What is a Belgian Sheepdog?

Belgian Sheepdog, (also known as the Belgian Shepherd Dog or Chien de Berger Belge or Groenendael) can refer to any of four breeds of dog: the Groenendael, the Laekenois, the Tervueren, or the Malinois. In some countries, these are considered four different varieties of a single breed; in other countries, they are considered a single breed. All four breeds are hard-working, intelligent dogs of the same general size and temperament. They are so closely related that, when breeding any two dogs of the same "breed", it is possible for puppies of different "breeds" to be in the same litter.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes only the long coated solid black Groenendael under the name "Belgian Sheepdog", but also recognizes the Tervueren, long coated and any shade from grey through red to deep mahogany with a black mask and with black tips to the hairs termed overlay, (with the alternative spelling "Tervuren") and the Malinois, similar colors to the Tervueren but short coated, as individual breeds. The Laekenois, grey to reddish and rough coated can be registered as part of the AKC foundation stock service and should eventually be recognised fully by the AKC.  The official AKC standard blueprint for the breed can be seen here

They are medium sized elegant dogs bred as a herding guard dog. The Belgian Sheepdog (BSD) or  (GROENENDAEL),  is recognized by its distinctive long black coat. He sometimes has a white spot or line on the forechest. He also can be seen with white/grey hair on the toe tips. Sometimes he is born with short white/grey hairs on the front of his muzzle and tip of his chin which is called "frost". Males should be 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Females are rather smaller 22 to 24 inches and weighing 40 to 50 pounds. They are an active playful and affectionate dog that needs a lot of owner input. They are generally not a dog for the first-time dog owner.


Belgian Sheepdogs like to please, and can over-react badly to "negative" (punishment or deterrence based) training, so they should as a rule be clicker- or reward-trained only. They can also behave as if they think that they are smarter than their owners, so it is important for the owner to know how to train dogs or to enroll in training classes. Training is highly recommended as well as  development beyond the basics, such as obedience or agility. This is because Belgian Sheepdogs  as a rule require mental stimulation as much or more so then physical.


All the Belgian Shepherd breeds need a lot of activity and close interaction with people. Like most herding breeds, they need a job to do (be it frisbee in the park, herding, learning tricks, dog agility). Throwing a toy endlessly  for the dog to fetch works for some breeds, but the Belgian breeds are intelligent and sociable dogs who can easily become bored with such simple and undemanding repetition.



How does a BSD differ from a German Shepherd Dog (GSD)?


They are significantly different both in body structure and temperament. The BSD is a more elegant dog with lighter bone. The BSD stands four square and is the same height to the shoulders as it is from point of shoulder to pelvis, while the GSD has a long, sloping back and walks flatter on the foot. The BSD head is finer and more chiseled, with smaller, high set triangular ears. .

They are significantly different both in body structure and temperament. The BSD is a more elegant dog with lighter bone. The BSD stands four square and is the same height to the shoulders as it is from point of shoulder to pelvis, while the GSD has a long, sloping back and walks flatter on the foot. The BSD head is finer and more chiseled, with smaller, high set triangular ears. .

The GSD is typically tan, with a black saddle, although it can be solid black and carry the recessive long coat gene which can confuse the casual observer with the BSD. The BSD is considered to be more sensitive than a GSD, which means they respond best to very positive reward based play training.

How can I find out more about the BSD?


The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA) can provide you with information about the breed and about the club and its activities. It has a booklist of relevant literature. The BSCA also has a list of breeders and many useful links.
Belgian Sheepdog Club of America, Inc.
Website: www.BSCA.INFO

A good place to meet BSD in numbers may be at a dog show. BSD owners are usually happy to talk about their dogs and introduce them to you. However, don't approach owners waiting to go into the show ring, as they are usually very anxious and preoccupied at this time. Wait until the class is over and then try to introduce yourself. Most owners will be more than happy to talk with you once the showing is finished.

What kind of owner and household suit a BSD?


An experienced dog owner is usually best suited to a BSD. Whatever the BSD does it does with great enthusiasm whether that be working, playing or just adoring you their owner. The BSD likes to be included in all your activities so if you like jogging, hiking, running, biking, outdoor activities or just spending a lot of time with your dog then the BSD may be a good choice for you. However if you often work long hours must travel frequently or have other hobbies or activities that often keep you away from your dog then this is definitely not the breed for you.

They are widely considered to be a fine looking dog, loyal, intelligent, fun, and well suited to family life. However because of their high sensitivity to criticism or to being ignored, their careful handling and socializing needs, their need for ongoing stimulation and purposeful activity, and their potential (in common with other high energy dogs, to develop problems or even become destructive if bored, they are not usually considered suitable for a first time or inexperienced owner, or one who cannot meet their needs.


What kind of training does the BSD need?

The BSD is an very active, intelligent dog that requires early socialisation and exposure to different situations, people and dogs. A puppy socialization class is strongly recommended for BSD puppies. New owners are often amazed and delighted at how quickly these dogs learn. But beware they are as quick to pick up bad habits as good! They are very sensitive to corrections, and respond best to positive reinforcement training using treats and toys.


Many people use clicker training with these dogs. These same characteristics can cause trouble if the owner fails to take the time to train them properly or combines harsh corrections with poor training techniques. Harsh treatment can cause the dog to panic or freeze and may even provoke aggression.

What activities do BSD like?



These dogs are herding dogs.  Dogs can herd other animals in a variety of ways. Some breeds typically nip at the animals' heels, others get in front of the animals and use what is called "eye" to stare down the animals. All herding behavior is modified predatory behavior. Most herding breeds have physical characteristics that help them with their work, including speed and endurance. Due to their intelligence and beauty, herding dogs are often chosen as family pets. It is important to remember that these dogs have been bred to work, and must be kept active. Herding breeds will herd family members, particularly children, in the absence of other charges. They excel at obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, search and rescue and just about anything else a dog can do. Everything is a game to them and they love games!


Are BSD aggressive?


A well-bred, well-socialized, and well-trained dog should calmly evaluate every situation and use good judgment in responding. It should not be aggressive or nervous in its attitude towards strange people or situations. Dogs with poor temperaments or who have been poorly socialized or trained, however, may be "shy" snapping or growling out of fear. For this reason, it is important to buy your BSD from a breeder and to get your puppy used to meeting new people and dogs early in life, so that he will have a relaxed and accepting attitude towards them when he grows up.