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Belgian shepherd close up outside

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Herding group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
  • Weight — 60-80 pounds (male), 40-60 pounds (female)
  • Coat length & texture —Thick, course double-coat (Sheepdog, Tervuren). Short and waterproof (Malinois). Tousled and rough (Laekenois)
  • Coat color — Black and black and white meet breed standard. Markings may include black mask, spotted, and white (Sheepdog). Fawn and black and mahogany and black are breed standard. White, black mask, black, and black points are among acceptable markings (Tervuren). Fawn, red, and mahogany are some of the acceptable colors, while black mask is the lone acceptable marking (Malinois, Laekenois).
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — To alert
  • Life span — 12-14 years
  • Temperament — Loyal, energetic, and watchful
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — Belgium

Belgian shepherd fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Belgian Shepherds Charlie and Thor. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Belgian Shepherds love Luna, then Angel.

  • The Belgian shepherd refers to four separate breed names: A Belgian Sheepdog (a.k.a. Groenendael or Chien de Berger Belge), Malinois, Tervuren, and Laekenois.
  • They served in World Wars. Belgian shepherds worked as messengers and ambulance dogs during WWI and were war dogs during WWII.
  • Belgian shepherds continue to work service jobs. These intelligent and athletic pups still work as search and rescue dogs, as well as police dogs. However, they’re also beloved pets.
Belgian shepherd dogs standing on a hill

Belgian shepherd temperament and characteristics 

Belgian shepherds are energetic and loyal dogs. Though they’re not incredibly playful, they are active and are ideal pets for active families. Often working dogs and members of police forces and rescue teams, these dogs want to put in an honest day’s work. But if their job is “family pet,” a long walk two or three times daily and dog sports are all ways to help these athletic dogs get the physical and mental stimulation they crave.

The dogs are loyal and, at times, still used for protection. Belgian shepherds may be a bit standoffish toward strangers but are not known as an aggressive breed.

Belgian shepherds are relatively good with young children and other dogs. The breed may get along with cats, particularly if raised with a feline, but it varies. A responsible breeder or rescue can help you understand more about the social preferences of a specific dog you are looking to bring home. Remember, even puppies from the same litter can have different personalities.


The Belgian Sheepdog is a medium-sized and athletic herding dog. It has a dense, weather-resistant coat that can be either long or short, with the long version having feathering on the legs and hindquarters. The AKC breed standard for this dog includes completely black or black with white.

Common Belgian shepherd health problems 

Belgian shepherds can live full, healthy lives. But they are more prone to certain health conditions. While it can be scary to think about your pet getting sick or developing a chronic issue, it’s important to understand the symptoms and signs. Often, prompt care leads to better outcomes for pets.

  • Hip dysplasia. This chronic condition occurs when the head of the thigh bone doesn’t fit correctly into the hip socket. It’s more common in larger breeds like the Belgian sheepdog and can lead to arthritis and lameness.
  • Epilepsy. Epilepsy is the most common cause of dog seizures. It is a neurological condition caused by abnormal brain activity.
  • Cataracts. A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye that can interfere with vision.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy. This term encompasses a group of degenerative eye conditions that affect the retina cells. The retina cells help a dog sense light.

Cost of caring for the Belgian shepherd

Caring for an animal is an expense. But those costs could rise if your Belgian shepherd develops a health condition.

Hip dysplasia can be managed with supplements like Glucosamine, which can cost around $20 for a bottle of 60 tablets. Severe cases will require surgery, which can cost about $4,000 per hip.

Epilepsy is typically treated with medication and extra monitoring. The cost varies based on the severity of the disease, veterinarian rates, and dosing needs. The annual price tag can range from $200 and $5,000. Surgery to remove cataracts can cost between $2,500 and $4,000. There is no treatment or cure for PRA.

Health insurance may help reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Pet owners who sign their dog’s up early will receive the greatest benefits. Other ways to handle pet costs include creating a budget and a pet savings account.

Belgian shepherd puppy standing outside

History of the Belgian shepherd

The history of the Belgian shepherd dates back to the 1800s. Belgium was highly focused on dairy farming — how else would it be one of the leading exporters of milk chocolate worldwide?

To aid in the process, Belgium needed cattle-herding dogs. At one time, there were eight different varieties of shepherd dogs in Belgium. By the late 1800s, they were classified as four separate breeds: The Belgian shepherd, the Belgian Malinois, Tervuren, and Laeknois. They had similar anatomy, but coat types varied.

At the turn of the last century, these athletic dogs became popular outside of Belgium. Paris and New York employed these pups in police forces, and they served in both World Wars. If there were a “Good Citizen” award, the Belgian shepherd would’ve probably won it. When it comes to recognition:

  • 1912: The Belgian Sheepdog was recognized as a breed by the AKC.
  • 1949: An official breed club was formed in the U.S., the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America.
  • 1959: The Belgian Tervuren and Malinois followed.
  • 2020: The Belgian Laekenois gained recognition.

