(aka: Belgian Groenendael, Belgian Shepherd, Chien de Berger Belge)
The Groenendael should be athletic, strong, imposing, rustic, and balanced in appearance. It should look natural, never as though it has been prepared just for the show ring. Its coat should be profuse, but never look as though it would inhibit the dog's working ability in any way. The color is always black, with small white markings being allowed on the chest. When being shown, its handler should never have to force it into position; ideally the handler should not have to touch the dog at all.
The body of the Belgian Sheepdog is well muscled, with tight skin and a squarely proportioned body. The overall size of the head should be in proportion with the body. The top of the skull is flattened rather than rounded. The muzzle is moderately pointed with a moderate stop. The lips should be tight. The dog's bite should be either even or scissors. The medium sized, almond-shaped eyes are brown. The erect ears are triangle in shape and in proportion to the head. The legs are parallel, straight and strong. The feathered tail is strong at the base with the tailbone reaching the hock. The dew claws are usually removed. The feet are cat-like in shape. The weather-resistant coat is moderately long, with a ruff of fur around the neck and extra feathering on the legs, tail and underneath the body. The coat color is black, either solid or with a small amount of white on the chest, chin or toes.
Belgian Sheepdog Temperament
The Belgian Sheepdog is very intelligent, active, loyal and quietly affectionate. Groenendaels are not a breed for the faint of heart. However for those who have plenty of time, energy, confidence and love, they are wonderful friends. Training and socializing is essential. They are wary of strangers and protective. They love children as long as they are introduced to them at an early age. The Groenendael bonds deeply to its people and cannot live outdoors or in a kennel. It needs to spend time with its family every day and may experience separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.
The Belgian Groenendael has a long, straight, medium length, heavy outer coat and a dense under coat that requires daily combing and brushing. Extra care should be given when the dog is shedding. Clip out mats that form, particularly in the ruff and on the legs, and clip hair from between the toes and on the outer ears. This breed is a seasonal, heavy shedder, shedding twice a year with some additional shedding throughout the year.
The Belgian Sheepdog, known in its native land, as the Groenendael is one of the four types of shepherd dogs from Belgium, all that are very similar except for their coloration and coats. The all black Belgian Sheepdog is derived from a single kennel in Groenendael, hence the traditional name. The breed was developed by Nicholas Rose the late 1800s from a pair of all black shepherds. Mr. Rose bred his dogs for both herding and protection and they were very popular in the area, with the demand for the dogs increasing with every litter.
It is believed that the original ancestors of all four of the Belgian shepherd varieties likely had ancestors from the German Shepherds, Bouvier des Flanders, Beaucerons, Briards and Holland Herders, plus what we now refer to as the Belgian Sheepdog. This large grouping of dogs was originally known as the Continental Shepherds and it is from this mix that Nicholas Rose chose his all-black colored breeding stock.
Historically the Belgian Sheepdog has been used as a herding and protection dog on farms and in rural areas but has also been used as a military dog, search and rescue dog as well as a police dog. They can be used in Schutzhund events that are very demanding on the dog.
Training the Belgian Sheepdog requires a trainer that knows how to work with a dominant and intelligent breed without using any harsh punishment or training methods. The Belgian Sheepdog needs to be treated firmly and positively to allow them to develop their strong bond with the handler. Dogs that are yelled at or punished will become fearful or aggressive rather quickly.
Starting training very early is important with this breed, especially the socialization aspects of training. A puppy obedience class is highly recommended for either male or female Belgian Sheepdog puppies. Working with the dog on a regular basis is also key as this dog needs to feel that it is helping out the family and actually has a job to do.
Since the Belgian Sheepdog is a naturally protective dog there is little need to specifically train for this, other than to teach the dog to stand down when strangers approach. Again, socialization and trust between the dog and the owner will be key elements of this type of training. They are not problem barkers but do need to learn to stop barking when commanded to do so. A trainer or just using a diversion such as a treat or a favorite toy will often stop the barking and then reward the dog for being quiet.
One of the wonderful features of this breed is that they will respond very well to children. Often kids love to compete with the Belgian Sheepdog in obedience and agility events simply because they are a naturally obedient dog. Working with the dog on a daily basis on both exercise and fun activities as well as commands and behaviors will help the dog feel needed and active in the family.
This hardy, healthy breed has no major health concerns. Some minor concerns that have been seen are epilepsy, skin allergies, eye problems, excessive shyness, excessive aggressiveness and occasionally seen hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Do not overfeed this breed, for it has a tendency to become obese and lazy.