Belgian Tervurens are energetic and enthusiastic members of the herding group. They’re very protective of their owners but take some time to warm up to strangers.
The main thing to keep in mind before bringing one home is that these dogs need consistent mental and physical stimulation for their health. Make sure that you can take care of these pets properly before making one part of your family.
Characteristics of Belgian Tervurens
Belgian Tervuren size. Belgian Tervurens are a medium-to-large-sized dog breed. Males tend to be slightly larger than females.
Males are an average of 24 to 26 inches at their shoulders. The females are slightly smaller with an average height of 22 to 24 inches.
Healthy males can weigh anywhere from 55 to 75 pounds, and healthy females weigh 45 to 60 pounds. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is too far underweight or overweight.
Their larger size can sometimes make the dogs difficult to transport. They can’t be easily tucked into your purse, for example. You’ll need to keep this in mind when making travel plans.
Body shape. Belgian Tervuren dogs are both elegant and muscular. Usually, their bodies are square in proportion, but some females are slightly longer than they are tall.
Other Belgian Tervuren traits include well-chiseled, flat-topped heads. Triangular ears are set high on their skulls. They’re well-cupped and erect.
These dogs have deep chests that smoothly curve up to their abdomens. Their forelegs are long and well-muscled. Their paws are elongated, curved, and heavily padded.
Lifespan. The average Belgian Tervuren lifespan is 12 to 14 years. This means that you should plan on spending well over a decade of your life with this dog if you bring one home as a puppy.
Coat. Belgian Tervurens have a double coat. This means that they have two distinct coats, each with its own properties. Their undercoats are dense. Their outercoats are long, straight, and abundant.
The overall effect is of a moderately harsh texture. Together, the coats combine to create a thick, protective barrier that keeps them safe from extreme temperatures and weather conditions.
Males tend to have a lot more coat ornamentation than females. This is particularly pronounced around their necks. Their coat becomes thick and fluffy and forms a collarette.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 9 different colors for the breed, but only two are standard. The standard dogs are either fawn and black or mahogany and black.
Other possible coat colors include:
- Silver and black
- Cream and black
- Mahogany and liver
Eyes. These dogs have medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes. The breed standard prefers them to be dark brown in color, but they can also be light and yellow.
Personality. The Belgian Tervuren personality is full of courage and intelligence. They’re bright dogs that form strong, protective bonds with their families. They’ll constantly work for your love and affection.
At the same time, these dogs can also be very wary of strangers and will take a while to warm up to new people.
Caring for Belgian Tervurens
Grooming. Belgian Tervurens have relatively easy grooming needs for most of the year. You should give their coat a quick brushing once or twice a week. During shedding season, you’ll need to brush them quite a bit more, for at least 15 to 20 minutes a few times a week.
You also need to trim your dog's nails regularly and brush their teeth on a daily basis to complete their grooming routine.
Feeding. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times.
Your Belgian Tervuren should be fed high-quality dog food. Try to find a brand that your pet enjoys. Make sure that the nutritional requirements are specific to their stage of life, including puppy and senior-specific foods.
Always consult your veterinarian before choosing to make an at-home blend for your dog. Making your own food can be a complicated and time-consuming process, and more importantly, you will want to make sure that you’re meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs.
Also, make sure that you know what human foods are safe for your dog to eat before feeding them anything from your kitchen.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation. This can be a challenging breed to raise because they need a lot of physical and mental stimulation every single day. They appreciate a lot of active quality time with their owners, so be prepared to spend it with them.
Great outlets for Tervuren include dog sports like agility, mushing, and obedience competitions.
Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all dogs should get a core set.
This includes vaccinations for:
These can begin as early as six weeks of age. There are also other, non-core vaccinations that you should discuss with your veterinarian.
Heartworm medication is recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S. Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and applied as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.
Many medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you.
Health Problems to Watch for With Belgian Tervurens
Belgian Tervurens are generally strong, healthy dogs, but the breed is prone to some health problems. Common Belgian Tervuren health issues include:
- Gastric torsion or bloat. This occurs when there is twisting in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract — specifically in the stomach. Your dog’s stomach fills up with gas, food, or liquid and then twists (a complication referred to as gastric dilation volvulus), creating an often sudden and life-threatening situation. Signs include an enlarged abdomen, retching, and drooling. It’s typically treated with emergency surgery.
- Eye problems. Many different conditions can impact your pets’ eyes, including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). All three conditions can lead to blindness. With PRA, you may start to notice your dog struggling to see at first, particularly at dusk and dawn. At present, there isn’t a treatment for this condition. Cataracts cause the lenses of your dog’s eyes to become opaque. They’re a common part of aging but can be treated with surgery. Your vet should perform annual eye exams to look for any signs of deterioration.
- Orthopedic issues. Examples include hip and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia occurs when the ball and socket of your dog's hip or elbow do not fit or develop properly as they grow. Instead of sliding smoothly, the bones grind against each other, wearing down and eventually making it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog's joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life.
- Idiopathic epilepsy. This is a condition where your dog can have unexplained seizures. Try to keep your dog from injuring themself if they start to have a seizure. If it’s their first seizure, then you need to get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism is a condition where your dog’s body can’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, and behavioral problems.
Special Considerations for Belgian Tervurens
Before bringing a Belgian Tervuren home, you should keep in mind that they’re only moderately good with young children and other dogs. The AKC rates them a three out of five for both traits.
Luckily they rarely — if ever — drool. They also only bark a moderate amount, usually only if provoked.
History of Belgian Tervurens
In Belgium, these dogs are known as Chien de Berger Belge. The word Tervuren comes from a town in Belgium near where they originated.
Belgian Tervurens aren’t recognized as an independent breed by every kennel club because they’re one of four very closely related breeds in the Belgian shepherd family. All of these dogs were considered Belgian Sheepdogs for a long time. The Belgian Tervuren is still considered a variety of Belgian Shepherd by the Canadian Kennel Club but was recognized as its own breed in the U.S. in 1960. The biggest difference between these breeds is in their coat types. Both the colors and textures of their coats differ among the different Belgian shepherds.
Belgian Tervurens were specifically bred by a man named M. F. Corbeel in the early 20th century. He crossed black and tan dogs to create the unique coats that are seen on Belgian Tervurens today.
All of these Belgian dogs were bred to be fantastic at herding and guarding. They’ve been a trusted breed in Belgium for decades and are more than capable of protecting a farm or herding sheep.
Today, they’re also frequently used in military and police K-9 units. Their calm, hard-working demeanor also makes them superb search and rescue dogs.