Living with your Belgian Shepherd Dog
Male and Female
The male is larger and more imposing, carrying a masculine ruff framing his head and neck. A male will keep his coat longer than a female. Neutered male and female BSDs carry a thicker coat and have less major sheds than intact dogs. A neutered male often loses the longer neck furnishings typical in the intact male, but will still look masculine.
Both male and female tend to like being trained. However, at the time of her season an intact female may show slight mood swings, which can be frustrating to an obedience or agility trainer. Also bitches in season are not welcome at obedience, working trials or agility events.
An intact male may react very strongly to bitches in season and sometimes this may lead to male-male aggression. Choose whichever sex would best fit your lifestyle.
Both male and female BSDs will usually get on with other BSDs and often with other breeds in the same household. Each dog has its own character, however. Males have been known to live in harmony with each other, as have females, while others do not get on with their own sex.
On the whole BSDs are very good with children, although the children need to be taught to be good with dogs!! Any dog, particularly from a large herding, guarding breed should not be left unsupervised with small children. Children should not be expected to have the maturity required for consistent and fair treatment and training of a dog. If there is a dog in the house, children can learn about their companionship and also about the responsibilities of dog ownership.
Regular, inter-active exercise is important to the health of the BSD. As a breed the BSD loves exercise such as walking and jogging (or even running whilst the owner is bicycling with care) but they like even better to play and be active with their owner (eg retrieving, searching, tracking, playing hide and seek). Exercise is necessary not only for the physical health of the Belgian, but also for his mental health. BSD are not normally "hyperactive" or prone to running away, but they are not usually content with a stroll round the block on the lead. Many behavioural problems stem from a lack of entertainment for these dogs' active minds. They can be restless and destructive if they not given enough to think about. They are experts at pestering their owners into joint activities.
Inside or Outside?
Belgian Shepherd Dogs are very social dogs and can become distressed if they don't share a regular playing and learning relationship with their owners. They do not make ideal outdoor dogs, although BSDs are fairly hardy and can survive most British weather conditions if they have shelter from extreme wet and cold in winter and heat in summer. However, they do best mentally if they spend a good portion of their time with their humans. They are best kept as house dogs, especially by people who spend a lot of their time at home.
The Belgian Shepherd Dog has a fairly easy to care for coat, but it does need regular attention in order to prevent it matting. In addition to the harsh outer coat, which may be long (Groenendael and Tervueren), short (Malinois) or rough (Laekenois) they have a woolly undercoat. In summer, probably a weekly brushing would be adequate, whereas in winter, if the dog gets wet and muddy it would be necessary to wash away, dry the dog and then brush out the mud daily. Grooming a BSD usually takes 5 to 20 minutes, depending on coat type. Bear in mind that a bitch will usually moult about 12 weeks after her season, whereas dogs tend to respond more to the weather. When the moult is taking place daily grooming is essential.
Grooming time is also an excellent opportunity to check out your dog's health and spot problems early. It is easy to check the state of eyes and ears and also notice any lumps and bumps, bites and scratches.
If you groom thoroughly and regularly there will be relatively little coat left on your carpets! A quick brushing for just a minute or two daily, and a more thorough brushing about once a week is all it should normally take. If you are not prepared to care for this type of coat we suggest you choose a different breed.
In addition it is often necessary, unless the dog lives on concrete or does a lot of road walking, to trim the nails regularly. This may be done with nail clippers obtainable from good pet shops, or by your vet. Many people with a large number of dogs find a small grinder, such as a Dremel a useful tool for this job. Such devices must be used with great care to avoid catching hair or causing friction burns.