Belgian Laekenois

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belgian laekenois portrait
Introducing the Belgian Laekenois, a fascinating and rare breed that's been Belgium's best-kept secret! These shaggy-coated wonders are renowned for their remarkable intelligence, versatility, and sheer charm.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Belgian Laekenois is the ideal partner for those who value active engagement and a strong bond with their pet. This rare breed thrives with individuals or families who can offer plenty of physical and mental stimulation. If you’re drawn to intelligent, hardworking dogs with a protective instinct, the Belgian Laekenois may be your perfect match!

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEBelgian Laekenois
PRONUNCIATIONLak-in-wah
OTHER NAMESBelgian Shepherd, Chien de Berger Belge
ORIGINBelgium
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT22-26 inches
WEIGHT45-65 lbs
LIFESPAN10-12 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK195th
belgian laekenois standing on the beach
Photo: Kathryn Doomy/iStock

Appearance

The Belgian Laekenois is a medium to large-sized dog breed that’s characterized by its unique and striking appearance. Males typically stand between 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder, while females measure slightly smaller at 22 to 24 inches. In terms of weight, males usually range from 55 to 65 pounds, and females weigh between 45 to 55 pounds.

The Laekenois boasts a well-proportioned body with a solid and agile build, which reflects its working heritage. The breed has a deep chest that reaches down to the elbows, providing ample room for lung capacity.

A level topline extends from the withers to the croup, showcasing the dog’s strength and balance. The tail is strong at the base, tapering towards the tip, and hangs down when the dog is at rest. When in motion or excited, the tail may be raised, but never curled over the back.

The head of the Belgian Laekenois is clean-cut and elegant, with a moderate stop and a slightly tapered muzzle. The skull is flat and approximately the same length as the muzzle. The nose is black, and the tight, well-pigmented lips have no heaviness or looseness.

The breed’s medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes are set well apart and exude an intelligent and inquisitive expression. The eye color ranges from dark brown to slightly lighter shades, harmonizing with the coat color. Meanwhile, the triangular ears are set high on the head, standing erect and slightly tilting forward.

One of the most distinctive features of the Belgian Laekenois is its coat. This breed has a coarse, wiry texture that forms a protective, weather-resistant double coat. The topcoat is rough and tousled, without forming tight curls, while the undercoat is dense and soft.

The coat color ranges from fawn to mahogany, with traces of black overlay around the muzzle, tail, and ears. Additionally, the Laekenois sports a unique “beard” on its muzzle, adding to its overall charm.

Overall, the Belgian Laekenois is a striking breed with a well-muscled and agile body, showcasing its working roots and versatility. Its distinctive wire-haired coat, intelligent expression, and unique physical features set it apart from other breeds, making it a truly remarkable canine companion.

belgian laekenois's face
Photo: Kathryn Doomy/iStock

Temperament

The Belgian Laekenois is known for its intelligence, loyalty, and spirited temperament. These dogs are highly trainable and eager to please, making them excellent working dogs and companions. With their strong work ethic and innate desire to be by their owner’s side, the Laekenois forms deep bonds with its family members and thrives on spending time with them.

When it comes to interacting with people, the Belgian Laekenois is typically affectionate and friendly toward its family. However, they can be reserved or aloof with strangers, which is a trait inherited from their herding and guarding ancestry.

Early socialization is crucial for this breed, as it helps them become more comfortable around new people, places, and situations. Well-socialized Laekenois can be polite and even-tempered when meeting strangers, although they may still maintain a watchful eye on their surroundings.

The Belgian Laekenois is generally good with children, particularly when raised together. They are protective of their family and enjoy playing and engaging in activities with kids.

However, due to their size and energetic nature, supervision is essential when they interact with young children, as they may unintentionally knock them over during playtime. It’s also important to teach children how to properly interact with dogs, respecting their boundaries, and avoiding rough play that could lead to accidents or misunderstandings.

When it comes to other pets, the Belgian Laekenois can get along well with dogs and other animals if introduced and socialized from an early age.

