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The Belgian Laekenois

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 Belgian Laekenois

The Belgian Laekenois also called the Belgian Shepherd Laekenois or Chien de Berger Belge is a herding dog from Belgium. There are four Belgian Sheepdogs, the other 3 being the Malinois, the Tervuren and the Groenendael, and the Laekenois is the rarest of them. As well as being a bright, scruffy companion it is also very hardworking. It is still used as a sheepdog, and also as a guard dog and police dog. In competition it does well at obedience, agility, tracking, herding, flyball and showmanship. It is a large dog with a life span of 10 to 14 years.

The Belgian Laekenois at A Glance
Name Belgian Laekenois
Other names Chien de berger Belge, Belgian Shepherd Laekenois,
Nicknames None
Origin Belgium
Average size Large
Average weight 55 to 65 pounds
Average height 22 to 26 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Coat type Rough, wiry
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red, grey, fawn
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Excellent – valued for its intelligence and used in various roles as a result
Tolerance to heat Good but nothing too hot
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent
Shedding Moderate with heavier blow outs
Drooling Moderate
Obesity Moderate to average
Grooming/brushing Average to above average – Brush once or twice a week usually, and daily when it is heavier
Barking Occasional to frequent – can be trained to stop on command
Exercise needs Very active – needs lots of physical and mental stimulation
Trainability Moderately difficult if lacking experience
Friendliness Good to very good
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owner
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization and if raised with them but otherwise best with older children
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is essential and supervision recommended
Good with other pets Moderate to good with socialization – sees them as prey to chase
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization and supervision needed
Good apartment dog Low to moderate – needs space and a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be alone for long periods
Health issues Quite a healthy breed, a few issues include allergies, eye problems and joint dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $660 a year for license, grooming, toys, miscellaneous items and basic training
Average annual expenses $1415 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,500
Rescue organizations None specific to the Laekenois but there are many for Belgium Shepherds in general, and of course your local shelters
Biting Statistics None reported for the Laekenois but for the Malinois 7 attacks were reported in the last 35 years
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The Belgian Laekenois' Beginnings

The Belgian Laekenois (pronounced lack-in-wah) was bred in Belgium and is thought to be the oldest of the four herding dogs there. It was bred around the Middle Ages sometime to herd flocks, guard them and guard linen that was laid out to dry in the fields. It was also used by the royal family as a guard dog to them. Its name comes from where it originates from, near the Laeken royal castle in the town of Laeken. The other three herding dogs come from different parts of Belgium. In Belgium the four shepherd dogs were considered to be four varieties of the same breed and thus interbreeding was allowed until the early 1900s.

In the late 19th century, early 20th century Belgian dog fanciers formed the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club and separation of the dogs began. As the need for shepherd dogs lessened the Laekenois was used in other roles, working for the police and in the military. In the first and second world wars it was used as a courier or messenger dog. However many died and the breed numbers were so low fanciers had to work hard to increase them again.

New Lease on Life

It was in the early 1900s that it came to the US but it was not until 1998 that it was entered into the Foundation Stock Service for the AKC, and then moved into the Miscellaneous Class in 2011. It is not recognized by all kennel clubs as a separate breed for example the UKC, the Canadian Kennel Club and the Federation Cynolgique Internationale see all four as varieties of the same breed, falling under the classification of Belgian Shepherd. It is kept today still to herd and guard flocks of sheep, to guard property and people and as a loyal companion.

The Dog You See Today

This dog is on the lower end of the large scale being 55 to 65 pounds in weight and stands 22 to 26 inches tall. It is agile, strong and has a proud carriage. It has a squared body shape and differs in looks from the other three Belgian sheepdogs as its coat is different in length, texture, type and color. Its body is in proportion and is sturdy, its long tail is bushy and its back legs are strong. Its chest is deep and it has long legs, straight at the front, with feet that cat like and round. In most cases where it is still allowed the dewclaws are removed.

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Its look as rather disheveled and scruffy. The double coat is rough, medium length, wiry and wooly. It protects well from changing weather and it can be wavy or straight. It does not tangle easily and common colors red, greys, fawn and mahogany. There can be some black shading and usually the stomachs are light beige, cream or grey.

The Belgian Laekenois has a long head that is lean with pointed triangular shaped ears that are set up high on its head. The muzzle is somewhat pointed with some tapering and ends in a black nose. Both the head and the muzzle have some fringe adding to its shaggy dog look. Its eyes are medium sized, dark brown and almond shaped.

The Inner Belgian Laekenois

Temperament

The Belgian Laekenois is an alert and protective dog that needs to be a part of the family not left outside. It needs companionship from its owners and a certain level of attention, exercise and mental challenge or it can become destructive and hard to live with. It will alert you if strangers are approaching or if an intruder breaks in, and it will act to defend itself, its home and its family. It does need experienced and confident owners who can lead it though or it will try to lead itself. It is wary of strangers in general so needs good socialization and training.

These are very determined and courageous dogs. While they can be good family dogs it has to have clear rules and boundaries and to be kept in check. It is certainly not a dog that anyone can own. They are smart and full of life and very hard working. Giving them jobs to do will help keep them happy. Their versatility, energy and strength is just part of why the police and military have used them. As family companions they can be affectionate, devoted and trustworthy when raised properly. It can be possessive of family members and in all honestly is not a social dog, it is not especially friendly and it is not outgoing. It also does not like to be left alone for long periods.

