Introduction Of Belgian Laekenois Dog
The Belgian Laekenois, also sometimes called the Belgian Shepherd Dog, the Lakenois, the Laekense, the Laken or the Chien de Berger Belge, was developed in Belgium to herd and guard livestock and fields of flax. Its name is pronounced “Lack-In-Wah.” This is one of four native Belgian breeds; the others are the Belgian Malinois, the Belgian Shepherd and the Belgian Tervuren. Although similar in body and temperament to the other Belgian sheepdogs, the Laekenois differs in coat texture, color and length. It also originated in a different part of the country. These are large, rough-coated brown dogs that look distinctively disheveled and rather scruffy. The Laekenois gets its name from the Chateau de Lacken, which was one of Queen Marie Henriette’s royal castles. Laekinois are strong, smart, agile animals that are full of life, easy to train and built to work. They are extremely versatile and have a tremendous amount of energy, which makes them perfect for military service, police work and home protection. With proper training and socialization, they can make affectionate, reliable family companions.
Belgian Laekenois Dog Breed Quick Facts
Belgian Laekenois – Physical Characteristics
The Belgian Laekenois is a stocky, medium-sized breed with a uniquely disheveled, disorderly appearance. These dogs have long legs for their size, which allows them to cover a lot of ground over uneven terrain. Laekenois are strong, alert, athletic animals full of vim and vigor. They have long faces, expressive dark eyes and especially long tongues. Their triangular ears stand stiff and upright. Their muzzles, ears and eyes usually are darker than the rest of their coat, which makes them especially prominent. They have bearded, mustached faces. The fur on their heads should not hide their eyes or make their faces look square or heavy. Laekenois have deep chests and long, thick tails. They should be well-balanced – neither spindly and leggy nor cumbersome and bulky. Males are typically a bit more impressive in appearance than their female counterparts, which should look distinctly feminine. All in all, this uncommon breed really doesn’t resemble any other domestic dog.
Size and Weight
The Belgian Laekenois is larger than many other sheepdogs. Males should stand between 24 and 26 inches at the withers under the AKC breed standard, and between 23 and 26 ½ inches according to the United Kennel Club (UKC). Males usually weigh between 55 and 65 pounds. Females should be 22 to 24 inches tall according to the AKC, and 21 to 24 ½ inches under the UKC standard. They weigh only slightly less than males. This is an active breed with a healthy metabolism, which makes weight gain only a minor concern. However, Laekenois that are kept purely as family pets and are not engaged in their normal working lifestyle can tend to put on weight.
Coat and Color
The long, double coat of the Belgian Laekenois is woolly, rough and coarse, providing excellent protection against wicked weather. It can be straight or slightly wavy and tends to stick together in tufts that make it look curly and disorderly, even when the dog is well-groomed. Fortunately, their coats are not prone to matting. Laekenois should never have silky or soft fur. They usually are a brownish-tweed color, with a mixture of tan, brown and black hairs. Some have white or gray added to the mix, especially as they age. Fawn-colored dogs, with a distinctive red undertone, are common. Black points on the muzzle, ears, paws and tail are acceptable under the standards of most breed registries. The Laekenois’ coat is characteristically double-pigmented, with black tipping on the end of each hair. This is especially pronounced on the shoulders, backs and ribs of mature males. The under-sides of these dogs typically are cream, gray or light beige.
The Belgian Laekenois is among the most low-maintenance of sheepdog breeds. To keep them looking their best, they need an occasional brushing to prevent their dense undercoats from matting and to distribute the natural oils from their skin through their fur. They rarely need to be bathed. In fact, baths should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, since shampoos can dry out their coats and make them more likely to tangle. Owners should keep their Laekenois’ nails trimmed regularly so that they don’t curl or cause discomfort. Their ears need cleaning about once a month, or maybe more frequently if the dog spends a lot of time outside. Regular dental care is recommended to prevent gingivitis, maintain fresh breath and promote healthy eating habits.
Belgian Laekenois – History and Health
The Belgian Laekenois is one of four native Belgian breeds. It dates back to the Middle Ages. Laekenois originally were used to herd and protect flocks of sheep and fields of flax in Flanders, Belgium, where the crop was grown for use in the linen industry. They also served as guard dogs for royal families. Their tasks eventually expanded to guarding finished linen when it was hung out in the fields to dry. In 1891, a professor at Belgium’s School of Veterinary Science named Adolphe Reul categorized the various “types” of Belgian herding dogs. As part of this process, he helped found the Club du Chien de Berger Beige (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club). After much discussion, the club members described distinct breeds that were anatomically identical but differed in coat texture, length and color. At one point, there were as many as eight varieties of so-called Belgian sheepdogs. Today, there are four: the Groenendael, the Laekenois, the Malinois and the Tervuren.
