Because it is such a rare breed even in its home country, there are very few who are actually aware there is a fourth Belgian Shepherd such as the Laekenois. When they are seen out and about, their wiry coat is often the first thing that interests people. Unsurprisingly, their familiar shepherd stature and wavy hair often has them mistaken for a type of crossbreed. From their very beginnings, the Laekenois has had its admirers, starting with the King and Queen of Brussels. As the dog was used to herd sheep on royal pastures surrounding their castle, King Leopold and Queen Marie Henriette soon became enamored with the breed. It was then the dog was bestowed with the honor of being named after their estate, Castle Laeken.
The Laekenois is a dog with great stamina but is extremely sensitive at the same time. They will always be at their best when working in cooler climates. Unbeknownst to many, their wiry coat has two layers, making the breed almost completely unaffected by cold weather conditions. Though the coat can require much in the way of constant grooming to avoid mats, shaving the breed can seriously affect their ability to regulate their own body temperature. Despite their boldness with animals three times their size and an ability to stay on the move all day long, the breed is also known to have quite the sensitivity to anesthesia. This makes it very important for owners to have a veterinarian that is familiar with the breed.
The recognition of the rare Laekenois can vary depending on the kennel club found in each country. Of the four Belgian Shepherd varieties, the American Kennel Club recognizes only the Groenendael, Tervueren and Malinois as established breeds. Other kennel clubs, such as the United Kennel Club, recognize the Belgian Shepard as a single breed. This is also true of the Federation Cynologique Internationale; however, the FCI takes it further by recognizing the Belgian Shepherd with four separate categories. Those who wish to show or register their Laekenois officially will need to do so by the type of coat the dog has and its color.
The Schipperke, a smaller type of farm dog, is thought to be somewhat related to the Laekenois and its cousins. Developed in the same area of Flanders, the tiny Schipperke is thought to have been derived from yet another Belgian Shepherd variety that went extinct long ago. Both the Schipperke and the Laekenois demonstrate outstanding herding and guarding capabilities and both found favor with Belgium royalty. Both exhibit a very similar independent and highly intelligent temperament as well. Unlike the Laekenois, the Schipperke is recognized as the 80th out of one hundred and fifty four breeds by the American Kennel Club.