Belgian Tervuren

The Belgian Tervuren is one quarter of the whole Belgium Sheepdog faction. While many people have never heard of this breed, they are very popular with law enforcement and the military. In fact, there aren’t many tasks this breed can’t do.

Highly intelligent and possessive of their family, the Terv is happiest with a job to do. Tervs have a history delivering when it matters and are a very capable breed.

So what is it about this breed that makes them such a sought after dog?

Here is what you need to know about the Belgian Tervuren.

History

For one to understand the history of a Tervuren, you must dig into the past of the Belgium Sheepdog. It goes without saying, that the Belgian Tervuren owes much of its current status to the flock of Shepherds. Actually, until 1959, the Tervs weren’t separated from the other three sheepdogs; Malinois, Laekenois, Groenendael.

In fact, different countries and clubs recognize these breeds as a whole or singular like the AKC. The only exception, in the case of the American Kennel Club, is that the Laekenois isn’t an official breed.

The Belgian Tervuren owes its name to the village they come from, Tervuren. In Belgium, the breed is known as the Chien de Berger Belge. 

During the late 1800’s in Belgium, breeders and fanciers sought out to prove if there was a distinct sheepdog. This led to the start of Belgium’s Club du Chein de Berger Belge in 1891. In fact, the club’s purpose was to develop a national breed representative to the country. 

Outside of Brussels, a man by the name of Adolphe Reul along with fanciers met in 1891-1892 to discuss the differences of the sheepdogs. To begin with,  the locals in Belgium knew full well that the sheepdogs were distinct by coat variety. Not to mention, each of these varieties had different personalities. There were many breeds throughout Belgium like Collies, Beaucerons and German Shepherds.

Quickly, a standard was written describing these breeds but they would be lump into one group, the Belgium Sheepdog. In 1892, thanks to the work of Reul and other breeders, there were now three varieties based on coat types: long, short and rough coats.

In that time, the major kennel club similar to the AKC was Societe Royale Saint-Hubert, which would officially recognize the breed in 1901. 

Without delay, the American Kennel Club made the decision to recognize each variety as the Belgium Sheepdog in 1912. 

Up until then, the Belgium Sheepdog won favor with enthusiasts all over as a sheep herding and guard dog. It wouldn’t take long for the breed to find new jobs in society.

In fact, during the Great Wars, the Belgium Sheepdog served as a messenger in the military. In addition, the breed grew popular with law enforcement helping track down fugitives in Amsterdam. The first Terv to register in the U.S. was in 1918. However, the variety of Sheepdog wouldn’t last long in America, especially during the Great Depression. Furthermore, the most popular varieties in that time were the Malinois and Groenendael. 

Despite the Terv lacking as a part of American Culture, the other two varieties representing the Belgium Sheepdog took the breed’s popularity into the top 5 during the 1920’s. 

After World War 2, the AKC created two types; Groenendael and Malinois. The Belgium Tervuren was non existent in the U.S. during that time. The idea didn’t sit well with some fanciers of the breed.

Many Terv enthusiasts felt the breed was much more of a talent in obedience and conformation. Rudy Robinson was one of them. Robinson began breeding the Tervs and led an effort to distinguish the breed separately from the Belgium Sheepdog. The Belgium Sheepdog in the 30’s and 40’s found itself in the Miscellaneous class due to their reducing popularity.

There was a small group of advocates protesting the Sheepdog as one breed. Moreover, the AKC sent out questionnaires asking for input. An overwhelming response to separate the Sheepdog into separate breeds drove the movement to recognize each variety as their own breed. in 1959, the Belgian Tervuren was recognized. 

The Tervs are much more popular with law enforcement and the military than they are with the general public. Some Belgian Tervurens are service dogs. Today, the breed is the 107th most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club rankings.

Size

The American Kennel Club classifies this breed as a medium size dog. Males and females have different standards.

Males can stand between 24 to 26 inches, while females can range 22 to 24 inches in height.

A male Belgian Tervuren should weigh 55 to 75 pounds, as females range between 45 to 60 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

Tervs shouldn’t be aggressive or shy. Sometimes the breed may showcase reservation towards strangers, which has more to do with their protective nature, especially of their family. 

This breed learns quickly. Tervs are eager to please and can pick up on obedience without issue. In fact, the Belgian Tervuren needs to keep busy both mentally and physically. Giving this dog a task or job to do will help keep your Terv happy and content. A bored Terv can become destructive. 

A Belgian Tervuren needs daily exercise and wants to be outdoors. This is their herding instinct. You should walk them regularly for about an hour per day. This breed excels in dog shows and with activities like agility, flyball and other K-9 sports.

When it comes to children, you should practice caution or supervise them around smaller kids. As a herding dog, they may nibble, nip, or even chase children around. This behavior can be broke when they are puppies. However, this is a breed that does much better with older children.

Smaller animals like cats are typically fine with the Belgian Tervuren. Again, you need to integrate them early on. That’s because the breed has a tendency of prey drive. 

