Solid black. Some small amounts of white allowed on the chest and the tips of the back feet toes.
Moderate Shed, Heavy Shed
24-26 inches (61-66 cm)
65-75 pounds (29-34 kg)
22-24 inches (56-61 cm)
60-70 pounds (27-32 kg)
While the Belgian Sheepdog can adjust to an apartment they are an active, outdoors dog that does best with a medium to large sized fenced yard. They can tolerate colder climates as well as being left outdoors during the day, provided they get lots of attention and interaction with people on a daily basis.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a very athletic and able dog that is alert, intelligent yet also a very good companion dog. They are very similar in overall appearance to the German Shepherd although the Belgian Sheepdog is typically all black or black with a very slight amount of white allowed on the chest and the muzzle, with white tips allowed on the hind toes and between the pads of the feet. White on the tips of the front toes is considered a serious fault in the show ring and white or any other color elsewhere on the dog results in disqualification from a show.
The head of the Belgian Sheepdog is very clear and crisp in its outline and formation. The ears are very erect and completely triangular and always held very erect and pricked. The ears of the Belgian Sheepdog should never hang down or fold over. The muzzle is long and very tapered with a noticeable stop between the muzzle and the forehead. The eyes are wide set, dark brown and very intelligent and alert looking. The hair on the face is very short and dense, gradually lengthening into a ruff and the longer hairs on the neck and body.
The neck of the Belgian Sheepdog is moderately long and very strong and muscular in appearance. The neck should outwards from the skull to the powerful shoulders. The shoulders are rather angular and flat in appearance, leading into well developed legs that have a typically oval shape. The legs are very straight and well formed when viewed from the front or the side. The chest is moderately deep and narrow, flowing into a well sprung rib cage. The abdomen cuts up towards the backbone moderately. The topline is slightly sloping from the high point of the shoulders, the withers, to the hips. The hind legs are very well muscled with the hocks well bent but without the angulation or crouching type appearance seen in other shepherds. The feet are round and cat like and well arched. Typically the dewclaws are removed at least on the hind legs but often on the front as well. The bones of the hind legs are also oval in shape rather than rounded. The tail is long and curves slightly upwards at about the level of the hock.
The overall shape of the body of the Belgian Sheepdog forms a square, although the dog is not heavy it does appear substantial. The legs are relatively long and the stride is smooth and flowing. The Belgian Sheepdog has a unique gait that results in a single tracking or all legs moving towards the center of the body when the dog is in a fast gait. They naturally travel in a somewhat circular fashion rather than on a completely straight line.
The coat of the Belgian Sheepdog is double, with a soft, dense inner coat and a longer, slightly coarser outer coat. The coat is medium long with noticeable fringes on the legs and tail as well as longer and thicker hair around the neck in the ruff and chest area.
The white on the toes of the back feet can extend between the pads. Any white on the front feet is a serious fault. The muzzle can have a slight amount of white or gray coloration. In some areas the coat may fade to a slightly reddish tinge and this is not a fault if it is due to the environment and not to the actual coloration of the dog.
The Belgian Sheepdog, known in its native land, as the Groenendael is one of the four types of shepherd dogs from Belgium, all that are very similar except for their coloration and coats. The all black Belgian Sheepdog is derived from a single kennel in Groenendael, hence the traditional name. The breed was developed by Nicholas Rose the late 1800s from a pair of all black shepherds. Mr. Rose bred his dogs for both herding and protection and they were very popular in the area, with the demand for the dogs increasing with every litter.
It is believed that the original ancestors of all four of the Belgian shepherd varieties likely had ancestors from the German Shepherds, Bouvier des Flanders, Beaucerons, Briards and Holland Herders, plus what we now refer to as the Belgian Sheepdog. This large grouping of dogs was originally known as the Continental Shepherds and it is from this mix that Nicholas Rose chose his all-black colored breeding stock.
Historically the Belgian Sheepdog has been used as a herding and protection dog on farms and in rural areas but has also been used as a military dog, search and rescue dog as well as a police dog. They can be used in Schutzhund events that are very demanding on the dog.
As a flock protector and herding dog the Belgian Sheepdog must be intelligent and somewhat independent, protective and gentle, as well as obedient and able to think through problems without the help of the owner or shepherd. The result is a very intelligent, active and alert dog that is capable of working on its own as well as responding unhesitantly to the owners instructions and commands. Of course this kind of response takes time and practice to develop.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a very sensitive dog and will respond to the slightest sound of disapproval in the owner's voice. Without proper socialization they can become timid and very shy, or may also become overly aggressive if they feel trapped or cornered. With proper socialization from an early age the Belgian Sheepdog will be a very well-adjusted and well balanced dog, good as both a companion and a family protector and watchdog.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a good family pet for those with small children or families provided the puppy is socialized with children and becomes accustom to the movement and loud noises associated with small kids. They will typically bond with one or two people in the family the strongest, but will love attention from everyone. They will listen and respond to children and are very obedient although not typically highly playful dogs. The Belgian Sheepdog is naturally very protective so care needs to be taken when introducing strangers and new people.
