9 Unique Belgian Dogs

Written by Em Casalena
Updated: June 15, 2023
© iStock.com/RKSS
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Are you a fan of Belgian dogs? While the Belgian shepherd is by far the most popular breed to come out of the country, there are actually quite a few distinct Belgian breeds that exist today. Many of them are kept as pets around the world, and they range greatly in size and temperament. Just as well, many Belgian dog breeds are great for hunting and guarding, while others are excellent lap pets.

The History Of Belgian Dogs

The history of Belgian dog breeding can be traced back to the most well-known dog breed from the country: the Belgian shepherd. Color, rather than character, has frequently dictated a dog’s fate as a show dog and as a breeder throughout the history of Belgian shepherd dogs. Belgian herding dogs were gathered in 1891 to determine whether a distinct breed of shepherd dog existed in Belgium. The judges came to the conclusion that there was a separate breed, characterized by dark brown eyes, triangular ears, and a square physique.

Adolphe Reul, a veterinarian, suggested categorizing these dogs only by coat type in the first Belgian Shepherd dog standard, which was published in 1892 and categorized Belgian breeds by variations in coat color, texture, and length.

Throughout the early years of the Belgian breeds’ history, the permitted combinations of coat type and color changed multiple times, disqualifying possibly valuable pups because they had the improper combination of coat qualities. The modern Belgian breeds eventually came into being.

Regrettably, during the Great Depression, both the cherished Belgian shepherd dog breed and the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America struggled. By the middle of the 1940s, just a small number of Belgians were still being bred and displayed when the club vanished. A new club was established after World War II, and enthusiasts of the new generation started importing Belgians to revive the breed. Today, Belgian dog breeds are loved around the world, both in dog shows and as beloved household pets.

Belgian shepherds aren’t the only dog breeds to come out of Belgium. In this article, we’ll take a look at Belgium’s beloved shepherds as well as other dog breeds that have come from Belgium. All of these dog breeds are beloved around the world, both as working dogs and as household pets.

People often confuse the Malinois with the German Shepherd as they are similar in many aspects.

Belgian Sheepdog 

Though it is often described interchangeably from the Belgian Malinois and shares a common name, there is actually a distinctive Belgian sheepdog type. However, there are four different types of Belgian dogs that are technically all the same breed in different variations: the Belgian Malinois, the Tervuren, the Laekenois, and the Belgian sheepdog.

The only Belgian herding dog breed with a long, pure black coat is the Belgian sheepdog. Although this special breed is referred to as the Belgian sheepdog in the United States, it is known as the Groenendael in other countries. Its name comes from the town of Groenendael, where this beautiful Belgian dog type was first developed.

The Belgian sheepdog was employed as a police and military dog as well as to herd sheep and cattle. The Belgian sheepdogs of today are still very adaptable and are trained for employment in law enforcement, search and rescue, as therapy and service dogs, as well as to compete in sports like herding, tracking, and more. The AKC Herding Group includes the Belgian sheepdog.

This breed of dog has a maximum height of 26 inches and a maximum weight of 75 pounds. It has a double-layer coat that is thick and always black in color.

Beautiful Groenendael dog in the park.
The Belgian sheepdog (pictured) is known for its all-black coat.


Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois and Belgian sheepdog are other names for the Belgian shepherd. It was created outside of Brussels in the Malines area. The Malinois was a sheep herder and a farm and family guardian, just like its relatives. Only the Malinois has a short coat among the varieties of Belgian shepherd dogs. Due to their extensive employment as military dogs and police K-9s, the Malinois breed might just be the most well-known Belgian shepherd breed in the United States.

Often people confuse the Malinois with the more popular German Shepherd dog. The Belgian Malinois is similar in many aspects. However, it has a distinct physical appearance with a square body contour and a lighter physique. Some people claim that the Malinois has a more strong attitude and drive than a German Shepherd and that it has a notably shorter coat. The Malinois is a member of the AKC Herding Group in the United States.

This is one seriously focused dog breed. It has a well-deserved reputation as a great herding dog. Because of its friendly temperament, the Belgian Malinois breed is one of the most well-known to come out of Belgium. It distinguishes itself as a powerful dog that can handle any situation. These Belgian dogs are intelligent enough to pull it off, too.

