Belgian Laekenois

AKC Miscellaneous Class


UKC CH Winjammers Sending Ewe A Wire, 'Relay'. Owned and bred by Pat Morgan. Photo copyright © Karen P. Johnson.

UKC CH Winjammers Sending Ewe A Wire, ‘Relay’. Owned and bred by Pat Morgan. Photo copyright © Karen P. Johnson.

One of four types of Belgian Shepherd, the Belgian Laekenois (pronounced “Lak-in-wah”) originated at the Castle Laeken, just outside Brussels. In addition to herding and guarding sheep, the dogs also were tasked with guarding linen that was drying in the fields.

The breed’s numbers dwindled during WWII, in part because they were used as messenger dogs for the military. A concerted effort to keep the breed alive―both in Europe and the United States―has allowed these intelligent, athletic, and versatile dogs to thrive. Though scruffy and cute in appearance, the Belgian Laekenois remains a serious working dog that needs a strong leader for an owner and lots of mental stimulation to stay balanced.

The breed was accepted into the AKC Miscellaneous Class in 2011.


The Belgian Laekenois is a square, well-balanced, rustic-looking dog. The females should look more feminine than males, who, according to the standard, should look more “grand.” While moderate in size and weight, the Belgian Laekenois’s coat can make him look larger and more solid than his short-coated relative, the Belgian Malinois.

The head is long, strong, and lean, with powerful jaws and a slightly pointed muzzle. The eyes, brown and slightly almond shaped, should look alert, intelligent, and questioning. The erect ears are triangular; the stop is moderate. The nose and lips should be black. Both even and scissors bites are acceptable. The neck is round and outstretched; the withers are slightly higher than the back, which is level and straight. The abdomen tucks up moderately. The tail is strong at the base. When at rest, it is held low, with the tip level with the hock. When moving, the tail is raised and has a slight curve, but not a hook.

The pasterns are strong and only slightly sloped; the feet are round, and the toes are curved and close.

The coat, which should be about 2.5-inches long all over the body, is so rough and coarse, it looks disorderly and tousled. The base coat color ranges from grayish fawn through rich red, with a black mask and usually an overlay on the shoulders and on the tail. It’s not uncommon for the black mask to fade to grizzle once the dog reaches maturity. A small- to medium-sized white patch is allowed on the chest. Toe tips and chin also might be white. The gait should be smooth and easy and should convey an air of never tiring. At fast gaits, the dog “single tracks,” which means both the front and rear legs converge toward the center. This is most efficient for working dogs.

Key Facts

  • Height: 24 to 26 in. (male); 22 to 24 in. (female)
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: Averages 50 lbs.
  • Availability: Difficult to find
  • Talents: Herding, tracking, guiding, carting, agility, obedience, tricks, guarding, watchdog, police, search and rescue, and Schutzhund


Dewclaws are OK on the front legs but are removed from the back legs. The guard coat needs to be stripped at least twice a year, unless the dog is regularly raked. The coat needs regular grooming; a rake or slicker brush works best. Regular bathing is discouraged, as it lessens the coat’s waterproofing. The Belgian Laekenois has some tendency toward hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as progressive retinal atrophy. Testing of sire and dam for these issues is recommended.


The Belgian Laekenois is an alert, intelligent, and athletic dog. He can be slightly reserved with strangers, but is very affectionate with those he knows and loves. As a herding dog, he tends to be quite protective of his people and property; as a working dog, he needs lots of mental stimulation and physical exercise―off leash as often as possible. The Laekenois can live with cats if raised with them from puppyhood, but might see nonresident cats and smaller pets (such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and mice) as prey. Quick to learn and eager to please, they are devoted to their owners, but due to their inherent territoriality, they need to be given strict rules about how much protectiveness and dominance is OK and about who is the true leader in the house.

Despite a long history as an outside working dog, the Belgian Laekenois wants to be inside with his family and can be demanding in terms of wanting playtime and attention. Due to his intelligence, guarding instincts, and need for high levels of physical and mental stimulation, this is not a dog for a novice owner. His wide range of athletic abilities (agility, obedience, tracking, flyball and rally), combined with his love of having a job to do, make him a joy for people who want a true working partnership with a dog.


  • Children: Good with children only if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Friendliness: Moderately protective
  • Trainability: Very easy to train
  • Independence: Not particularly independent or dependent
  • Dominance: Moderate (not particularly dominant or submissive)
  • Other Pets: Generally good with other dogs in the household; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Average barker


  • Grooming: Regular grooming is needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: Moderate trimming or stripping of the coat needed
  • Coat: Wiry coat
  • Shedding: Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Docking/Cropping: None
  • Exercise: Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Indoors: Moderately active indoors
  • Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space: Best with at least an average-sized yard
  • Climate: Best in cooler climates
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners
  • Longevity: Moderately long lived (about 12 to 15 yrs.)

Useful Links

AKC® Belgian Laekenois Breed Standard

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Belgian Laekenois

Belgian Laekenois Gifts