belgian shepherd tervueren

Versatile Belgian Shepherds Are 4 Breeds In One

The Belgian Shepherds

A Belgian Shepherd (Belgian Malinois, Groenendael, Laekenois, and Tervuren) is either a separate dog breed or one of four variations of the same dog breed. It depends on where you live.  The AKC places the Belgian Shepherds in the Herding Group.

In the United States, the [wiki]American Kennel Club[/wiki] (AKC) considers the Belgian Malinois, Belgian Groenendael (aka by the AKC as Belgian Sheepdog), Belgian Laekenois, and Belgian Tervuren to be unique dog breeds. In other parts of the world, they are four variations of the same Belgian Shepherd dog breed. The AKC includes all variations of the Belgian Shepherd, the AKC Herding Group.

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



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

Belgian Shepherd Breeds




Belgian Malinois

malinoisBelgian Malinois dogs, named after the city of Malinois ([wiki]Mechelen[/wiki]), Belgium, are built for hard work. They are strong, protective, and territorial, making them excellent watchdogs. The Malinois is a loyal, affectionate family pet. They love children and are moderately friendly toward other dogs and pets.

Belgian Malinois has a straight, short-hair coat. It is usually a fawn (color) with black highlights. The Malinois face is generally charcoal in color. The breed averages 22 to 26 inches tall and weighs 40 to 80 pounds. Female dogs are usually smaller than males.



The Malinois is frequently confused with the German Shepherd. However, the Malinois is a slightly smaller dog.

The Malinois is an active dog and needs more than just a walk around the block. This Shepherd likes being indoors with the people they love but enjoys 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. At night, the Malinois, like most other dogs, wants to sleep indoors with the rest of the family.

They need a light brushing every other week to remove dead hairs.

All dog breeds have specific inherited health problems, and the Belgian Malinois is no exception. However, they are generally healthy, and breeders minimize their genetic issues through selective breeding. The average lifespan of the Belgian Malinois is 14–16 years.

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

Belgian Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog)

Belgian Shepherd Dog (Groenendael) (3 years old)
Belgian Shepherd Dog (Groenendael)

The AKC recognizes the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael as the Belgian Sheepdog. They are named for the village of  Groenendael, where Nicolas Rose first bred them. This Sheepdog is 22 to 26 inches tall and weighs from 45 to 75 pounds. It can have a variety of coat colors, but they primarily are black or black with white markings.

The Belgian Sheepdog is a natural guard dog. These dogs are muscular yet elegant and well-proportioned. They are confident and always alert to what is going on around them. Groinendaels have a heavy bone structure and can run and herd non-stop for hours.

The Belgian Sheepdog sheds its hair during the shedding season (usually spring and fall) and may shed a lot. You brush them 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. They will also need an occasional bath.

They form a tight bond with family members and make excellent watchdogs. Belgian Groenendaels are very active and will need plenty of things to do, so it stays busy. 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, visit the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America website.

Belgian Laekenois

belgian shepherd laekenois
Belgian Shepherd Laekenois

Belgian Laekenois is the least common of the 4 Belgian Sheepdog varieties. As a breed, it is rarer than the Giant Panda. The AKC has only about 200 of this breed registered. There may only be around 1,000 of this dog breed worldwide.

The AKC moved this breed from the various class to the herding group, and it 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 breed’s original purpose was guarding flocks and linen left in the field to bleach in the sun. Today, they also participate in dog sporting events.

 The Laekenois’ average height is 22 to 26 inches, and it weighs 55-65 pounds. They are generally healthy, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years. It may need health testing for hip and elbow dysplasia and heart problems.

The American Belgian Laekenois Association, established in 2019, is responsible for maintaining the breed standards. For more information about this breed, visit their website.

 Belgian Tervuren

belgian shepherd tervuren
Belgian Tervuren

The Belgian Shepherd Tervuren hails from [wiki]Tervuren[/wiki] region of [wiki]Flanders[/wiki], Belgium. It is comparable to the other Belgian Shepherd dogs in size, temperament, and health. Its height is 22-26 inches, and it weighs 45-75 pounds.

The Tervuren is long-haired and has a double coat like the Groenendael. Its coat is typically fawn in color with black highlights. 

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

The Belgian Tervuren is an active and intelligent member of the Herding Group. These dogs guard and herd livestock and have physical and muscular bodies. It combines excellent strength with agility and speed and has the energy to run and herd non-stop all day.

For more information about the Belgian Tervuren, visit the American Belgian Tervuren Club website.


Belgian Shepherds are very intelligent, medium to large size dogs that can do almost anything a dog can do. They are fiercely loyal. As watchdogs, they will protect their family but will not attack unless provoked or trained.

These dogs are much alike in personality and capabilities. The only real difference is in their looks, which are determined mainly by the color and characteristics of their coats.

Belgian Shepherds excel as family pets, but you must socialize with them at a very young age if you have children. You can train older dogs who have not been around kids, but you should supervise the dog. It would help to never leave a child alone with a dog unless you are sure it is safe.

Breed Comparison

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