- Activity Level: high
- Grooming Level: moderate
- Trainability: moderate
- Adaptability: high
- Kid/Pet Friendly: often
- Average Size: Medium
- Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
- Prey Drive: low
- Watchdog: very alert
- Registered?: aca, akc
Belgian Tervuren Breed Profile
The first notable characteristic of the Belgian Tervuren is its extraordinarily imposing presence. Its long coat, which is usually a stunning overlay of black and mahogany, makes this dog among the most elegant of breeds. Although the “Terv” was bred to be used as a versatile farmhand, one would be hard-pressed to find a more noble service dog. These brave and loyal heroes are now used as agents of law enforcement, for bomb and narcotic detection; as guard dogs; and as assistants for people living with disabilities.
Belgian Tervurens were originally bred in the 1800s by M.F. Corbeel, who named the breed after his hometown village in Belgium. Their hesitant popularity, which didn’t begin in the U.S. until the mid-1950s, remains rather stagnant, as the breed ranks 107th out of 194. The Terv is one of four Belgian Shepherd breeds – including the Malinois, Laekenois and Groenendael (known as the Belgian Sheepdog in the U.S.) – each with a distinctive coat appearance. Most breed clubs around the world lump them together as a single breed, but not the AKC. A Belgian Tervuren won the Westminster dog show only on one occasion, in 1983, which happened to be the year that the Working Group featured a separate Herding class. A classic herding dog, the Terv is as adept at rounding up sheep as any of the top shepherd breeds.
The Belgian Tervuren seems to possess an abundance of the best personality traits of their many predecessor breeds. They share certain exceptional abilities with their shepherd cousins, such as intelligence, alertness, and agility. Their notable intelligence makes them highly trainable with a humorous side. They are also very “caring,” which makes them the quintessential pet for service and therapy. They are a sporty breed and excel at competitive activities such as agility, tracking, herding, and sledding. The Belgian Tervuren is designed for activity and is often said to be in constant motion. However, maintaining control of their propensities is manageable through good training because of the Terv’s inherent capacity for obedience.
The temperament of the Belgian Tervuren is multi-faceted. They are strong, yet sensitive; energetic, yet precise; and driven, yet obedient. Accordingly, their needs can seem relatively demanding. The Terv is a superb addition to the family that enjoys an engaging experience with their dogs and which can devote ample time to that relationship. They tend to be both approachable and protective, intuitively discriminating between who is threatening and who is not.
Like all herding breeds, your Terv can make a great playmate for children so long as their herding instincts are properly tempered through good training and early socialization (to prevent nipping). The Belgian Tervuren is a good-natured dog, with a stimulating and charismatic personality. A great companion, who loves to accompany the family wherever they go, the Terv is also a clever dog with a great sense of humor.
The Belgian Tervuren is a highly adaptable dog that does well in all kinds of environments. They are outdoor dogs that also make great house pets. They do well in most climates, especially colder areas, thanks to their double-insulated coat. But, as with any dog, extremes in temperature should be avoided. They are very much “pack animals,” happiest when part of a group. They do not like to be alone for long periods of time. The Terv may not do well with small animals, like cats, due to their herding tendencies; it will depend on their training and early exposure to other pets in the household.
These dogs were bred to work on farms and, although they are adaptable to a non-farm lifestyle, they instinctively thrive in the outdoors. They will adapt to apartment living, but they need to be exercised somewhat frequently for both their physical health and emotional well-being. The yard of a house may be okay, but they will not be happy if they’re bored. They do best with an active family because they live to be active.
Belgian Tervurens are an exceptionally hardy dog breed. Thankfully, Tervs are not especially susceptible to any major health issues. Minor health concerns include excessive shyness, epilepsy, and hip and/or elbow dysplasia. A proper diet is important, as overeating can cause obesity and lethargy.
Although they are highly trainable, the Belgian Tervuren is not recommended for the novice dog owner because they require careful training and continual mental stimulation to be a perfect pet. The Terv respects a strong “pack leader”. Training that is firm, yet kind, is also important to keep your Terv from wandering because they can be consumed by things that they find curious. It is important to remember that, despite their strong personality, the Belgian Tervuren is a very sensitive dog breed. Therefore, they will not respond to commands that are aggressive or harsh.
The most frequent comment that Belgian Tervuren owners feel compelled to share is how easily they are trained. Fans of the Terv express their delight in interacting with this smart, amusing and charming breed. Keeping their beautiful coat neat and clean demands an extra time commitment. Owners with children are especially pleased to have this playful, devoted and protective pet to engage with their kids. However, your Terv must be properly trained and socialized to avoid inappropriate herding and nipping behavior. Some other things to keep in mind are the facts that your Terv will chase moving objects, like cyclists and skateboarders, and they will also tend to bark a lot.
The Belgian Tervuren has a gorgeous, insulating double coat, which sheds lightly year-round, and more heavily twice a year. To keep it looking beautiful, frequent brushing is required. An occasional, more thorough grooming, which involves bathing and a haircut to remove tangles is also required. Tangles and loose hair can lead to large matted chunks of fur that are uncomfortable for your dog, so it is important to keep up with grooming. You will need a good grooming kit to manage the Terv’s luxurious coat. The Terv is also prone to dental diseases, so brushing your dog’s teeth at least weekly is recommended. You’ll also want to trim their nails monthly. Getting your Belgian Tervuren puppy used to having their paws and mouth handled early on will make grooming a much easier experience as your puppy grows.
The Belgian Tervuren is highly active, but not hyperactive. They love to explore, play, compete, and participate in all of the physical activities of their families. Proper training is essential to ensure that your Terv does not haphazardly indulge in herding and tracking behavior without guidance. Without structure and consistency, your Terv may become a nuisance or, worse, destructive. This working dog needs a sufficient degree of exercise, which involves daily walks. Also important is some occasional, off-leash playtime, such as a game of Frisbee or catch.
Because the Terv is prone to herding and chasing, a fenced-in area like a yard or dog park is best. If you’re planning to have your Terv in open areas to play, ensure they are very strong in basic commands and will listen even if they are very interested in something. It’s also helpful if they have had several successful off-leash training sessions.
The Belgian Tervuren is usually a medium-sized dog. Some individuals can end up being a little on the large side. This dog breed usually stands between 22 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Males tend to weigh between 55 and 75 pounds and females tend to weigh between 45 and 60 pounds.
A Belgian Tervuren will generally live for 12-14 years.
During World War I, the Belgian Tervuren was part of the war effort in a number of important capacities, including as the service dog for the Red Cross. Tervs impressed American soldiers, who returned from home, telling of how the dogs were used as messengers in Europe during the war.