Showsight Presents The Belgian Sheepdog

JUDGING THE BELGIAN SHEEPDOG by LINDA ROBEY T he Belgian Sheepdog is one of the four Belgian breeds recog- nized by the AKC. Th e others are the Belgian Tervuren, Bel-

remember is that the Belgian Sheepdog is very focused on the handler, so be sure the dogs knows you are approaching before you go over the dog. I do this by just say- ing hi to the dog or you can just speak to the handler. It is important to approach with confidence, as with so many of the herding and working breeds, if the judge is hesitant the dog starts to think something is wrong. Always remember to never accept questionable temperament. Excusing a dog that is having a bad day is okay. Th e Belgian Sheepdog standard states in the first lines: “ Th e first impression of the Belgian Sheepdog is that of a well bal- anced, square dog, elegant in appearance, with an exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. He is a strong, agile, well muscled animal, alert and full of life”. When first stepping into the ring, look at the line up of dogs. Th ey should appear square with an outstretched neck that goes smoothly into a level topline. A square body is one of the most important charac- teristics of the Belgian Sheepdog. Th e ideal height is 24 to 26 inches for males and 22 to 24 inches for bitches. We have a strong desire to keep our dogs and bitches medium in size so we have height disqualifications. Males under 22 ½ " or over 27 ½ " and bitches under 20" or over 25 ½ " are to be disqualified. Th e Belgian Sheepdog standard allows a greater range on either end for the disqualification than the Belgian Tervuren and Belgian Malinois standards. So please check the standards before judging the Belgian breeds. But do remember that the ideal is the same for all three breeds. Th e length, measured from the point of breastbone to the point of rump, should equal the height. Bitches may be slightly longer. When looking at the height, the point of the withers to the chest is equal to

the elbow to the ground. Th e length of hair can hide the proportions, especially on a full coated male. So when judging, be sure to feel for the point of breastbone and the depth of chest. You will see many di ff erent proportions; some long in body or short on leg. You will also find dogs that appear shorter in body and longer in leg, which is equally incorrect. So look for the square, balanced dog. When we say bitches may be longer we mean “slightly” longer. We still want a bitch that appears square. When looking at proper proportions, be aware of the surface the dogs are stand- ing on. If they are outside in long grass it can really distort your impression. Bone structure should be moderately heavy in proportion to height, neither spindly or leggy nor cumbersome and bulky. Th is is another area where the stan- dard gives a clear direction on the fact that we want a strong medium-size agile breed that can perform many functions. While the Belgian Sheepdog is not a head breed, the head is one of the areas that really defines breed type. Here are a few lines from the standard that I think are key in describing an ideal head. Head: clean cut and strong, overall size should be in proportion to the body. Eyes: brown, preferably darn brown, medium size, slightly almond shape, not protruding. Ears triangular in shape, sti ff , erect. Base of ear should not come below the center of the eye. Skull and muzzle: top skull flattened rather than rounded. Th e width approximately the same, but not wider than the length. Th e standard does not mention skull to muzzle proportions, but we are looking for the muzzle and the top skull to be of equal length. Parallel planes are also not mentioned in the standard but to get the proper expression we are looking for close to parallel planes.

gian Malinois and the newly recognized Belgian Laekenois. In the rest of the world the four Belgians are varieties of the same breed, Th e Belgian Shepherd. Th e AKC standards do have some di ff erences but they are essentially the same so judging each breed will be similar. Th e known history of the Belgian Shep- herds traces to the 1880s when these dogs along with German Shepherds, French Shepherds and Dutch Shepherds were all called Continental Shepherd dogs. In 1891, the Club du Chein de Berge Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) was formed for the purpose of determining if there was a true shepherd dog representing only Belgium. Th e club discovered in one of the prov- inces there was a consistent type of native herding dog: a square, medium-sized dog with well set triangular ears and dark brown eyes that only di ff ered in the tex- ture, color and length of hair. In 1892, a standard was issued and recognized three varieties; dogs with long coats, short coats and rough coats. In the US, the varieties were shown together until 1959. In 1959, the AKC gave each variety separate breed status. Th e long haired black took the original name of Bel- gian Sheepdog. Th e Tervuren and Mali- nois formed new breed clubs and drew up their own breed standards. Th e standard for each of the Belgians is based on Bel- gium’s single breed standard. You will find that Belgian Sheepdogs are mostly owner handled. Th is is true of specials as well as the class dogs. Th is is a breed that is typically free stacked and doesn’t require excessive posing or hand stacking. An important thing to

204 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M AY 2015

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