The dogs of the Belgian shepherds share an historical evolution very similar to many of the European herding breeds. However, over the centuries a particular type evolved to meet the specific needs of shepherds in what is now Belgium.History
These strong, sturdy, agile, intelligent and loyal dogs were so prized by their masters that when the decline of maintaining sheep herds in the area threatened their continued existence, their fanciers banded together to create a breed formally and to develop a breed Standard. Thus, in 1891 the breed, known throughout the world as the Belgian Shepherd Dog was officially created.
In establishing the breed and creating the Standard, these fanciers were able to agree on most aspects of type, structure, character and other breed essentials but there was one area of challenge. What was to be the correct coat and color of this breed? In addition, colors varied. There were dogs with black coats, dogs with dark reddish coats and black masks, and dogs with gray coats and black masks. Fortunately, wisdom prevailed and the fanciers recognized that issues such as type, structure, character, intelligence, working ability and so on were important issues in the establishment and the maintenance of a breed gene pool. Issues such as the diversity of coat type and color would be tolerated and permitted.
Despite this original tolerance of coat type and color diversity, this issue has plagued the development of the breed over the past century and has seen many changes and evolutions in the combination of coat types and colors that are permitted.
Since 1994 the Belgian Shepherd has been regarded as a single breed by the British Kennel Club, with all four coat types competing in the same ring for Best of Breed and free to be interbred with any of the four varieties. This decision was met with great condemnation by Belgian Shepherd breeders in the United Kingdom but to no avail.
The maintenance of the one breed with four coat types and color varieties by the FCI and the rest of the world’s kennel clubs has, of course, resulted in a different set of rules and practices. There are no pedigree limitations placed on the registration of imports. Intervariety breeding, while generally not advocated, is permitted in special circumstances and is used extensively to maintain the essentials of breed type, structure and character in each variety.Appearance
Regardless of variety, the Belgian Shepherd Dog is an extremely elegant, upstanding, square, natural dog. Of medium size, males average 25 inches/64 cm in height and 60-70 pounds/27-32 kg in weight, while females average 23 inches/58 cm in height and 45-55 pounds/20.5 to 25 kg in weight. In addition to the males being larger than the females, they are generally more impressive in appearance. However, females have a refinement and femininity that should never be seen in males. Generally Belgian males shed their undercoats once a year while females normally shed twice a year. But this characteristic can vary between the coat varieties as does the required coat care, which is neither difficult nor extensive.Temperament
The breed is very intelligent, lively and activity loving. It excels in an family atmosphere. Also, the Belgian is an outstanding working dog whether the challenge is obedience, ring sport, herding, dexterity or following.Health
Belgians are normally very healthy dogs that live beyond twelve years of age. The gene pool of the breed is relatively free of major occurrences of heritable diseases and conditions. However, epilepsy, excessive shyness, eye problems and hip dysplasia have been documented in the breed.Special Care and Training
Belgian Shepherd Dogs should have early socialization. They must be taught from a very early age not to distrust strange situations or people. The breed is a wonderful obedience worker and a natural herder.