The black, long-haired variety is the Groenendael, which is called the Belgian Sheepdog by the American Kennel Club. The long-haired fawn, tousle-coated variety is the Laekenois. The short-haired fawn with black facial masking and coat charcoaling is the Malinois. The Tervuren is a long-haired, straight-coated fawn with black masking and charcoaling. “Tervuren” later became the designation for the “long-hair-other-than-black” Belgian Shepherd. The first official breed standard for the Laekenois was published in 1892. In 1901, the Royal Saint-Hubert Society Stud Book began registering a breed called the Belgian Shepherd Dog, grouping all varieties together under a single breed designation. The Laekenois’ intelligence and versatility ultimately gained it recognition and popularity in other countries. The first Belgian Shepherd Dogs arrived in the United States in the early 1900s. Laekenois served as messengers during both World Wars, carrying orders and other messages to and from the troops. Their numbers dwindled during those periods, because many were killed in combat. Fortunately, dedicated breeders helped the breed survive.
There still is some controversy about Belgian sheep-herding dogs. The American Kennel Club recognized the Laekenois as part of its Foundation Stock Service in 1998, and moved it into the Miscellaneous Class as a member of the Herding Group in June of 2011. The AKC recognizes the other three Belgian sheepdogs as independent breeds. The American parent club for the Laekenois is the American Belgian Laekenois Association. The United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club and Federation Cynolgique Internationale recognize the four Belgian sheepdog types as separate varieties of a single breed, which they call the Belgian Shepherd Dog. Whatever its designation, the Laekenois is the rarest of the Belgian breeds. These are watchful, protective, possessive dogs that can be guarded around strangers but typically are friendly and affectionate with family members.
There is not much published information about the health of the Belgian Laekenois. Their average life span is somewhere between 10 and 14 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, gastric (stomach) carcinoma, pannus (chronic superficial keratitis), cataracts, generalized progressive retinal atrophy, micropapilla, hypothyroidism and epilepsy (seizures). These dogs have sensitive skin and should be brushed regularly to keep them free from dirt and mats.
Belgian Laekenois – Temperament & Personality
A smart, courageous, bold dog, the Belgian Laekenois is the rarest of the four Belgian sheepdog breeds. They are extremely devoted to and possessive of their family members but are standoffish and guarded around strangers. These are not especially friendly, approachable, outgoing dogs. They can be dominant and aggressive. They should not be shy or vicious and should never attack without provocation. Bred to herd, guard and protect, the Laekenois makes a wonderful watchdog. However, they need lots of attention and socialization to make them reliable companions. They do not do well when isolated for long periods of time in a kennel, crate or yard. Children and small animals should be closely supervised around the Belgian Laekenois, because they tend to be unpredictable when they are uncomfortable or frightened and they can be aggressive towards other animals. Laekenois that are raised around children and other pets from a very young age can become well-adjusted members of the family. However, prospective dog owners who have young children or small pets may want to consider another breed.
The Laekenois is a high-energy working breed that needs lots of exercise. Long daily walks are a great way to burn off some of its energy, but a few short excursions around the block will not be enough to keep them happy and fit. Laekenois especially enjoy exploring off-leash, but they must be in a safe, confined area during these romps. They can be avid competitors in outdoor dog sports, such as herding, tracking, agility and utility. They love to play fetch and catch Frisbees. This is a good breed for active, outdoorsy people who have plenty of time to devote to their dog. Unfortunately, a Laekenois that doesn’t get enough exercise can become destructive, depressed, anxious, noisy or aggressive.
A Belgian Laekenois’ training must begin early. This breed is not particularly sociable and can become dangerously dominant if its owner doesn’t train it consistently, kindly, firmly and repeatedly starting at a very young age. These are not dogs to just “keep around” until they are 6 or 8 months old, and then take to an occasional obedience class. They must be started earlier. Loud scolding, physical punishment and other harsh “training techniques” may increase the Laekinois’ aggressive tendencies. Praise, rewards and other positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed, as with most others. Early socialization is as important as early training. Laekenois become much more reliable when they are gradually introduced to lots of different people, in a variety of non-stressful environments, starting in puppyhood, when they are most easily controlled and safer for strangers to be around. Introducing one person at time to the dog in its home may be the best way to start and build a foundation for it to eventually meet groups of people and other dogs safely in public places, such as parks and coffee shops.
Bred for centuries to be herders and guardians, the Laekenois naturally displays characteristic herding and guarding behaviors, both with people and with other animals. These include circling, pushing, chasing, bullying and other forms of intimidation. Left unchecked, such behaviors can be dangerous for the dog and for those around it. The Laekinois has a pack mentality and wants to be at the top of the authority pedestal. It will dominate pets and people, including its owners, to become recognized as leader of the pack. They can be very territorial. To make trustworthy companions, these dogs need consistent control from confident owners.