Differences between German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd Dogs

Differences between German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd Dogs

as it was not recognized until the year 1899. They also began as sheepdogs.

As you can see, both breeds had similar functions - guarding and herding livestock - as well as origin dates and locations, Belgium and Germany. However, although the beginnings of the Belgian and German shepherds were similar, the two breeds diverged over the years.

In order to help you differentiate the two breeds, today at AnimalWised we will go over the main differences between German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd dogs.

Belgian Shepherd varieties

There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherd, and they have very different characteristics from one another in terms of physical appearance even though they are genetically virtually identical. For this reason, the FCI regards them all as the same breed, the Belgian Shepherd, while the American Kennel Club and other similar organizations recognize the four types as separate breeds.

If you cross a pair of Belgian Shepherds with the same phenotype, the entirety or part of the litter can have a totally different phenotype to that of their parents, resembling another variety instead. The four Belgian Shepherd varieties include:

  • Groenendael Belgian Shepherd / Belgian Sheepdog (AKC)
  • Laekenois Belgian Shepherd
  • Malinois Belgian Shepherd
  • Tervuren Belgian Shepherd

Groenendael Belgian Shepherd

This variety of Groenendael Belgian Shepherd, called Belgian Sheepdog by the American Kennel Club, is characterized by being black all over. Their hair is long and smooth except for the face. The Groenendael variety can have a small white "tie" mark on its neck or chest.

Groenendael Belgian Shepherds usually measure about 60 cm (24 in) to the withers and weight about 25 kg (55 lb), and females are slightly smaller. They live for around 12 or 13 years, but some are known to have lived longer than 18 years of age.

Experts believe that Groenendael Belgian Shepherds are not a popular breed for first-time dog owners because their overwhelming need to exercise requires space and special basic training.

Laekenois Belgian Shepherd

The Laekenois Belgian Shepherd is quite different from the previous variety. It is the oldest Belgian Shepherd variety; years ago, in addition to shepherding, these clever dogs were employed guard expensive flax that was left in the fields to dry.

The Laekenois Belgian Shepherd is similar in size and weight to the Groenendael, but their coat is rough and frizzy, and it comes in different shades of brown with some white, often in tie-like markings as well. The fur on their head and face is curly.

During the two World Wars this variety of Belgian Shepherd served as messenger dog. Their life expectancy is similar to that of the Groenendael. Due their level of activity, it is better that they live in a rural environment, as in cities they can suffer from neurosis if they cannot let off steam with large amounts of active exercise.

Malinois Belgian Shepherd

The Malinois Belgian Shepherd comes from the Belgian city of Mechelen, Malines in French, where they emerged in 1892. With similar features in weight and size to the other Belgian Shepherd breeds, Malinois differ in that they have shorter and harder fur on their body and face in different shades of brown.

The Malinois is a very active dog that needs lots of space to run free, as one of the characteristics of this variety is that it keeps the mentality of a puppy until it is 3 years old, and some even up to 5 years. This means that if it is not properly socialized and educated from day one, it could spend years nibbling the family's shoes. It is imperative that it can spend all that energy and so stay calm at home.

Malinois dogs have an alert and protective temperament, and they are highly intelligent and keen on learning. This has made this Belgian Shepherd variety very popular with armies and police forces around the world, and it's also used as a guardian, herd, service and protection dog. Of course, remember that such specific training must always be undertaken by a professional.

The Malinois variety is very affectionate with families, especially with children. However, this dog can get a bit too playful, and it may unintentionally hurt someone small. It is not recommended to keep a Malinois in an apartment.

Here you can learn more about caring for a Malinois Belgian Shepherd.

Tervuren Belgian Shepherd

The Tervuren Belgian Shepherd comes from the city of Tervuren, a town where the first specimens of this beautiful variety of Belgian shepherd were selected.

The morphology of this variety is very similar to that of the Groenendael Belgian Shepherd, but their soft and long coat has brown tones with some black areas. Their face has short hair and is bordered by a formidable beard that stretches from ear to ear.

It is a very active dog often used in surveillance, tracking drugs or bombs, disaster relief and defense. Tervuren Belgian Shepherds integrate very well in families, provided they have the space and time to train them and provide comprehensive activity that suits the requirements of such an active breed.

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd can be traced back to its origins in 1899. Their physical characteristics are well known, as they are a hugely popular breed as pets, show dogs and working dogs.

German Shepherds are larger and heavier than their Belgian cousins, weighing up to 40 kg (88 lb). German Shepherds are remarkably intelligent, and they areeasier to train than the previously described breeds. Even so, they are a working breed, and they need to carry out some activity or purpose in order to stay happy and healthy. These activities can range from police work to visual aids for the blind.

A German Shepherd's temperament is very balanced provided that their genetic line is pure, because it is also one of the breeds where inexperienced breeders have made major mistakes. A German Shepherd that is treated like a lapdog is very likely to become neurotic and overly dependent on its owner. The life expectancy of this breed ranges from 9 to 13 years old.

Here you can learn more about the common diseases of German Shepherds; if you're considering adopting such a dog, take a look at our list of names for German Shepherd dogs.

Do you want to learn more about dogs? Take a look at the following articles:

  • Differences between Labrador and Golden Retrievers
  • Differences between the Alaskan Malamute and the Siberian Husky
  • Types of Spaniel dogs: Spaniel breeds around the world

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