The Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

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A lot of prospective dog owners try to settle on the most suitable dog for their homes. Some of them prefer a guarding dog, while others would rather have a family-friendly one.

The Belgian Sheepdog gives you the best of both worlds. Although they’re aggressive with strangers, these dogs are loyal and would give their lives for the family they love, while also guarding them.

So whether you’ve been wondering about buying a Shepherd dog, or are still confused as to which breed you should choose, this article is for you.

History of the Belgian Sheepdog

The Belgian canine’s origin dates back to the 1800s. It’s one of the four shepherd varieties bred in Belgium at the time and is recognized by both the American and United Kennel clubs.

Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

Its breed was meant for livestock herding and both family and farm protection. Its strong work ethic made the Belgian Sheepdog the primary choice for police dogs, and it was even used for both world wars.

During World War I, it was used for carrying messages and pulling ambulance or machine gun carts. As of the second world war, they served as war dogs. 

Their popularity eventually skyrocketed throughout the 20th century. Nowadays, they’re perfect as domestic pets, police dogs, or in performance sports.

Belgian Sheepdog Cost

A puppy might cost anywhere from $1500 to $2000. However, this doesn’t include the yearly budget you’re supposed to provide for the dog’s basic needs.

Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

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The annual cost includes vet appointments, nutrition, license, and toys, and ranges between $420 and $780. You should also consider capital expenses such as its collar, leash, and crate.  

Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

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Characteristics

Here are some physical and personal qualities that you should know about the Belgian Shepherds. 

Size & Appearance 

Belgian Shepherds are considered one of the large canine breeds. Males weigh between 65 to 75 pounds (about 20 to 30 kgs), and have a height of around 24 to 26 inches (55 to 66 cm). 

Females are quite lighter and shorter, weighing between 60 to 70 pounds, and standing between 22 to 24 inches.

Their distinctive feature is their black double coat. It consists of a long, harsh topcoat contrary to the second thick undercoat.

The short coat covers the ears, head, and leg fronts, while the rest of the body is covered in long fur. They also have a mane at the neck.

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Temperament & Adaptability  

Smart, vigilant, agile, and brave, Belgian Sheepdogs are ideal guardians for families. They’ll also show them affection and usually connect quickly with the family members.

Belgian Shepherds are naturally active dogs, so they demand your time and constant attention. Requiring mental simulation from time to time, they also love puzzle toys and when you give them specific tasks to do.

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Due to shepherd and guarding heritage, the Belgian Sheepdogs are distrustful of strangers. Thus, they don’t easily play along with other pets and may torment or chase them.

Moreover, they’re only friendly around children if they’re being well-treated, as they usually don’t tolerate abuse from them. 

Exercises and Life Expectancy 

On average, a Belgian Shepherd lives up to 10-12 years. 

The breed despises monotonous lifestyles and needs a lot of exercise. If not being engaged in physical activities from time to time, you should expect an aggressive behavior, like chewing footwear or ruining your furniture.

To avoid this, you should allow the dog to run and play often, preferably for long periods of time, short street walks won’t cut it. Simple but effective exercises include fetching, digging, chasing, or herding (if applicable).

The exercises vary depending on the dog’s age and health, but you should expect more requirements for those aged 6 to 18 months (adolescent dogs).

Maintenance

Owning a dog is a huge responsibility. You’re supposed to feed, walk, and groom him. Moreover, you have to check on his health from time to time. 

Grooming

You can consider grooming as a full clean-up for the dog. You have to brush the dog’s coat and teeth, as well as clean his ears and trim his nails.

Brushing

They shed a moderate amount of hair, and with proper grooming, you won’t find much loose hair lying around.

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For the double-coated canine, you should dedicate about 20 minutes a week to brush out its dead hair from the coat and avoid tangles and mats. 

Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

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Some of the brushing tools you’ll find useful:

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Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene is also one of your dog’s grooming needs. To remove built-up tartar and bacteria, you should brush your dog’s teeth up to three times a week. 

If you can dedicate more time you should probably brush them every day, so as to avoid bad breath or gum disease.

