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  • Temperament: Bright, Watchful, Serious-Minded
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 129 of 192
  • Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 55-75 pounds (male), 45-60 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
  • Group: Herding Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Belgian Sheepdog standing in three-quarter view
Belgian Sheepdog head facing left
Belgian Sheepdog sitting in three-quarter view
Belgian Sheepdog coat detail

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The first impression of the Belgian Sheepdog is that of a well balanced, square dog, elegant in appearance, with an exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. He is a strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert and full of life. His whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. The male dog is usually somewhat more impressive and grand than his female counterpart. The bitch should have a distinctly feminine look.

HEAD

Clean-cut and strong, overall size should be in proportion to the body. Expression indicates alertness, attention, readiness for activity. Gaze should be intelligent and questioning. Eyes brown, preferably dark brown. Medium size, slightly almond shaped, not protruding. Ears triangular in shape, stiff, erect, and in proportion to the head in size. Base of the ear should not come below the center of the eye. Ears hanging (as on a hound) shall disqualify. Skull – Top flattened rather than rounded. The width approximately the same, but not wider than the length. Stop moderate. Muzzle moderately pointed, avoiding any tendency to snipiness, and approximately equal in length to that of the topskull. The jaws should be strong and powerful. Nose black without spots or discolored areas. The lips should be tight and black, with no pink showing on the outside. Teeth – A full complement of strong, white teeth, evenly set. Should not be overshot or undershot. Should have either an even bite or a scissors bite.

BODY

Neck round and rather outstretched, tapered from head to body, well muscled, with tight skin. Topline – The withers are slightly higher and slope into the back, which must be level, straight, and firm from withers to hip joints. Chest not broad, but deep. The lowest point should reach the elbow, forming a smooth ascendant curve to the abdomen. Abdomen – Moderate development. Neither tucked up nor paunchy. The loin section, viewed from above, is relatively short, broad and strong, but blending smoothly into the back. The croup is medium long, sloping gradually. Tail strong at the base, bone to reach hock. At rest the dog holds it low, the tip bent back level with the hock. When in action he raises it and gives it a curl, which is strongest toward the tip, without forming a hook. Cropped or stump tail shall disqualify.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulder long and oblique, laid flat against the body, forming a sharp angle (approximately 90 degrees) with the upper arm. Legs straight, strong and parallel to each other. Bone oval rather than round. Development (length and substance) should be well proportioned to the size of the dog. Pastern medium length, strong, and very slightly sloped. Feet round (cat footed), toes curved close together, well padded. Nails strong and black, except that they may be white to match white toe tips.

COAT

The guard hairs of the coat must be long, well fitting, straight and abundant. They should not be silky or wiry. The texture should be a medium harshness. The undercoat should be extremely dense, commensurate, however, with climatic conditions. The Belgian Sheepdog is particularly adaptable to extremes of temperature or climate. The hair is shorter on the head, outside of the ears, and lower part of the legs. The opening of the ear is protected by tufts of hair.

HINDQUARTERS

Legs – Length and substance well proportioned to the size of the dog. Bone oval rather than round. Legs are parallel to each other. Thighs broad and heavily muscled. The upper and lower thigh bones approximately parallel the shoulder blade and upper arm respectively, forming a relatively sharp angle at stifle joint. The angle at the hock is relatively sharp, although the Belgian Sheepdog does not have extreme angulation. Metatarsus medium length, strong and slightly sloped. Dewclaws, if any, should be removed. Feet slightly elongated. Toes curved close together, well padded. Nails strong and black, except that they may be white to match white toe tips.

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belgian sheepdog illustration

About the Belgian Sheepdog

The stirring silhouette of a Belgian Sheepdog conveys both elegance and muscular determination. A handsome feature of the breed is the exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. A male might stand 26 inches at the shoulder; females are smaller. The dark eyes sparkle with a questioning intelligence, and the black coat is abundant, from the neck’s “collarette” to the “breeches” of the hindquarters. In all ways, Belgian Sheepdogs are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

In any sport or activity, a Belgian will always give 100 percent. In turn, owners tend to form a special bond with their eager workaholics. As one devotee puts it, Belgians “inspire such intense loyalty because they themselves live and love with such great passion.”

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Belgian Sheepdog

Find a Puppy: Belgian Sheepdog

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Find Belgian Sheepdog Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Belgian Sheepdog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

The Belgian Sheepdog’s double-layer coat, consisting of a dense undercoat and a harder outer coat, is quite easy to take care of — as long as it’s not shedding season. For most of the year, all a Belgian requires is a weekly brushing. Baths can be infrequent unless the dog gets into something messy. At least once a year, though, Belgians shed heavily. When this happens, a thorough brushing every day is required to remove the surprisingly large amount of dead hair. As with all breeds, the Belgian’s nails should be trimmed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
2-3 Times a Week Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

Like so many of the Herding breeds, Belgian Sheepdogs require a good amount of exercise every day. And because the Belgian is a sensitive soul who craves human companionship, just letting him out in the backyard for a couple of hours is not enough. Owners should expect to participate in daily exercise sessions with their Belgians. This might mean playing with a ball or going for a long run, or it could also mean training for and participating in obedience, agilitytracking, or herding competitions, or canine sports such as flyball.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Energetic

TRAINING

Socialization and puppy-training classes are especially important. They promote good behavior, nip bad habits in the bud, and strengthen the bond between puppy and owner. Fortunately, Belgian Sheepdogs are very intelligent and want nothing more than to make their owners happy, so they take to training quickly.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Easy Training

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

HEALTH

The Belgian Sheepdog is a robust, healthy breed. Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as epilepsy, elbow and hip dysplasia, eye issues such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, and certain cancers. Should the need for surgery arise, note that Belgians are particularly sensitive to anesthesia. As with all breeds, a Belgian’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed regularly.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog

History

Belgium’s climate and terrain are highly favorable for livestock and dairy farming, and the small but industrious country has always been self-sufficient in these commodities. Belgium has long been the world’s leading exporter of milk chocolate, a key component to the national economy. It should, then, come as no surprise that old-time Belgian farmers were preoccupied with cattle herding.

