1. Where do you live? What is your occupation? How many years in dogs?
  2. Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs?
  3. When did you first become aware of the Belgian Sheepdog?
  4. How does the breed differ from its Belgian cousins?
  5. Does the Belgian Sheepdog have a high energy level? High intelligence?
  6. How sensitive is the breed to positive training methods?To corrections?
  7. How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color?
  8. What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog?
  9. Is there a reliable market for pet quality puppies?
  10. What would people be surprised to learn about the Belgian Sheepdog?
  11. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

Christine
Everhart Staten

I’m an award-winning artist and have been showing my Belgian Sheepdog, OHBIS OHRBIS BOSS NOHS Platinum GDCHS CH Spitfire’s Naughty Nightie Lagniappe CGCA CGCU TT TKN FMC FMD JMD AOM AOE, “Secrets,” for the last five years to top honors. She is NOHS #1 Lifetime.

I live on a farm about an hour south of Kansas City on the Kansas side. I am an artist, retired from my Porcelain Doll Manufacturing Company. I have been in dog showing for at least 50 years.

Outside of dogs, I manage a farm, garden and do mostly dog art and sell at breed nationals.

When did I first become aware of the Belgian Sheepdog? A good friend adopted a dog from a shelter and was told it was a Border Collie/Chow mix. When I saw the dog at her shop I asked who had a Belgian Sheepdog. She was shocked when she Googled BSD’s. It was the best dog. I was looking for a breed for the farm and Belgian Sheepdogs had what I was looking for.

How does the breed differ from its Belgian cousins? I have only had one Belgian and she is 5-1/2 years old. But I have traveled with and shown all four varieties. The Sheepdogs and Tervs seem to be very much a like. The Mals are more serious and detailed in their thought process, their on/off switch is quicker and they are always ready to be “on.”

Does the Belgian Sheepdog have a high energy level and intelligence? My girl is high drive for her two favorite things to do: play Frisbee and Flirtpole. You can’t say the word out loud or you better be ready to go out and play. She could care less about balls or playing tug. The rest of the time she likes to sleep. She is very smart, she learns from watching what other dogs do, then is willing to try to do the same. We play puzzles, hide and seek and scent games to keep her entertained. She has a trick routine for Meet and Greets and when we visit hospitals; but she is a union dog, she will not work without pay. If I run out of treats in my pocket she knows, then goes and lays down. No more tricks until I can show her I have more treats.

How sensitive is the breed to positive training methods and corrections? Belgian Sheepdogs are very easy to train, they want to please you. Rarely have I had to do more than a firm “No” or a “Leave it.” I use the word “Look” to get her attention for a correction and she will try the command again. A hard “No!” puts her on the ground, even though she has never had a hand laid on her.

How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color? You have to have all three to be in the breed standard if you plan to show in conformation. If we are talking working or performance, I feel the only one that is important is texture. Proper texture allows a Belgian Sheepdog to be an any-weather worker.

Poor texture does not shed water, holds dirt and mats easily. As we are breeding for long, massive coats, we are getting a softer and not as weather-resistant coat for herding sheep full-time.

What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog? Most love to show and it shows in flowing movement and good attention to both the handler and the judge. All they want to do is please, they show on a loose lead and really could do it on their own.

Is there a reliable market for pet quality puppies? I am not a breeder, although I would like to breed my girl. Belgians are hard to find if you do not have contacts in the Belgian group. I looked for 18 months before I found an ad on the AKC site. The last year or so there have been quite a few Belgian litters. I have not heard of anyone not having homes for all their puppies by 10 to 12 weeks. I know of at least four people looking for pet Belgian Sheepdogs and more looking for show prospects.

What would people be surprised to learn about the Belgian Sheepdog? The thing I think surprised me the most was how easy Belgian Sheepdogs are to keep. They will mold themselves into any lifestyle, they will want to do what you are interested in. They will be as active or laid back as the owner.

I will say all the Belgian breeders I know work hard to match the puppy to the new owner and what they want to do with the dog. Be it a family member, farm dog, top in performance, outstanding in conformation, or a dependable service dog, there is a Belgian Sheepdog puppy that will grow to fit the need.

Linda McCarty

Linda McCarty was active for 40 years in the breed. Her Kennel, Rolin Ridge Belgians, was nationally and internationally recognized for quality Champion Groenendael. Her dogs were known to be versatile in all venues earning BIS’s, National BISS’s, and performance event Championships. Retired from breeding and showing, she judged the breed’s National Specialty in 2012 and is eligible to judge all four varieties.

I live in Central Virginia. I’m retired and have 40+ years in dogs.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Bead weaving and jewelry making.

When did I first become aware of the Belgian Sheepdog? I saw my first BSD at an obedience training club where I was teaching.

How does the breed differ from its Belgian cousins? Really they are all very much the same with perhaps the Malinois and Laekenois often having stronger drives and need to work.

