Showsight Presents The Belgian Sheepdog

BELGIAN SHEEPDOG Q&A

intuitive understanding of the situation. They have the ability to react and integrate into whatever environment they find themselves in. Depending on which collar we put around their neck, that’s their signal for the job and they don’t think twice about it once they’ve learned it. Their training needs to be consistent, in short bursts with an equal amount of playtime. Most of them are very toy oriented and food ready. Whatever tasks you throw at them, it takes about a week to learn the simple parts, and then you can put all the pieces together in the next month. Obviously, if you’re looking for perfection, they just need a few training sessions a week to keep them current and motivated. They are an interesting breed in the sense that they love the accomplishment of doing it right and don’t need overpraise or stimulation in order to do the job. The best thing of all is that they love doing it with the person, not necessarily for the person, and once they’re trained, they will pretty much do their best for anybody. They have a keen memory and can work as a part of a team or individually. To be honest, corrections are rare, and it’s just a matter of redefining the space for them and the job you really want them to do. Our dogs have participated in many arenas of life, from reading companionship in the Chicago public library to sheepherding and, obviously, the show ring. We haven’t got them to empty the trash yet, but they will pick up their toys and put them back in the box when game time is over. How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color? The coat in a Belgian Sheepdog should not be silky or wiry—it should be long and enhance the general appearance of that particular dog. The hair is shorter around the head and lower parts of the legs and shows off the appearance of a square outline. The undercoat should be dense and full and help protect them from predators and to with- stand the climate conditions. It works as an insulator in the dog in both cold and hot climates. The color must be black with white limited to the chest or between the pads. Sometimes reddening in the coat is due to natural sun exposure and should not be considered a disqualification. The ornamentation of the Belgian Sheepdog should give off an abundance of a collarette shape around the neck, and long hair down the back of the hindquarters, britches and on the tail. This should show-off the appearance of an outline that is well-balanced, square in overall general appearance. What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog? When we are evaluating a puppy that might have the show ability, we are watching for soundness of temperament and structure. The dog should have good social skills and an individual confidence, with that effortless movement and elegant presence. In essence, the per- fect Belgian Sheepdog we all dream about. I checked with a couple of handlers that have given me their viewpoint of a Belgian Sheepdog in showing: Tiffany Saxon: “The breed is extremely intelligent in nature and that alone makes it a fabulous show dog. The breed shows cour- age, attentiveness to its show ring human, and a loyal devotion to his family. The breed can sometimes be observant and vigilant with strangers, but not show any apprehensiveness, aggression or fear. He is very affectionate, loyal and is eager to please its trainer which makes this breed exceptional in the show ring. I have had the opportunity to show Belgian Sheepdogs, Malinois and Tervs and all love performing in the show ring. They make my job easy as a handler. They know they have a job to perform and enjoy the energy of the moment. It has been my experience that this breed is going to show and win and love every minute of it. It has been a fabulous experience over several decades to share so many lovely Belgians in the Group ring [and] leading a Belgian Sheepdog to a Best In Show placement.” Professional handler Andy Linton says he has been showing Bel- gians for over 30 years. He remembers that one of his top three all-time favorite dogs was a Belgian Sheepdog named Jackson. >

Does the Belgian Sheepdog have a high energy level and intelli- gence? Compared to some breeds, yes. They can be quite adaptable though to varying amounts of exercise if their mental needs are met. Exercise needs can also vary from line to line. Belgians are highly intelligent and learn fast, but bore easily with repetition. They have fabulous memories of both good and bad. How sensitive is the breed to positive training methods and to corrections? Most Belgians do quite well with positive training as they are sensitive and want to please. They have a strong sense of justice and resent being corrected unfairly. They generally dislike harsh corrections. How important are coat texture, ornamentation and color? All of these are quite well described in our standard. Of those, for me, texture is the most important. Correct texture makes a world of dif- ference in how clean the dog stays, how often you must groom and bathe the dog. Correct texture is a joy requiring minimal care of a double-coated dog. In the BSD, black is the required color. Orna- mentation should be pronounced on males. What makes the Belgian Sheepdog a good show dog? I’ve really never thought of the Belgian as a show dog. He is a working com- panion that happens to be owned by someone who shows! He learns to like it because his owner does. Oh, there are a few here and there that love the limelight (and I’ve had a couple that did). While they are my breed of choice, they are very far from much fancier breeds considered as “show dogs.” Is there a reliable market for pet quality puppies? It can be dif- ficult to find a breeder and they are pretty well scattered across the US. You could have a wait for one. What would people be surprised to learn about the Belgian Sheepdog? That we are one of four varieties (the Groenendael) everywhere in the world except the US and that we occasionally have Tervuren in our litters. SANDIE SKINNER

We live in the Southern California area and have been here most of our lives. We are now both retired. My husband had a wood turning manufacturing business, and I worked as an educator and with the Court Appointed Special Advocates. My husband and I have been raising and breeding dogs since we were married over 50 years ago. I grew up in a household that bred Boxers and a few other breeds. We

have three children and four grandchildren. Our hobbies include raising and breeding orchids, Hobie Cat sailing, and training and showing dogs. We became interested in the Belgian breed because we were interested in doing high-level obedience. At the time we had a Bearded Collie, and the Belgians were always in the ring before us or after us. My grandparents always had Collies and Kelpies so there was something about those dogs in the ring that attracted me. We saw one or two of them in the obedience ring so we started search- ing the SoCal area to find out more about the breed. How does the breed differ from its Belgian cousins? Honestly they really don’t differ too much from their cousins Belgian Mali- nois, Belgian Tervuren or Laekenois. Mainly the difference is in the coat. The breed standard in some countries is identical as far as temperaments, structure and conformation, the difference really only being the coat as far as laying, color, density, etc. Belgians are a versatile and instinctual, thinking dog. The Bel- gian does have a high energy level, but it’s very controlled. It’s not wasteful, and a Belgian uses its energy as a very broad brush to survey any situation. Their intelligence is epic, along with their

SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JULY 2020 | 183

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