This breed can reach up to 26 inches tall at its shoulders. It can weigh up to 80 pounds and boasts a short double coat that can be a variety of shades of brown to fawn to black.

Search and rescue dogs - Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois puppies (pictured) have very friendly energy and are great as family pets.

©Fesus Robert/Shutterstock.com

Belgian Tervuren

The Belgian Tervuren and its cousin, the Belgian sheepdog or Groenendael, are the two Belgian shepherd breeds that are most similar to one another. The coats of the two breeds are identical (long, thick, double-coated) but the Tervuren’s ranges from a rich tawny brown to reddish brown with a black overlay and a black mask on the face, whereas the Belgian sheepdog’s coat is completely black.

The town of Tervuren, where the breed as it is known today was standardized, is where the Belgian Tervuren gets its name. The Tervuren needs a lot of activity to expend its copious energy, just like other Belgian shepherds do. They are incredibly devoted and sometimes possessive with their human relatives and need a lot of care. The AKC Herding Group has included the Belgian Tervuren in its list of official dog breeds.

The maximum height and weight for this breed are 26 inches and 75 pounds, respectively. With a black muzzle, it has a rich double coat that can be red, grey, black, brown, and everything in between.

Tervuren standing on rock above the ocean
The Belgian Tervuren (pictured) was bred in the 1800s to herd all kinds of livestock.

©Ana Iacob Photography/Shutterstock.com

Belgian Laekenois

The last of the four closely-related and iconic Belgian shepherd dog breeds is the Belgian Laekenois. These four varieties were employed to guard and herd cattle, as well as to keep people and property safe. They are all of a similar size and body type, but the Laekenois has a beautiful curly coat. All of these breeds are categorized as variations of the same breed in Belgium, with the primary distinctions between them being coat type and color.

The rarest of the Belgian shepherd breeds, the Belgian Laekenois is named after the town of Laeken in the Brussels area. The very wiry coat of the Laekenois gives the dog a disheveled appearance. The breed is attentive, devoted, and loving to its family. The Belgian Laekenois is a member of the AKC Herding Group.

This adorable dog may grow to a maximum height of 26 inches and often weighs under 65 pounds. It distinguishes itself from other types of this breed with a medium-length double coat that has a wiry and curly texture. Its coat might be fawn, crimson, gray, or black in hue.

Belgian Laekenois
Belgian Laekenois (pictured) are energetic dogs with fun, wiry coats.

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This tiny dog has some real big dog energy, so don’t be deceived by its short stature and sturdy legs. They’ll be able to keep up on a miles-long run around the park. They are also attractive to look at with a shiny black coat that will lure you in.

Intruders beware! Schipperkes were developed as rat-catchers and have powerful jaws and front legs as well as a keen awareness of their surroundings. These dogs are very affectionate, fiercely protective, and enjoy plenty of fun with their owners.

The Schipperke is a breed that stretches back hundreds of years to the Middle Ages. They originated in the Flemish areas of Belgium. Schipperkes were a familiar appearance in Belgian dockyards because they performed a useful function by eliminating disease-carrying rodents on barges and canal boats. They also served as friends and security dogs for boat employees. The little dogs made good watchdogs and vermin hunters, so shops valued them as friends as well.

The Schipperke is little but well-built, and it is completely black. Their clumsy, bulky bodies are tailless and have a square appearance from the side. The breed has a lot of personality, feistiness, and vigor. The Schipperke of today is still a great watchdog. They are great at alerting you when intruders approach. This breed will also joyfully take care of any rodents in or near your property. The Schipperke belongs to the Non-Sporting Group of the AKC. This breed can weigh up to 16 pounds and only reach a maximum height of 13 inches.

Schipperke playing at the beach.
The Schipperke dog (pictured) is a delightful, small breed of Belgian dog.


Bouvier des Flanders

The Bouvier des Flandres is a mixed-breed Belgian dog that knows the value of doing things slowly. Don’t be fooled into believing you can get too close because of this dog’s friendly little face. This breed is very protective of its owners and extremely leery of strangers.

The Bouvier des Flandres is a breed of dog that originated in Belgium’s Flanders, as its name suggests. The Bouvier des Flandres served as a farm dog, much like the Malinois, Laekenois, Tervuren, and Belgian sheepdog. It has a hefty physique and is considerably bigger and stronger than other herding breeds. The breed can be identified by its rough, disheveled coat. 

