The existence of the Belgian Sheepdog can be traced back to Belgium in the 1800s where they were used for centuries to herd sheep and even guard property. Of the four varieties of the Belgian Sheepdog, the Belgian Laekenois (pronounced "lak-in-wah") is named after the town of Laeken and is thought to be the oldest, rarest, and the foundation of the other varieties of the breed. During the 19th century, Professor Adolphe Reul of the Belgian School of Veterinary Medicine categorized the shepherd dogs of Belgium into eight groups, which were further condensed to the four varieties we see today that include the Groenendael (longhaired, black), Laekenois (wirehaired), Malinois (shorthaired), and Tervuren (longhaired, "blackened" fawn or mahogany). In Belgium, they are considered four varieties of the same breed since all coat types would appear in one litter. In addition to herding, the Laekenois saw extensive service in both World Wars as messengers, while coupled with neglect, these factors contributed to the breed's near-extinction.
The Belgian Laekenois is a medium-sized herding breed that has a square body and a distinctive-looking coat which helps protect them from harsh weather conditions. Although strong and well-muscled, they give off the appearance of being both elegant and agile. The coat of the breed has a rough, coarse, and tousled-look that comes in shades of red to grayish tones. They have dark, slightly almond-shaped eyes and their head is long and lean with erect ears that are triangular in shape. The muzzle of the Laekenois is moderately pointed with a black nose and they have a medium-long length tail that hangs low when at rest or can be raised with a slight curve when in action.
The Belgian Laekenois is noted for their intelligence, courage, and loyalty to their families. Maintaining the characteristics they were developed for, this hard-working breed can make an excellent watchdog and can protect their loved ones if need be. All of the Belgian Sheepdog varieties require a lot of obedience training, socialization, and dedication from a firm owner who understands leadership over independent-type breeds. They are not to be kept outside and forgotten, which otherwise can lead to undesirable traits such as aggression and distrust towards strangers and others. Confident and devoted, they have the potential to make an excellent companion if the time is taken to have an obedient Laekenois. The breed is known to do better with older, well-mannered children due to their size, strength, and intolerance of rough play, but if they are around small children, supervision is needed to prevent toddlers from being overrun by this energetic dog. These sheepdogs will likely chase cats or other small furry animals and can even have the desire to herd your children! Bred to primarily act as a herder, they require plenty of daily exercise and a regular job to do is a must for this highly active breed or they can become destructive and hard to handle down the road. If given proper training, socialization, and exercise, the Laekenois can make a loyal family companion and trusted protector.