In this article, we focus on Belgian dog breeds.
Did you know that there are 339 different breeds of dogs officially recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization)?
And this figure doesn’t take into account cross-breeds and designer breeds, so there are actually many more varieties found across the world!
Belgium is officially home to seven of these beautiful and unique dog breeds. Who knew!
If you’re thinking of welcoming a Belgian breed puppy into your home, it may be useful to know the answers to the following questions:
- What are the origins and what jobs were Belgian dog breeds originally bred to do?
- What qualities do different Belgian dog breeds have?
- What are the potential health issues of Belgian dog breeds?
- Finally, what role do Belgian dog breeds play in today’s society?
Let’s take a look at each of the different Belgian breeds in more detail.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Groenendael
The Groenendael is more commonly known as the Belgian Shepherd.
Originally bred in the Middle Ages as a herding dog, their physical attributes make them ideal for this task.
Groenendaels are fast and agile and built light yet strong.
Today, Groenendaels are used by the armed forces and police as service dogs.
They can also be found working in domestic settings and are popular as guard dogs.
What is the Groenendael Like as a Pet?
If you decide to take on a Groenendael as a family pet, you should be prepared to give him plenty of exercise and attention!
These dogs thrive on work and are highly intelligent, craving human interaction and company.
A quick trip into the garden won’t satisfy this traditional working breed!
The Groenendael is a highly trainable breed and will love taking part in agility competitions such as flyball.
Male Groenendaels stand between 22 inches and 26 inches in height, weighing 45 to 75 lbs. Male Groenendaels are typically larger than females.
Groenendaels typically have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years.
Although the breed has a long double-layer coat, grooming is only required once a week throughout most of the year.
However, during the annual shedding season, you’ll need to brush them at least daily to get rid of considerable quantities of their loose fluffy undercoat!
Do Groenendaels Have Any Health Issues?
The Groenendael is generally a healthy and robust Belgian dog breed, although they are prone to a few health conditions.
The Groenendael can suffer elbow and hip dysplasia.
Always make sure your puppy’s parents and your puppy have been screened for these conditions.
The breed can also suffer from eye conditions such as cataracts and retinal atrophy.
All Belgian sheepdog breeds are especially sensitive to anesthesia, which could cause complications if your pup ever needs surgery.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Laekenois
The Laekenois Belgian dog breed was originally bred as a herding dog.
Out of the four Belgian dog breeds classed as herding dogs, the Laekenois is the rarest.
The Laekenois was named after the Château of Laeken, a royal residence of Queen Marie Henriette who favored this breed.
The Laekenois has a short, rough, tousled coat that usually comes in different shades of gray, fawn, or red.
They have black markings around their muzzle and beautiful, brown, almond-shaped eyes.
The breed is built to be light, fast, and agile.
These qualities make the Laekenois perfect for its usual role as a service dog, working with the armed forces and police.
Does the Laekenois Make a Good Pet?
The Laekenois stands between 22 inches and 26 inches in height and can weigh between 55 to 65 lbs.
Male dogs are typically larger than their female counterparts.
If you take home a Laekenois puppy, you can expect him to live for between 10 and 12 years.
Although the breed is highly intelligent and very trainable, they can be protective of their home and their master.
Socialization of the Laekenois is therefore extremely important from an early age.
The short-coated Laekenois needs only a weekly grooming session.
However, the breed has very strong, fast-growing nails that require regular clipping so they don’t overgrow and split.
One of the larger Belgian dog breeds, the Laekenois is a working dog with boundless energy.
You will need to give your pup plenty of work and play to keep them satisfied!
Initially, puppy socialization classes are extremely important, as this breed is typically very reserved with strangers.
Does the Laekenois Have Any Health Issues?
The Laekenois is generally one of the healthy and robust Belgian dog breeds with no notable health issues.
However, as with any pedigree breed, it’s best to ensure the breeder has screened your pup’s parents for conditions such as elbow and hip dysplasia.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Malinois
The Malinois is another variety of Belgian herding dog!
The breed first appeared in the Northwest region of Belgium around the city of Malines in the Middle Ages.
Originally, they were used to herd various kinds of livestock, including sheep and cattle, across the lowlands of Belgium.
These pups are known for their proud stance, erect head carriage, and square build. They have a strong muscular physique and are built to work hard!
