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Buying or Adopting a Belgian Shepherd

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Belgian Shepherd

Interested in a Belgian Shepherd? (The pictured variety is a Laekenois.) Read each post on this page. Make sure the breed is right for you (and that YOU are right for the breed). Decide on sex and age. Then begin the exciting adventure of finding and evaluating breeders and rescue groups and selecting the right Belgian Shepherd. Don't be in a hurry!

Don't set your sights on the Belgian Shepherd until you read my advice in these posts.

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Should You Even Get a Dog? Are You Sure?
Important – I've been helping people choose and find dogs for nearly 40 years, and honestly, some people who decide to get a dog are making a big mistake... [read more]

Purebred dogs The Truth About Purebred Dogs
Pros and cons... (most people don't know about the cons)

Crossbred dogs The Truth About Crossbred Dogs
Pros and cons... (don't get taken by breeder hype)

Mixed breed dogs The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs
Pros and cons... (are mixes inferior to purebreds and crosses?)

Is a Belgian Shepherd the right breed for you?

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Belgian Shepherd Review
I'll tell you what's good about 'em, and what's bad about 'em... most honest review you'll ever find


Dog Breed Traits – Which Traits Are Right For You?

In this brand new series, I'll help you decide which dog breed traits would best suit you and your family, your home and yard, and your lifestyle, so you can choose the best dog breed for your family.

Are YOU the right owner for a Belgian Shepherd?

Can you provide what this breed needs?

  • Someone home most of the day
  • Fenced yard (6-8 feet high, not an electronic/underground fence)
  • No young children in the household
  • No dogs of the same sex in the household
  • No cats in the household
  • Restricted exercise when young – until maturity (at least 18 months old), exercise restricted to multiple short (20 minute) walks, fetch games, and playing with other dogs – no forced running (beside a jogger or bicyclist), no long-distance treks, minimal jumping
  • Ample exercise after maturity – enough ongoing exercise that your Belgian Shepherd stays slim and is tired enough to sleep contentedly and not get into mischief
  • "Mental exercise" – interesting activities that keep the mind stimulated, such as a challenging dog sport (agility, rally obedience, schutzhund, herding, flyball, musical freestyle, tracking); challenging dog toys; a homemade obstacle course; tricks and games such as Musical Toys and Hide 'n Seek; instructions in my training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words
  • Brushing – moderate (Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois)
  • Trimming/clipping – every few months (Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois)
  • An indoor lifestyle, except for exercise and bathroom breaks
  • A meat-heavy diet, either homemade or commercial – meat is expensive, so people with less money should opt for a smaller dog
  • An owner with enough money to treat the health problems Belgian Shepherds are prone to (pet health insurance can really help here!)
  • An owner who is okay with heavy shedding (Tervuren, Groenendael, Malinois)
  • Commitment to provide thorough socialization – introducing your Belgian Shepherd to lots of people and other animals, diligently correcting any signs of misbehavior or aggression
  • Commitment to establish the right Leader-Follower relationship with your Belgian Shepherd, teaching him to listen to you and do what you say

Which sex? What age?

Symbols for male and female Male Dogs vs. Female Dogs
Which one makes a better pet?

Girl hugging a dog Puppies vs. Adult Dogs
Should you get a young puppy, an older puppy, or an adult dog?

Where can you buy or adopt a Belgian Shepherd?

There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dog: the Malinois, the Tervuren, the Laekenois, and the Groenendael (which, oddly, is called the Belgian Sheepdog in the United States – which is silly because all four varieties are sheepdogs or shepherd dogs, none more so than the others).

Most of the world, including the breed's native country, consider the four varieties to be one breed called Belgian Shepherd Dog. But the American Kennel Club has decided that the four varieties should be considered separate breeds.

Of the four, the Malinois is the most common in the United States. Out of 189 AKC breeds, where 1 is most popular and 189 is least popular, the Malinois ranks 47th. The Tervuren is next, at 107th. Then the Belgian Groenendael at 129th.

The Laekenois doesn't have an official ranking because he isn't yet fully recognized by the AKC. But he is easily the least common, probably because his rough coat looks a bit rustic/scruffy compared to the other three.

Adopting From Dog Rescue Organizations
The Belgian Malinois is often available from Dog Rescue groups. Impulsive owners acquire this breed when they see a Malinois doing police work on youtube or performing heroics on a TV show. They think they want such a dog. Almost always, this turns out to be a huge mistake, as the Malinois is the most challenging variety to live with.

The Belgian Tervuren and Groenendael/Sheepdog are sometimes available from Dog Rescue Groups. The Laekenois is much too uncommon.

Adopting From Public Animal Shelters and Humane Societies
Belgian Shepherds are occasionally found here, but shelter personnel might mislabel shepherd mixes, especially black ones, as Belgian Shepherds, even when they're not.

Buying From a Dog Breeder
You can buy a Belgian Shepherd from a show breeder, who breeds Belgian Shepherds to match a detailed standard of appearance for the dog show ring.

Or you can buy a Belgian Shepherd from a performance breeder, who emphasizes an energetic temperament and strong "prey (chasing) drives" for participating in performance sports like schutzhund, herding, dog agility, tracking, flyball, frisbee, etc. Some breeders are a combination of show/performance, though how they prioritize those two goals can vary greatly.

You can also buy a Belgian Shepherd from people who "just breed pets" or "just had one litter." But should you? Be sure to read the article to learn more about these people.

Here's one difference between a responsible breeder and an irresponsible breeder – BOTH PARENTS of a Belgian Shepherd puppy should have:

  • a certificate from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) – dated within the past year – certifying the dog to be free of eye diseases
  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) or PennHip certifying the dog to have normal hips
  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) certifying the dog to have normal elbows

If a seller can't show you those certificates, the puppies are higher risk for health problems. You might choose to accept that risk. But then you need to be willing (and able) to pay a couple thousand bucks for future surgeries and lifelong meds if your Belgian Shepherd ends up with cataracts and hip dysplasia.

Puppy in a pet shop window Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store
Belgian Shepherds are not seen very often in pet shops, but it's possible. I have plenty to say about buying a puppy from a pet shop!

Which puppy?

Symbols for male and female Choosing the Right Belgian Shepherd Puppy
How to test the temperament and personality of Belgian Shepherd puppies and pick the best puppy in a litter.

Girl hugging a dog AKC Registered Puppies: Are AKC Papers Important?
Should you buy only an AKC registered Belgian Shepherd puppy? Do AKC papers and pedigrees really matter?

Dog Quest book Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams
My dog buying/adoption book will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.