Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) Pros & Cons

By Hannah Warner
Updated on 17 April 2023

Around the end of the 1800s to the early 1900s, there were several different herding breeds in Belgium that shared a similar function but had dissimilar coat types.

In 1891, the first Belgian Shepherd breed club was formed in Belgium called the Club du Chien de Berger Belge. The first standard was written in 1892, and as such, the modern Belgian Shepherd was born.

The Belgian Shepherd is one breed with four coat varieties. These coat varieties include: the Malinois, the Tervuren, the Laekenois, and the Groenendael—or, as we call them in America, the Belgian Sheepdog.

While the majority of the countries still have the Belgian Shepherd as one breed and four coat varieties, the American Kennel Club considers them as four separate breeds.

Even so, there is a fair amount of importing from other countries, so the varieties share similar traits.

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The Belgian Sheepdog has a rich history. Prior to World War I, Belgian Sheepdogs were used as police dogs throughout parts of America, Belgium, and France due to their versatility. During World War I and World War II, the Belgian Sheepdog excelled as a working dog and served several different important tasks, such as defense dogs, Red Cross dogs, and message carriers. Today, they serve as fantastic companions, working dogs, and sporting dogs in almost every dog sport across the world.

If you are interested in owning a Belgian Sheepdog, then it is a good idea to reach out to reputable breeders to discuss their dogs. For more information on the Belgian Sheepdog, the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America has great resources, including a section on history, info, and FAQ. Additionally, both the FCI and AKC standards give more information on the Belgian Sheepdog’s temperament.

(Author’s note: I use Belgian Sheepdog in this article mostly due to the breed standard in America. While I often call them Groenendael (Groan-en-dahl) due to the fact that I think “Belgian Sheepdog” is too similar to “Belgian Shepherd” and it offers a distinctness (especially from the Malinois) most people would likely have an easier time finding information if they googled “Belgian Sheepdog” in America.)

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) Pros


Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The Belgian Sheepdog is intelligent and mischievous. Historically, they were active military working dogs and were not uncommon to be found on the battlefields during both World Wars. Today, they are still common in search and rescue, as well as high-level dog sports. These dogs like to use their brain—which can be both good and bad! Intelligence often leads to mischievousness. The Belgian Sheepdog is a dog that can and will find loopholes in training and has an amazing ability to problem-solve.


The Belgian Sheepdog is sensitive, affectionate, and loyal—they love their handlers (or family) more than anything. This is a dog that wants to be with their people, so they often do poorly in places where they are isolated. They develop a very strong bond with the person they consider “theirs” and often do not care for other people as much as their person.

The Belgian Sheepdog wants to be near their person—even in their person’s lap, despite their size! As such, sometimes they are called “the Belgian Lapdog”. If you are a person who spends long periods away from your dogs or does not like overly affectionate dogs, then another breed may be a better fit.


The Belgian Sheepdog has an incredibly strong worth ethic and a great deal of enthusiasm toward their goals. This usually translates to them being easily motivated and very fun to train if a handler knows what they are doing. They are flashy, eager to please, and they love to work with their person. They are great dogs to have if you want to compete in dog competitions, such as obedience or agility.

However, the Belgian Sheepdog needs the training as much as they love it, and they need a lot of constant training. This is due to the overall nature of being a dog with high energy and drive—early socialization and manners are essential to have a balanced adult dog, and upkeep of those manners and socialization is key to keeping a balanced dog. Additionally, inexperienced handlers often struggle to find the right motivation or outlet for their energy, which makes training more difficult, so working with an experienced trainer is ideal.


Depending on the person, protectiveness may be considered a con as well. The Belgian Sheepdog is observant and often aloof toward strangers. They are often alert, and ready to leap into action at any point. As mentioned before, they develop a bond with their person, and it is important to keep this from developing into possessiveness.

As per the FCI standard, “without any hesitation it is the stubborn and keen protector of its owner” and “[they] possesses the highly prized qualities of the best guard dog of property”. Due to their naturally protective nature, early socialization is key to ensure it does not escalate into a sharper temperament or a dangerous situation.


This is a dog that can scale mountains with ease. They are graceful, agile, athletic, and nearly always in motion. More than once, I’ve seen my own Belgian Sheepdogs scale things that I did not think would be possible for them to do so, but the Belgian Sheepdog loves to surprise us with their athletic abilities (and daring escapades). This makes them great hiking buddies or agility companions, but not so good couch potatoes.