The UKC recognizes the Belgian Shepherd dog as one dog with four varieties and has since 1991. Today, these canine partners perform many services, including acting as guard dogs, rescuers, and human’s best friends.

Caring for your Belgian shepherd

Dog owners can feel overwhelmed at first. Even if you did your homework and know you found the right puppy, there’s a ton of work, especially at first — and not just pouring through an extensive library of dog names. First up: A trip to the vet for a check-up and to schedule your dog’s vaccinations.

You’ll also want puppy-proof your home, regardless of how old your Belgian shepherd is. If your dog is a young puppy, you’ll need to prepare for teething. No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to the Belgian shepherd dog.

Exercise endurance agility

The Belgian shepherd was built for work. Even as a family fur baby, the breed still requires a good amount of exercise each day. The breed is open to many types of physical activity and is generally a good sport when it comes to adventure.

These athletic dogs have endurance and agility. Long hikes or homemade obstacle courses are right up the Belgian shepherd’s alley.

The Belgian shepherd typically does well in any type of weather. The hardy dogs once worked long days in the fields. Still, protecting their paws with soothing balms in the winter and providing plenty of hydration, particularly on hot days, can help keep your Belgian shepherd healthy and happy.

Belgian shepherd running in a green field


As far as coat types go, the Belgian shepherd’s fur is normally easy to care for. You will likely never have to step into the groomer’s office for a trim.

Still, expect a fair amount of shedding. Dog owners can cut down on the shedding and keep the coat in good shape with regular, weekly brushing. Belgian shepherds shed heavily at least once per year, though. Dog owners will want to brush more frequently during those times.

Monthly bathing will keep your Belgian shepherd’s coat clean and shiny — especially important because this breed loves spending time outside. Be sure to clean their ears regularly and after baths and swims. Hangnails, breakage, and ingrown nails can be uncomfortable for a dog. Nail trimming helps prevent them.

👉 Dental disease is an oft-overlooked issue for dogs. Make a habit of brushing your dog’s teeth every day. 

Diet and nutrition

A healthy Belgian shepherd at a normal weight does best on a standard dog food with the AAFCO seal, indicating it meets nutritional standards. Choose a dog food that aligns with your dog’s weight and age.

These dogs are so intelligent that it’s tempting to want to treat them constantly. However, it’s best to ensure your Belgian shepherd’s diet consists of at least 90% dog food. The other 10% can typically include low-calorie treats.

How much should your dog eat? That answer varies based on their weight, health, age, and activity level. Generally, a Belgian shepherd dog should eat twice per day. The dog food bag will have guidelines but may provide daily recommendations. In these cases, divide the portion by two.

Your vet is the best resource for insights into portion sizes. Typically, a 60-pound neutered dog will consume 1,334 calories daily .

Training your Belgian shepherd 

The Belgian shepherd is eager to please and typically takes very well to dog training — it’s part of the reason the breed has held so many jobs. Like other breeds, the Belgian shepherd can benefit from early training and socialization.

Positive reinforcement treatment works best for this breed. Treats and praise work better than yelling and punishments.

The Belgian shepherd is an intelligent breed, but even these pups do best with short, concise commands instead of a lecture designed for college students. Ensure everyone in the household uses the same commands to avoid confusing the dog.

If you and your Belgian shepherd need help getting started, your vet can point you to additional resources in your area, such as professional trainers.

Belgian shepherd outside in the grass

Breeds similar to the Belgian shepherd 

Not quite sure that a Belgian shepherd is the right dog for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few additional resources to give you inspiration:

  • German shepherd. These loyal, loving pets are also highly intelligent, easy to train, and employed by police forces. They’re generally more likely to be better with small children.
  • Rottweiler. The Rottweiler is another loyal breed with a playful streak.
  • Doberman pinscher. These brave dogs are known for their loyalty and love of physical activity.

👉 If you’re looking for a purebred puppy,  find a responsible dog breeder through sites like the AKC Marketplace.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between Belgian Malinois and Belgian shepherd?

A Belgian Malinois is one of four types of Belgian shepherd. The other three are the Belgian sheepdog, Belgian Tervuren, and Belgian Laekenois.

Is a Belgian shepherd a good family dog?

It depends on the family. A Belgian shepherd does best in an active home that can help these alert, energetic dogs get the physician and mental activity they need to thrive. Belgian shepherds can get along with small children but may do best in a home with older, well-behaved kids.

Is a Belgian shepherd a Malinois?

It’s the other way around. A Belgian Malinois is a Belgian shepherd, a term that encompasses four different breeds.

Is a Belgian shepherd the same as a German shepherd?

No. Belgian shepherds and German shepherds have similar appearances and have held similar jobs (police work, military service, and search and rescue). Still, they aren’t the same dog.

What type of dog is a Belgian shepherd?

Belgian shepherds are herding breeds. They have worked in search and rescue and on police forces but also make loyal, loving companion pets.