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 Photo of Groenendael
Photo: courtesy of Teri Burke

Groenendael Books

Group: Pastoral || Breed Standard


As his name suggests, the Belgian Shepherd Dog originates from Belgium where he was bred and used for both herding and guarding sheep. Each variety is named after a village in Belgium where their particular coat type was preferred by local stockmen. This is a relatively new breed, having being established for just over 100 years and being almost wiped out entirely during both World Wars.


Ideal height: dogs: 61-66 cms (24-26 ins); bitches: 56-61 cms (22-24 ins).

The Belgian Shepherd Dog is of medium size, refined in head and with a square body shape. He has a distinctive light, briskmovement which is very different to most other herding breeds. There is a look of majesty about him, carrying his head up with ears erect and appearing to look down his nose at you. He has a long arched neck and mature males of the long coated varieties have a pronounced ruff or mane. His overall appearance should be that of powerful strength combined with elegance, totally balanced and free of any exaggerations. An intelligent, alert and energetic breed he is primarily best suited to an experienced dog owner. The long coat is black with a permissible white patch on the chest.


Early socialisation is essential to his character development, and should have begun while still with his breeder. When in his new home it is crucial that he is introduced to as many different people, places and situations as possible to establish and maintain a well adjusted temperament. Socialisation is an ongoing experience from puppy hood through to puberty (around 20 months) to prevent him reverting to his naturally more primitive instincts. He is good with children if raised with them but, as with any dog, should not be left unsupervised with them. The Belgian Shepherd is by nature wary of strangers, but this should never manifest itself as fear or aggression. Incredibly loyal and eager to please his owners, he wants to be with them constantly so he is neither a good kennel dog nor one who copes well with your absence for long periods. He will adore his family and protect them with his life if need be but this inherent guarding instinct should never be encouraged as it may lead to inappropriate defensive behaviour. Even when appearing to be at rest he watches every move of his family members in anticipation of any possible activity which he can join in with. He is exceptionally intelligent and without mental as well as physical stimulation his natural exuberance may turn into hyper-activity.

Breed Health

This is a relatively healthy breed that has a life expectancy of approximately 10 to 14 years. Responsible breeders participate in the KC/BVA schemes for hip scoring and eye testing their breeding stock. Epilepsy occasionally crops up in the breed and is thought to be inherited. Both breed clubs in the UK are actively participating in research into canine epilepsy.

Breed Care

Weekly grooming is normally sufficient to cope with all coat types, but in muddy conditions or during moults daily care is required. The coat is best groomed using a brush which is a mix of nylon and natural bristle and regular brushing prevents matting of the softer undercoat. It is best to spray the coat with water before brushing to avoid breaking or tugging the hair. Establish a regular, gentle grooming regime with your puppy from the outset and this will train him to accept and enjoy the experience.


The mature Belgian Shepherd Dog has a high energy level and requires a lot of regular exercise in areas where he can be off the lead. When running free he will often "herd" his family by circling them and can be very effective at regrouping stragglers! He will particularly enjoy games with you like retrieving toys, tracking and any energetic activity which requires use of his brain. If you cannot devote a minimum of one hour every day to his exercise, broken into two or three separate outings if necessary, then a Belgian Shepherd is not an ideal breed for you.


Very trainable but a sensitive breed which should never be physically punished as this will crush his spirit and his trust in you. Positive, reward based training is ideal for he is quick and keen to learn. If he does act inappropriately, a strict vocal reprimand is usually adequate to put a stop to undesirable behaviour. He excels in a working type environment and is an excellent choice of breed for enthusiasts of agility, obedience and fly-ball. Never lose sight of the fact that he is first and foremost a herd and guard breed so be vigilant around livestock. Dogs not actually trained with stock can suddenly switch into instinctive herding mode and fast moving sheep may kick-off another primitive instinct, that of prey drive. As you can appreciate this behaviour could have serious repercussions with local farmers. See our books on training

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Last link added: 23 Oct, 2006