The Malinois coat is short with colors ranging from mahogany to rich fawn.
They typically have black ears and a black facial mask, accentuating their bright, dark eyes.
What About the Malinois as a Pet?
The Malinois ranges from 22 to 26 inches in height, and he can weigh from 40 to 80 lbs when fully grown.
Male dogs are usually larger than females.
When you take on a Malinois, you should expect to devote between 14 to 16 years caring for them, as these pups are quite long-lived!
Malinois have a short, waterproof coat so an occasional groom with a medium-bristle brush or rubber grooming mitt is all that’s required.
However, during their twice-yearly shedding, you’ll need to brush your pup daily with a slicker brush.
This breed thrives on exercise and work.
They will enjoy joining you as a hiking, biking, or running companion.
Highly intelligent and active, smart and eager to please, your highly-devoted Malinois will love taking part in activities where they work with you, such as in obedience and agility classes.
Early socialization and obedience training are important, since similar to most herding breeds, Malinois have a very high prey drive.
Chasing anything that moves, including vehicles, other animals, and children, may become a problem if your pup is not the most obedient!
Is the Malinois a Healthy Breed?
Generally, the Malinois is healthy.
However, it’s best to check the breeder has screened your pup’s parents for hip and elbow dysplasia, which can affect this breed.
Malinois can also suffer from certain eye conditions so you should ask your vet to check your new pup to make sure his vision is okay.
The US National Breed Club recommends that new owners have hip, elbow, and ophthalmic evaluations performed on their pup by a qualified vet.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Tervuren
The Tervuren is known in his homeland as the Chien de Berger Belge and is another variety of Belgian herding dog whose origins date back to the village of Tervuren.
Tervurens are characterized by their thick, straight coat, muscular frame, and alert demeanor.
The breed also has a distinctive “collaret” around their necks.
Before the industrial revolution, the Tervuren was used by farmers as a herding and guard dog.
Nowadays, the breed is popular with the armed forces and police as a K9 service dog.
What are Tervurens Like as Pets?
Tervurens typically live anywhere from 12 to 14 years.
They range from 24 to 26 inches in height and can weigh 55 to 75 lbs, males being larger than females.
This working breed loves and needs lots of daily exercising, preferably in the company of their owner.
Tervurens are intelligent and quick-witted, learning best through play.
Socialization and obedience training are musts for your puppy.
The breed loves nothing more than learning new things and taking part in challenging activities.
They tend to do well in obedience classes.
The Tervuren has a double-layer coat.
The soft, dense undercoat is shed annually, requiring daily grooming with a pin brush and rake at this time.
For the rest of the year, a thorough brushing twice weekly with a pin brush and slicker brush will suffice.
Is the Tervuren a Healthy Breed?
Tervurens are relatively healthy. However, they can suffer from conditions such as:
- elbow and hip dysplasia
- malformation of the hip joint
- retinal atrophy
The Tervuren Official Breed Club recommends hip, elbow, eye, and thyroid evaluations on new puppies.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Bloodhound
One of the larger Belgian dog breeds, the Bloodhound is officially classified as a scent hound.
Males can grow up to 27 inches in height and weigh up to 110 lbs! Females are slightly smaller in stature.
The Bloodhound has a rather melancholy look! His long, wrinkly face and enormous droopy ears are unmistakable!
The Bloodhound originated in Belgium in the 1300s, where it was used for hunting deer and wild boar.
These days, the Sleuth Hounds—as they are so aptly called—are favored by police and law enforcement agencies as tracking dogs, and will search tenaciously for missing persons and fugitives.
In some areas of Africa where the poaching of endangered species is a problem, bloodhounds work with wildlife rangers to track poachers.
Do Bloodhounds Make Good Pets?
The bloodhound is naturally calm and gentle and great with kids.
However, bloodhounds are not the most trainable breed and are inclined to go their own way if they are given the chance!
Your bloodhound needs to be exercised regularly, but you must always keep him leashed!
The breed has a short, dense coat that sheds twice yearly for a week or so.
A weekly brush with a rubber grooming mitt or medium-bristle brush will keep your hound looking good.
Bloodhounds can develop a rather pungent “doggy” odor but occasional baths can help to keep your four-legged friend smelling fragrant!
Are Bloodhounds Healthy?
Bloodhounds are notorious for eating anything they can get hold of!