Their herding instincts may cause them to try and “herd” smaller pets or chase animals they perceive as prey, but with proper training and socialization, these behaviors can be managed. That being said, it’s always best to supervise interactions between the Laekenois and other pets, especially during the initial stages of introduction.

One unique personality perk of the Belgian Laekenois is their adaptability. These dogs can adjust well to different environments and situations, making them suitable for various living arrangements, provided they receive adequate mental and physical stimulation.

They are also highly perceptive and can quickly pick up on their owner’s emotions and moods, often providing comfort and companionship when needed.

The Laekenois is known to be a versatile breed with a natural affinity for various dog sports and activities. They excel in obedience, agility, herding, tracking, and even search and rescue work. Their quick thinking, athleticism, and enthusiasm make them a joy to train and work with, as long as the training methods are consistent, positive, and engaging.

Despite their many positive attributes, the Belgian Laekenois may not be the best choice for first-time dog owners or those looking for a low-energy companion.

This breed requires an experienced handler who can provide proper guidance, socialization, and training to help them reach their full potential. The Laekenois also needs ample mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom and ensure their overall well-being.

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

The ideal environment for a Belgian Laekenois is one that caters to their physical, mental, and social needs. These energetic and intelligent dogs require ample space to move around and engage in various activities.

A home with a securely fenced yard is preferable, as it allows them to safely explore, play, and exercise. However, they can also adapt to living in an apartment or smaller homes, provided they receive sufficient daily exercise and stimulation.

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to climate adaptability, the Belgian Laekenois is relatively versatile. Their weather-resistant double coat provides protection against cold temperatures, making them suitable for colder climates. However, it’s essential to monitor them during extreme cold spells and provide appropriate shelter to prevent hypothermia or frostbite.

In hot climates, the Laekenois can adapt reasonably well, but certain precautions should be taken to ensure their well-being. During hot days, it’s important to provide ample shade, fresh water, and avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day. Watch for signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and take immediate action to cool them down if necessary.

Ideal Owner

The Belgian Laekenois thrives under the care of active and experienced pet parents who understand the breed’s unique requirements. They need consistent training, positive reinforcement, and an outlet for their energy and intellect.

Pet parents who enjoy participating in dog sports or outdoor activities will find the Laekenois to be an excellent companion, as these dogs excel in agility, obedience, tracking, and herding events.

Other Pets

In terms of cohabiting with other pets, the Belgian Laekenois can get along well with dogs and other animals if introduced and socialized from an early age.

However, they may exhibit herding instincts towards smaller pets or chase animals they perceive as prey. With proper training and monitoring, these behaviors can be managed, but supervision is still essential, especially during initial interactions with other pets.

belgian laekenois walking by a lake
Photo: Kathryn Doomy/iStock

Grooming

The Belgian Laekenois has a distinctive wiry coat that requires regular grooming to keep it clean, healthy, and free from tangles. While their grooming needs are not overly demanding, it’s essential to establish a routine to maintain their appearance and promote good hygiene.

Coat Care

The Laekenois’ unique coat should be brushed at least once or twice a week using a slicker brush or a pin brush. This helps remove loose hair, dirt, and debris, and prevents matting. Start by brushing in the direction of hair growth, paying attention to areas prone to tangling, like the legs, chest, and behind the ears. Be gentle when brushing to avoid hurting the dog or damaging the coat’s texture.

The Belgian Laekenois does not require frequent baths, as over-bathing can strip their coat of natural oils and lead to dry skin. Bathe them every 2-3 months or when they become dirty or smelly, using a gentle dog shampoo specially formulated for wire-haired coats. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, as this can cause irritation.

Unlike many other breeds, the Belgian Laekenois’ coat does not continuously grow. However, it’s necessary to strip their coat every 6 months or so to remove dead hairs and maintain its wiry texture. This process can be done using a stripping knife or your fingers. For pet owners unfamiliar with coat stripping, it’s recommended to seek guidance from a professional groomer or a breed-specific grooming guide.

