top of page

UK Breed Standard for the Belgian Shepherd Dog

Courtesy of the Kennel Club 2022

General appearance

Medium-sized dog of harmonious proportions. Well-muscled and toned, combining elegance and strength without exaggeration. Attentive, hardy and alert. [Four varieties: Groenendael; Laekenois, Malinois and Tervueren to be judged to the same standard only differentiated by coat colour, texture and length.]


Proud head carriage, watchful, attentive attitude, conveying an impression of graceful strength and intelligence. An agile, active and versatile dog whose primary purpose is herder and guardian of the flock.


Intelligent, alert and naturally vigilant. Devoted to his owners, may show some initial reserve, but not nervous or aggressive.

Head and skull

Head long without exaggeration. Skull and muzzle roughly equal in length, with, at most, slight bias in favour of muzzle, giving impression of balance. Skull of medium width in proportion to length of head. Centre line of skull not very pronounced. Head planes parallel with both forehead and upper line of muzzle flat. In profile an imaginary line extending the forehead would run parallel to the muzzle line. Muzzle tapering gradually to the nose but not snipy. Underjaw sufficiently developed. Head well chiselled beneath the eyes. Moderate stop and arches above eyes not prominent. Cheeks lean, quite flat but well-muscled, and zygomatic arches not prominent. Nose black with well open nostrils.


Medium size, neither protruding nor sunken, slightly almond shaped and obliquely set, brown in colour, preferably dark brown, black rimmed eyelids. Direct, lively and enquiring expression.


Distinctly triangular appearance, stiff and erect, set high and carried upright and vertical when dog is alert. Moderate length with external ear well rounded at base.


Lips thin, firm and tight with strong dark pigmentation. Strong white teeth firmly set in well-developed jaws. Scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Pincer [level] bite tolerated.


Neck of moderate length, slightly arched giving a noble head carriage, well-muscled and without dewlap, broadening slightly towards shoulders.


Withers distinct. Strong, but not heavy bone throughout with wiry, powerful muscle structure. Shoulder blades flat, long and oblique, firmly attached, moderately angulated, with long upper arm. Elbows firm, neither loose nor tied in. Forelegs long, well-muscled, parallel. Pasterns strong, short, perpendicular to ground or very slightly inclined. Dewclaws permissible.


Body square, powerful but elegant. Length from point of shoulders to point of buttocks approximately equal to height at withers. Chest deep and well let down to point of elbow in the mature dog. Ribs moderately well-sprung. Back short with upper line of body straight, firm and well-muscled. Belly moderately developed neither drooping nor unduly cut up continuing lower line of chest in a graceful curve. Loin short, sufficiently broad and well-muscled. Croup very slightly sloping, sufficiently broad but not excessively so. Skin springy but quite taut over whole body.


Well-muscled and powerful. Moderate, not excessive angulation; hocks well let down. Viewed from behind, legs parallel.


Toes arched, very close together; soles thick and springy with dark, strong nails. Forefeet round and cat-like. Hindfeet slightly oval.


Firmly set, strong at base, of medium length. When at rest, hangs down, with tip slightly bent backwards at level of hock; when moving it should lift accentuating curve towards tip, never curled, nor bent to one side. Tip may be carried slightly higher than topline.


Brisk, light, economic action, covering ground without over extension or exaggeration, consistent with their moderate angulation, topline remaining firm. Single tracks at speed.


There are three distinct coat types.

Groenendael/Tervueren - Outer coat long, straight and abundant. texture of medium harshness. Not silky or wiry. Undercoat extremely dense. Hair short on head, outside of ears and lower part of legs. Opening of ear protected by hair. Hair especially long and abundant, ruff-like around neck, particularly in males. Fringe of long hair down back of forelegs, long and abundant hair evident on hindquarters and tail. Males heavier coated than females.

Laekenois - Harsh, wiry, dry, and not curly. Fluffy, fine hair is undesirable. Length of coat about 6 cms (2 ½ ins) on all parts of body. The hair is shorter on the top of the muzzle, the forehead and the legs. Furnishings on the sides and underside of the muzzle and hair around the eyes, but should not be so long as to disguise the shape of the head, obscure the eyes, or make the head appear square or heavy. Tail not plumed.

Malinois - Hair very short on head, exterior of ears and lower parts of legs. Short on rest of body, thicker on tail and around neck where it resembles a ridge or collar, beginning at base of ear and extending to throat. Hindquarters fringed with longer hair. Thicker hair on tail but not plumed. Coat thick, close of good firm texture with woolly undercoat, neither silky nor wiry.

No variation in these types is acceptable.


The acceptable colours relate directly to coat type.

Groenendael - Black. Frosting (white or grey) on the muzzle is a normal occurrence in the breed.

Laekenois - Reddish fawn with black shading, principally in muzzle and tail.

Tervueren/Malinois - All shades of red, fawn, grey, with black overlay. Coat characteristically double pigmented where tips of light coloured hairs are blackened. On mature males this blackening is especially pronounced on shoulders, back and rib sections. However this overlay should not form solid areas of black but should be seen as a light dusting. Equally it should be noted that overlay develops with age and should not be expected to be clearly evident on younger animals. Beyond the age of 18 months a washed-out colour or colour too black undesirable. Black mask on face not extending above the eye and brow area, ears mostly black. Tail should have a darker or black tip. Frosting (white or grey) on the muzzle is a normal occurrence in the breed.

For all varieties a small amount of white is tolerated on forechest and toes.

No variation on these colours by coat type is acceptable.


Ideal height: dogs: 61-66 cms (24-26 ins); bitches: 56-61 cms (22-24 ins). Weight, in proportion to size.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

*Note for prospective puppy buyers

Size – The Kennel Club breed standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the size measurements stated in the breed standard.

bottom of page