Tervuren Dog

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

The Tervuren Dog, or ‘Terv’ to those in the know, is a black and tan long-haired Belgian Shepherd, native to Tervuren, in Belgium. Capable of being trained to a high degree, this breed is regularly used as a working dog in the police and other services, such as in the bomb squad, and as a part of search and rescue teams.

When adequately exercised and provided with plenty of mental stimulation, the Tervuren Dog will usually make a well-adjusted and placid family pet. Protective of their owner, they have a high suspicion of strangers, though will rarely resort to aggressive behaviour.

About & History

Taking its name from the Belgian town of the same name, the Tervuren Dog is one of four recognised Belgian Shepherds, the other three being the: Malinois Dog, Laekenois Dog and Groenendael Dog. These four breed types were originally defined in the late 1800s by a Belgian Professor with a keen interest in the Belgian Shepherd.

Many sources state that the original Tervuren Dog breed members were ‘Tom’ and ‘Poes’, a pair of dogs bred by a Mr. Corbeel in Tervuren. A truly multi-functional animal, since then, the Tervuren Dog has been used in a huge variety of roles, including that of a guard dog, a herding dog, a police dog, a bomb detector, a search and rescue dog and, of course, a show dog. The Belgian Shepherd was also used extensively during the World War, acting as valiant messengers and even serving as one of the animals who pulled the ambulance carts.

In the middle of the twentieth century, the breed’s popularity increased outside of Belgium, and it was in 1960 that the ‘American Belgian Tervuren Club’ was formed. However, in some countries, such as Canada, the Tervuren Dog is seen as a type of Belgian Shepherd rather than as a breed in its own right.


Tervuren Dog Large Photo

Like all Belgian Shepherds, the Tervuren Dog is elegant, square in its proportion, of medium size and athletically built. While this dog should appear strong, they should never be bulky. A sexual dimorphism (a trait where the male and female are distinguished by physical conformation) is normally present, with the female having finer features and less fur around the neck.

A Belgian Shepherd that is longhaired and not black is referred to as a Tervuren Dog. The black longhaired Belgian Shepherds, are, of course, the Groenendaels. The Tervuren Dogs have an impressive double coat that ranges from fawn to mahogany in colour with black overlay and a black mask and a ‘lion’s mane’ of thick, plush fur around the neck. Similar to other Belgian Shepherds, small patches of white on the fur are acceptable. While other colours of the breed do exist, such as the grey variety, they are not as desirable in the show dog, and are actually classified as a fault under AKC regulations.

Their dark brown eyes should be almond in shape while their triangular ears should stand tall. Their topline should be straight and they should have a deep chest with well-sprung ribs. Their gait is agile and graceful, and they should be pleasing to watch when in action.

Character & Temperament

While known to be suspicious of those they don’t know, they should never be apprehensive and should show courage at all times. They make fabulous watch dogs and are generally protective of their family and territory, though will only become aggressive if needed. Affectionate and calm with those they love, the Tervuren Dog makes a rewarding companion animal.

Traditionally employed as a herding dog on Belgian farms, they are known to be always on the move, rarely resting, ever alert. Their herding and chasing instincts are still present, and while they can get along well with other animals, they may harass smaller dogs and cats. Equally, they should do well with children, though may be tempted to run after them and nip – a behavior which they must be discouraged from doing from a young age.

Without proper instruction, and if unmotivated or under stimulated, the Tervuren Dog will commonly become bored and destructive. Providing plenty of exercise and activities should prevent this from becoming an issue.


Photo of Tervuren Dog puppy

A sensitive breed that is quick to learn, they benefit most from varied and amusing training sessions. Harsh corrections, or a trainer that yells and loses their patience, will never get the best results. Rather, a firm and relaxed approach is advised.

The Tervuren Dog can be known to use their intelligence to their advantage, often getting out of performing certain tasks or misbehaving if they sense the opportunity is there.


With a few health conditions being more prevalently seen in the Tervuren Dog than in other breeds of dogs, an owner should always educate themselves and be aware of the following conditions:


A potentially devastating condition, most deep-chested dog owners are all too aware of what is colloquially referred to as GDV, or more technically called ‘Gastric Dilatation Volvulus’. The stomach flips on its axis, cutting off the blood supply and potentially leading to irreversible damage of the stomach wall and surrounding tissues. A prompt surgery to twist the stomach back into its original position can be curative.

Hip Dysplasia

While there are a variety of reasons that an animal may develop hip dysplasia, is it known to have a strong genetic component. Because of this, responsible breeders should check the hip health of all of their breeding animals. As hip dysplasia so often leads to chronic pain and mobility issues, this is a condition which needs to be avoided at all costs.

Elbow Dysplasia

Untreated elbow dysplasia will inevitably lead to lameness and pain and can be severe in some patients. The earlier this condition is addressed, the better, so young animals with fore limb lameness should have investigative imaging performed if their lameness does not quickly respond to treatment and rest.


A condition that has been studied in the Tervuren Dog, the severity of epilepsy will vary from patient to patient, with some animals only experiencing infrequent and short seizures, and others having daily fits. Those that are affected to the point where it is impinging on their quality of life will be offered anti-seizure medication.


Often affected on the face, ears, belly and paws, those Tervuren Dogs with atopic dermatitis will be itchy and uncomfortable. Sometimes pruritic to the point that they will scratch and cause skin lesions, concurrent skin infections are not uncommon.


PRA stands for the ocular condition called Progressive Retinal Atrophy. The retinae degenerate and an owner may notice their animal bumping into objects or acting differently.


A condition caused by a fault in the immune system, the corneas of the eye are inappropriately attacked by the body. The scar tissue that forms on the eye is not transparent, meaning an animal will start to have visual impairment. Steroid drops should be prescribed as early on in the disease process as possible to provide the best chance of resolution.


The most common tumour of the spleen, this is a cancer that invades blood vessels and carries a poor prognosis. While often found on the spleen, it may occur on the skin or on a number of organs and will often spread around the body.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A secure garden and plenty of outdoor ventures, as well as activities, such as agility, obedience and flyball, will help to keep the Tervuren Dog content. They were born to be active and will never be content with short walks and lazy days.


Tervuren Dogs can be quite heavy shedders and require regular brushing. It is wise to brush them more during their bi-annual shedding seasons. Claw clipping may be needed every few months, particularly for those dogs that are not routinely pavement walked.

Famous Tervuren Dogs

In the UK, there have been a couple of famous Tervuren Dogs:

  • BBC soap, Eastenders, featured a male dog called Wellard, who was actually played by female Tervuren dogs called Kyte, Zenna and Chancer. Born in 1994, 'he' was only ‘killed off’ from the show in 2008.
  • The TV show, Friday Night Dinner, features a Tervuren Dog who is owned by the family’s neighbor, Jim. Amusingly, he’s terrified of the placid dog, jumping every time it looks in his direction!


The hilariously named Tervoodle is a cross between the Tervuren Dog and the Poodle.

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