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Belgian Sheepdog Belgian Shepherd

Dog Breeds

The Belgian sheepdog (also called the Belgian shepherd or Groenendael) has a long black coat, confident strut, and craves human attention. A herding dog with lots of brains and even more energy, he thrives in active households.

Belgian Sheepdog (Belgian Shepherd) Overview

OFFICIAL NAME Belgian Sheepdog (Belgian Shepherd)
COMMON NAME Belgian Sheepdog (Belgian Shepherd)
PET HEIGHT 22 to 26 inches
PET WEIGHT 45 to 75 pounds
LIFESPAN 12 to 14 years
GOOD WITH dogs, families
TEMPERAMENT friendly, gentle
VOCAL LEVEL infrequent
BREED SIZE large (61-100 lbs.)
COLORS black, white
PATTERNS bicolor
OTHER TRAITS cold weather tolerant, easy to train, good hiking companion, high prey drive, strong loyalty tendencies

Belgian sheepdogs have a long and impressive resume. Originally bred in the late 1800s as herding dogs, they got their start helping out on livestock and dairy farms in Belgium. But perhaps the job this working dog (who also goes by the Belgian shepherd, the Groenendael, the Groenendael shepherd, and, because of their eager-to-please disposition, "good boy" or "good girl,") covets the most is being a loyal best friend to their human.

"The Groenendael is like a smart best friend who is always up for the next adventure," says Colleen Demling-Riley, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, CDBC, dog behaviorist with Dogtopia. "They are high-energy working dogs and 100-percent devoted to their families."

The Belgian sheepdog teeters on being a medium-to-large sized dog and can weigh between 45–75 pounds. His long coat and long snoot make him a head-turning beauty, but because he's a relatively rare breed in the U.S., you might not see him running around at the local dog park.

As an energetic pup, Belgian sheepdogs need daily exercise. A walk around the block won't cut it; these dogs need a long walk or a good run. These sweet and sensitive dogs tend to be a good fit for active homes, and they can do well with older kids and fellow canine friends.


With a long black coat and an intelligent gaze, the Belgian sheepdog personifies the expression "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed." These slender dogs are strong, agile, and have a smooth, confident strut. The females fall into the medium-sized dog category, weighing 45–60 pounds. Male Belgian sheepdogs are larger, at 55–75 pounds.

Their eyes are dark brown and almond-shaped, and, according to the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America, their expression indicates "alertness, attention, readiness for activity."

The Belgian sheepdog has a dense undercoat and harder outer coat that's long, straight, and well-suited for cold temperatures and climates. The Belgian sheepdog color is typically black, and his coat (which has a texture somewhere between silky and wiry) can also have small patches of white on his chest, on the tips of his toes, chin, and muzzle.

"With a beautiful, double-layer coat, these pups only need to be brushed twice a week, but a pet parent should be ready for shedding season," Demling-Riley says. "At least once a year they shed heavily and will leave dog hair all over the house. They should be brushed daily during shedding season."


Chalk it up to their history as working dogs: Belgian sheepdogs have it in their DNA to serve as guardians of their flock. Today, they are courageous, serious, and alert companions that are watchful over their homes and are observant of strangers.

Intelligent and intuitive, Belgian sheepdogs are great family pups and are good with kids, Demling-Riley says. "They do have prey drive, so they might not be the best fit for a household with other small pets," she says.

The smarts and loyalty of Belgian sheepdogs make them easy dogs to train, says Shawna Garner, DVM, U.S. lead veterinarian at FirstVet.

"Their guarding instincts, however, can lead them into standoff-ish behavior, and they should be well socialized as a puppy to prevent this issue from arising," Garner says. "With proper training, Groenendaels will grow up to be friendly and welcoming dogs."

While a well-trained Belgian sheepdog is affable and on his best behavior, his size and energy level mean that a home with older children would be a better fit for him than one with toddlers or small kiddos, Garner says.

Living Needs

Belgian sheepdogs absolutely love their people and, because they're high-energy, they're more suited as hiking companions than Netflix binge-watching buddies.

"They thrive in a home that has an active family that will include them in the daily routine," Demling-Riley says.

