Belgian Shepherd Dog - Groenendael
The Belgian Shepherd Dog is a truly all-purpose working breed native to Belgium. There are four varieties of this dog, which have a common standard in all countries and clubs with the exception of the American Kennel Club (AKC):
Malinois – short-coated
Groenendael – long-haired black variety
Tervuren - long-haired
Laekenois – rough-haired, the rarest of all four varieties
This clever, nimble and obedient dog also deserved the repute of a wonderful companion animal.
The history of the Belgian Shepherd Dog can be hardly traced because of the venerable age of this breed. It’s highly likely that it was an irreplaceable assistant of Belgian shepherds for centuries but it wasn’t until 1891 when, at the height of patriotic moods, the breed was separated into four distinct types and given names. In the same year the Club du Chien de Berger Belge (the Belgian Shepherd Club) was established in Brussels in order to promote and develop this gorgeous dog.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Groenendael became formally referred as the Groenendael in 1910 and was named in honoured of the kennel, which had been breeding black-coated canines since 1893. Nicolas Rose, the founder of this kennel, managed to produce excellent dogs, whose nicknames can be found in pedigrees of most present-day Groenendaels.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Tervuren owes its name to the Belgian village of Tervuren where its early breeder, M. F. Corbeel, created the foundational stock for this variety.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Laekenois is probably the oldest of the Belgian shepherd dog that bears the name of its home town Laeken where it was used as a sheep herder in the Royal Castle.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Malinois was initially bred in the town of Malines (Belgium) and evidently takes its name from it.
In the early XIX century the Belgian Shepherd Dog was imported to the United States and European countries. This smart and tough working dog was soon retrained to perform a police work and became highly popular in this role. It also proved to be highly useful during both World Wars and helped carrying messages and pulling machine guns. Its population shrank during those periods since lots of dogs perished in battles. Luckily loyal breeders stepped in and ensured the breed’s survival. So in peacetime it once again changed its status to a fashionable companion dog.
There is still a certain argument about the classification of Belgian Shepherd Dogs. The American Kennel Club fully recognised the Groenendael, Tervuren and Malinois as separate breeds in 1959 while the Laekenois is only in one step from absolute recognition of this reputable club. The Canadian Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club (UKC) and Fédération Cynolgique Internationale (FCI) categorise the four Belgian Shepherd Dogs as distinct types of a singular breed, which they named the Belgian Shepherd Dog.
Partial list of its talents embrace herding, therapy and guide dog, search and rescue, conformation and various canine sports. With its mild and calm disposition the Belgian Shepherd Dog is quite often kept solely for companionship.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Groenendael is a persistent, docile and intelligent breed with strong herding instinct. It develops deep bonds with its master and usually becomes the best four-legged friend for children. At the same time this powerful and fearless dog can be turned into an absolutely unruly creature without vast and early obedience training. It’s essential to demonstrate a stable, natural authority over its specimen. So it’s fair to say that the Groenendael won’t be an ideal breed for a first-time dog owner.
As a rule this dog treats strange people in a distant standoffish manner. Human aggression is rather untypical for the Groenendael but under socialised animals may have problems in discerning the difference between a welcomed guest and an intruder. Being highly protective of its special people and territory it usually excels at guarding work. Constant vigilance also makes the Groenendael an extremely good watch dog. Herding behaviour is in the blood of this breed so it’s keen on chasing different vehicles as well as people. This type of activity can lead to a lethal accident with the dog so try to break your pet of this habit as early as possible.
The Groenendael has mixed reputation with other dogs. On the one hand it would love to share its life with another canine especially of the opposite sex. On the other hand its dominative nature can become the reason of cruel confrontation with strange dogs. This dog must be unleashed only if it’s being walked in a securely fenced yard. The Groenendael is relatively good with other species of domestic pets (including cats) but it should be introduced to them in a young age.
The most common problems for the breed include:
canine hip dysplasia;
progressive retinal atrophy.
It’s relatively easy to care for the Groenendael. Its thick double coat virtually repels grime and dirt and requires brushing on a weekly basis (two or even more times per week) to get rid of loose hair. It’s advisable to apply a technique known as «line brushing» in order to make this process more effective. The owner of this dog should regularly trim excessive hair between the paw pads with the help of electric clippers or blunt-tipped scissors. This breed loses its hair very intensely once or twice a year. More frequent grooming will be very useful in these periods as they cut down the amount of dead hair floating around the house.
Bathe your dog with special conditioners and shampoos only when absolutely necessary as more frequent washing procedures may ruin the waterproof quality of the dogs’ hair. The rest of grooming comprises of such standard routines as regular nail trimming and weekly teeth brushing.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Groenendael can be successfully trained with rather little amount of efforts. At times it tends to demonstrate its obstinate streak but on the whole this dog strives to make its master content and happy and will try with all its might in training sessions.
This extraordinary sensitive breed is able of discerning the meaning of human gesticulation and sometimes even facial expression so it virtually foresees the commands of the handler. That’s why it usually competes at the highest level in agility and herding trials. This dog responses well only to firm but respectful treatment and will completely refuse to obey if you resort to unreasonably hard training methods.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog – Groenendael got used to work for numerous hours without breaks and needs daily opportunity to burn its energy in some kind of vigorous activity. A potty walk will be absolutely insufficient to make this dog happy so it’s ideal for families with spacious, securely enclosed yard and children to frisk with.
This dog will strive to be involved in all active pastimes of its master including jogging, walking, playing Frisbee, and swimming. The Groenendael, which has to spend all day indoors, will most likely develop such undesirable deviations in behaviour as destructiveness, hyper activity and even aggressiveness.