Let's talk Belgian Shepherds

Often in motion, the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael is a long-haired, hard-working sheepdog in constant need of a job - sheep optional. And while physical exercise is paramount, mental exercise is just as important for this highly intelligent breed. They can be trained to learn almost anything, thus excel in agility sport where their smarts, as well as elegant black coats, can be on full display.

Official name: Belgian Shepherd Groenendael

Other names: Belgian Shepherd, Groenendael, Belgian Sheepdog

Origins: Belgium

Mother and baby Labrador
Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather? Very low
Grooming needs Medium Cold weather? High
Shedding level Very high Suited to apartment living? Very low
Barking tendencies Very low Can stay alone?* Very low
Energy Level* High Family Pet?* Medium
Compatibility with other pets Medium

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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58 - 66 cm Height
25 - 30 kg Weight
56 - 62 cm Height
20 - 25 kg Weight

Baby age Birth to 2 months
Puppy age 2 to 15 months
Adult age 15 months to 5 years
Mature age 5 years to 8 years
Senior age From 8 years


Get to know the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael

All you need to know about the breed

The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael is quite the dog: Highly intelligent with a focused yet pleasant manner, this is a breed with a long tradition of herding who thrives in the role. This natural-born instinct means running around isn’t just fun for the Groenendael, it’s a requirement.

The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael has staked their claim as a guard dog extraordinaire, bursting with energy that should be met with daily sojourns or true work on a farm or ranch. Not an apartment dweller for sure, small spaces would drive the breed bonkers. A suburban dwelling can work but make sure any outdoor space for this breed is well-fenced in. The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael is possibly not a breed for first-time dog owners - not that they’re hard to handle, but just a handful.

Their other outstanding asset is a super shiny coat that’s should be exclusively black, with the occasional smattering of white patches on their chest, feet, chin, and muzzle. Be forewarned: Seasonal shedding of those beautiful tresses - twice a year - will happen. Just make sure to have a good grooming brush at the ready.

Not huge fans of a lot of alone time, Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels possess an unbending devotion to their owners. This regal breed is a people-pleaser for sure.

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2 facts about Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels

1. Best being in the mix

If devotion could be measured, the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael’s would be off the charts. This is one dog that needs to be needed, finding worth through work and expecting it to come from you.

2. Always herding - anything 

Because of the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael’s history as a herder, the breed will usually chase most everything that moves - including cars and people. Keep the gate well-locked at home and hold fast to your dog when out in public.


History of the breed

The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael was developed in Belgium in 1893 by breeder Nicolas Rose who named the variety after Chateau Groenendael, his estate south of Brussels. There are four types of Belgian Shepherds - the Groenendael, Tervuren, Laekenois, and Malinois, the differences coming in coat colour and hair length with the dogs anatomically otherwise the same. The Belgian Shepherd Dog Club was founded in 1891 with the local rise of this very popular breed in the late 1800s.

By the early 1900s, the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael was used by Belgian customs officers on the border and utilised in other major cities such as New York and Paris by police.

The sturdy dog was also employed by armed forces during World War I to carry machine gun carts and even to pull ambulances! The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael continued their work into World War II, and the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was founded in 1949.

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Belgian Shepherd Groenendael

1. Ears

Triangular ears stand erect in good proportion to the head

2. Head

Head carried high signifies very alert breed, black nose, long, somewhat pointed muzzle

3. Body

Strong, muscular body, solid but not at all hulking

4. Tail

Bushy tail held low when relaxed; raised when active and slightly curled

5. Coat

Signature trait of black lustrous coat with straight, medium-length hair, very dense undercoat


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Belgian Shepherd Groenendael

