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Frequently Asked Questions about the Belgian Shepherd Dog

What is a Belgian Shepherd Dog?

They are medium sized elegant dogs bred as a herding guard dog. They can be one of four varieties according to coat type and colour. They may be solid black and long coated (Groenendael) long coated and any shade from grey through red to deep mahogany with a black mask and with black tips to the hairs termed overlay (Tervueren) similar colours to the Tervueren but short coated (Malinois) or reddish and rough coated (Laekenois). Males should be 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Females are rather smaller 22 to 24 inches and weighing 40 to 60 pounds. They are an active playful and affectionate dog that needs a lot of owner input. They are generally not a dog for the novice dog owner.

How does a BSD differ from a German Shepherd Dog (GSD)?

They are significantly different both in body structure and temperament. The BSD is a more elegant dog with lighter bone. The BSD stands four square and is the same height to the withers as it is from point of shoulder to croup, while the GSD has a long, sloping back and walks flatter on the foot. The head is finer and more chiseled, with smaller, high set triangular ears. The BSD may be solid black and long coated (Groenendael), long coated and any shade from grey, through red to deep mahogany with a black mask and with black tips to the hairs, termed overlay (Tervueren), similar colours to the Tervueren but short coated (Malinois) or reddish and rough coated (Laekenois). The GSD is typically tan, with a black saddle, although it can be solid black. The BSD is considered to be more sensitive than a GSD, which means they respond best to very positive reward based play training.

How can I find out more about BSD?

The BSDA of GB can provide you with information about the breed and about the club and its activities. It also has a booklist of relevant literature which may be bought through the Association. The Association has a list of owners and breeders who are happy to have visits from people who just want to see what a BSD is like at close quarters.

A good place to meet BSD in numbers may be at a club or Championship dog show. BSD owners are usually happy to talk about their dogs and introduce them to you. However, don't approach owners waiting to go into the show ring, as they are usually very anxious and preoccupied at this time. Wait until the class is over and then try to introduce yourself. Most owners will be more than happy to talk with you once the showing is finished.

What kind of owner and household suit a BSD?

An experienced dog owner is usually best suited to a BSD. Whatever the BSD does it does with great enthusiasm whether that be working, playing or just adoring you their owner. The BSD likes to be included in all your activities so if you like jogging, hiking, running,biking, , outdoor activities or just spending a lot of time with your dog then the BSD may be a good choice for you. However if you often work long hours must travel frequently or have other hobbies or activities that often keep you away from your dog then this is definitely not the breed for you.

What kind of training does the BSD need?

The BSD is an very active, intelligent dog that requires early socialisation and exposure to different situations, people and dogs. A puppy socialization class is strongly recommended for BSD puppies. New owners are often amazed and delighted at how quickly these dogs learn. But beware they are as quick to pick up bad habits as good! They are very sensitive to corrections, and respond best to positive reinforcement training using treats and toys. 

Many people use clicker training with these dogs. These same characteristics can cause trouble if the owner fails to take the time to train them properly or combines harsh corrections with poor training techniques. Harsh treatment can cause the dog to panic or freeze and may even provoke aggression.

What activities do BSD like?

These dogs excel at obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, search and rescue and just about anything else a dog can do. Everything is a game to them and they love games!  

Are BSD aggressive?

A well-bred, well-socialised, and well-trained dog should calmly evaluate every situation and use good judgement in responding. It should not be aggressive or nervous in its attitude towards strange people or situations. Dogs with poor temperaments or who have been poorly socialised or trained, however, may be "shy" snapping or growling out of fear. For this reason, it is important to buy your BSD from a breeder who produces dogs with good temperament and to get your puppy used to meeting new people and dogs early in life, so that he will have a relaxed and accepting attitude towards them when he grows up.

Are BSDs good with children?

Yes, particularly if they are raised with them. If they are not raised with children, they should be given ample opportunity when young to meet and interact with children. Remember, however, that the children should also be trained to treat this sensitive dog with kindness they are not toys. As with any dog, they should never be left unsupervised with very small, or unruly children. 

What kinds of health problems do BSD have?

BSD are generally healthy dogs living an average of 10 to 14 years. Like all larger dogs they are somewhat susceptible to hip dysplasia, however, which is a crippling inherited disorder, so it is important when getting a puppy to make sure that both its parents have had their hips scored under the BVA/KC scheme. There is a problem with cataracts so again breeding stock should be checked under the BVA/KC scheme. Another problem is epilepsy which is again thought to be inherited.

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