“Dogs out of the temple of God!”
This you could read at the entrance of the Hanswyckchurch in Mechelen Belgium. It is not a tribute to the Belgian Shepherd, but an ecclesiastical warning from a time (16th/ 19th century) in which the keeping and breeding of dogs became so popular, it was necessary to take special precautions to keep them out of church. This is history from the origin of the Belgian Shepherd.
Uniformity there was non in these days. You saw Belgian Shepherd dogs in all sizes and colours. Thanks to the hard work of some kynologists from that time, it is that the Belgian Shepherd, a working dog, exists in his recent shape in four varieties. The standard of this breed says that all the varieties of the breed have to be the same type of dogs. So the difference between the four, has to be in colour and coat. (Not everybody is thinking the same in this). There we have the Mechelaar or Malinois, the short-coated shepherd. You can see him in the colours between yellow and gold or dark Braun (fauve or rossig) with black mask and dark at the tail. Than we have the Tervueren, a longhaired shepherd, who can carry the same colours as the short coated. Another longhaired shepherd is the Groenendaeler. The beautiful black shepherd you can see him a lot at dog shows.
The Laeken Shepherd is the rough coated one in the same colours as the Tervueren or Malinois. At first they preferred the grey dogs who were quickly fade away by the red-yellows, that were much better working dogs and they also gave better offspring. The origin of these red-yellow dogs was from dogs from the professional shepherd Janssen (1895), who was entitled to graze his sheep at the royal park of Laeken near Brussels. His dogs were the ancestors of the Laeken population of today and that is why the Laeken got his name. Some people say that only the dark coloured ones with dark head and tail are entitled to use the name Laeken. For them the others are “just” rough coated shepherds. De Laeken is the only variety that has to be helped to change his old coat for a new one. Two times a year they have to be stripped. The Laeken is a true shepherd dog! Watches the boss all the time, easy learning and follow orders with joy (will to please). Active and sportive to get along with. When he isn’t asleep he is watching you for just in case……. He must not be kept in a kennel all day, but isn’t that the same with all dogs?
In former days he was often trained as a working or police dog. In the district of origin, people knew this dog as a guarding dog that could bite easily, when he was guarding the linen that was drying (bleach?) in the gardens or fields. In the harbour of Rotterdam he was also often used for guarding. Because his nature is a little more quiet as the other Belgians, he is an attractive dog for people who would like a working dog, but who get nervous of dogs with the temperament of a Malinois. From time immemorial the Laeken has a less uniform type than the other varieties. You can find again this fact in the population of today. One of the reasons is that this breed was used as working dogs. When a dog is fitted to a certain kind of job, his looks don’t matter too much! According to the other varieties the Laeken
is a rare breed!
The Netherlands always had the biggest and strongest population in the world; although the Belgians are trying hard to change this situation last 20 years and maybe they did succeed in this.