The Belgian Shepherd, also known by its formal breed name as a Groenendael, has been an established dog breed in the United States for nearly a century, though it’s often a difficult task differentiating these personal protection dogs from similar–but not directly correlated–breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) separated the Belgian breeds into three separate categories 33 years ago, and the Belgian Shepherd has since gone on to gain wide popularity as both a personal and protective companion.
The Belgian Shepherd’s roots can be traced to records dating back to the 1880s when the breed was referred to as Continental Shepherd dogs. In September of 1891, the Club du Chein de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) was developed to determine a shepherd dog that was the sole representative of Belgium. One year later the first Belgian Shepherd dog standard was created, with the first dog show in Belgium taking place on May 1, 1892.
At the turn of the 20th century, Groenendael breeds began to be exported largely under the mistaken title of German Shepherds, with the American Kennel Club officially correcting their name to Belgian Shepherds in the stud books by 1913. The first Belgian Shepherd Club of America was founded in 1924 and quickly went on to become a member of the official American Kennel Club.
The Great Depression had a severe impact on professional dog breeding, the results of which saw the obliteration of America’s first Belgian Shepherd Club. While occasional Groenendael breeds were registered with the American Kennel Club, public interest had waned in the wake of more pressing interests and concerns. As a result, the Belgian Shepherd was relegated to the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class in dog shows for the ensuing decade. However, by the end of World War II praises for the breed were sung once more, and a spike in imports and breeding resumed.
The Belgian Shepherd is an athletic protection dog, and breeds typically grow medium-to-large in size, with an overall squarish build. Closely resembling the German Shepherd’s structure, Belgian Shepherds have notably domed foreheads and long muzzles, with fully erect ears.
The Groenendael generally has a long, coarse double coat with softer under-down, all of which is designed to withstand harsher climates. The coat is usually entirely black, though small white markings on the chest area and toes are not uncommon.
Belgian Shepherd dogs have provided many services over the years, from protection dogs to draught dogs, and were the first of their kind to be used by the Belgian police force. The rise in popularity of European police dog showcase events saw many Belgian trainers and their dogs taking home top honors, with one Groenendael, in particular, named Jules du Moulin, and his trainer M. Tedesco, winning the World Champion title for four consecutive years (1908-11).
From the onset of World War, I Belgian Shepherd dogs were routinely employed by the military as Red Cross, messenger, ambulance, and machine-gun cart dogs. By World War II Belgian Shepherd dogs were used on both sides of the Atlantic for utilitarian, as well as AKC-sanctioned herding tasks including tending, fetching, and driving.
Today many agencies depend on the breed for search and rescue operations, as well as drug detection services. Due to their keen and fiercely loyal nature, as well as their imposing size, Belgian Shepherd dogs can be effective personal protection dogs.
These Dogs are known for their intelligent and highly active personalities. While easy to train, they require a commitment of time, effort, and care on behalf of the owner. Because they prefer to be at the side of their owners, Belgian Shepherd Dogs do not make good kennels or “stay at home” pets.
While fairly aloof in the presence of strangers, Belgian Shepherd protection dogs are not prone to anxiety or aggression unless they are mistreated or improperly trained, and genuinely enjoy devoting themselves to their family. They are suitable dogs for households with small children, as their simultaneously protective and nurturing nature ensures utmost safety.
It cannot be stressed enough that Belgian Shepherd dogs are highly sensitive, with an eager-to-please personality that adapts quickly to commands but is equally deterred by overly stern treatment. When training this breed, it’s important to use a firm but gentle hand.
Like the best of personal protection dogs, these dogs are quick to learn and loyal for life provided they are well-cared for. Their long history as service dogs in a number of fields speaks highly of their capabilities, with a positive pedigree earning them high marks among personal protection dogs for sale. Called upon for centuries to herd and assist both police and army officers, as well as impress the higher ranks of dog breeders, the Belgian Shepherd has earned its place as one of the most revered personal protection dogs.