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) Cons

High energy, high drive

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) (Photo: Adobe Stock)

This isn’t a con for everyone, but it is something to be aware of. Belgian Sheepdogs have energy. While the Belgian Sheepdog is often considered the “softest” out of the four varieties, they are still, at their core, Belgian Shepherds—a dog that is often described as more of a lifestyle than your average pet.

That isn’t to say that they can’t make great pets for people or families that wish to put in the work and effort of keeping their dog active and with a job, but it is something to be aware of if people are interested in the breed but not willing to give them both mental and physical stimulation daily. However, that high energy and drive make them fantastic working dogs that love to do things with their person and excel in a number of different sports.

Push boundaries

The Belgian Sheepdog is a dog that will push boundaries – as is often the case with intelligent breeds. The Belgian Sheepdog is a sensitive breed, so there is no need for a heavy hand, but there is a need for kind, consistent training. A dog that lacks consistency often lacks understanding and will be more likely to bend the rules for their own benefit.


The Belgian Sheepdog coat is very striking and quite beautiful. Their coat and features are often the first things that draws people into the breed, and their charming personalities keep them here. The Belgian Sheepdog coat is fairly wash-and-wear, and a light amount of dirt will come off—they were bred as herding dogs, after all! However, they do need a fair amount of grooming. The coat of a Belgian Sheepdog is dense and contains a good amount of texture. They have a wooly undercoat, and as such, it requires regular brushing to prevent mats. As a consequence of having a thick coat, they regularly shed.

Not dog park dogs

While the Belgian Sheepdog is fairly playful with dogs that they are raised with, this is not a dog that would likely do well at dog parks. Most Belgian Sheepdogs are not overly dog-friendly to strange dogs that approach them and are generally not as tolerant of rude or pushy dogs. On the scale of dog-to-dog tolerance levels, Belgian Sheepdogs are much more likely to fall into the “dog tolerant” category rather than the “dog friendly” one.

It is also important to note that Belgian Sheepdogs do have a high prey drive so they likely need to be watched around small animals.

Early socialization needed

The Belgian Sheepdog is a fantastic, well-balanced and versatile dog if they are socialized properly. Early socialization is key to this breed, and a lack of socialization can lead to a dog that does not respond well to novel environments, is fearful, or even develops reactivity. Proper socialization—such as exposing a dog to new people and environments, surfaces, and situations—is key to having a happy, stable adult.

It is important to note that it is not uncommon for adolescent Belgian Sheepdogs to go through fear periods when they are young, and a handler may experience a dog who is more suspicious and fearful than they were previously. Going at the dog’s pace, having a good bond with your dog, and not pushing them when they are acting overly suspicious or fearful will help during these adolescent periods.

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) Commonly Asked Questions

Are Groenendael good pets?

Groenendael make great companions to those that are willing to put the work into offering both physical and mental stimulation and take the time needed for their early socialization. These are dogs that want to be with their person or family constantly, but also dogs that have high exercise needs and can be destructive or an annoyance to people that do not want to put in the work needed to make a Belgian Sheepdog satisfied.

Are Belgian shepherds the same as Groenendael?

This is a bit of a complicated question and involves knowing the history of the breed. The term “Belgian Shepherd” refers to all four varieties: the Malinois, the Laekenois, the Tervuren, and the Groenendael. In the United States, the four varieties are separated into separate breeds, and the Groenendael’s name was changed to “Belgian Sheepdog”. The rest of the world kept the name “Groenendael” for the black variety.

To answer the question, all Groenendael (or Belgian Sheepdogs) are considered Belgian Shepherds, but not all Belgian Shepherds are considered Groenendael.

How much do Groenendael cost?

Generally, the average cost for a Groenendael from a reputable breeder is 1,000 to 3,000 USD. If you are interested in a Groenendael and the price is prohibitive, then rescue might be an ideal option. Groenendael are very uncommon to see in shelters, as the community is very small and breeders take great responsibility in keeping their dogs out of shelters, but the Belgian Sheepdog Rescue Trust sometimes has adults for adoption.

How long does the Groenendael live?

The average lifespan for a Groenendael is 12-14 years.

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