Belgian shepherds, divided into four breeds in their native Belgium on the basis of coat color, texture, and length (Groenendael, Laekenois, Malinois, Tervuren), have worked for centuries as guard dogs for sheep and cows. They love small children, and become like a brother or sister if raised with them.History
This is also called the Belgische Herdershond Malinois, the Chien de Berger Malinois, the Mechelen or the Mechelaar. In the United States this dog is known simply as the Malinois, and is considered as a separate breed in its own right. In some other countries it is viewed as no more than a variety and is lumped together with the Groenendael, the Tervuren and the laekenois as a single breed, called collectively the Belgian Sheepdog, the Belgische Herdershond, or the Belgischer Schaferhund. It takes its name from the north-western Belgian location of Malines, or Mechelaar, where this type was originally most commonly found. like the other types, it has been employed for centuries as a Belgian sheep-herder, but is today more likely to be encountered in the show-ring.
As a working flock-herder, the short-haired, black-masked Belgian Malinois used to be the most popular of the Belgian Sheepdogs, but in its modern role as a show dog it has been less favoured. It has undoubtedly suffered because of its superficial resemblance to the much better-known German Shepherd Dog. However, closer inspection reveals that its head has a different structure, its body is more fine-boned, and it is longer in the leg.
The Belgian Malinois is more of an outdoor dog, and is less suitable as a household pet than its close relative, the Tervuren. It was the first Belgian breed to be employed as a police dog or a border-patrol dog. In the early part of the 20th century some of these dogs were exported to New York and New Jersey to work as police dogs there. They were also popular for police and customs work in their home country, especially for night patrol work.Key Characteristics
All four breeds have an elegant, square, muscular body with a deep chest and a long, furry tail. The big, long, flat-topped V-shaped head has a long jaw, a moderately pointed muzzle, and upright ears.
Serious, hardworking, and with a strong sense of responsibility, especially when guarding the family, these breeds are great with children but wary of strangers, yet they won't attack without cause.
A Groenendael should have brown or black eyes and a comparatively long, slightly rough all-black straight coat, although some white is permitted. The Tervuren has a long, fairly rough, straight, dark fawn or reddish mahogany black-tipped outercoat lying flat along the length of the body, and a dense undercoat. It should also have a black mask, as well as brown to dark brown eyes. Especially short on the head, ears, and lower limbs, the Belgian Malinois's short, straight coat varies from dark fawn to mahogany, with black tips. Additionally, it should have a black mask, black ears, and brown eyes. The rarest of these breeds, the fawn-colored Laekenois, has thick, rough, wiry hair of about the same length over the entire body though somewhat longish around the mask and eyes, but never brushlike.Care and Exercise
Except for the short-haired Belgian Malinois, which needs fifteen-minute brushing sessions, these breeds need to be brushed once a week for about half an hour. However, during the spring and autumn shedding periods, brushing must be done quite carefully. They all require vigorous daily exercise on a lead, plus time in a wide-open fenced run.Puppies and Training
The litters usually consist of six to ten puppies. Very friendly toward their family, but wary of strangers, these puppies develop a sharp temper as they grow, so early training is a must.