In contrast to certain herding breeds, Bouviers prefer to be stoic and placid rather than always active. Early socialization and adequate training from a knowledgeable dog owner who can give ample exercise and mental stimulation are essential for Bouviers. The AKC Herding Group includes the Bouvier des Flandres breed.

This rather large dog can grow to a height of 27 inches and weigh up to 100 pounds. Its fur can be rough, lengthy, and shaggy. It has a double coat that can be black, brindle, gray, salt-and-pepper, or gray and white.

Bouvier des Flandres dog playing with a stick.
Bouvier des Flandres dogs (pictured) are smart dogs that benefit from early socialization.

©iStock.com/Carol Hamilton

Brussels Griffon

Another petite but formidable breed, Brussels Griffons make up for their lack of stature with their voice. This small dog would be ideal for apartment residents because they don’t take up much room, but the neighbors might not appreciate its constant barking and pitter-patter.

The Brussels Griffon is the smallest breed that is native to Belgium, but it has a tremendous personality. The small dog finally made its way into the laps of royalty, beginning with Belgium’s Queen Henrietta Maria. She fell in love with the breed in the 1870s, despite the Brussels Griffon’s beginnings as a scrappy dog employed as a ratter in horse stables. It makes sense that the Brussels Griffon’s endearingly scruffy face, deep eyes, and endearing personality make it difficult for humans to resist them!

The Brussels Griffon traded up streets and stables for castles and cozy beds; because when the queen loves something, it ultimately spreads to the whole public. Today’s Brussels Griffon is the ideal lap dog and friend. The breed struggles if left alone for extended periods of time because it needs human company, so keep that in mind if you plan on adopting this breed. The AKC Toy Group includes the Brussels Griffon.

The Brussels Griffon stands just 10 inches tall and weighs up to 12 pounds. It might have a red, black and tan, or solid black coat that can be smooth or rough.

Brussels Griffon Running in the Grass
The Brussels Griffon (pictured) is a small-home favorite among dog parents.


Belgian Bloodhound

This Belgian breed is quite a bit more gentle than the others on our list, so don’t let the name of this breed scare you. Given that they were initially trained for hunting deer and wild boar and subsequently used to track people, they would love exploring a local hiking route on a daily basis. Having said that, Belgian bloodhounds don’t mind spending some downtime at home with you while you work, relax, or just go about your daily business.

Belgian bloodhounds are incredibly loving and caring, but they may be difficult to train because of their obstinate nature. This breed can weigh up to 110 pounds and grow to a height of 27 inches.

Dog Facts for Kids: Bloodhounds
Belgian bloodhounds (pictured) are delightful pets, but they are also difficult to train due to their stubbornness.

©Anna Krivitskaya/Shutterstock.com


Nobody can argue against the charm of a papillon‘s little face and peaky ears. The best thing is that these tiny canines have personalities that are just as sweet and delightful. They make the finest lap pets and are always happy to cuddle with you as you watch a movie or hang out at an outdoor cafe. They don’t take up much space as they only weigh an average of eight pounds. Their pointed ears are absolutely irresistible. However, owners are advised to trim superfluous hair as much as possible. It is also recommended to give these dogs regular full-body brushing. Their thick coats are prone to tangles and mats. The papillon can reach up to a very modest 10 inches in height and weigh up to eight pounds.

Papillon puppies with wooden background
Papillon dogs (pictured) are sweet, fun, and a delight to have for people who prefer small dogs.


How cool are these Belgian dogs? If you’re thinking about welcoming a new furry friend into your life, consider choosing one of these awesome Belgian dog breeds!

Summary Of 9 Unique Belgian Dogs

RankBelgian Breed
1Belgian Sheepdog
2Belgian Malinois
3Belgian Tervuren
4Belgian Laekenois
6Bouvier des Flanders
7Brussels Griffon
8Belgian Bloodhound
Summary Table of 9 Unique Belgian Dogs

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About the Author

I'm a lover of all things sustainability, from urban farming to not killing houseplants. I love carnivorous plants, indigenous crops, and air-cleansing indoor plants. My area of expertise lies in urban farming and conscious living. A proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor.

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