed with a fuzzy undercoat.
Their eyes are brownish, the darkest possible.
The Belgian Shepherd is a noble, well-proportioned, rustic dog. They are smaller, lighter and more flexible than the German Shepherd. They have a well-chiselled head, long and straight. The skull is of medium width proportionate to the length of the head, the forehead is rather flat, with a moderate stop and a well-chiselled muzzle. The chamfer is straight. The eyes are averagely-sized. The ears are triangular, stiff and straight, set high on the head. The neck is muscular without any dewlap or other hanging skin. The body is powerful but not heavy. The top line is straight. The tail, of medium length, is carried when the dog is at rest and raised when in action.
Belgian Shepherd Malinois
Belgian Shepherd Groenendael
Belgian Shepherd Tervuren
Belgian Shepherd Laekenois
Very attached to their owners, these dogs are completely faithful and devoted to them. Moreover, they are not stingy in showing their affection and can even be possessive.
Shepherd dogs love to play and when they’re having fun, they are letting off some steam and they are also thinking during playtime, a win win situation!
This sheepdog is literally overflowing with vitality. They can of course be calm, and that is sought-after from working dogs, but they must also know how to go mad!
Very versatile, this dog can be used for guarding and for defence (especially the Malinois), as a companion dog, a police dog or a competition dog (ring, agility, obedience etc.)
Like many dogs, the Belgian Shepherd can follow a rabbit when they see one running, but it isn’t their favourite activity.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Guardian and defender of their owners and property, this dog does not trust easily and needs time to judge the possible dangerousness of a person. By nature, they will be suspicious but when introduced, they are very friendly.
This dog does not stop pleasing their owners; in this, they are rather dependent and forever waiting for one thing: to be told what task to undertake next.
Behaviour of the Belgian Shepherd
Loneliness is not a situation that this Belgian dog likes. Indeed, they enjoy the company of their family members and can quickly become bored when alone.
Easy to train / obedience
The Belgian Shepherd is a very intelligent dog who quickly understand what is expected of them. They are also very lively and respond quickly to different stimuli. This can be an advantage or disadvantage in their training as no mistakes are allowed.
Waiting to establish training is not advised, neither is setting the rules and limits of life too quickly in order to prevent the Belgian Shepherd puppy from picking up bad habits.
For working dogs, they should be registered in specialised clubs but beware of traditional methods that are often too coercive and brutal for this sensitive dog.
This dog can be a barker, especially when an intruder is approaching or when they are bored.
Tendency to run away
More guardian than predator, it’s rare that a Belgian Shepherd leaves their familiar environment. This is however very often the case of dogs who have never been in the garden; they then scarper off when the opportunity arises.
This particularly lively and dynamic dog becomes bored quickly. In fact, when left alone for long hours without having been let out, the dog can quickly turn the home inside out to pass the time.
Greedy / Gluttony
A big eater but not too excessively, treats can be a nice source of motivation during training.
Made to be a guardian, without ever being fearful or aggressive, this sheepdog – especially the Malinois – does not hesitate to protect their master as well as their property. Attention, a strict education must be put in place to allow the owner to control their dog and take over when someone wishes to enter their home.
This dog is not to be in the hands of just anyone. Intelligent, lively but above all nervous and sensitive, poor training (non-existent or unsuitable) can cause a lot of damage and make the Belgian Shepherd a dangerous dog.
Belgian Shepherd in a flat
They can live without problems inside as well as outside. They prefer to live in a detached house with a garden than in an apartment as they need to be able to exert themselves. However, this intelligent dog adapts to many situations and living environments as long as their many needs are met.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Whatever your lifestyle, (apartment or house with garden), this dog’s need for daily exertion should not be ignored. This should be physical (daily walks of at least 1 hour each), mental (intelligence games), sense of smell (tracking games, rich walks) and social (regular meetings with others).
This dog (and even more so the Malinois variety) excel in sporty, canine disciplines, so it’s advisable to enrol in an agility ring, obedience, dog-dancing or searching clubs, for example.
Travelling / easy to transport
Transport is generally good with this medium-sized dog, but it’s mainly its socialisation and training that determine the outcome of various journeys.
Belgian Shepherd and cats
If the Belgian Shepherd puppy is used to cats from a very young age, then living together will be harmonious. Otherwise, a period of adaptation and great vigilance will need to be instigated.
Belgian Shepherd and dogs
The harmony with other dogs depends mainly on the socialisation the Belgian Shepherd receives as a puppy. Very sensitive and nervous, if they have many bad experiences, it can have a dramatic effect on their future.
Belgian Shepherd and children
This dog can perfectly integrate into a house with children but it’s important to teach the kids the animal’s peace and quiet and not to consider them as a toy. Rather nervous, the dog can lose patience.
Belgian Shepherd and the elderly
They are very active and demand too much activity to be accompanied by the elderly.
The price of a Belgian Shepherd varies according to the origin, age and sex. A pedigree usually costs around £820.
Regarding the average budget needed to meet the needs of a dog this size, it costs around £35.
This rather rustic working dog does not require any particular maintenance. It’s advised to brush the short haired (Malinois) and course-haired varieties (Laekenois) at least once a week. Long haired varieties (Groenendael and Tervueren) need more regular maintenance to avoid knots from forming.
Hair loss is moderate but increases during moulting periods, whether short, long or coarse-haired. Then, they should be brushed every day to remove dead hair.
Nutrition of the Belgian Shepherd
Two daily rations can be given to this sheepdog, a light morning meal (biscuits) and a heartier evening meal (biscuits or cooked meals).
A raw diet is also an option but requires a lot of organisation (have a freezer, provide enough meat etc.)
Be careful not to feed this active dog between meals or allow them to eat whenever they want, at the risk of causing a gastric dilation, which can be fatal.
Whatever the chosen diet, it’s recommended to use high-quality products but especially to adapt the rations according to the age, weight and daily activities of the dog, particularly to the more active.
Health of the Belgian Shepherd
The life expectancy is estimated at around 12 years.
Strong / robust
Many veterinary studies have proven the robustness of this dog, who are often spared from major health problems.
Water and a shady space should be accessible to the dog when it’s too hot and they should avoid physical effort in full sunlight.
Their dense and fuzzy undercoat gives them good protection against the cold. They can live outside, but not when temperatures are too low.
Tendency to put on weight
Their liveliness is such that they are not subject to becoming overweight.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Progressive atrophy of the retina
- Cancers (lymphosarcoma, hemangiosarcoma, osteosarcoma)
Good to know
Some dogs may be a bit nervous and experience some difficulty in their defence work due to excessive mistrust. However, a good supervisor always succeeds in making the most of this dog with such remarkable qualities, provided that the dog’s family tree is proven.
Origins and history
The four varieties were chosen in the late 19th century by a group of dog lovers led by Professor Reul, from the Cureghen Veterinary School, who were trying to sort out a rather confused canine gene pool. The first standard was published in 1894, the starting point for all future breeding.
Good names for a Belgian Shepherd: Daisy, Joe, Ivy, Oz