The hair around the Laekenois’ eyes, ears, and paws may require occasional trimming to keep them clean and prevent irritation. Use blunt-nosed scissors to carefully trim the excess hair, being cautious not to accidentally cut the dog’s skin.

Dental Care

Maintaining good dental hygiene is crucial for the Belgian Laekenois, as it helps prevent bad breath, gum disease, and tooth loss. Brush their teeth at least two or three times a week using a dog-specific toothpaste and toothbrush. Introducing dental chews and toys can also contribute to keeping their teeth clean and healthy.

Nail Care

Regular nail trims are vital for the Laekenois, as long nails can cause discomfort or lead to injury. Check their nails every few weeks and trim them as needed using dog nail clippers or a grinder. Be cautious not to cut the quick, the sensitive vein within the nail, as it can cause pain and bleeding. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails, consult a veterinarian or professional groomer for assistance.

Ear Care

Clean the Laekenois’ ears regularly to prevent wax buildup and reduce the risk of infections. Use a soft, damp cloth or cotton ball to gently clean the outer ear, avoiding inserting anything into the ear canal. Keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or foul odor, and consult your veterinarian if you notice any issues.

belgian laekenois on agility course
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images Signature

Exercise

The Belgian Laekenois is an energetic and athletic breed with significant exercise needs. As a working dog, they thrive on physical activity and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy.

Exercise Amount & Types

To meet their exercise requirements, expect to dedicate at least 1 to 2 hours a day for various activities. Daily walks or jogs are essential for the Laekenois, with at least one long walk or jog of about 45 minutes to an hour, accompanied by shorter walks throughout the day. Varying the routes and incorporating different terrains can keep these intelligent dogs engaged and mentally stimulated.

In addition to walks, the Belgian Laekenois benefits from off-leash playtime in a securely fenced area where they can run, explore, and burn off excess energy. Fetch, frisbee, and other high-energy games are excellent options to challenge their athleticism and endurance.

Mental exercise is just as important for the Belgian Laekenois, as it helps prevent boredom and encourages problem-solving skills. Incorporate interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and training sessions into their daily routine to keep their minds sharp and engaged.

Dog Sports

The Laekenois’ herding instincts and agility make them well-suited for various dog sports, such as obedience, agility, tracking, and herding trials.

Participating in these activities provides both physical exercise and mental stimulation, while also strengthening the bond between you and your dog. Training for and competing in dog sports can be a fun and rewarding experience for both the owner and the canine.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Belgian Laekenois, it’s crucial to monitor them for signs of fatigue or overheating, especially in hot weather. Ensure they have access to fresh water and shade during outdoor activities and avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day.

Training

Training a Belgian Laekenois can be a rewarding experience, as these intelligent and eager-to-please dogs are highly trainable.

They possess an innate work ethic and strong problem-solving skills, which make them quick learners and excellent partners in various activities. However, their intelligence and independent nature also mean that they can become easily bored or stubborn if not engaged and challenged during training.

When it comes to training a Belgian Laekenois, consistency and patience are key. It’s essential to establish clear boundaries and expectations from the outset, as these dogs will quickly pick up on inconsistencies and may try to test their limits. Positive reinforcement methods, such as praise, treats, and play, are highly effective in motivating the Laekenois and encouraging desired behaviors.

Since the Laekenois is an intelligent breed, they respond well to varied and engaging training sessions. Incorporating new commands, tricks, or activities into their routine will keep them interested and mentally stimulated. Avoid repetitive or monotonous training, as this can lead to boredom and a lack of focus.

Socialization is an integral part of training the Belgian Laekenois, as it helps them develop into well-rounded and adaptable dogs.

Expose them to different people, places, and situations from an early age to build their confidence and reduce the likelihood of fear or aggression towards unfamiliar stimuli. Enrolling in puppy socialization classes can be an excellent way to kickstart this process and provide a controlled environment for learning.

