When you are first searching for a purebred dog to adopt, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can sort through the plethora of breeds out there, allowing you to more easily choose a breed that fits your needs.
As many people know, there are a few different classes of dog breeds that people sort dogs into. These classes include hound dogs, herding dogs, sporting dogs, terriers, and working dogs, among others. These classes categorize particular features within a dog, such as what they were originally bred to do, or what they are best at doing.
For example, if you are looking for a dog that can help you keep a handle on livestock through herding, you are going to want to look at dogs in the herding group. One of the best dogs that you can consider within this group is the Belgian Shepherd dog, occasionally known as the Belgian Sheepdog.
Not only are these dogs intelligent and eager to learn, they are also diligent and versatile, allowing them to be the perfect mix of a family dog and a working farm dog. These dogs are good for families that have children (assuming the children understand how to pet dogs properly), but not so much for apartment living or multi-pet households. One thing to note is that training this type of dog requires a fair amount of experience, so they may not be the best first dog to own.
Where Did the Belgian Shepherd Come From?
As the name might suggest, this shepherd dog breed was developed in Belgium. More specifically, it was one of four shepherd dog variants that were developed in Belgium during the late 1800s. It is important to note that the American Kennel Club recognizes these variant shepherd dogs as their own breed, while the United Kennel Club recognizes all of these dogs as one breed.
Regardless, the Belgian Shepherd dog dates back to about 1893 in Belgium, but they quickly became popular in both Paris and New York for their versatility when working. For instance, they were commonly used as police dogs in the early 1900s, and in Belgium, they patrolled the border alongside customs officers. During wartime, these dogs were used to carry messages back and forth, as well as to pull ambulance and machine gun carts. After the wars were over, these dogs became even more popular in the United States. Needless to say, these dogs excel at performing tasks, and they are eager to learn new tasks when you choose to take them under your wing.
What Does the Belgian Shepherd Look Like?
These shepherd dogs are a medium height, with an elegantly square-proportioned build. They can be somewhat heavy because of the density of their bones, likely due to the way they were bred for work and herding on farms. They have a smooth gait and tend to prefer to move in circles, rather than in a direct line. Their fur has both an extremely dense undercoat and an outer guard of long, flowing fur to protect them against weather and superficial scratches. While the fur of the dog might look soft and fluffy, the texture of the fur tends to be medium-harsh because the fur is geared more for protection rather than appearances.
The fur tends to be longer around the chest, muzzle, and tail. The dog has a triangular face, with inquisitive and sparkling eyes that are ready to watch for commands. Almost all of these dogs are completely black, although some may have a few white markings on them. As for the physical size of the dogs, they tend to be a bit on the large side. They tend to be between 22 to 26 inches tall, with males being taller and somewhat stockier than the females. Their weight can range from 45 to 75 pounds, again with males having more bulk to them than their female counterparts.
How Is the Belgian Shepherd’s Behavior?
These dogs are ideal for people who enjoy teaching their dogs tricks, people who have livestock that need to be herded, or people who enjoy running agility courses with their dogs. This is because these dogs are observant, intelligent, and very eager to learn something new.
They are inquisitive about things that you are doing, and they might force themselves into your space if they are curious enough. It is crucial that you make sure that your dog is adequately socialized, especially from a young age, otherwise your dog will have a greater chance of becoming shy and sensitive, which are traits that nobody wants in a working dog.
While you are socializing and training your dog, it is very important to note that you cannot be too harsh with your dog. Likewise, you need to make sure that your dog is well aware that you are the leader. To do this, you need to display a confident and natural authority over the dog, so that it knows not to challenge you, but to listen to what you are teaching them instead.
These dogs need attention and exercise because of their ambition to work for their family. This work could be herding animals, protecting the territory and the family, or acting as a guard dog for the house. When all is said and done, as playful as these dogs might be, their focus is always going to be on their “work” before playtime and being pet, and you need to be aware of this before you adopt a Belgian Shepherd.
How Do You Care for a Belgian Shepherd?
There are two main things that you need to pay attention to when you are caring for your dog. One is that these dogs require a tremendous amount of exercise. Second, they require heavy grooming to ensure that their coat stays clean, shiny, and not tangled up. When it comes to exercise, you need to remember that these dogs were bred to work long days outdoors, meaning that they have a lot of energy that needs to be expended each day.
You can manage with an apartment or office, but only if there is a place where you can take your dog for a lengthy outing. More often than not, it is better to have a securely fenced yard where your dog can run around off-leash. Always make sure that the fences in your yard are secure, as these dogs would be more than happy to chase cyclists, joggers, cars, and any squirrels that pass by.
You should aim to give your dog about one hour of activity each day, and you can break this up into play sessions or long walks. If you do let your dog hang out in your yard off-leash, there’s a good chance that it will run in wide circles, which is a tribute to its heritage in herding.
As for keeping your dog’s coat properly cared for, you need to make a commitment to your dog. Because the dog has two coats, and the undercoat of the dog is particularly dense, you need to groom your dog daily to ensure that their coat doesn’t become tangled up and matted. You can use either a brush or a comb to get this job done. In some cases, you might decide to leave all of the brushing until the end of the week, but if you do, expect much more dead fur and tangles to pull through. It might be easier on your dog to simply brush them daily.
In addition to making sure that you brush your dog often, these dogs are known for shedding as well. Typically, these dogs will have one heavy shedding period per year, depending on the climate and the condition of their coat. During this time, it becomes even more important to brush your dog daily.
What Kind of Health Does the Belgian Shepherd Have?
As far as purebred dogs go, these are generally pretty healthy dogs. When it comes to purebred dogs, there is always going to be an increased risk of your dog developing a hereditary condition that was passed down to it. These underlying conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, and hypothyroidism. With enough warning and care, these conditions can often be managed and taken care of, but it is always something you should be prepared for when you are looking for a new dog to adopt.