The Belgian Sheepdog is a highly trainable herder whose history can be traced back to the late 19th century. Although initially a shepherd or sheepdog, the Belgian Sheepdog was a versatile animal. They performed many jobs through the first decade of the Twentieth Century for police forces throughout Belgium, Paris, New York City, and in Newark, New Jersey. They also worked as watchdogs for the European border patrol. During the two World Wars they distinguished themselves on the battlefields, serving as message carriers, Red Cross dogs, and defense dogs. Additionally, they are guide dogs for the blind and service dogs for the handicapped.
Belgian Sheepdog Appearance
Belgian Sheepdogs are a magnificent mix of muscle and elegance. They stand 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder, are on average the same length as their height having a square stature, and weigh 45 to 75 pounds. Their coloring includes black, fawn, and sable.
The Belgian is particularly adaptable to extreme temperature and climate because of its double-coating. It consists of a dense undercoat and a harder outer coat, which is quite easy to take care of outside of shedding season. They have longer hair like a collar around the neck; fringe of long hair down the backs of their legs and long, heavy hair on their tail.
For most of the year, all a Belgian requires is a weekly brushing. At least once a year, though, Belgians shed heavily. When this happens, a thorough brushing every day is required to remove the surprisingly large amount of dead hair. Baths are only required to remove dirt.
The Belgian Sheepdog’s life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. Hard-working, gentle, and loyal, he makes a wonderful family companion as long as he receives the mental and physical stimulation he needs. He requires plenty of mental stimulation in the form of training and play, especially with puzzle toys such as Buster Cubes, as well as interactive play such as fetch games. They need at least an hour of exercise per day and variety to keep from becoming bored. He wants to be doing things with the family like playing frisbee and other retrieving activities, hiking and jogging, and tracking or agility exercises. He may just run around the yard in circles; a demonstration of his herding heritage. If he’s left alone, he’s likely to create his own destructive entertainment or develop separation anxiety.
The Belgian is protective of children, but it’s important for parents to supervise play when friends of the children are around. The Belgian may mistake the excitement of play as an assault on the child and may try to nip at your child’s friends. With proper supervision and corrections, he can be taught that this isn’t appropriate behavior. Belgian Sheepdogs do best with children when they’re raised with them from puppyhood or socialized to them at an early age.
They can get along well with other dogs and cats if they’re brought up with them, although they may have issues with strange animals that come onto the property. They love to chase, so cats who stand their ground be better than those who run.
Caring for a Belgian Sheepdog
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Belgian Sheepdog.
Belgian Sheepdogs do well when consuming high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured with meat listed as the first ingredient or home-prepared (with veterinarian’s supervision and approval). Fresh fruits and vegetables can also be included in the Belgian’s diet. All diets need to be appropriate for the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). To avoid an overweight Belgian, calorie consumption and weight level needs to be monitored. Although helpful in aiding training, giving too many treats will cause obesity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Of course, a veterinarian is the best resource when there are questions regarding diet.
Belgian Sheepdogs need at least an hour of exercise per day, which can be broken up into a few different sessions. They thrive on contact with their human so exercise for them needs to be engaging with you; letting them outside by themselves isn’t going to be enough. They enjoy playing with a ball or going for a long run, or it could also mean training for and participating in obedience, agility, tracking, or herding competitions, or canine sports such as flyball. If possible, provide your Belgian Sheepdog with some off-leash exercise in a fenced area in addition to long walks or jogging.
Belgians are intelligent, brave, alert, and devoted to their family. They have strong herding instincts and are seemingly always in motion when not under command. They also have acute protection instincts. His observation skills make him an excellent watchdog, but his herding heritage makes him naturally distrustful of strangers. If he isn’t properly trained and socialized early, distrust can lead to aggressive behavior. A well-socialized and trained Belgian Sheepdog is a confident protector of his people and property and doesn’t attack without cause. Early, consistent training is critical! Belgian Sheepdogs are play-oriented and sensitive so training sessions need to be fun, consistent, and positive.
The Belgian Sheepdog is a healthy breed, although the incidences are low, genetic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia where the ball and socket of the joints do not fit properly and hemangiosarcoma which are tumors in the blood vessels in the spleen or liver are known to exist. Belgians are also known to have eye problems such as pannus; a condition affecting the cornea or the clear part of the eye, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA); degeneration of the retina causing vision loss, and cataract which affects the lens of the eye causing blurred vision. To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend regular tests on the dog’s eyes, hips, and elbows.
Teeth should be cleaned a couple of times a week. Keeping teeth and gums healthy is inevitable for the dog’s health. Gum disease can lead to heart, liver, and kidney problems.
Nails need to be trimmed regularly. Nails should never touch the ground; trimming is past due if nails are clicking on the kitchen floor. Nails that aren’t trimmed can splinter and infect the quick or grow and curl into the flesh. This can be painful for your dog to walk on and can affect his posture.