The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Four Varieties, One Breed
© Lynda Trotter
The Belgian Shepherd is a rare breed for two reasons. Firstly, not too many people have discovered the joys of owning one of these endearing dogs, which means that they have not yet been totally ruined by unscrupulous breeding practices, and secondly, but also because they are considered ONE BREED with four varieties.
The aim of this article is to give you an overall impression of the Belgian Shepherd, so that you can make an informed decision as to whether this is the Breed for you. The Belgian Shepherd is not for everyone. He is an energetic dog with a profound love of life and fun so will not suit those who are looking for a doormat. He is a versatile dog with great affection for his family, which he will guard with his life if the need arose. Easy to train, fun to own and once you have one, you will find, as we have, that they are contagious!
This info sheet will give a brief description of the Belgian Shepherd Dog for those who are considering this breed for their next companion. It will also present to you a list of qualities that make them such a gentle friend for children, a staunch protector of their owners and an obedient companion.
Often used around the world, and now in Australia, by the Police and Defence Forces. Due to their intelligence, alertness and ability to learn things rapidly, they are an easy dog to train as long as you treat them with kindness and firmness. If you are cruel to a Belgian, he will forgive but he will never forget!
A Belgian Shepherd will bond very closely to their master, and becomes very sensitive to your moods. You need to live with a Belgian Shepherd before you can understand the deep loyalty and affection that they have for their family. With your friends they will be curious and a little aloof, with strangers they will be vigilant and alert until they are given the chance to assess the newcomers. The Belgian is contagious by nature. You cannot be glum for long if you are with your Belgian. They are happy dogs, have curious and inquisitive minds and will take any opportunity to show off their well-developed sense of humour.
When you first take your Belgian puppy home, he will be a wonderful, warm and fuzzy bundle of energy. (Unless you have chosen a Malinois, in which case you will have a wonderful, warm bundle of mischievous energy!) It will not be long before your rotund puppy gains co-ordination and starts to ‘strut’ about your yard like a regal prince. At this time you will start to admire his aristocratic appearance and elegance.
There is little else in the canine world that matches the silhouette of a Belgian Shepherd when standing alert. He is a square dog, which means his height is approximately the same in measurement as his length from chest to rump. His movement is quick, light and agile, appearing effortless. He has a deep chest, nice length of neck, slightly arched and is moderately boned.
In the case of the Tervueren and Groenendael, they have an abundant stand-offish coat (the Laekenois is also stand-offish, but also ruffled), usually with feathering on the front and hind legs and a tail that is heavily plumed. The male of all varieties will develop mane framing his expressive face. A Belgian Shepherds head should be fine and well chiselled. When looking side on the skull should run parallel with his muzzle if a line were to be drawn along both planes, and with skull and muzzle measuring equal length. The eyes should be dark almond shaped and ears should be high set and triangular, held erect. Feet should be small and catlike. In all varieties the male should stand 24 to 26 inches and the female 22 to 24 inches.
Although the Groenendael and Tervueren both have abundant coats, grooming them is simplicity itself. Just one thorough comb and/or brush each week will keep them free of mats and their coats glistening. This may need to be done daily through their coat drop, but once all of the dead coat is stripped, you can go back to a weekly groom. Even if you decide to show your Belgian, do not be put off by their coats, a good brush through the night before, or a bath a few days before a show-and there you have it! If you have chosen a Malinois, well what can we say? Just take a Chamois with you to the show and give him a good wipe over before you enter the ring.
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Written by Lynda Trotter of Belgenbeau Kennels