Because they crave human companionship, they shouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. Also, because Belgian sheepdogs love to be active, they require regular exercise and need space to stretch their legs, Garner says.

"This means they are best suited to a house with a yard and owners who enjoy long walks," she says.

Belgian sheepdogs enjoy spending time playing and interacting with people, and they will get on best in a home with owners who have the time and energy to keep them mentally stimulated. If you make sure your Belgian sheepdog has access to interactive toys, room to zoom around, and ample attention, he'll be one happy pup!

Again, Belgian sheepdogs are great family pets, but might be a little too big and rambunctious for small children. And because they can be suspicious of strangers, all Belgian sheepdog puppies need to be well-socialized from an early age. They get along well with other dogs, but, because of their herding instincts, might try to round-up the family cat.


Belgian sheepdogs always want to be on the go. For that reason, anyone who is thinking of adding one to their family should have ample time carved out to exercise with their pup.

Demling-Riley says these active working dogs often need to be exercised at least two hours a day. "The term 'a tired dog is a good dog' is especially true for the Groenendael," she says.

Belgian sheepdogs are highly intelligent and love their owner's attention, which makes training a fun task. As with any breed, training time should include positive reinforcement and care, says Laura Monaco Torelli, KPA CTP, director of animal training with Animal Behavior Training Concepts. She suggests planning short-duration (one- or two-minute) sessions throughout the day and including your dog's food or favorite treats to reinforce desired behaviors.

"Use a portion of mealtime as designated school time, too," she says. "After training, place the rest of the food into enrichment toys for them to explore and snack on to help keep their active nose, paws, and mouth busy."

Because these dogs are so smart, they'll navigate puzzle toys like a pro!

Torellie also suggests making sure that a young puppy or an older dog has veterinary clearance for longer walks and higher-impact exercise such as running. You can integrate training time in short bouts of healthy (not exhaustive) exercise and playtime.

As far as grooming, Belgian sheepdogs are fairly low-maintenance. They require twice-a-week brushing (daily brushing during their seasonal shed!), regular nail clippings, occasional ear cleaning, and frequent teeth brushing.


The Belgian sheepdog is known for his fitness and energy, but can still be susceptible to some common health issues, Garner says.

"Hip and elbow dysplasia is a common issue, meaning it is important to get their joint health checked regularly to ensure they stay mobile," she says.

Cataracts are also something that Belgian sheepdog owners should look out for. If you notice any cloudiness in his eye or signs that your dog's vision is worsening, Garner says, it's best to seek a veterinarian's advice.

If Groenendaels are not fed and exercised properly, they are also at risk of obesity, which can cause broader health issues such as diabetes, a weakened immune system, pancreatitis, and high blood pressure, Garner says.

"In some cases, struggling to maintain a healthy weight can indicate an issue with the thyroid gland," she says. "So if you are concerned about your dog's weight, you should consult a veterinarian."


The history of the Belgian sheepdog can be traced back to Belgian pastures in the late 19th century, where these dogs helped with herding tasks.

But because they are such quick learners and hard workers, they began landing other jobs during the first decade of the 20th century. Belgian sheepdogs could be found working for police forces throughout Belgium, Paris, New York City, and in Newark, N.J. European border patrols also brought them on to serve as watchdogs, according to the BSCA. They even served during the World Wars as messengers, Red Cross dogs, and defense dogs. As Red Cross dogs, they would carry medical supplies and canteens of water to wounded soldiers in the field and lead medics to those who were unconscious. Today, Belgian sheepdogs are commonly on search and rescue teams.

Fun Facts

Belgium shepherd dogs were classified for the first time in the 1890s. There's the Belgian sheepdog (aka the Groenendael), the Belgian Malinois, Tervuren, and Laekenois. While anatomically identical, their coats vary in texture, color, and length.
"Groenendael" is the name of the Belgian village where these shepherds were first bred, hence their name.
In the late 1800s, Belgium decided the Belgian shepherd would be its national herding dog. The dogs are mentioned in Julius Caesar's "The Gallic Wars," according to Peggy Richter, an AKC and herding breed judge.