At first glance, this dog looks like a black version of a Border Collie, but it’s a completely different breed. The Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael is one of four variations of herding dogs from Belgium, which were not classified as separate dog breeds until the 1890s. These variations of Belgian Sheepdogs include Laekenois, Malinois, and Tervuren. The Groenendael gets its name from Nicolas Rose, a breeder who also ran a restaurant in an area near Brussels called Chateau Groenendael.
22 – 26 inches
60 – 75 pounds
12 – 14 years
Active individuals and families, people with a lot of fenced outdoor space
Energetic, loyal, watchful, needy, intelligent, and serious
The Groenendael is differentiated from the other Belgian Sheepdogs by its thick, long, black coat of fur and pointy ears. Groenendaels are known for their workaholic personalities; they never give less than their best in life and competitions. People love these dogs for their agility, obedience, and duty-driven personality.
Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael Characteristics
Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael Puppies
As with any dog, make sure you purchase a Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael puppy from a reputable breeder that diligently selects dogs to mate based on their good health record. It can be easy to fall into the trap of buying accidentally from a puppy mill, which usually has a bad reputation for poor health and safety standards.
If you are wanting to own a Groenendael, you should be prepared to give your puppy lots of training, either by your efforts or through a puppy training program. Their exercise needs are high, with a minimum of 1 hour of exercise per day. Because of this, you should also make sure you have a lot of yard space with a fence by the time they are adults. The fence is important because Groenendaels love to chase strangers and small animals.
Because they are herding dogs, Groenendaels will need tons of training and exercise to be “good dogs” as adults. Otherwise, you might have a very independent and stubborn dog that would rather do what it wants to than listen to you. Go ahead and budget for the time and resources necessary to give your Groenendael puppy good dog training right from the get-go.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael
Belgian Sheepdog Groenendaels are a highly intelligent dog breed. They are especially good at speed and agility dog races, performing 120% of their capacity towards whatever activity they are performing. Of course, this comes after much socialization and training from puppyhood all the way into adulthood. Belgian Sheepdogs are well-suited for owners that know how to be a good, strong leader.
With good training, all these dogs want to do is make their owners happy, so they take well to good dog training with lots of positive reinforcement. They are intelligent and need plenty of activities that get their brains working, preferably in a social setting with its owner or owner’s family. Otherwise, if left alone for too long, this dog can get into trouble by making messes or ruining furniture, clothing items, or toys.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
Belgian Sheepdog Groenendaels are fiercely devoted to whatever family they get placed with. This is due to their herding instincts. They will guard and protect all members under their charge. When “off-duty,” the Groenendael dog is affectionate and playful to all members of the family, even children. However, young children should always be supervised with these dogs. A young child that does not yet understand when a dog is saying “no” with its body language or other signs could bring out some aggressive behavior in these dogs.
Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?
Other dogs and Belgian Sheepdog Groenendaels should get along just fine, if socialized properly from a young age or if the dogs grow up together. When it comes to other small animals, though, interactions might be more problematic. The Groenendael has a high prey drive that might be impossible to break, so having small animals like rabbits, other rodents, or cats in the same house might not be possible.
Things to Know When Owning a Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael:
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
As with most dogs, the Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael does well on any reputable dog food that contains a high nutritional value. Keep the dog food age-appropriate by checking the bag for what age range it was intended for. Any dog can be susceptible to obesity, so make sure to feed the right amount of dog food to your dog in relation to what they weigh and what their exercise levels are. As always, provide your dog with fresh water at all times.
Although these dogs are not the most energetic in the world, they still have high exercise needs due to their herding instincts. Belgian Sheepdogs love to be around their human companions, so you will have to plan to do exercise activities with your dog. This can look like running, hiking, or walking with your Belgian. Not all exercise requires much work from you, however. Groenendaels also love to play fetch with balls, sticks, or frisbees.
Like most herding dogs, Groenendaels benefit greatly from socialization and proper training. Training should be viewed as a high priority for Belgians. Luckily, these dogs respond very well to training, as they are eager to please their owners and super smart. This training only works if you win their trust with positive and encouraging tactics, though. Rough or aggressive methods will not work well in training with most dogs, and Belgians are no exceptions.
Belgian Sheepdog Groenendaels are a long-haired dog breed, therefore they come with some grooming maintenance. Brushing should happen at least once a week to keep the shedding down. They will not need to be bathed too often unless they get especially dirty or roll around in bad-smelling substances.
Belgian Sheepdog Gronendaels shed heavily once a year, right before summertime. If you start to notice this intense shedding time, you can brush them more often to properly get rid of that coat without it shedding all over your house.
Along with brushing, you will need to clip your dog’s nails regularly. You can learn to do this yourself, or have your vet or groomer do it for you.
Health and Conditions 🏥
Generally, the Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael is a hearty breed. But all dog breeds can tend to suffer with some conditions more than others. With careful breeding, many of these conditions have been reduced or eliminated, which is why it’s so important that you get your puppy from a great breeder.
Note that Belgians can be sensitive to anesthesia sometimes. Talk with your vet about this issue before agreeing to any sort of surgery your dog might need to weigh out the possible risks.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael
1. Sometimes They Have Floppy Ears
Most of the time, Groenendaels have pointed ears that stick straight up. Occasionally, this dog breed will have floppy ears. While this is an adorable feature to some, it’s considered a flaw, and the dog with floppy ears will not be able to compete in dog shows.
2. They are Always Black
Groenendaels always come with an all-black, thick double coat. Sometimes, white markings can appear on this breed’s chest, but for the most part, this does not happen. The other Belgian Sheepdogs are differentiated by their coat colors, and the Belgian Sheepdog Groenendael is the black kind.
3. Have Served Along with Armed Forces
Belgium Sheepdog Groenendaels have served as police and search-and-rescue dogs in recent history. In the past, especially during the World Wars, they also served as war dogs. They have had roles as border patrol, messenger dogs, and ambulance dogs.
Belgian Sheepdog Groenendaels, though not the most popular Belgian Sheepdog breed, are a great option for those looking for an energetic, affectionate, and obedient dog. Of course, all these traits are honed in with good training right from the start. Without the proper training, you might have a stubborn-headed dog on your hands. You will also need to make sure you have the space for this dog, as they are not great for living in apartments.
With a rich history of work right alongside humankind, a Groenendael not only makes a great companion dog, but also one that knows how to make you, the owner, happy with all the tasks you set him to do.
Featured Image Credit: icemanphotos, Shutterstock