Does the Belgian Sheepdog have a high energy level and intelligence? Compared to some breeds, yes. They can be quite adaptable though to varying amounts of exercise if their mental needs are met. Exercise needs can also vary from line to line. Belgians are highly intelligent and learn fast, but bore easily with repetition. They have fabulous memories of both good and bad.

How sensitive is the breed to positive training methods and to corrections? Most Belgians do quite well with positive training as they are sensitive and want to please. They have a strong sense of justice and resent being corrected unfairly. They generally dislike harsh corrections.

How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color? All of these are quite well described in our standard. Of those, for me, texture is the most important. Correct texture makes a world of difference in how clean the dog stays, how often you must groom and bathe the dog. Correct texture is a joy requiring minimal care of a double-coated dog. In the BSD, black is the required color. Ornamentation should be pronounced on males.

What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog? I’ve really never thought of the Belgian as a show dog. He is a working companion that happens to be owned by someone who shows! He learns to like it because his owner does. Oh, there are a few here and there that love the limelight (and I’ve had a couple that did). While they are my breed of choice, they are very far from much fancier breeds considered as “show dogs.”

Is there a reliable market for pet quality puppies? It can be difficult to find a breeder and they are pretty well scattered across the US. You could have a wait for one.

What would people be surprised to learn about the Belgian Sheepdog? That we are one of four varieties (the Groenendael) everywhere in the world except the US and that we occasionally have Tervuren in our litters.

Sandie Skinner

We live in the Southern California area and have been here most of our lives. We are now both retired. My husband had a wood turning manufacturing business, and I worked as an educator and with the Court Appointed Special Advocates. My husband and I have been raising and breeding dogs since we were married over 50 years ago. I grew up in a household that bred Boxers and a few other breeds. We have three children and four grandchildren. Our hobbies include raising and breeding orchids, Hobie Cat sailing, and training and showing dogs.

We became interested in the Belgian breed because we were interested in doing high-level obedience. At the time we had a Bearded Collie, and the Belgians were always in the ring before us or after us. My grandparents always had Collies and Kelpies so there was something about those dogs in the ring that attracted me. We saw one or two of them in the obedience ring so we started searching the SoCal area to find out more about the breed.

How does the breed differ from its Belgian cousins? Honestly they really don’t differ too much from their cousins Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervuren or Laekenois. Mainly the difference is in the coat. The breed standard in some countries is identical as far as temperaments, structure and conformation, the difference really only being the coat as far as laying, color, density, etc.

Belgians are a versatile and instinctual, thinking dog. The Belgian does have a high energy level, but it’s very controlled. It’s not wasteful, and a Belgian uses its energy as a very broad brush to survey any situation. Their intelligence is epic, along with their
intuitive understanding of the situation. They have the ability to react and integrate into whatever environment they find themselves in. Depending on which collar we put around their neck, that’s their signal for the job and they don’t think twice about it once they’ve learned it. Their training needs to be consistent, in short bursts with an equal amount of playtime. Most of them are very toy oriented and food ready. Whatever tasks you throw at them, it takes about a week to learn the simple parts, and then you can put all the pieces together in the next month. Obviously, if you’re looking for perfection, they just need a few training sessions a week to keep them current and motivated. They are an interesting breed in the sense that they love the accomplishment of doing it right and don’t need overpraise or stimulation in order to do the job. The best thing of all is that they love doing it with the person, not necessarily for the person, and once they’re trained, they will pretty much do their best for anybody. They have a keen memory and can work as a part of a team or individually. To be honest, corrections are rare, and it’s just a matter of redefining the space for them and the job you really want them to do. Our dogs have participated in many arenas of life, from reading companionship in the Chicago public library to sheepherding and, obviously, the show ring. We haven’t got them to empty the trash yet, but they will pick up their toys and put them back in the box when game time is over.

How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color? The coat in a Belgian Sheepdog should not be silky or wiry—it should be long and enhance the general appearance of that particular dog. The hair is shorter around the head and lower parts of the legs and shows off the appearance of a square outline. The undercoat should be dense and full and help protect them from predators and to withstand the climate conditions. It works as an insulator in the dog in both cold and hot climates. The color must be black with white limited to the chest or between the pads. Sometimes reddening in the coat is due to natural sun exposure and should not be considered a disqualification.

The ornamentation of the Belgian Sheepdog should give off an abundance of a collarette shape around the neck, and long hair down the back of the hindquarters, britches and on the tail. This should show-off the appearance of an outline that is well-balanced, square in overall general appearance.

What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog? When we are evaluating a puppy that might have the show ability, we are watching for soundness of temperament and structure. The dog should have good social skills and an individual confidence, with that effortless movement and elegant presence. In essence, the perfect Belgian Sheepdog we all dream about.

