The Belgian Shepherd, also known as the Groenendael, is one of four varieties of sheepdogs that originated in Belgium. The varieties (Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois and Malinois) are considered to be one breed in Belgium and other parts of the world, but in the United States, each is recognized individually. Only the Groenendael, Tervuren and Malinois are allowed to show through the American Kennel Club, but the Laekenois is sure to follow suit soon. Groenendaels differ from the other varieties in that they are long-haired and always black.
Belgian sheepdogs originated in the 1800s and were developed to be true shepherds. They were found to be very versatile, so in addition to their shepherding duties, they also served with the police and border patrol, and worked as message carriers and machine gun pullers during the World Wars.
The Belgian Groenendael makes a good family dog, though given his shepherding instincts, he may be wary of strangers. They are an intelligent breed and learn quickly. Like the other varieties of Belgian Shepherds, they are happiest when they have a job to do and thrive with daily physical and mental exercise.
Despite their hardworking heritage, Groenendaels are still prone to a number of hereditary and congenital conditions that can adversely affect their health – and your family’s budget. Some of the conditions and illnesses Groenendaels are prone to include eye conditions such as pannus, cataracts, retinal dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy; and muscular problems such as muscular dystrophy.
Thankfully, Petplan pet insurance covers all hereditary and chronic conditions as standard. Which means if your Belgian Groenendael inherits his mom’s bad eyes or his dad’s bad hips, you’re covered.