The thick-coated Belgian Laekenois is the rarest of the four known Belgian shepherds. His name looks difficult to pronounce, but when heard it’s rather simple: lak-in-wah, in honor of his home, the Belgian village of Laeken. He’s been known by a couple of other names, Laekense and Chien de Berger Belge, but it’s probably best if we stick to lak-in-wah, now that we know how to pronounce it.
In Belgium, no distinction is made among the four herding breeds. In the U.S, the Laekenois was only recently admitted to the the American Kennel Club's Miscellaneous Class and is assigned to the Herding Group. This sizable guy stands proudly with his ears erect, at least when photographed, giving some the impression of a fluffy German Shepherd Dog.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog Club (in French, Club du Chien de Berger Beige) was organized in 1891 specifically to examine the characteristics of native dogs in Belgium. They were interested investigating the consistent type of this native dog that was identical in body and temperament but differing in coat (color, texture and length).
During the early part of the twentieth century, owners and breeders in Belgium argued for the acceptance of additional varieties based on color and regions of origin. The fawn rough-haired varieties were given the name Laekenois (derived from the Belgian town of Laeken). The abilities of these dogs as intelligent and versatile workers soon gained popularity in other countries.
As the years rolled on, the Laekenois was assigned some rather unexpected duties, such as guarding linens drying in the yard, which he carried out with complete dignity. He’s also a veteran of both world wars, having served as a messenger dog. The North Wales Police have trained them to use their natural head-butting impulse to corral criminals.
The breed standard calls for males to be 24 to 26 inches in height; females, 22 to 24. Color and coat texture in new puppies can be mixtures of fawn, red, gray, and black, with both coarse and soft fur. The Laekenois should have an undercoat.
The Laekenois is devoted to his family or owner, almost to a fault. He is wary around strangers and he tends to be dominant, so caution should be used when new people come into the home. He is intelligent, easy to train and fun to have around. He is an extraordinary watchdog and can do fine with children, so long as dog and child are socialized properly. The Laekenois makes an ideal companion for an active or sports-minded person, since the dog himself is high-energy and can be trained to compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events.
Like all of his three Belgian shepherd cousins, the Laekenois is basically a healthy dog with some known predilections. These include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, gastric problems (including bloats and torsions), and some eye and skin problems. Talk to your vet about how to prevent or at least watch for these conditions.
The Belgian Laekenois is not a couch potato and therefore should not live with one. This doesn’t mean you have to climb Mt. Everest together, but do plan on a couple of vigorous daily walks. He can do all right as an apartment dog as long as he gets this necessary exercise.
If a groomer recommends closely cropping your dog’s fur, politely seek another groomer. Cropping will damage his rough coat, which needs to be trimmed only about twice a year, depending upon the quality of the coat. Brush him regularly to remove dead hair. His coat is wiry and dry, and a slight bit of tangling is normal. It should be rough-looking but never curled. Bathe only if it is absolutely necessary, as bathing removes the waterproofing of the coat.
Here is a good resource if you want to rescue a Laekenois: http://www.adoptapet.com/s/adopt-a-belgian-laekenois