The Belgian Sheepdog is an elegant, square-proportioned dog that is alert and agile with proud carriage. This breed’s bone is moderately heavy. For dogs expected to herd for long hours, their gait is smooth, tireless, and effortless rather than driving. They have a tendency to move in a circle rather than a straight line. They have an extremely dense undercoat along with an outer coat of abundant guard hairs that are long, well-fitting, and straight. The texture should be medium-harsh, not silky, for protection. The undercoat is extremely dense in cold weather for insulation. The opening of the ear is protected by tufts of hair. The Belgian Sheepdog’s expression is intelligent and questioning, and the black coloration is striking.
The Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, and Belgian Malinois began as three local variations of one breed, which was known as the Belgian Shepherd or Continental Shepherd. The dog that was heir to the name Belgian Sheepdog was originally known as the Groenendael variation of the breed. Like all the Belgian shepherds, this was a working farm dog expected to both herd and guard. This breed differed from the others because it had a rather long, black coat.
In 1910 these dogs were officially dubbed Groenendael after the kennel that had selectively bred the black dogs since 1893 (just after the Belgian Shepherds were recognized as a breed). By this time, the breed had gained some repute as a police dog and was already employed in this capacity in America. In World War I, they continued to shine as sentry dogs, messengers, and even draft dogs. It was here that they captured the attention of the public, and they soon enjoyed a fair amount of popularity after the war.
In 1959, the three Belgian Shepherd breeds were divided into separate breeds, with the Groenendael subsequently known as the Belgian Sheepdog. With their shimmering black coat, these are the most striking of the Belgian breeds, and that fact, along with their versatile abilities, have won them many faithful supporters.
Ever watchful and on the move, the Belgian Sheepdog glides in large circles. They are playful, alert, watchful, protective, independent, and intense dogs. They are aloof with strangers and should be introduced carefully to other dogs and household pets. Some can be domineering. They are intelligent and biddable, but independent. They are protective of their home and family.
The Belgian Sheepdog needs a good deal of exercise, either a good long jog or a long, strenuous play session. They need room to move during the day and do best with access to a yard. Their double coat needs brushing and combing twice weekly, more when shedding.