The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael is one of the 4 Belgian shepherd breeds, depending on which breed registry you look at. In America, this breed is simply called “the Belgian Shepherd”. The other breeds are the Belgian Malinois, the Tervueren, and the Laekenois. The Groenendael is the only one of the 4 to have a black coat, although some dogs may have some white in their coats as well. The other 3 Belgian Shepherd dogs have fawn or mahogany colored coats, of different lengths.
Belgian Shepherd Groenendael Temperament
Like most dogs that have a history of herding and guarding sheep, the modern-day Laekenois is reserved with strangers, and will watch an unfamiliar arrival at your home with suspicion.
With enough socialization as a puppy and some obedience training, the Laekenois is a friendly and sociable dog. They are alert and energetic, and need a fair amount of exercise. They enjoy human company and need to feel that they have a job to do.
This means that they are not really suited to apartment life, unless you can devote a significant amount of time to exercising the dog each day. They do better where there is a large fenced yard to run around in, and games to occupy them. They love learning something new, and are ideally suited to advanced training for obedience and herding trials and tests.
The Groenendael is alert and vigilant, but they also make good family dogs, and are good with children.
Belgian Shepherd Groenendael Breed History
The dairy industry in Belgium required herding dogs for the cows, resulting in the breeding of herding dogs. Originally there were 8 types of herding dog in Belgium, but by the 1890s, when they were officially classified for the first time, there remained just the four breeds we know today:
- The Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael (or Chien de Berger Belge),
- the Malinois,
- the Tervuren
- and the Laekenois. They were practically identical but had different coat textures, colors, and lengths. The name Groenendael was given to the long haired black variety, today’s Belgian Sheepdog.
By the turn of the 20th century, the versatility and work drive of Belgian Sheepdogs were becoming more widely known. The cities of both Paris and New York used Belgian Sheepdogs as police dogs at this time.
They were also used on border patrols b customs agents, helping to catch smugglers. During World War I, they were also used to carry messeges, and as ambulance dogs. Belgian Sheepdogs were used in the same roles during the Second World War.
The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1949, and since then this breed has done it all: show dog, athlete, police officer, soldier, service dog, searcher and rescuer, watchdog, and tireless backyard tennis-ball fetcher.
The Belgian Shepherd has a long coat, and needs to be brushed several times a week to remove loose hairs. They shed their coat twice a year, and at this time daily brushing is needed if you want to prevent black hairs spreading through your home!
They normally only need a bath once a month, or less, unless they get very muddy or dirty. The occasional bath reduces the ‘doggy smell’ that can build up with time.
As always, you should check the ears regularly for cleanliness, wax build up and signs of infection such as redness and swelling. The claws should be trimmed when they get too long, which is usually best done by a professional dog groomer or a vet.
Height: 24 inches to 26 inches
Weight: 65 lbs to 75 lbs
Lifespan: 12 years
Ease of Training
The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael is very intelligent, and can be trained to a high degree. However they need to be trained from an early age, to get the best results. We recommend going to puppy training classes as a first step, to introduce the dog to the idea of training, and also as early socialization.
The Belgian Groenendael is very alert to its surroundings. This is part of its heritage as a herding breed and a guardian breed. They will very quickly let you know if something unusual is happening in your vicinity, by barking until you come to take a look at what’s going on. It makes a great watchdog.
As for being a guard dog, they also do very well. This breed is confident and protective of it’s owner, and at up to 65lbs is able to deter most would-be intruders. If your unwanted guest tries to take things further, the Groenendael will take him on. If you’re looking for top protection, it’s cousin the Belgian Malinois may be a better choice, but the Groenendael is not far behind.
This is a healthy breed, with few health issues. However dogs should be checked for problems that any breed can suffer from, such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.