Tervueren & Groenendael
Owning a BSD
For those of you perhaps less familiar with the BSD varieties or considering ownership for the first time, we hope that this information will be useful to your research and assist you in deciding if this breed is the right one for you, your family and your lifestyle.
The Belgian Shepherd as a Breed has four separate varieties, the Groenendael (long haired black), Tervueren (long haired red, fawn or grey), Malinois (short haired red/fawn) and Laekenois (rough haired red/fawn). Males in the long coated varieties have a pronounced ruff or mane around the neck and extending down onto the chest. A relatively healthy breed, the life expectancy of a well bred BSD is in the region of 12-15 years. Breeding stock should be hip scored, eye tested and care taken to avoid lines suspect for epilepsy.
BSDs are wonderful all round dogs which make excellent family companions and are keen workers with tremendous mental and physical stamina, hence an ideal choice for enthusiasts of obedience, tracking, agility and fly-ball. They are loyal, affectionate and natural comedians and unsuitable for kennel life as they thrive in the company of their human families. Highly intelligent they are easily bored and need physical exercise combined with mental stimulation and patient training - failure to observe their need for "mind games" may result in them occupying their time by destroying your furnishings or excavating the garden!
Appropriate coat care should be taken into consideration by anyone contemplating owning a BSD, most particularly in the instances of the long haired Tervueren and Groenendael. A regular brush through every other day will keep the coat mainly tangle free and a thorough grooming session should be carried out once a week to ensure your dog's comfort. During moults daily brushing will be required as the dense undercoat loosens off. Often it is easier to bath the dog to encourage the dying undercoat to come out and then groom regularly thereafter, dampening the coat first to avoid breaking, to speed up the shedding and re-growth processes.
If your domestic circumstances do not afford you sufficient time to cope with such an exuberant dog, then a Belgian Shepherd is obviously not for you!
This is a sensitive breed which does not respond well to harsh training methods - they have an amazing spirit and a majesty about them which should be celebrated and never crushed. It is a natural trait of the BSD to be wary of strangers, however this should not manifest itself as either fear or aggression but more an impression of aloofness towards interacting with those they do not yet know. The well adjusted, correctly socialised Belgian Shepherd should tolerate all strangers (albeit with a degree of suspicion) and yet will instinctively know if his family are in genuine danger and if he need act to protect them. He should never be encouraged to guard - the BSD is relatively primitive compared to most other domestic dog breeds and he is born with a natural guarding instinct which needs to be kept in check.
Treated sensitively, sensibly and with respect the Belgian Shepherd is an outstanding dog who will enrich the lives of his human family as the most faithful friend they will ever know.