Healthy diet, healthier dog

  • When choosing food for a Belgian Shepherd Groenendael, there are many factors to consider: their age, lifestyle, activity level, physiological condition, and health including potential sickness or sensitivities. Food provides energy to cover a dog’s vital functions, and a complete nutritional formula should contain an adjusted balance of nutrients to avoid any deficiency or excess in their diet, both of which could have adverse effects on the dog.
  • Clean and fresh water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. In hot weather and especially when out exercising, bring water along for your dog’s frequent water breaks.
  • Energy intake may also have to be adapted to the climatic conditions. A dog that lives outdoors in winter will have increased energy requirements.
  • The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your dog has health problems, please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusively veterinary diet.
  • A Belgian Shepherd Groenendael puppy’s requirements, in terms of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins, are much greater than those of an adult dog. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, but also to grow and build it. Until they are 15 months old, Belgian Shepherd Groenendael puppies’ immune system develops gradually. A complex of antioxidants - including vitamin E - can help support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. Their digestive functions are different from an adult Belgian Shepherd Groenendael’s, too: their digestive system is not mature yet so it is important to provide highly digestible proteins that will be effectively used. Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, support digestive health by helping balance the intestinal flora, resulting in good stool quality.
  • It is important to choose a kibble with an appropriate size, shape, and texture. This growth phase also means moderate energy needs. Large-breed puppies, such as Belgian Shepherd Groenendael puppies, whose growth period is long and intense, are especially susceptible to skeletal and joint problems, including limb defects, bone deformities, and joint lesions. The first part of growth is mainly concerned with bone development, although the muscles also start to grow. This means that a puppy that eats too much - takes in too much energy - will put on too much weight and grow too quickly. Limiting the energy concentration of a food for Belgian Shepherd Groenendael puppies and feeding a correct daily amount will help control the speed of growth and minimise these risks.
  • Concentrations of other nutrients should be higher than normal in a specially formulated growth food. Although the calcium content in the food needs to be increased, maxi-sized breed puppies are more sensitive to excessive calcium intake. It’s important to understand then that adding any ingredients to a complete food formulated for the growth phase is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous for the animal, unless prescribed by a veterinarian. It is recommended to split the daily allowance into three meals a day until they are 6 months old, then to switch to two meals per day.
  • Throughout their life, it is important to avoid feeding Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels human foods or fatty snacks. Instead, reward them with kibbles taken from their daily meal allowance, and strictly follow the feeding guidelines written on the package in order to prevent excessive weight gain.
  • The main nutritional goals for adult Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels are:
  • Maintaining an ideal body weight by using highly digestible ingredients and keeping the fat content at a sensible level
  • Helping to support the health of their bones and joints with glucosamine, chondroitin, and antioxidants
  • Promoting optimal digestibility with high-quality protein and a balanced supply of dietary fibre
  • Helping preserve the health and beauty of the skin and coat with the enriched addition of essential fatty acids (especially EPA-DHA), essential amino acids, and B vitamins.
  • After 5 years old, Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels will start facing the first signs of ageing. A formula enriched with antioxidants will help maintain their vitality, and specific nutrients, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, will help support healthy bones and joints. Ageing is also accompanied by the modification of digestive capacities and particular nutritional requirements, so food for older Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels should have the following characteristics:
  • Higher vitamin C and E content. These nutrients have antioxidant properties, helping to protect the body’s cells against the harmful effects of the oxidative stress linked to ageing
  • High-quality protein. Contrary to a widely held misconception, lowering the protein content in food brings little benefit in limiting kidney failure. On top of it, older dogs are less efficient at using dietary protein than younger dogs. Reducing the phosphorus content is a good way of slowing down the gradual deterioration of kidney function
  • A higher proportion of the trace elements iron, zinc, and manganese to help maintain the good condition of the skin and coat
  • A higher quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids to help maintain the quality of the coat. Dogs can normally produce these fatty acids, but ageing can affect this physiological process
  • As they age, dogs increasingly suffer from teeth problems. To ensure they continue to eat in sufficient quantities, the size, shape, and texture of their kibble needs to be tailored to their jaw.


Caring for your Belgian Shepherd Groenendael

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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The signature trait of the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael: their shiny black coat. The color is always the same, short of white patches that can appear on their feet, legs, and chest, the breed’s glorious onyx color makes them stand out from the pack. The double coat needs brushing once, max twice, a week. To look at it, one would assume shedding galore; ironically, the breed does not shed a lot, a shocker for sure. Once a year, they will completely though, as a new coat grows in. When this happens, brush their coat profusely to get rid of all the dead hair. The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael only needs to be bathed a few times during the year, depending on what they’ve gotten into, of course.

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With their pleasurable expression and willing spirit, it’s hard to believe that the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael could be hesitant but they are. They look so friendly! And indeed they are, but with those they know first, those they don’t second. The breed will need time to warm up to newcomers who enter their circle. This is a dog that craves attention because it’s bred to answer to commands and requests. In other words, give them direction and they will be more than agreeable to carry out said task. The Belgian Shepherd Groenendael also also needs a patient albeit stern hand when it comes to discipline. Their extremely high intelligence though means they take training well, and will return with great behaviour in spades.

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Exercise is the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael’s middle name and time spent out in the field is pure bliss for this super active dog. They do best when given a job to do, and their strong body means they can help with physical labor around the house or farm. Bred as a herding dog in Western Europe, the Groenendael has been used to pull carts, wagons, and other vehicles, such is the level of their strength. Motion - even multitasking - is their modus operandi. The dog is very smart and can be taught to tackle almost anything as well, which, coupled with their eager disposition, is a winning combination. This is a breed that also does extremely well when it comes to agility and sporting competitions, enjoying the competitiveness of it all, as well as the many obstacles to overcome.

All about Belgian Shepherd Groenendaels

Assertive, yes; aggressive, no. On the contrary, the breed is quite loyal and sweet-natured. They are perceptive and very much want the companionship of their owner. People-oriented and protective, the Belgian Shepherd Groenendael does best when occupied and part of the gang, human or dog.

The breed hails from a long line of herding dogs commonly found in Western Europe. Highly intelligent, earnest, and gentle, this is a dog that aims to please and is most content when busy.


1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/