A Belgian Sheepdog can be trained to live in a house with other dogs and pets, although introductions and socialization should be done slowly and with lots of supervision before leaving the Belgian Sheepdog alone with dogs or other pets. They do have a tendency to chase, especially cats, but if raised as a puppy in a house with cats they are much more accepting. They do best with a companion dog that is of a non-dominant breed and will typically get along best with a spayed or neutered companion dog of the opposite gender.
The Belgian Sheepdog should never exhibit signs of aggressiveness or viciousness or fearfulness. Either of these characteristics, aggression or fearfulness, should disqualify the dog for any breeding programs.
The Belgian Sheepdog has been very fortunate in avoiding some of the poor Breeding practices that have resulted in many genetic conditions that are problematic in other breeds. The most commonly seen Health conditions in the Belgian Sheepdog include:
Epilepsy - a seizure disorder often seen in various levels of severity from a few seconds of rigidity to full out seizures. Can be treated with medication in most cases.
hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia - a hereditary condition of hip and elbow joint problems and degeneration. All breeding stock should be checked and certified to prevent transmitting this genetic condition.
Skin Allergies - can be environmental or food related. Can be treated by careful monitoring and antihistamines.
All dogs including the Belgian Sheepdog require regular vaccination and worming as well as at least a yearly vet check-up.
The Belgian Sheepdog is one of the breeds of dogs that "blows" its coat in the spring and fall. This means that the winter and summer coat is lost in a very heavy shed twice a year. The Belgian Sheepdog actually has two coats. The outer coat is thicker, coarser and designed to provide protection and waterproofing. The inner coat is softer, shorter and denser, adding insulation for the dog. When shedding the inner, softer coat often becomes matted or tangled with the longer, outer coat resulting in thick, knots of hair that may need clipping to be removed. To prevent this daily grooming is recommended.
Always brush the outer coat first using a stiff bristle brush or grooming comb. After the outer areas including the fringe on the legs and the longer hair on the ruff is completely knot free, use a grooming rake or pin brush to brush the inner coat. Simply gently push the longer outer coat up and groom the inner coat downwards in the direction of hair growth. Doing this daily, especially during the shed will prevent most knots and mats from forming.
Clip the hair around the feet and between the pads to prevent balls from forming between the toes. These balls of hair and debris can cause severe lameness and infections between the toes. Clipping the long hairs on the ears and plucking or pulling any long hairs in the outer ear area will help prevent infections in the ear itself.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a working or herding dog, and must be exercised mentally as well as physically. They need to feel that they have something to do or a task to complete, even if it is protecting the property or escorting you on long walks. The Belgian Sheepdog will often turn to destructive type behaviors such as chewing, digging, barking and even finding ways to get out of the yard if they are not given the right amount of exercise and human contact.
Since the Belgian Sheepdog is such an obedient breed of dog by nature they are excellent in obedience and agility type competitions as well as in herding events. Even for owners that don't want to formal compete with their dogs they may wish to consider taking an obedience class and working with the dog as a way to provide both mental and physical exercise.
The Belgian Sheepdog will also get a fair amount of exercise if left outdoors with a companion dog or even by themselves. They are natural patrol dogs and will walk around the yard, checking their area and providing protection. They do need room to run and explore and if kennelled or kept in the house for longer periods of time they will need longer walks and more routine exercise periods.
The Belgian Sheepdog makes a great jogging dog or hiking companion. They have a seemingly endless amount of stamina are able to keep up with even the most avid runner or hiker. They also, of course, work livestock with little or no formal training which is an excellent way to provide mental stimulation and lots of hard, intense physical activity. The Belgian Sheepdog prefers exercise off the leash where they can run and stretch their legs, yet still stay close to the owner.
Training the Belgian Sheepdog requires a trainer that knows how to work with a dominant and intelligent breed without using any harsh punishment or training methods. The Belgian Sheepdog needs to be treated firmly and positively to allow them to develop their strong bond with the handler. Dogs that are yelled at or punished will become fearful or aggressive rather quickly.
Starting training very early is important with this breed, especially the socialization aspects of training. A puppy obedience class is highly recommended for either male or female Belgian Sheepdog puppies. Working with the dog on a regular basis is also key as this dog needs to feel that it is helping out the family and actually has a job to do.
Since the Belgian Sheepdog is a naturally protective dog there is little need to specifically train for this, other than to teach the dog to stand down when strangers approach. Again, socialization and trust between the dog and the owner will be key elements of this type of training. They are not problem barkers but do need to learn to stop barking when commanded to do so. A trainer or just using a diversion such as a treat or a favorite toy will often stop the barking and then reward the dog for being quiet.
One of the wonderful features of this breed is that they will respond very well to children. Often kids love to compete with the Belgian Sheepdog in obedience and agility events simply because they are a naturally obedient dog. Working with the dog on a daily basis on both exercise and fun activities as well as commands and behaviors will help the dog feel needed and active in the family.