The Belgian Sheepdog is a breed of medium-to-large-sized herding dog. It originated in Belgium and is similar to other sheep herding dogs from that region, including the Dutch Shepherd, the German Shepherd, the Briard, and others. Four types have been identified by various registries as separate breeds or varieties: Groenendael, Laekenois, Tervuren, and Malinois.
Belgian Sheepdog Facts: History
In the late 1800s, a group of concerned dog fanciers under the guidance of Professor A. Reul of the Cureghem Veterinary Medical School gathered foundation stock from the areas around Tervuren, Groenendael, Mechelen, and Laeken in Belgium. Official breed creation occurred around 1891. The first breed standard was written in 1892, but official recognition did not happen until 1901, when the Royal Saint-Hubert Society Stud Book began registering Belgian Sheepdogs.
By 1910, fanciers managed to eliminate the most glaring faults and standardize type and temperament. There has been continued debate about acceptable colours and coat types. Structure, temperament and working ability have never been debated in regards to the standard.
Belgian Sheepdog Facts: Temperament
That is the ideal temperament, however this temperament does not happen accidentally. It is important to pay attention to the genetic history, get proper training, and filter the breeders to ensure that you get the right pup.
Belgian Sheepdog Facts: Health
The Belgian Sheepdog does have some health concerns. Some can be avoided by genetic testing and finding an excellent breeder. Here are some things you need to look for:
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Elbow Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It’s thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog’s elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem or medication to control the pain.
- Epilepsy: The Belgian Sheepdog can suffer from epilepsy, a disorder that causes mild or severe seizures. Epilepsy can be hereditary; it can be triggered by metabolic disorders, infectious diseases that affect the brain, tumors, exposure to poisons, or severe head injuries; or it can be of unknown cause (referred to as idiopathic epilepsy). Seizures may be exhibited by unusual behavior, such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding. Seizures are frightening to watch, but the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally very good. Epilepsy can be controlled with medication, but it cannot be cured. A dog can live a full and healthy life with the proper management of this disorder. If your Belgian Sheepdog has seizures, take him to the vet right away for a diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. It is not thought to be widespread in Belgian Sheepdogs. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don’t make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease. The eye clearance the breeder shows you should be dated within the past year.
- Cancer: Dogs like humans can develop cancer. There are many different types of cancer and the success of treatment differs for each individual case. For some forms of cancer, the tumors are surgically removed, others are treated with chemotherapy and some are treated both surgically and medically.
- Anesthesia Sensitivity: Some Belgian Sheepdogs appear to be sensitive to anesthesia. It is important to alert your veterinarian to this possibility so he or she can follow the same anesthetic protocols that are used with sighthounds, including a pre-anesthesia physical exam and lab work, obtaining a current weight, careful administration of anesthesia, and monitoring the dog’s vital signs during and after surgery.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A mild sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, mental dullness, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog’s fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog’s life. A dog receiving daily thyroid treatment can live a full and happy life.