I checked with a couple of handlers that have given me their viewpoint of a Belgian Sheepdog in showing:

Tiffany Saxon: “The breed is extremely intelligent in nature and that alone makes it a fabulous show dog. The breed shows courage, attentiveness to its show ring human, and a loyal devotion to his family. The breed can sometimes be observant and vigilant with strangers, but not show any apprehensiveness, aggression or fear. He is very affectionate, loyal and is eager to please its trainer which makes this breed exceptional in the show ring. I have had the opportunity to show Belgian Sheepdogs, Malinois and Tervs and all love performing in the show ring. They make my job easy as a handler. They know they have a job to perform and enjoy the energy of the moment. It has been my experience that this breed is going to show and win and love every minute of it. It has been a fabulous experience over several decades to share so many lovely Belgians in the Group ring [and] leading a Belgian Sheepdog to a Best In Show placement.”

Professional handler Andy Linton says he has been showing Belgians for over 30 years. He remembers that one of his top three all-time favorite dogs was a Belgian Sheepdog named Jackson.
He had the ability to stay truly focused and was always eager to please, with the addition of a large amount of drive; what more could you ask for in the Group ring? His daughter, Ava, has totally enjoyed her time showing training and competing at 4-H statewide events winning many first place ribbons in obedience with a Belgian Sheepdog named Bond; what a joy to play and live with!

Is there a reliable market for pet quality puppies? I’m sorry to say that there doesn’t appear to be a real market out there for Belgian Sheepdog puppies. The general public that actually call or even know the breed is few and far between, but I’ve never had any difficulty finding lovely family homes. In 20+ years of breeding, we’ve only had two dogs return; one because they moved out of the country, and the other one just felt the puppy didn’t fit.

I think people would be surprised to learn how easy it is to live with the Belgian Sheepdog, and how well they adapt to whichever home situation they’re in. We’ve had two of our dogs live on boats! They make wonderful companions. They are lifelong supportive family members and are much more flexible and less demanding than some other breeds. They love to be with you and do whatever job you would like done, but they can be just as easily a couch potato while you’re watching TV. They patiently wait at home while you’re at work and are open to you redefining their schedule. They are interested in everything around them and very respectful, but vigilant to make sure their family is safe. Obviously, their temperament varies from dog to dog, but their consistent observations of the surroundings and reserved alertness to incoming situations makes them comfortable to take everywhere. They make very biddable and enjoyable family partners.

Sherri Swabb

Sherri Wilmoth Swabb acquired her first Belgian Sheepdog in 1985. Since then, she has been an avid fan and fancier of the breed. In her limited, hobby-breeding program, Sherri has produced over 30 champions as well as many performance titled dogs. Sherri is a dedicated owner-handler, having produced several Owner-Handled Best In Show (O-H BIS) and Reserve Best in Show (RBIS) dogs in her breeding.

I live in Bellbrook, Ohio. I am the Director of Marketing for Yaskawa Motoman (an industrial robot manufacturer). I have been in dogs for 34 years.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? We participate in conformation, FCAT, rally, obedience, and agility. I am an instructor at Dayton Dog Training Club where I teach conformation and basic obedience. We also do some flower gardening in our spare time.

When did I first become aware of the Belgian Sheepdog? I met and acquired my first Belgian Sheepdog in 1985. He was a two-year-old rehome.

How does the breed differ from its Belgian cousins? Although Belgian Groenendael, Tervuren, Lakenois and Malinois are viewed as separate varieties of the same breed in many other countries, we are discovering there are enough DNA differences in the dogs to consider them separate breeds (as viewed by the AKC). In addition, there are different lines within each breed that possess different temperament and drive characteristics. I personally breed for highly biddable and easy to live with Belgian Sheepdogs with a stable temperament. I prefer a Belgian Sheepdog with an “off switch” that are happy to do whatever their people ask of them—from hiking, tracking, agility etc., to sitting on the couch and watching TV. I also focus on structure and soundness of body.

Does the Belgian Sheepdog have a high energy level and intelligence? The Belgian Sheepdog is a high-energy dog that does best with an owner who wants to include them in their daily activities. Belgians want to be with their people—they are not sedentary dogs.

How sensitive is the breed to positive training methods and corrections? Belgian Sheepdogs are very responsive to positive training methods; they want to please their owners. However, as with all dogs, they do sometimes require corrections. This could be verbal or physical—depends on the dog and the situation. Belgian Sheepdogs are very intelligent and do best with an owner who enjoys spending time with the dog and teaching the dog new things.

How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color? Belgian Sheepdogs have a harsh, double coat and must always be black to show in conformation. A small amount of white on their chest or back toes is acceptable, but deviations from that are typically not acceptable in conformation.

What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog? The best show Belgian Sheepdogs are the puppies that naturally self-stack and move at an even trot as puppies. Additionally, Belgian Sheepdogs that are confident with people and other dogs are the best show dogs. A reactive temperament is not ideal for the show ring.

Is there a reliable market for pet quality puppies? Yes. Most quality breeders have waiting lists for their show and companion puppies.

What would people be surprised to learn about the Belgian Sheepdog? Belgian Sheepdogs have a high rate of stomach cancer and we see epilepsy in the breed. The Belgian Sheepdog Club of America encourages all Belgian Sheepdog owners to participate in their DNA research studies regarding these issues. More information about those studies can be found at bsca.info.

(July 2020 Issue)

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