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The Belgian Shepherd, also known as the Belgian Groenendael, is an exceptionally intelligent, athletic, and active breed. They are a herding dog from Germany and are well-known for their agility and their elegant gait, but they can also be extremely challenging to own due to needing a great deal of both physical and mental exercise each day to keep both their minds and bodies at peak performance. Although they are generally a seriously minded breed, the Belgian Shepherd is also quite capable of playing the clown.
Belgian Shepherds were developed in Belgium as cattle herding dogs, along with three other breeds that are separated mostly by the color, texture, and length of their coats, the Belgian Laekenois, the Belgian Tervuren, and the Belgian Malinois. While they have played other roles in their history, such as police dogs in New York and in Paris, and sentries, messengers, and even draft dogs during World War I, they were first herding dogs, and those herding instincts are still a part of their makeup. Several farms and ranches across the United States now offer an opportunity for herding dogs without their own livestock to participate in the activity of herding, by renting out sheep and cattle on their property.
Rally obedience, also known as Rally-O, is an emerging dog sport that combines elements of agility training with elements of advanced obedience. Both your dog and a handler, usually the pet parent, work together to navigate a rally course, which consists of between ten and twenty signs indicating specific behaviors for your pooch to present. Some of the behaviors might include sitting, turning left, turning right, U-turns, and increasing and decreasing the pace. This sport is open to more dogs than agility training, as it does not include any physical obstacles; this opens the sport up to dogs anywhere from six months old to senior dogs, and even deaf dogs.
The Belgian Shepherd is a highly intelligent canine, and they often have several toys available to them to keep their minds active. They can quickly amass a large amount of fetch toys, stuffed animals, chew toys, and rope toys, most of which they leave lying wherever they were last using them. Unfortunately, for those of us who like our houses neat and clean, they tend to leave them mostly scattered across the floor. Fortunately, these clever dogs are also quite capable of cleaning up their toys and putting them in a toybox on their own, with just a little bit of guidance.
The name of this activity translates into English as “protection dog,” and it was developed specifically for the German Shepherd dog, a dog very similar in nature and form to the Belgian Shepherd.
If you can’t take your dog herding, you may want to try the sport of treibball instead, an activity in which your dog herds several large balls to a place specified by you.
The Belgian Shepherd is an active animal, both physically and mentally, and they need a great deal of exercise. The exercises and activities listed here are specifically designed to take advantage of this breed's natural herding and protection instincts as well as exercising their minds, but they are by no means the only activities available for these strong and versatile dogs.