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Sharing Your Life With a Belgian Sheepdog

Belgian Sheepdog eating icecream out of little girl's hands.

This article was originally published in Showsight Magazine, February 2014 issue.


Sharing Your Life With a Belgian Sheepdog

First, Belgian Sheepdogs are uncannily smart! And puppies are always busy and thinking. It is important for the person wanting to bring a Belgian into their home to realize that attention and perseverance are key to molding their puppy or young adult into the valued family member. However, time passes quickly and Belgians pick up training very easily and soon you will have the hard work behind you. Belgians are generally both very active and sedentary. They like to be with their owners and will stay close at hand. If you are in the house, that is where the dog prefers to be. If you want to lead an active lifestyle, the Belgian has the energy to keep up and go along with you. They easily bore so keeping the young ones entertained, busy and active is a must!

Puppies are also easily assisted with their training when an older dog is present. They observe and pick up the good behaviors of the older dog and this makes the training process easier for the owner. Also, Belgians are a social breed—they like the companionship of another dog and this also helps keep a young one entertained. They tend to prefer dogs in their own breed and can be a little snobby towards other breeds. However, they generally do well when raised with other dogs, cats and children. They are naturally protective of their family, always alert and observant, without specific training in this field. Their appearance alone makes a stranger take notice.

Belgians do not do well kept full-time in the back yard and can get easily bored as they want to be with their owners. A bored Belgian is one that can create trouble! Noticing differences in environment and actually being uncertain about new people, places and things are the mark of a smarter Belgian. They actually are smart enough to figure out the differences and that there may be situations, people, etc., deserving of fear or uncertainty. Confidence can develop both through socialization, training, age and experience. Be prepared to socialize your puppy or young adult as to new people, animals, environment and situations, as this is critical to the dog’s self-confidence.

Training dictates that a Belgian puppy or adult be food, tug, praise or ball/toy motivated. Belgians are easily motivated. Different dogs are motivated in different ways and that can also be ever changing. It is the responsibility of the owner/trainer to figure out how best to motivate the dog to achieve the desired behavior or performance—that is what makes them part of the family or if working in exhibition venues, a team.

Most Belgians achieve their best when training techniques are very black and white and are very eager to please. The performance owner, experienced and inexperienced, can achieve success with Belgians as they are so smart and make it look so easy. However, ultimately, the choice of puppy made for its home, achieved by the sharing of information, experiences and expectations between the breeder and potential owner, along with the breeder’s observations and knowledge of their puppies makes for a great start! Sometimes, mistakes are made in the pairing; all breeders have experienced this. But Belgians are so adaptable and versatile that they do generally well and adjust when their owners/trainers just figure out what makes them tick!

Belgians are very versatile and agile, never bulky and consistently turn out beautiful performances in all performance venues rewarding their owners and trainers time and time again for their hard work. Our vigilant breeders are very interested in Belgian Sheepdog health, as they should be. Our breed suffers occasionally from hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, some inheritable eye problems and cancer (mainly gastric carcinoma, lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma). Our breeders routinely perform health checks before breeding and diligently screen potential Belgian owners to do their best to make sure that their puppies are the right fit for their homes.

A potential Belgian owner should be very candid when interviewing potential breeders to make sure they are paired with the right dog. The potential Belgian owner should also interview different breeders to make sure that they are comfortable with answers to their questions about the breeding program, health, parents and the puppies. This will be a lifelong relationship and almost all breeders love keeping in touch with their puppies and their puppy buyers throughout the dogs’ lifetimes and beyond. Belgian breeders are also generally good about taking back their own dogs so that few end up in shelters and rescue programs.

Belgians are easily groomed and their coats do not easily mat. Regular brushing, nail clipping and ear cleaning take minimal time and shedding is minimal. An elegant and proud Belgian Sheepdog walking smartly on its leash almost always generates compliments from the public as the Belgian creates a memorable impression. The Belgian Sheepdog was ranked 124 in 2012 out of all the AKC breeds.