Belgian Sheepdog

Breed At A Glance


Quiet, energetic, loyal and affectionate

Life Expectancy
13-14 years

Average Height
Males 24-26 inches; Females 22-24 inches

Average Weight
Males 65-75 lbs; Females 60-70 lbs

Coat Color
Black (sometimes have small white patches on the chest)

Coat Length/Texture
Moderately long and full, with a dense undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy twice per year, with light shedding year-round

Also known as Belgian Groenendael, Groenendael, Belgian Shepherd Dog, Chien de Berger Belge

General Temperament

The Belgian Sheepdog (also known as the Groenendael) is a highly intelligent and trainable dog with a strong work ethic. They function best when they have a job to do that provides mental and physical stimulation. They can excel in various arenas from dog sports and obedience to law enforcement and, of course, herding.

How a Belgian Sheepdog is socialized and trained during puppyhood will determine whether or not he will be good companion pet. They require firm and consistent obedience training from a confident handler, otherwise they will attempt to establish dominance. But once trained they bond very strongly to their owner/handler. They can be wonderful with children as long as they are introduced to them from an early age. The Groenendael is not a breed for the novice or timid owner.

The Belgian Sheepdog is strongly protective and territorial and makes an excellent guard dog. Like many breeds, they need plenty of love and attention from their owner or family; otherwise, they will entertain themselves in often destructive ways. The Groenendael bonds deeply to it’s family and will not be happy living outside or in a kennel.

Belgian Sheepdogs tend to be a dominant breed, so life with another dog can be tricky. Depending on temperament, they may not do well with other household pets such as cats.

The temperament of the Belgian Sheepdog can be quite variable, sometimes resulting in extreme shyness or aggressiveness. When choosing a puppy, be sure to find one whose parents personality suits you and your lifestyle to minimize any potential behavioral issues.

Breed History

Prior to the Industrial Age, the rural farmers of Belgium needed a general purpose herding and guard dog. The protective instinct of the Belgian Sheepdog provided security for the farm and the family, and their herding abilities assisted with the daily maintenance of the stock. The mental development of the breed as a versatile helper and attentive companion paralleled the physical evolution of a medium-sized, well-balanced animal with strength and stamina. With industrialization, the rural farm dog became less important, but the beauty and loyalty of the breed made them well appreciated as family companions.

The term “Belgian Sheep Dog” or “Belgian Shepherd Dog” was once used to encompass four different dogs: the Malinois, Tervuren, Laekenois, and Groenendael. In 1959, a decision was made by the American Kennel Club that only the Groenendael can be registered under the name “Belgian Sheepdog,” and the Malinois and Tervuren were granted status as separate breeds.

The Belgian Groenendael’s versatility allowed the breed to venture out past it’s herding boundaries. At the beginning of the 20th century, they found work in law enforcement and border patrol, and even served tours of duty during World War I. The Groenendael is the most popular of the Belgian Sheepdogs.

Body Structure and Composition

The Belgian Sheepdog is an agile breed, muscular and strong without being heavy. Their profuse coat is always solid black, although small patches of white on the chest or feet are sometimes seen. They have a long and tapering muzzle and triangular ears which are carried erect at the top of the head. The chest is deep without being broad. The Groenendael’s back slopes down from the shoulders to the withers, and the tail is long and feathered. They have a free and easy gait that seemingly never tires, and on a fast gait, both the front and rear legs converge toward the center line of gravity of the dog on a single track.

Medical Information

The Belgian Sheepdog is a relatively healthy breed, although the breed as a whole does have a low incidence of a few specific medical issues, including allergies, epilepsy (recurring seizures) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA is characterized by a degeneration of cells of the retina leading to loss of sight, often beginning with a loss of night vision. The Groenendael also has a low incidence of Hip or Elbow Dysplasia, a condition that occurs when the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the socket, resulting in lameness and arthritis-like symptoms.

Belgian Sheepdogs are particularly sensitive to anesthesia due to their low body fat ratio. It is very important to find a veterinarian who is familiar with this breed when undergoing any procedure requiring sedation. Be careful not to overfeed this breed as they have a tendency to become obese and lazy.

The coat of the Belgian Sheepdog requires daily brushing to prevent matting and remove any dead hair. Special attention should be paid to the coat during their biannual shedding periods, when loose hair will be excessive.

Anecdotal Information

As of the late 1800’s, the Groenendael was considered one of the Continental Shepherds (Chien de Berger de Races Continentales). Other breeds in this group include the Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Laekenois, German Shepherd, Hollander Herder, Beauceron, Bouvier des Flandres, and Briard.

For Purebred Dogs

Search for DNA tests by your dog’s breed. In 3 simple steps you can find & order all of the tests available for your purebred dog.

For mixed breed dogs, you can identify the key breeds in your dog’s genetic background with a Dog DNA Breed Test. Over 220 popular breeds can be detected!

Learn more about Canine DNA Testing >