With his closest relatives’ names being Belgian Laekenois, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Tervuren, shouldn’t the simple moniker “Belgian Sheepdog” give this guy an inferiority complex? He’s not concerned. He’s a gorgeous, fun-loving fellow with the typical Shepherd passion for athletic activities; herding, obedience, tracking, agility, protection, rescue, and military/police service are all possible pursuits for him.
He’s also been called the Belgian Shepherd and the Chien de Berger Belge — so, he does have a fancy French name after all!
The Belgian Sheepdog emerged in the late 19th century and quickly showed the talent, endurance, and speed necessary for herding sheep, plus a long graceful coat to keep warm.
Like the Laekenois, he served in both world wars as a messenger dog. The North Wales Police have trained several of the Belgian shepherd breeds to knock down criminals with their heads. The surprised perpetrator seldom knows what’s hit him. But these dog’s need not only physical but also mental exercise, so they enjoy learning new things. Head-butting is a natural behavior for the Belgian Sheepdog, and he’s happy to have a task that puts that to use.
Public interest in the Shepherd breeds grew throughout the 20th century. In the show ring, all the Shepherd varieties were registered with the AKC and shown as a single breed until 1959, when the AKC recognized the variances in their color, conformation and origin, and gave each dog a separate category in their list of breeds.
Males are 23 to 24 inches tall and weigh 55 to 75 pounds, while females measure 22 to 24 inches and weigh 40 to 60 pounds. The female is described as having a distinctly feminine appearance, whereas males are sturdy and commanding. These gender differences are simply a matter of appearance and do not affect the dogs’ performance in sports, activities or rescue.
The Belgian Sheepdog is always predominantly black, with occasional flecks of white. Other colors are unacceptable in accordance with the breed standard. The Belgian Sheepdog’s ears are naturally erect and his head is encircled in black hair, giving the impression of a graceful collar.
Belgian Sheepdogs, like other shepherds, prefer the company of their people to that of strangers or other animals. This means the Belgian Sheepdog owner must make a commitment to his dog, as lack of interaction with the family may bring on misbehavior such as digging and excessive barking. A bracing daily round of exercise is a must for this same reason.
New puppies, and even adults that have never undergone training, benefit greatly from it, and training strengthens and reinforces the dog–human bond.
Herding is another trait common in Belgian Sheepdogs and other shepherd breeds. They will follow their people around the house, sometimes gently nipping at their heels. For this reason, they may do better in homes with children who can understand that this behavior is not aggressively intended. The dog simply wants to bring the whole flock together!
The Belgian Sheepdog enjoys a large yard, but he can adapt to apartment living if adequately exercised. A home with a large fenced yard, however, is idea.
The Belgian Sheepdog is generally healthy, but there are some tendencies the owner should be aware of. These can include hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, gastric problems (including bloats and torsions), and some eye and skin problems.
The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America recommends that owners have their dogs tested once for hip and elbow dysplasia, and possibly more often for eye and thyroid disorders that tend to occur in middle age and later. A veterinarian familiar with the breed can provide additional guidance.
Some sources put their lifespan at 10 to 12 years, but one Belgian Sheepdog lived to be 18.2 years old!
Being double-coated, the Belgian Sheepdog will generally shed twice a year. Brushing once or twice a week will help control the amount of black hair you find about the house. Both the topcoat and the undercoat should be thick and dense. Bathing when should be necessary only when the dog is dirty.
Here is a link to a Belgian Sheepdog Rescue: http://belgiansheepdog.rescueme.org/
If you are looking for a rescue or feel you need to rehome your dog, you may be able to find a club close to where you live.