Belgian Laekenois

The rough-coated Belgian Laekenois, pronounced lak-in-wah, is named for the town of Laeken where he originated. He is the rarest of the four Belgian herding breeds (which in their home country are all considered a single breed) and the only one not recognized by the American Kennel Club. He is a medium-size dog of 45 to 65 pounds with a protective personality. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a Belgian Laekenois.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Laekenois should be confident, calm and fearless, never shy or aggressive. He is an excellent watchdog and has the size and ability to be protective if needed. The ideal Laekenois 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 Laekenois is raised with children, he can be good with them. 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. He is best suited to a family with older children who can understand how to treat him with respect.

The Laekenois 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 Laekenois get along well with indoor cats if they have been raised with them.

The Laekenois 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 Laekenois' 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 Laekenois from leaving the premises as well as to prevent other dogs from coming onto the property and causing trouble. That doesn't mean an underground electronic fence. If the Laekenois wants to leave the yard, a shock isn't going to stop him. Nor does this type of fence prevent other dogs from coming onto your property.

This is an indoor/outdoor dog. While the Laekenois should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, he should be with his family when they are home.

Brush the Laekenois' coat weekly to remove dead hair. He does shed and will need more frequent brushing during that time to control the amount of loose hair floating around your house. If kept well brushed, it's rare that he needs a bath. Trim his nails as needed, and keep his ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Good dental hygiene is also important.

Health Issues Common to Belgian Laekenois

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 Laekenois 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 and eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts.

The American Belgian Laekenois Club, which is the parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Belgian Laekenois to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA clearance for elbows 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.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Elbow Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$4,000
Cataracts Medium $1,500-$5,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Belgian Laekenois Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible.Contact officers and board members of the American Belgian Laekenois Club to help you find a good breeder.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Belgian Laekenois aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Belgian Laekenois 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 Laekenois 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.

Pet Insurance for Belgian Laekenois

Pet insurance for Belgian Laekenois costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Belgian Laekenois are more likely than mixed breed dogs to require claims for genetic conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Belgian Laekenois are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Belgian Laekenois 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.