The Belgian Laekenois excels in various dog sports, such as agility, obedience, tracking, and herding. Participating in these activities not only provides physical exercise but also offers an outlet for their natural instincts and talents. Training for and competing in dog sports can strengthen the bond between you and your Laekenois while allowing them to showcase their remarkable abilities.

belgian laekenois running with a ball in its mouth
Photo: Kathryn Doomy/iStock

Diet & Nutrition 

The Belgian Laekenois requires a balanced and nutritious diet to maintain their overall health, energy, and well-being.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting food for your Laekenois, look for high-quality dry, wet, or raw food options that meet the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food contains the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for optimal canine health.

The amount of food you feed your Belgian Laekenois will depend on their age, size, activity level, and individual metabolism. Generally, adult Laekenois should be fed two meals per day, with the total daily portion divided between those meals. Puppies require more frequent meals, typically three to four times a day, to support their growth and development.

To determine the appropriate amount of food for your Laekenois, consult the feeding recommendations provided by the pet food manufacturer and adjust according to your dog’s specific needs.

Monitor your dog’s weight and body condition regularly, as overfeeding can lead to obesity and related health issues. Conversely, underfeeding can result in nutritional deficiencies and poor development.

It’s important to note that dietary needs may change throughout your Laekenois’ life, depending on factors such as age, health conditions, or pregnancy. Consult your veterinarian for personalized advice on the best diet and feeding schedule for your dog, and make adjustments as needed to maintain their optimal health.

Treats

Treats can be a useful tool for training and rewarding good behavior, but they should be given in moderation to prevent weight gain. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats or small pieces of fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, apples, or green beans. Be sure to avoid toxic foods like grapes, raisins, onions, and chocolate.

Water

Fresh water should always be available to your Belgian Laekenois. Ensure they have access to clean water at all times, especially during hot weather or after exercise. Regularly clean and refill their water bowl to prevent bacterial growth and encourage proper hydration.

Health

The Belgian Laekenois is a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. However, like all dog breeds, they may be prone to certain health issues. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and proper exercise can help maintain their overall health and well-being.

Here are common health issues associated with the Belgian Laekenois:

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis or joint pain over time. Hip dysplasia is common in many larger breeds, including the Belgian Laekenois. Responsible breeding practices, such as screening for hip dysplasia in breeding dogs, can help reduce the prevalence of this condition.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a developmental abnormality that affects the elbow joint. It can cause lameness, pain, and arthritis in affected dogs. Regular veterinary check-ups and early intervention can help manage the condition and improve the dog’s quality of life.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disorder that causes gradual deterioration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. Regular eye exams can help detect PRA in its early stages, allowing for necessary adjustments and preparations to accommodate the dog’s changing vision.

Epilepsy: The Belgian Laekenois can be prone to epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes seizures. While epilepsy cannot be cured, it can often be managed with medication and a consistent treatment plan developed in consultation with a veterinarian.

Allergies: Like many other breeds, the Belgian Laekenois can suffer from various allergies, including food, environmental, and contact allergies. Symptoms can include itching, redness, and skin infections. Identifying the cause of the allergy and implementing appropriate management strategies can help alleviate symptoms and improve the dog’s quality of life.

belgian laekenois in an agility course
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images Signature

History

The Belgian Laekenois is one of four closely related herding breeds originating from Belgium, sharing its lineage with the Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervuren, and Belgian Groenendael. These four breeds were collectively known as the Chien de Berger Belge, or Belgian Shepherd Dog, and were bred for their herding abilities, intelligence, and versatility.

The Belgian Laekenois’ history dates back to the late 1800s, when they developed as a distinct breed in the Laeken region near Brussels, from which they derive their name.

The Laekenois was primarily used as a herding and guard dog for livestock, protecting them from predators and theft. They were also employed as messenger dogs during World War I and World War II, proving their bravery and loyalty on the battlefield.

In the early days of the breed, the primary focus was on their working ability rather than appearance. However, as dog shows became more popular, breeders started to emphasize the unique coat and physical characteristics that distinguished the four Belgian Shepherd breeds from one another.

