The Groenendael dog is a medium-sized, long-haired breed that appears square in its outline. Although often confused with the Longhaired German Shepherd Dog by the general public, they are squarer in profile, lighter in bone, and more refined in head, with a light, brisk movement. The Groenendael breed is black in colour, and adult male dogs should measure between 61-66cm and adult females 56-61cm. They weigh between 27.5-28.5kg.
There are four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dog – the Groenendael, Tervueren, Malinois and Laekenois – named after the areas in Belgium from which they came. Hardworking sheepdogs from Belgium have been recognised since the Middle Ages. In the 1890s a professor of the Belgian School of Veterinary Sciences recorded standards for the various types of Belgian sheepdogs. It was noted that they were all similar in type with the main difference being the coat. The professor then divided them into varieties and advised breeding them as separate breeds. The Groenendael dog breed was developed from a black bitch of the Belgian sheepdog type being crossed with another black herding dog. The resulting litter became the precedent of the Groenendael.
The Groenendael is an affectionate, devoted companion that wants to join in with everything. Their natural dog guarding instincts will kick in if and when they sense it is necessary. They will protect their home and family, so it is not advisable to encourage his guarding instincts when young, as he could start guarding you in 'normal' situations. Early, thorough socialisation is imperative with this breed.
As with many breeds, all varieties of the Belgian can suffer from hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.
The Groenendael needs two hours-plus of daily exercise and mental stimulation, and to this end they excel at agility and obedience. They are very active dogs and should not be considered as pets if they are to be left alone all day.
Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs.
The Groenendael is a longhaired dog that needs grooming several times a week. He has a long, straight and profuse outercoat with an extremely dense undercoat. Male dogs have a longer coat than females and the 'mane' around the neck is more noticeable in males, too.