How to Train a Belgian Sheepdog

The Belgian Sheepdog is a highly trainable herder whose versatility and intelligence is the stuff of canine legend. This is a breed built for hard work, and plenty of it. These sensitive souls crave human companionship and abhor neglect. The stirring silhouette of a Belgian Sheepdog conveys both elegance and muscular determination. A handsome feature of the breed is the exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. A male might stand 26 inches at the shoulder; females are smaller. The dark eyes sparkle with a questioning intelligence, and the black coat is abundant, from the neck’s ‘collarette’ to the ‘breeches’ of the hindquarters. In all ways, Belgian Sheepdogs are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. In any sport or activity, a Belgian will always give 100 percent. In turn, owners tend to form a special bond with their eager workaholics. As one devotee puts it, Belgians ‘inspire such intense loyalty because they themselves live and love with such great passion.’


Belgium’s climate and terrain are highly favorable for livestock and dairy farming, and the small but industrious country has always been self-sufficient in these commodities. Belgium has long been the world’s leading exporter of milk chocolate, a key component to the national economy.
It should, then, come as no surprise that old-time Belgian farmers were preoccupied with cattle herding. This preoccupation included the breeding of herding dogs. In fact, there were once eight types of shepherd dogs unique to Belgium. By the 1890s, when they were officially classified for the first time, there remained the four we know today: The Belgian Sheepdog (aka Groenendael or Chien de Berger Belge), Malinois, Tervuren and Laekenois. They were anatomically identical but varied in coat textures, colors, and length. The name Groenendael was given to the longhaired black variety, today’s Belgian Sheepdog, thanks to Nicolas Rose, an important breeder of the 1890s who operated a restaurant near Brussels called the Chateau Groenendael.
By the turn of the 20th century, the versatility and work drive of Belgian Sheepdogs were becoming known beyond the pastures of Belgium. Paris and New York used Belgian Sheepdogs as police dogs in this era. Customs agent employed them on border patrols, rooting out smugglers. During World War I, they distinguished themselves as messengers, ambulance dogs, and freighters of heavy gunnery. Belgian Sheepdogs reprised their role as war dogs during the second world war.
The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1949, and since then this noble breed has done it all: show dog, athlete, police officer, soldier, service dog, searcher and rescuer, watchdog, and tireless backyard tennis-ball fetcher.


The Belgian Sheepdog is a robust, healthy breed. Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as epilepsy, elbow and hip dysplasia, eye issues such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts, and certain cancers. Should the need for surgery arise, note that Belgians are particularly sensitive to anesthesia. As with all breeds, a Belgian’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed regularly.


Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation


The Belgian Sheepdog’s double-layer coat, consisting of a dense undercoat and a harder outer coat, is quite easy to take care of ‘ as long as it’s not shedding season. For most of the year, all a Belgian requires is a weekly brushing. Baths can be infrequent unless the dog gets into something messy. At least once a year, though, Belgians shed heavily. When this happens, a thorough brushing every day is required to remove the surprisingly large amount of dead hair. As with all breeds, the Belgian’s nails should be trimmed regularly.


Like so many of the Herding breeds, Belgian Sheepdogs require a good amount of exercise every day. And because the Belgian is a sensitive soul who craves human companionship, just letting him out in the backyard for a couple of hours is not enough. Owners should expect to participate in daily exercise sessions with their Belgians. This might mean playing with a ball or going for a long run, or it could also mean training for and participating in obedience, agility, tracking, or herding competitions, or canine sports such as flyball.


Socialization and puppy-training classes are especially important. They promote good behavior, nip bad habits in the bud, and strengthen the bond between puppy and owner. Fortunately, Belgian Sheepdogs are very intelligent and want nothing more than to make their owners happy, so they take to training quickly.


The Belgian Sheepdog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.


We offer a FREE Discovery Call.

Click on the graphic to learn more