The Belgian Sheepdog is usually known as the Groenendael elsewhere in the world and is actually the most popular of four Belgian Shepherd dog breeds. The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized all four varieties as one breed and the American Kennel Club (AKC) has recognized the Belgian Sheepdog or Groenendael, the Malinois and the Tervueren as three separate breeds but doesn’t yet recognize the Laekenois. Belgian shepherds are solid, muscular and very agile.
The Belgians love to play until they fall over from exhaustion. The four breeds or varieties of shepherds are anatomically very similar but have very different coats. The Belgian Groenendael or Sheepdog has a long, smooth black double coat.
The Belgian Malinois has a short, dense red to light brown double coat with a black mask. The Belgian Tervueren has a long, smooth double coat that can vary from mahogany to beige and grey with a black mask. The Laekenois has a rough and curly to shaggy medium length coat that is light brown in color. Like all the Belgian shepherds, the Groenendael male stands 24 to 16 inches and the female stands 22 to 24 inches at shoulder height. Male sheep dogs can weigh from 60 to 75 pounds and females from 50 to 65 pounds.
All the Belgian Sheepdogs were developed from hardy sheep herding dogs. The initial breed was developed by a breeder from Groenendael Belgium and became the founding stock for all four varieties of Belgium shepherds. The Groenendaels were used as herding dogs, police dogs, guard dogs and family companions. The Belgian was ranked 97th out of 154 breeds registered in 2004 by the AKC.
These high energy dogs are not suitable for all families. The Belgians are lively, intelligent, obedient and have strong protective and territorial instincts. Belgians make excellent police and watchdogs. Groenendaels should be socialized early with other animals and children when they are puppies.
These sheep dogs are good with children when they are raised with children but do better with older and more considerate children. The breed needs lots of companionship and attention.
Groenendaels can be highly trained but training should not be done too early as the breed has a long playful puppy/adolescent phase. Sheepdog training should be done with a very light hand on the leash as these dogs don’t like a negative experience.
In summary, these sheepdogs are highly trainable and very smart. These Belgians make ideal pets for people who have the time and energy to devote to the training, exercise, and companionship these breeds require. Belgian shepherds do best with experienced dog owners.
The Groenendaels can adapt to apartment life if frequently exercised, but do best with a fenced yard. This breed should be exercised for over an hour per day.
The Groenendael’s coat should be brushed and combed twice per week and daily when it undergoes heavy shedding in the spring and fall. This breed will shed loose hair year round.
Belgian Groenendaels have a lifespan of approximately 12 to 14 years with no major health concerns.