Belgian Sheepdog

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 4, 2009

The Belgian Sheepdog is elegant, with proud carriage of the head. It is a strong, agile, well-muscled dog that is alert and full of life. The Belgian Sheepdog is also recognized for its endurance and ability to learn quickly.

Physical Characteristics

The Belgian Sheepdog is a breed that is square-proportioned with moderately heavy bones in the body. A gait that is effortless, tireless, and smooth enables it to herd for a long time. Its intelligent facial expression, meanwhile, is striking and gives the dog a sophisticated look.

The Belgian Sheepdog's undercoat is dense, and its outer coat, which is black in color, is straight and long. Curiously, many Belgian Sheepdogs tend to move in a circle instead of a straight line.

Personality and Temperament

The Belgian Sheepdog is best defined as "intense." It exhibits an independent nature and is highly protective of its human family. That is why this breed is a great choice for a house dog.

It is somewhat conscious of strangers, and at times show signs of aggression towards other pets and dogs. Extremely obedient, the Belgian Sheepdog is also playful, alert, intelligent, and a quick learner. Some Belgian Sheepdogs, however, display a dominating character.


The Belgian Sheepdog loves to live inside the house with its human family, although it can adapt to outdoor living. It also performs best when given access to the yard. Apart from that, exercise on a regular basis is essential for the breed and should ideally combine long hours of play and jogging. The Belgian Sheepdog's coat requires the occasional brushing to keep away dead hairs, even more so during times of shedding.


The Belgian Sheepdog, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, is not prone to any major health concerns. However, it is susceptible to minor issues such as hypothyroidism, seizures, allergies, and skin disorders. Ocassionally, elbow dysplasia, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), hemangiosarcoma, pannus, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) are seen in this breed. To identify these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend that the dog undergo regular thyroid, elbow, hip, and eye exams.

History and Background

The Belgian Sheepdog, sometimes referred to as Groenendael, is known for its versatility and hard-working nature. It is one of the variations of the Belgian Shepherd (or Continental Shepherd); the others being Belgian Malinois and Belgian Tervuren. However, the Belgian Sheepdog has a longer black coat compared to the other Beglian shepherd dogs

Between 1891 and 1901, a time in which the Belgian Shepherd became registered by the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert, there was a concerted effort to develop a standard for the breed, as well as improve its type for exhibition shows.

The earliest Belgian Sheepdogs were used for herding and guarding purposes. They later became popular police dogs in the United States and played a significant role in the First World War as watchdogs. It was not until 1959 that the Belgian Sheepdog got its current name, after the three Belgian Shepherd types were separated into distinct breeds.

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