This habit can lead to digestive problems and this breed can also experience bloat.
You’ll need to check your hound’s ears and skin wrinkles daily for signs of infection. The Official Breed Club also recommends hip and elbow evaluation and a cardiac exam for puppies.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Griffon Bruxellois
The Griffon Bruxellois is also known as the Petit Brabançon or Brussels griffon.
The breed is officially classified as a toy breed by the AKC.
The Griffon originates from the capital city of Belgium, Brussels.
In the early 1800s, coachmen used these small, terrier-type dogs to control the rat population in their stables.
It’s thought that the original “Griffs” were bred from Affenpinschers and called Griffons d’Ecurie, which translates as “wire-coated stable dogs.”
In the 1870s, the Belgian queen, Henrietta Maria, took a fancy to the breed and began keeping them as pets.
Over the years, kennel keepers refined the breed so that the body became smaller and facial features more human-like!
Does the Griffon Bruxellois Make a Good Pet?
Griffs are small dogs, standing up to 10 inches tall and weighing up to 10 lbs.
If you take on a Griff, you can expect to enjoy his company for 12 to 15 years.
Griffs are intelligent, sociable, and very trainable.
They need about half an hour’s exercise daily, and enjoy nothing more than a game of ball with their doting owner!
Although friendly in nature, Griffs do not appreciate being handled roughly by small children.
Grooming Your Griffon Bruxellois
Griffs can be smooth or rough-coated and come in four different color combinations:
- black and red-brown (Belge)
- black and tan
The Griff’s black muzzle and whiskery face earned them the nickname of “bearded dogs” in traditional Belgian folk songs.
Smooth-coated Griffs require weekly brushing, except during the spring and fall shedding seasons when daily brushing is required.
Rough-coated Griffons don’t shed.
Many owners choose to have their pups coats clipped short to keep them looking smart, although the breed’s trademark whiskers should never be removed!
What health Conditions Affect the Griffon Bruxellois?
On the whole, Griffons are pretty healthy dogs. However, they can suffer from:
- heart conditions
- eye defects such as cataracts
- orthopedic issues including patellar luxation and hip dysplasia
As a flat-faced breed, Griffons may suffer from breathing difficulties during hot weather.
The Official Breed Club recommends that puppies are screened for patellar, hip, and eye conditions.
Belgian Dog Breeds – The Schipperke
The Schipperke is classified by the Kennel Club as a non-sporting breed.
The Schipperke originates from Medieval Belgium where it was used as a shipboard ratter on canal boats.
These little dogs were also employed as watchdogs on barges and in shops.
Schipperke actually translates from Flemish as “little captain.”
The breed’s thick, luxuriant, jet black coat and foxy face make them easily identifiable and unique in their looks.
Do Schipperkes Make Good Pets?
Schipperkes are another of the small Belgian dog breeds, standing no higher than 13 inches and weighing up to 16 lbs.
The males are usually bigger than the females.
This breed will be happy living in a modest apartment provided they get plenty of exercise through walks and play.
Schipperkes are intelligent, although they can be independent and training requires persistence and patience!
Your pup will enjoy agility games and herding activities. However, obedience training and socializing from an early age is important to curb the Schipp’s independent streak!
The breed can turn into barkers thanks to their watchdog instinct, which may be worth noting if you live in an apartment or within close proximity to your neighbors!
You will need to groom your Schipperke once a week. During their twice-yearly shedding periods, daily brushing may be required.
Are Schipperkes Healthy Dogs?
Although the Schipperke is generally healthy, there are few things to note.
A newly recognized and often fatal disease called mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB (MPS IIIB) can affect this breed. MPS IIIB does not appear until the dog is between two to four years of age.
Always make sure that the breeder of your puppy has screened their parents for this particular disease.
Other health conditions that can affect Schipperkes include:
- Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (a hip condition)
- patellar luxation
- eye problems
- thyroid problems leading to skin and allergy conditions
The Schipperke Official Breed Club recommends carrying patella, thyroid, and eye evaluations on all new puppies.
Beautiful Belgian Dog Breeds!
As you can see, Belgium boasts plenty of gorgeous breeds, all with their own special looks, origins, and personalities!
What Belgian dog breed would you consider owning? Perhaps you already own one of our featured Belgian dog breeds. Please let us know in the comments below!