This preoccupation included the breeding of herding dogs. In fact, there were once eight types of shepherd dogs unique to Belgium. By the 1890s, when they were officially classified for the first time, there remained the four we know today: The Belgian Sheepdog (aka Groenendael or Chien de Berger Belge), Malinois, Tervuren and Laekenois. They were anatomically identical but varied in coat textures, colors, and length. The name Groenendael was given to the longhaired black variety, today’s Belgian Sheepdog, thanks to Nicolas Rose, an important breeder of the 1890s who operated a restaurant near Brussels called the Chateau Groenendael.

By the turn of the 20th century, the versatility and work drive of Belgian Sheepdogs were becoming known beyond the pastures of Belgium. Paris and New York used Belgian Sheepdogs as police dogs in this era. Customs agent employed them on border patrols, rooting out smugglers. During World War I, they distinguished themselves as messengers, ambulance dogs, and freighters of heavy gunnery. Belgian Sheepdogs reprised their role as war dogs during the second world war.

The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1949, and since then this noble breed has done it all: show dog, athlete, police officer, soldier, service dog, searcher and rescuer, watchdog, and tireless backyard tennis-ball fetcher.

Did You Know?

The Belgian Sheepdog has its origin in the late 1800’s when it was listed as the Chien de Berger de Races Continentales (Continental Shepherds), a group that includes GSD’s, Hollander Herders, Beauceron, Bouviers, and Briards.
In the late 1800's, efforts were made to propagate a "Belgian" for nationalistic purposes, resulting in the Club du Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Club), a group that eventually fostered the rise of the Belgian Sheepdog.
The longhaired black Belgian Shepherds primarily owe their existence to Nicolas Rose, who purchased what are considered to be the foundation couple of the Belgian Sheepdog.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The first impression of the Belgian Sheepdog is that of a well balanced, square dog, elegant in appearance, with an exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. He is a strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert and full of life. His whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. The male dog is usually somewhat more impressive and grand than his female counterpart. The bitch should have a distinctly feminine look.

HEAD

Clean-cut and strong, overall size should be in proportion to the body. Expression indicates alertness, attention, readiness for activity. Gaze should be intelligent and questioning. Eyes brown, preferably dark brown. Medium size, slightly almond shaped, not protruding. Ears triangular in shape, stiff, erect, and in proportion to the head in size. Base of the ear should not come below the center of the eye. Ears hanging (as on a hound) shall disqualify. Skull – Top flattened rather than rounded. The width approximately the same, but not wider than the length. Stop moderate. Muzzle moderately pointed, avoiding any tendency to snipiness, and approximately equal in length to that of the topskull. The jaws should be strong and powerful. Nose black without spots or discolored areas. The lips should be tight and black, with no pink showing on the outside. Teeth – A full complement of strong, white teeth, evenly set. Should not be overshot or undershot. Should have either an even bite or a scissors bite.

BODY

Neck round and rather outstretched, tapered from head to body, well muscled, with tight skin. Topline – The withers are slightly higher and slope into the back, which must be level, straight, and firm from withers to hip joints. Chest not broad, but deep. The lowest point should reach the elbow, forming a smooth ascendant curve to the abdomen. Abdomen – Moderate development. Neither tucked up nor paunchy. The loin section, viewed from above, is relatively short, broad and strong, but blending smoothly into the back. The croup is medium long, sloping gradually. Tail strong at the base, bone to reach hock. At rest the dog holds it low, the tip bent back level with the hock. When in action he raises it and gives it a curl, which is strongest toward the tip, without forming a hook. Cropped or stump tail shall disqualify.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulder long and oblique, laid flat against the body, forming a sharp angle (approximately 90 degrees) with the upper arm. Legs straight, strong and parallel to each other. Bone oval rather than round. Development (length and substance) should be well proportioned to the size of the dog. Pastern medium length, strong, and very slightly sloped. Feet round (cat footed), toes curved close together, well padded. Nails strong and black, except that they may be white to match white toe tips.

COAT

The guard hairs of the coat must be long, well fitting, straight and abundant. They should not be silky or wiry. The texture should be a medium harshness. The undercoat should be extremely dense, commensurate, however, with climatic conditions. The Belgian Sheepdog is particularly adaptable to extremes of temperature or climate. The hair is shorter on the head, outside of the ears, and lower part of the legs. The opening of the ear is protected by tufts of hair.

HINDQUARTERS

Legs – Length and substance well proportioned to the size of the dog. Bone oval rather than round. Legs are parallel to each other. Thighs broad and heavily muscled. The upper and lower thigh bones approximately parallel the shoulder blade and upper arm respectively, forming a relatively sharp angle at stifle joint. The angle at the hock is relatively sharp, although the Belgian Sheepdog does not have extreme angulation. Metatarsus medium length, strong and slightly sloped. Dewclaws, if any, should be removed. Feet slightly elongated. Toes curved close together, well padded. Nails strong and black, except that they may be white to match white toe tips.

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belgian sheepdog illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BLACK Check Mark For Standard Color 007
BLACK & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 019
BLACK & CREAM 010
BROWN 061
FAWN 082
FAWN & BLACK 083
GRAY 100
GRAY & BLACK 101
SABLE 164
SILVER 176
SILVER & BLACK 177
WOLFGRAY & BLACK 228

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BLACK MASK 004
SPOTTED 021
WHITE MARKINGS 014

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