The Belgian Shepherd has four recognized breeds / varieties that were developed in Belgium in the late 1800s. The four varieties are the Malinois (fawn-mahogany, short coat with black mask), Tervuren (fawn-mahogany, long coat with black mask) the Laekenois (fawn, rough coat), and the Belgian Sheepdog, or Groenendael (black, long coat).
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes the varieties as separate breeds in the U.S. while the United Kennel Club recognizes all four types as one breed.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale also recognizes the dogs as one breed throughout most of the world.
The Club du Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) was formed in September 1891 to determine which of the many different types of dogs was representative only of the shepherd dogs developed in Belgium. In November of that same year, breeders and fanciers met on the outskirts of Brussels to examine shepherd dogs from that area.
After much deliberation, veterinary professor Adolphe Reul and a panel of judges concluded that the native shepherd dog of that province were square, medium-size dogs with well-set triangular ears and very dark brown eyes and differed only in the texture, color, and length of hair. Subsequent examinations of dogs in other Belgian provinces resulted in similar findings.
The black-coated Belgian Sheepdog was developed primarily by breeder Nicolas Rose, whose kennel dates to 1893. The breed takes its European name from Rose's estate, Chateau Groenendael, outside Brussels. He purchased the breed's foundation dogs, Picard d'Uccle and Petite, and their offspring are the ancestors of today's Belgian Sheepdogs. The dogs were immediately popular for their versatility and were used as police dogs in Paris and New York in the early 1900s. In Belgium, customs officers patrolled the border with them.
During World War I, they carried messages and pulled ambulance and machine gun carts. Their popularity in the United States increased after the war, and the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1919. The Depression era took a toll on their numbers, but they served as war dogs in World War II, and interest in them has gradually increased since that time as both herding dogs and sporting prospects.
Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
Weight: 55-75 pounds (male), 45-60 pounds (female)
The ideal Belgian is intelligent, brave, alert, and devoted to their handler. Their attentiveness make them an excellent watchdog, but their heritage makes them naturally weary of strangers. If not properly trained and socialized this distrust can lead to aggressive behavior or anxiety.
A well-socialized and trained dog is a confident protector of their people and home and doesn't doesn’t show aggression without cause. They are affectionate and friendly with people they know, especially family members. Demanding of their time and attention, this isn’t a breed to leave at home for several hours. They require stimulation in the form of training and play, especially things that challenge them mentally and physically.