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Belgian Groenendael aka Belgian sheepdog in a field

Throughout history, Belgian dog breeds have had a variety of jobs. While many originated as herding dogs to herd sheep, some of them have transitioned well to perform jobs in law enforcement and military service. Additionally, some breeds were used to keep docks and stables free of disease-carrying rodents.

1. Belgian Malinois

The Malinois is known for being a talented and active dog, although they are often mistaken for German shepherds. Originating from the Belgian city of Malines, they have become the most recognizable Belgian shepherd breed. Famous for their work in the police and military, a Belgian Malinois played a pivotal role in the capture and execution of Osama bin Laden.

Alert Belgian Malinois in a park

Facts about the Belgian Malinois

  • Breed groupHerding breed (American Kennel Club)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 14-16 years

2. Belgian Tervuren

Belgian Tervurens, also called Tervs, are known for their long tan or red coat and their black mask, which extends over their muzzle. They have a tendency to get very protective of their owners, lending to their heritage as herding dogs. Like the others of their breed, they are susceptible to hip dysplasia.

Large breed dogs such as the Belgian Tervuren can have a genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia. Signs for hip dysplasia can show up as early as 4 months of age in this dog. The best way to minimize this disease in these breeds to make sure the parents are tested prior to breeding.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne
Belgian Tervuren dog

Facts about the Belgian Tervuren

  • Breed groupHerding breed (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12-14 years

3. Belgian Laekenois

Named for the town of Laeken, the Belgian Laekenois — which is pronounced “Lak-in-wah” — is a newly recognized breed of Belgian shepherd. Belgium’s four varieties are classified as a single breed, but the American Kennel Club sees them as separate breeds. The Laekenois’ distinctive wiry coat sets it apart from the others while still sharing a similar size and body type.

Belgian Laekenois lying in a field

Facts about the Belgian Laekenois

  • Breed groupHerding breed (AKC)
  • Intelligence —High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 10-12 years

4. Belgian Groenendael (Belgian sheepdog)

Most often known for its long black coat, the Belgian sheepdog came to the United States in the late 1800s. They have found a place in many American homes due to how well behaved they are with young children. Like their sister Belgian shepherd dogs, they have a chance to suffer from progressive retinal atrophy. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition.

Closeup of a black Belgian sheepdog outside

Facts about the Belgian sheepdog

  • Breed groupHerding breed (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — To alert
  • Life span — 12-14 years

5. Brussels griffon

Smaller than your “standard Belgian dog,” the Brussels griffon makes up for it with a large heart and personality. They love affection and can actually suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long.  Due to their small size, Brussels griffon can be difficult to breed. C-sections are needed occasionally to reduce the difficulties and mortality rate in the litter.

If an owner is planning to breed a Brussels griffon, it is important that make note of the timing of the breeding. Additional testing such as checking hormone levels can also he helpful in predicting end of pregnancy. The puppies are at the greater risk during a c-section especially if the timing is not accurate.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne
Brussels griffon being brushed outside

Facts about the Brussels griffon

  • Breed groupToy breed (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Very often
  • Life span — 12-15 years

6. Bouvier des Flandres

With their large size, the bouvier des Flandres has been known as a gentle giant. Despite having a French name, the breed is from Belgium’s Flanders region. These purebred dogs originated in the Middle Ages for driving cattle, but they have since taken on a loving role as family pets. They are an obedient dog, but they require firm training and positive reinforcement from an early age to be properly socialized.

Bouvier des Flandres in a meadow

Facts about the bouvier des Flandres

  • Breed groupHerding breed (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 10-12 years

7. Schipperke

High-energy dogs, the Schipperke make for great companions, but they do not do well if left alone for extended periods. Training can help with this, but it is very important that you know how active this breed is. They can easily run five miles or walk ten, so they need a lot of exercise to keep from getting bored and destructive.


Facts about the schipperke

  • Breed groupNon-sporting breed (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — More than average
  • Life span — 12-16 years

A history of loyalty

When war takes over a small country like Belgium, more than just the people are pressed into service. During World War I, Belgian shepherds like the Laekenois and Groenendael were used as messengers for the Belgian army. The fighting spirit of these different breeds has continued, allowing the breeds to perform well in police work and as protection dogs.

An active lifestyle

With many highly energetic breeds, it could be a good idea to look into training them and engaging in different dog sports. These range from obedience to agility. It is important to know what kind of pup you are bringing home, so be prepared and you will love having these breeds in your life.