Tervs are extremely loving and affectionate with their master. Most will prove it by following their master around room to room. They are very protective and a nightmare for an intruder to deal with. This may be cause of concern if your Terv doesn’t understand boundaries in behavior. 

Ultimately, this is a breed that is much better for a hand that has experience. Someone with an active lifestyle. This isn’t to say the Terv can’t be a household pet, but they do much better with a busy life working and herding.

Health

Many consider the breed to be relatively healthy. On average, the Belgian Tervuren can live between 12 to 14 years. 

To ensure that you have a healthy dog, you should only deal with a reputable breeder. Also, the breed should provide the proper documents and health clearances. Couple that with regular visits at the veterinarian and your dog will have the best chance living a long and meaningful life.

Large breeds like the Alaskan Malamute typically have their fair share of issues with Hip Dysplasia; a condition from a malformation of the hip joint. When the joint is loose, your dog’s leg bone will put more stress as it moves around too much causing wear and tear. Pain and discomfort results as well. This condition can be found in Tervs and breeds like Labrador Retriever.

Tervs may encounter troubles with their eyes as well. Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Cataracts have been found with this breed. Each condition can be quite expensive to correct. If you ignore the issues, your Belgian Tervuren may go partially or completely blind.

Tervs along with Mastiffs, Weimaraner, and Siberian Husky are prone to suffer Hypothyroidism. This is a condition, in which there is a lack of thyroid hormonal production of the thyroid gland. This will cause a dog’s metabolism to slow resulting in weight gain, infertility and many other effects. There is treatment and tests for Hypothyroidism. This condition occurs most commonly in dogs between the ages of 4 and 6, as well as medium and large breeds.

Other issues to watch out for are Elbow Dysplasia, Seizures and Allergies.

Care

While you don’t absolutely need a huge yard to own a Belgian Tervuren, you probably will want more than an apartment. This is a breed that needs to get out and “stretch its legs.” Daily exercise is a must. Aim for approximately 45-60 minutes per day to avoid your Terv from going stir crazy. 

Early socialization is another must. Positive reinforcement and encouragement works best. You may need to remain consistent with socialization. This is one reason the Belgian Tervuren is better for someone with experience. 

Another important note about this Sheepdog. You should make them an indoor pet. The Belgian Tervuren isn’t an outdoor pet, but they should have plenty of access outside. While this isn’t a lapdog or a breed that’ll enjoy lying around all day, they should be a part of your family’s outings and efforts.

Feeding

When people look into feeding their dogs, they should consider a few factors. Things like age, metabolism rate, if they are spayed or how active of a dog you have play an important part in how much you feed them.

That said, most recommend feeding their adult Belgian Tervuren 2 to 3 cups of dry kibble per day. The food should be of high quality with key supplements. Meat should be the first ingredient of your Terv’s diet. Anything like; chicken, turkey, lamb, and salmon will suffice. 

You should avoid grain, cheap fillers, high sugar content and artificial flavors. Look more for food that has Taurine, Glucosamine, which helps with the bones and joint. Omega 3 and 6 will help promote healthier coats and skin. 

Feeding your dog twice a day will help reduce the chances of them inheriting bloat or Gastric Dilatation. 

Also, if you have a 55 pound light duty working dog, then feeding them 1400-1600 calories per day will suffice their needs. A 75 pound dog with the same activity level will need 1800-2100 calories per day.

Finally, you should always make available to your Belgian Tervuren clean drinking water.

Coat

Sometimes people confuse the German Shepherd and Terv. The Tervuren has a longer double coat. Although their coat doesn’t require an extensive amount of energy and effort, you will want to stay on top of it. If their undercoat is subject to neglect, then brushing it in the future can be a pain figuratively and literally.

The outside coat of the Belgian Tervuren is long and straight, but also coarse to touch. The undercoat is soft and dense. Their coats are weather resistant to help them with wet conditions during their days as a herding dog.

According to the American Kennel Club, there are no markings for this breed. There are, however, two colors they allow.  Fawn and black, mahogany and black.

Fun Belgian Tervuren Facts

  • Albert, a male Tervuren from Amsterdam in the 1920’s helped the police track over 200 fugitives.
  • Belgian Tervurens have made appearances on television. For instance, the BBC soap series, EastEnders, the Disney film, Special Agent Cody Banks 2, and the reality show, The Alaskan Bush People.
  • Milsart, is the breed’s first show champion, winning a championship back in 1907.
  • In other countries, the Belgian Tervuren isn’t a distinct breed. In fact, the Terv still belongs to the Belgium Sheepdog breed.
  • The man many historians give credit to the Terv’s rise as a breed, M.F. Corbeel, use to have his Tervuren push his beer cart during the day and guard it at night.

Closing Words

The Belgian Tervuren is a breed on a mission. Whether that’s by messenger, rescue, tracker or service dog, the Terv can do it and do it well. While the general canine world hasn’t quite caught on to this wonderful breed yet, the military and police community continue to use the Terv as a staple to their work.

But with the right home, the Tervuren can be a great family dog, that is intelligent, protective and a hard working companion.

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