Living with a Belgian Laekenois

What will training look like?

Training the Belgian Laekenois will go a lot better if you are experienced and can be be firm with it, making it clear you are the dominant one and what you say goes. They are very intelligent dogs and can train easily but if these dogs sense you will bend the rules sometimes, or that you are not confident about being the boss, they will not obey you. Then they become hard to control and even possibly aggressive. Training should be done using positive methods, offer it praise and encouragement and use things like treats to motivate. Avoid being harsh or using physical punishments. Also consider doing more training sessions a day but kept short and engaging.

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Make sure you start socialization from an early age too, a well socialized dog is more trustworthy and happier. Some lines of Belgian Shepherds have shyness and are easily spooked so socialization will help with that too. In terms of protective dog like this, it also make sure they do not become overly protective and aggressive when it is not needed, especially towards strangers. Since this is a herding dog it will have a tendency to nip at the heels of people so it will need to be taught not to do this.

How active is the Belgian Laekenois?

These dogs have a lot of energy, they need a lot of exercise especially if not being used as working dogs. It also has a lot of mental needs, jobs to do, toys that challenge it, training or sports that make it use its mind as well as help burn of energy. It needs a yard to play in and can adapt to different climates though tends to do better in cooler to cold ones. It will need at least two long walks a day, outdoor physical play time with you as well as time in the yard with some toys. Let it have some safe off leash time too where it can run free. It is very agile and athletic and has a lot of stamina so needs to be homes with owners who are very active themselves. It would happily join you on a hike, cycling, running, jogging and such.

Caring for the Belgian Laekenois

Grooming needs

Their coat should be taken for a professional trim about twice a year, but do not shave it or have the trim too short as this does change the texture of the coat. Give it a comb and brush once or twice a week and then every day during heavy shedding seasonal blow outs. Apart from those times it sheds an average amount. Remember this is a shaggy looking dog, even after a good brush or grooming session it will still be a shaggy looking dog! Give it a bath just when it really needs it, and only use a dog shampoo. If you bathe it too much and use any other kind of shampoo it can damage the natural oils in its skin that it needs.

Other grooming needs include checking its ears once a week for infection signs and then giving them a careful wipe clean (without inserting anything into them), brushing its teeth two to three times a week and clipping its nails when they get too long. Some dogs do wear down their nails with a lot of activity but if this is not the case with your dog use proper dog nail clippers only and take care not to cut too far down. If you are unsure have a groomer or vet do it.

Feeding Time

The Belgian Laekenois will eat about 3 cups to 3 1/2 cups of a good to excellent quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. The amount varies from one dog to another as it depends on their level of activity, age, health, metabolism and build. Make sure it has access to water that is freshened as often as possible.

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How is the Belgian Laekenois with children and other animals?

With this dog socialization and training is essential to ensure it gets on better with other animals, other dogs and children. Being raised with them really does help but if you have small children and other pets and dogs in the home, this is not the best breed to bring into that. It tends to be dominant to other dogs so strong leadership and supervision would be needed. It has a strong prey drive so if it has not been raised with pets and socialized well it will chase them and hurt them. It may nip at children to herd them and because it is an unpredictable dog in its reactions it is not a good mix with young children especially.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This breed has a life span of about 10 to 14 years and is seen to be a healthy dog. Some potential health issues that might come up include eye problems, joint dysplasia, bloat, cancer, epilepsy, hypothyroidism and allergies.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm in the US and Canada in the last 35 years there is no report of attacks by this breed. However the Malinois was reported to be involved in 7 such attacks, and this dog is rare so less likely to come up. This dog can be aggressive, it needs strong leadership, a lot of exercise and mental stimulation and plenty of attention, good socialization and great training. No dog is 100% safe all the time, all breeds have the potential to over react or be drawn into something. Make sure you supervise your dog when it is out and it is on a leash when it needs to be.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Belgian Laekenois puppy from a decent trustworthy breeder of pet quality dogs will likely cost about $1500 because it is rare. For a top breeder puppy, something that might be in dog shows you can expect to pay even more than that. If your dog does not have to be a purebred please take the time to look at local shelters where a lot of dogs are waiting for great owners to take them home. Dogs from rescues have adoption fees ranging from $50 to $400. Never buy from a puppy mill, avoid backyard breeders and make sure you take the time to do some homework on the breeders you are looking at so you get a good one.

When you have your new best friend there will be some initial expenses for medical needs and for items. Neutering or spaying, chipping, shots, blood tests, deworming and so on will cost about $290. A crate, carrier, leash, collar, bowls and such will cost about $220.

Then there are annual costs for your dogs happiness and health and well being. Its good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $270. Its miscellaneous expenses for things like license, grooming, toys, basic training and miscellaneous items come to about $660. Basic medical costs each year for check ups, shots, flea and tick prevention and pet insurance come to about $485. This gives an annual cost of $1415.

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  • The Belgian Laekenois is a dog that is hardworking, protective, highly energetic and intelligent. It is a dog though that needs to be with firm and experienced owners who are active. It is the rarest of the four Belgian Sheepdogs and it is important to take the time to get one from a decent breeder. Without good socialization and training they can be skittish, over protective, aggressive and destructive. It needs lots of attention too and does best in homes that are child and pet free, or should be raised alongside them.

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