The Belgian Laekenois is characterized by its rough, wiry coat, which sets it apart from its smoother-coated counterparts.

The Laekenois remained relatively unknown outside of Belgium until the mid-20th century, when they began to gain recognition in other parts of Europe and North America. However, due to their rarity and lesser popularity compared to the other Belgian Shepherd breeds, the Laekenois has not been as widely embraced in popular culture.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Belgian Laekenois in 2020, making it one of the most recent additions to the AKC’s Herding Group. Prior to this recognition, the Laekenois was included in the Foundation Stock Service, a registry for rare breeds that are not yet fully recognized by the AKC.

Despite their limited representation in popular culture, the Belgian Laekenois has made its mark in various canine activities, excelling in obedience, agility, tracking, and herding competitions. Their intelligence, athleticism, and versatility have also made them suitable for work in search and rescue, therapy, and service roles.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Belgian Laekenois in the United States is the American Belgian Laekenois Association. The club is dedicated to promoting and preserving the unique characteristics and working heritage of the Laekenois.

You can find more information about the club, its activities, and membership on their webpage.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Belgian Laekenois’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

Acquiring

Thinking about bringing a Belgian Laekenois into your home? Begin by preparing a cozy bed, high-quality food, stimulating toys, grooming supplies for their wiry coat, and locating a trusted vet.

If you’re leaning towards buying, make sure to choose a reputable breeder for a healthy, well-socialized pup. But have you considered rescue? Numerous Laekenois dogs in shelters are waiting to share their intelligence and loyalty with a new family. The American Kennel Club and the American Belgian Laekenois Association can guide you through this rewarding process.

Whether you adopt or buy, you’re gaining more than a pet. You’re inviting a versatile, hardworking companion into your life. With a Belgian Laekenois, every day is an adventure filled with activity, companionship, and the joy of having a dog that’s as protective as it is loving!

FAQs

Are Belgian Laekenois dogs hypoallergenic?

No, Belgian Laekenois dogs are not hypoallergenic. They have a rough, wiry coat that sheds moderately, which may trigger allergies in sensitive individuals.

Are Belgian Laekenois good guard dogs?

Yes, the Belgian Laekenois can make excellent guard dogs due to their natural protective instincts, loyalty, and alertness. They were originally bred for herding and guarding livestock, making them well-suited for this role.

What breeds make up the Belgian Laekenois?

The Belgian Laekenois is one of four Belgian Shepherd breeds, alongside the Belgian Malinois, Belgian Tervuren, and Belgian Groenendael. These breeds share a common ancestry and were developed in different regions of Belgium for their herding abilities and distinct coat types.

How much exercise do Belgian Laekenois dogs need?

The Belgian Laekenois requires at least 1 to 2 hours of exercise daily, including long walks or jogs, off-leash playtime, and participation in dog sports or other mentally stimulating activities.

Are Belgian Laekenois good with children?

Yes, the Belgian Laekenois can be good with children when properly socialized and raised together. However, due to their herding instincts, they may try to herd or nip at running children. It’s essential to teach both the dog and children how to interact safely and respectfully.

Do Belgian Laekenois dogs require a lot of grooming?

Belgian Laekenois dogs have a rough, wiry coat that requires moderate grooming. Regular brushing, about once or twice a week, will help remove loose hair and prevent matting. Occasional trimming around the ears, eyes, and paws may also be necessary to maintain a neat appearance.

How trainable are Belgian Laekenois dogs?

The Belgian Laekenois is highly trainable, thanks to their intelligence, eagerness to please, and strong work ethic. They excel in various dog sports and activities, such as obedience, agility, tracking, and herding. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement methods are key to successful training with this breed.

Fun Facts

  • The Belgian Laekenois has been used in a variety of roles, including herding, police work, search and rescue, and even as messengers during wartime.
  • Despite being a multitalented dog who can guard sheep, excel at sports, and even go to war, the Belgian Laekenois was used for another special task: they were historically used to guard linen that was laid out to bleach in fields in their native Belgium.

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