The Belgian Malinois, Groenendael, Laekenois, and Tervuren are either separate dog breeds or one of four variations of the same dog breed. It depends on where you live. In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) considers the Malinois and the others to be unique dog breeds. In other parts of the world, the Malinois is a variation of the Belgian Shepherd dog breed. The Belgian Shepherd breed includes the Belgian Malinois, Belgian Groenendael (AKC: Belgian Sheepdog), Belgian Laekenois, and Belgian Tervuren.

Belgian Malinois
Belgian Groenendael 
Belgian Laekenois 
Belgian Tervuren 

The principal difference between the Belgian Shepherd dogs is their coats that differ in hair texture, color, and length. Otherwise, all of the Belgian Shepherds are very similar. They are intelligent dogs with strong territorial and protective instincts. They are obedient, hard-working, attentive, and very active.

Belgian Shepherds have a common ancestry with other European herding dog breeds such as German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, and the Bouvier des Ardennes. Although they are herding dogs, they are also widely used in many roles including companion dog, assistance dogs, guide dogs, guard dogs, search and rescue dogs, and in police and military forces. The Belgian Malinois is currently used by the United States Secret Service to guard the grounds of the White House.

All variations of the Belgian Shepherd are included in the AKC herding group.

Belgian Malinois

malinoisBelgian Malinois dogs, named after the city of Malinois (Mechelen), Belgium, are built for hard work. They are strong, protective, and territorial, which makes them excellent watchdogs. They are loyal, affectionate family pets. They love children but need proper training and plenty of activity.

The Belgian Malinois has a straight short-hair coat. It is usually a fawn (colour) with black highlights. Its face is generally charcoal color. The Malinois is frequently confused with the German Shepherd. However, the Malinois is a slightly smaller dog.

The Belgian Malinois averages 22 to 26 inches tall and weighs 40 to 80 pounds. Female dogs are usually smaller than males.

The Malinois is an active dog and needs more than just a walk around the block. They like being indoors with the people they love, but like playing outside much better. They should have a fenced-in backyard to romp in because walking on a leash will not be enough exercise for this very active dog breed.

The average lifespan of the Belgian Malinois is 12–14 years. All dog breeds have certain inherited health problems, and the Belgian Malinois is no exception. However, they are generally healthy and genetic problems have been minimized through selective breeding.

For more information on the Belgian Malinois, visit the website of the American Belgian Malinois Club.

Belgian Groenendael

Belgian Shepherd Dog (Groenendael) (3 years old)

Although Groenendaels can have a variety of coat colors, they primarily are either black or black with white markings. They are named for the village of  Groenendael where they were first bred by Nicolas Rose.

The Belgian Shepherd does shed its hair and during the shedding season (usually spring and fall) they may shed a lot. During this time, they should be brushed daily to remove loose hair so it doesn’t get all over your house. During the rest of the year, only weekly brushing is necessary along with a bath every once in a while.

Belgian Groenendaels are also very active and will need plenty of things to do so it does not become bored. Boredom can lead to the dog getting into trouble.

The Groenendael has a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years and is generally healthy. For more details about the Belgian Groenendael, go to the website of the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America.

Belgian Laekenois

belgian shepherd laekenois

belgian shepherd laekenois

The Laekenois is the least common of the 4 Belgian Sheepdog varieties. Only about 200 are registered with the AKC, and there may only be around 1,000 in the entire world. As a breed, it is rarer than the Giant Panda.

It was moved from the miscellaneous class to the herding group and became the AKC’s newest recognized breed in 2020.

Their name comes from the Château de Laeken where the breed originated. It was the favorite breed of the Belgian Queen Marie Henriette

The American Belgian Laekenois Association was established in 2019. For more information about this breed, visit their website.


 Belgian Tervuren

belgian shepherd tervuren

The Belgian Tervuren hails from Tervuren region of Flanders, Belgium. It is comparable to the other Belgian Shepherd dogs in size, temperament, and health.

The Belgian Tervuren is not a dog for everyone. They are very possessive of their family and demand a lot of attention. If you don’t pay attention to them, they may create their own entertainment. Their idea of fun may not be to your liking. They are active dogs and need a big fenced-in area with plenty of room to romp.

For more information about the Belgian Tervuren visit the website of the American Belgian Tervuren Club


The Belgian Shepherds are very intelligent, medium to large size dogs, that can do just about anything a dog is capable of doing. They are fiercely loyal. As watchdogs, they will protect their family but will not attack unless provoked or trained to do so.

Basically, these dogs are alike in personality and capabilities. The only real difference is in their looks and that is determined mostly by the color and characteristics of their coats.

They excel as family pets but need to be socialized with children at a very young age. Older dogs who have not been around kids can be trained but should be closely supervised. You should never leave a child alone with a dog unless you are certain that it is safe.

BreedHeight (inches)Weight (Pounds)Life Expectancy (Years)Popularity (AKC)Origin
Belgian Malinois
Belgian Groenendael
Belgian Laekenois
Belgian Tervuren
Dutch Shepherd
21-2542-7511-14n/aThe Netherlands