Sporting a fawn to russet mahogany coat with a black overlay and black mask, the Belgian Tervuren is a strikingly handsome member of the four herding breeds native to Belgium (where they are all considered a single breed). This is a medium-size dog of 40 to 65 pounds with a protective personality. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Belgian Tervuren.
Is the Belgian Tervuren the Right Dog for You?
The Belgian Tervuren’s breed standard says that he is “always in motion unless under command.” Fair warning.
The Terv is demanding of attention. He has an intense desire to be with his people and will follow them around. He is alert and watchful, but he also has a sense of humor. He should never be fearful, shy or aggressive. He is an excellent watchdog and has the size and ability to be protective if needed.
The ideal Belgian Tervuren has parents with good temperaments and has been socialized from an early age to be accepting of people to whom he is introduced. Those elements, combined with companion dog training, will help him to become a discriminating dog who can make appropriate decisions about when to escalate to protective status.
When the Belgian Tervuren is raised with children, he can be good with them. He is best suited to a home with older children who understand how to handle him respectfully. Don’t forget that he is a herding breed and may have the tendency to chase or nip at children. This should never be permitted. The Terv may or may not get along with cats. He has a strong prey drive and will likely chase cats or other small furry animals outdoors, but some Tervs get along well with indoor cats if they have been raised with them.
The Belgian Tervuren has high energy levels and needs much more activity than a simple walk around the block. Choose this breed only if you are a high-energy person yourself who enjoys active daily exercise such as running, bicycling and hiking and can take your dog with you. He’s also well suited to just about any dog sport or activity you can teach, including agility, flyball, herding, obedience, rally, search and rescue, and tracking.
Begin socialization and training early to make the most of the Belgian Tervuren’s intelligence, rapid learning ability and drive. He is sensitive to harsh corrections. Be firm, fair and consistent, and use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.
If your home has a yard, it should be securely fenced to prevent the dog from leaving the premises as well as to prevent strange dogs and other animals from coming onto the property and causing trouble. That doesn’t mean an underground electronic fence. If the Belgian Tervuren wants to leave the yard, a shock isn’t going to stop him.
The Belgian Tervuren’s double coat sheds dirt, but he will need a thorough brushing once or twice a week to remove dead hair. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Grooming tools to have on hand are a medium-size pin brush, slicker brush, undercoat rake and a mat comb. He does shed once or twice a year and will need more frequent brushing during those times to control the amount of loose hair floating around your house. There will be lots of it!
He shouldn’t need a bath very often unless he rolls in something stinky, but warm baths during shedding season can help remove dead hair. Trim his nails as needed—weekly for puppies and monthly in most cases for adults—and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Good dental hygiene is also important.
This is an indoor/outdoor dog. While the Belgian Tervuren should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard where he can run, he should be with his family when they are home.
The Belgian Tervuren is not a common breed. A puppy may not be available for six months or more, so be patient in your search.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Belgian Tervuren Puppy
- A list of breeders can be found on the website of the American Belgian Tervuren Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Belgian Tervuren aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Belgian Tervuren can live to be 10 to 12 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
- Puppy or adult, take your Belgian Tervuren to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Belgian Tervurens
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Belgian Tervuren have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, osteochondritis dissecans, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, autoimmune thyroiditis, von Willebrand’s disease and allergies.
The American Belgian Tervuren Club, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Belgian Tervuren to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA clearance for elbows, an OFA thyroid clearance and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Pet Insurance for Belgian Tervurens
Pet insurance for Belgian Tervurens costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Belgian Tervurens are more likely than mixed breed dogs to require claims for genetic conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Belgian Tervurens are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Belgian Tervuren is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.