It’s important to help your puppy get used to brushing from an early stage, as this helps later on during veterinary examinations.

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Nail Trimming

If your Belgian Shepherd doesn’t wear its nails naturally, you’re supposed to trim it yourself. How would you know? Long nails will make clicking sounds on the floor.

By trimming them regularly, you’ll avoid getting scratched from time to time and help keep the dog’s feet in a healthy condition.

Training 

Although they’re naturally stubborn, they’re still trainable. Thanks to this breed’s constant need for work and physical activity, with the right owner, they’ll willingly enjoy training sessions. 

You should start almost instantaneously, usually with the basics like “sit”, “stay”, “leave it”, “come”, and so on. The most functional method to use with Belgian Sheepdogs is the praise or reward technique.

The most common incentive or reward is doggie snacks, and like most training, patience and consistency are the key.  

They can also be enrolled in obedience classes (after they have been vaccinated). If you have any inquiries about these classes, you can ask community humane societies or the SPCA.

Health Problems

Belgian Sheepdogs are a healthy breed, but you still need to be prepared for certain health problems that they are prone to.

Dysplasia

Belgian shepherds are prone to hereditary conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition that’s caused by the deformation of the hip socket (or hip joint).  

Symptoms include unusual inactivity, difficulty in jumping and running, lameness, and as the dog ages, arthritis pain (inflammation and grating) in the joints. 

Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

On the other hand, elbow dysplasia is caused by different growth rates of the bones making up the elbow. This causes joint laxity, pain, and lameness.

X-ray screening is conducted by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or any other local hip improvement facilities. 

Treatment can vary from lifestyle changes and medication to surgery, depending on the professional opinion of your veterinarian. 

Moreover, you shouldn’t breed your dog if he’s been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and should check the health record of the puppy’s parents before buying. 

Tapeworms

Any dog is at risk of being infected by worms, especially in rural areas. Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that can infect dogs and cats.

They can actually be detected by the naked eye, moving on the hair around the anus or more commonly on the dog’s feces.

For an adult dog, scooting (the dog dragging its bottom) might indicate either an irritation caused by the tapeworm infection or impacted anal sacs. 

However, the symptoms are more intense for puppies, where lack of growth, anemia, and intestinal blockages could happen. 

You should definitely visit the vet in case of noticing any symptoms, for all ages. Treatment is simple and effective, involving the intake of parasiticides by injection or in the form of tablets.

Other health conditions that your Belgian dog might be prone to include epilepsy, heartworm, Anesthesia Sensitivity, Hypothyroidism, and sometimes cancer.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Belgian Sheepdog

Taking care of a Belgian Sheepdog also involves what you should and shouldn’t feed it. In addition, I added some tips and notes when playing or exercising with it.

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Do’s 

  • Feed it 2 to 3 cups of high-quality dry food (daily)
  • Buy a food dish and a water bowl beforehand
  • Buy a child’s toothbrush for the dog’s dental hygiene
  • Prepare a fenced area (in your garden or yard) for daily off-leash exercises (at least one hour a day)
  • Belgian Sheepdogs love retrieving games (ex: Frisbee)
  • Gradually introduce him to exercises, starting from 9 week-old puppies

Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

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Ultimate Guide to the Belgian Sheepdog

 

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Don’ts

Most of the Don’ts are related to the food you’re not supposed to feed the dog, including:

  • Alcoholic beverages, coffee, or tea
  • Chocolate, raisins (and grapes), and salty food
  • Poultry and yeast dough
  • Unripe fruit and stems
  • Garlic, onions, and chives

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Final Thoughts

Belgian Sheepdogs are one of the smartest and vigilant companions. They’d be a lovely addition to your home and remarkable guards for your family.

However, they demand a lot of time and energy. So you must be sure that you’re willing to sacrifice part of your day for their exercises, as well as being committed to vet appointments, their hygiene, and feeding them regularly.

If you’re ready for this, make sure to ask about everything you need to know about the puppies before buying them from a breeder. More importantly, if possible, you should meet its parents.

All in all, owning a Belgian Sheepdog, if done right, might be an uplifting and joyful experience.

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