AKC Herding Group
In most of the world, the Belgian Sheepdog is known as the Groenendael (pronounced Grow-en-en-doll), named for the village in Belgium. It is one of four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dogs: Groenendael (longhaired black); Malinois (shorthaired fawn with black mask and black overlay); Tervuren (longhaired, in shades of fawn through gray, with black mask and black overlay); and Laekenois (rough-haired fawn). These four are considered a single breed in most of the world. Since 1959, the AKC has recognized the Groenendael, Malinois, and Tervuren as separate breeds, and the Laekenois is now part of the AKC Miscellaneous Class. The Belgian Sheepdog was developed by Nicholas Rose, a breeder from Groenendael, Belgium, who established the first Belgian Sheepdog kennel with a pair of black sheepdogs, Petite and Picard d’Uccle. Their progeny became the foundation stock for the breed. The highly intelligent and protective Belgian Sheepdog has been used in herding, as a police and war dog in two world wars, in drug detection, in search and rescue, as a Schutzhund, and as a family companion and guardian.
The elegant Belgian Sheepdog is a muscular black dog, solid but not heavy, and very agile, with a proud carriage. The body is squarely proportioned. The triangular ears stand erect and the muzzle is long and tapering. The coat is very full, moderately long, with a ruff around the neck and extra feathering on the underside, legs, and tail. There is a dense undercoat. The face and lower legs are covered with short hair. A little white on the chest, chin, or toes is permitted in the standard. The long feathered tail reaches at least to the hocks. The brown eyes are almond shaped and the nose is black.
- Height: 24 to 26 in. (male); 22 to 24 in. (female)
- Size: Large
- Weight: 55 to 65 lbs. (male); 45 to 50 lbs. (female)
- Availability: Difficult to find
- Talents: Tracking, retrieving, herding, carting, watchdog, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, military work, search and rescue, agility, competitive obedience, Schutzhund, and performing tricks
Sheds twice a year with some additional shedding throughout the year. Though the Groenendael can sleep outdoors, he prefers to be with his people. Exercise caution when introducing this dog to small non-canine pets. Might tend to display herding behavior such as moving in circles and nipping at people’s heels. Though the rate of hip dysplasia in this breed is very low, buy only from OFA or PennHIP certified stock as a precaution. Eye problems are also uncommon in this breed, but it would be wise to choose a puppy whose parents have current CERF or OFA eye certifications. The Belgian Sheepdog is a very demanding breed that has become more and more popular. This is a dog for experienced owners. Good for working and competition obedience. Can be difficult to control unless the owner knows how to control him. There can be wide differences in temperament and aggressiveness. Talk to people experienced with the breed before buying.
Very smart and obedient. Some Groenendaels are very shy or sensitive. Serious and watchful. Strong protective and territorial instincts. Needs extensive socialization from an early age and firm, but not harsh, training from an experienced master. Good with children if socialized well with them. Needs to be part of the family, not a kennel dog. If ignored, the Groenendael will find ways to entertain himself, often at the owner’s expense. Tends to bond strongly to one or two people.
- Children: Good only when raised with children from puppyhood
- Friendliness: Reserved with strangers
- Trainability: Very easy to train
- Independence: Moderately dependent on people
- Dominance: Moderate
- Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
- Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
- Noise: Average barker
- Indoors: Moderately active indoors
- Owner: Not recommended for novice owners
- Grooming: Daily grooming is best
- Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
- Coat: Medium-long coat
- Shedding: Seasonally heavy shedder
- Exercise: Vigorous daily exercise needed
- Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
- Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
- Outdoor Space: Best with at least an average-size yard
- Climate: Does well in most climates
- Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years)