Laekenois Dog

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Laekenois Dog

A medium to large-sized, well-proportioned dog, the Laekenois Dog is similar in many ways to the other three Belgian Shepherds, though its unique wavy brown and white coat sets it apart. Often employed as a guard dog, this athletic and watchful canine makes a responsible worker who is unlikely to slack on the job.

Originating from the Laeken region of Belgium, the Laekenois Dog is the rarest of the Belgian Shepherds, and almost certainly the least known. Whenever possible, this breed should be provided with a dynamic and varied lifestyle to keep it calm and well-mannered.

About & History

Considered by some as a breed in its own right, others would argue that the Laekenois Dog is in fact a variant of the Belgian Shepherd, along with the three other Belgian Shepherd types: The Groenendael, Malinois and Tervuren. Perhaps the most easily distinguished of the types, the Laekenois Dog has very characteristic tousled, wiry fur that is fawn with accents of white.

Thought to be the rarest and most ancient of the four Belgian Shepherds, the Laekenois Dog is not actually recognised as a Herding dog by the AKC, unlike the other three dog types. Playing a bit of a back-seat role in the story of the Belgian Shepherd, the Laekenois Dog was actually once referred to as ‘Berger Belge a poil court autre que Malinois’, or ‘a short-haired Belgian Sheepdog that is not the Malinois type’ – a name which does not do this unique and interesting breed any justice at all.

When Professor Adolphe Reul, a veterinarian from Belgium, began to actively classify the Belgian Shepherd in the early 1900s, he examined just over 100 shepherd dogs and split them into around six variants based on their physical appearance. This number was then dwindled down to the current four types that are well-recognised today.

Originating from Laeken, a Belgian suburb, it was here, in the Royal Palace, that they originally herded sheep. It is also purported that, in the same region, they were given the odd task of guarding drying linen that lay out in the fields. Another role that they took on was that of a messenger during the Second World War – an assignment that sadly caused their numbers to become dangerously low and a population loss that the breed has never fully recovered from.

When you do see a Laekenois Dog, it is more likely to be a working dog than a family pet. A herding dog by tradition, the Laekenois Dog is instinctively good at shepherding flocks and watching over farm animals. These are traits that it carries into its day-to-day life if kept as a companion animal and can make a very sensible guard dog in the home.

Appearance

Laekenois Dog Large Photo

While of broadly similar appearance to the other Belgian Shepherds, the Laekenois Dog has a ruffled, woolly, light brown and white coat that is typically about 6cm long. Black shaded fur is permitted and tends to appear on the face and tail. This darker colour often becomes grey, or grizzled, with age.

Their triangular ears stand tall and erect, seated atop a firm and strong head. Their brown eyes are almond-shaped and should be alert at all time. Their body is squarely proportioned and should be lean, ending in a tail with a thick base. A medium to large-sized dog, the Laekenois Dog will weigh between 20 to 25kg (females) or 25 to 30kg (males). The female of the breed will measure between 56 to 62cm, while the male reaches heights of 60 to 66cm.

Character & Temperament

While potentially wary of strangers, the Laekenois Dog will devote itself to its family, and is often very protective of them and their property. With an inherent tendency to be alert and defensive, the Laekenois Dog will naturally act as a guard dog with little training.

While it is possible to home them with smaller animals, owners must be cautious as they may mistake pets, such as cats and rabbits, as prey. They will accept children if exposed to them from a young age, though care should be taken with small children due to the potential power and vivacious nature of this dog.

Bred to work and follow instruction, the Laekenois Dog is known to be prone to behavioural issues if under-stimulated or if not provided with consistent instruction and boundaries.

Trainability

Photo of Laekenois Dog puppy

Always eager to please their master and possessing the intelligence to accomplish a huge variety of tasks and challenges, the Laekenois Dog makes a superb dog to train. Many breed members will compete to a high standard in agility, obedience and tracking.

Firm boundaries must be set and adhered to from the beginning of their life to ensure compliance and to prevent these smart dogs from testing their limits and acting out. A particularly human dependent dog, it is not advised to leave the Laekenois Dog alone for prolonged periods, as this can lead to the development of separation anxiety.

Health

While commonly living into their early teens, the Laekenois Dog is prone to a number of health conditions, similar to the other Belgian Shepherds. These include:

  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) – A life-threatening situation, a GDV occurs when the dogs’ stomach bloats up and twists on itself, trapping its contents inside. Without immediate veterinary intervention, an animal is like to die.
  • Hip Dysplasia – It is widely accepted that all Laekenois Dog breeding parents should have their hips scored. This involves taking X-rays of the hips and assigning the dog a number that corresponds to their hip health. Dogs with poor hip scores should be kept out of the breeding pool.
  • Elbow Dysplasia – A forelimb lameness in a young medium to large breed dog that does not resolve with rest should raise concerns for elbow dysplasia. An orthopaedic examination coupled with imaging, such as X-rays and CT scans, can help to diagnose this condition.
  • Epilepsy – While seizures can have many causes, epilepsy is the medical term for fits that occur recurrently without a known reason. Laekenois Dogs who develop epilepsy are typically young to middle-aged with no other health complaints.
  • Atopy – Chronically itchy skin caused by atopic dermatitis can be a real issue in some Laekenois Dogs. Medicated washes and medications may be prescribed to help manage the condition, though it is often a lifelong problem.
  • PRA – PRA stands for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a condition in which the rods and cones of the eyes degrade over time, leading to vision loss.
  • Pannus – When a grey-pink film forms over the eyes, this can interfere with vision. Medicated eye drops can be used in the treatment of this ocular disease.
  • Haemangiosarcoma – The symptoms of having this malignant tumour can vary largely between breed members, and some may not show any signs of having an internal tumour until it begins to bleed and they suddenly collapse. A tumour with a high potential to spread around the body, a diagnosis of a Haemangiosarcoma in a Laekenois Dog carries a very guarded prognosis.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A working Laekenois Dog is a content and well-adjusted Laekenois Dog, and those pets that are under-exercised and left under-stimulated and alone for long amounts of time can use their pent-up energy to become destructive or naughty.

Several long walks a day, mixed in with play time and training will all help to keep the Laekenois Dog occupied. A keen runner, this breed will happily keep up alongside you as you hike, jog or cycle.

Grooming

Regular grooming is required with a firm, wire brush to avoid matting and should be done several times a week. The Laekenois Dog tends to shed quite heavily twice a year as the seasons change, which can be off-putting for some owners. Giving the dog a good brushing outside of the home each morning can dramatically reduce the amount of fur lost inside the home.

Dew claws may be present on the hind limbs as well as the fore limbs, though many owners will have them removed by a veterinarian, particularly if they have a working Laekenois Dog or one that is prone to injured claws.

Famous Laekenois Dogs

The least popular of the Belgian Shepherds, the Laekenois Dog has no popular breed members as of yet.

Cross-Breeds

A rare breed, there are no well-known Laekenois Dog mixes to date.

User comments

There are no user comments for this listing.