updated November 2007

The Belgian Tervuren is NOT the right dog for everyone.  Intelligent, sensitive and active, most are NOT content to just 'hang-out' in the yard while it's family goes about their lives...a Belgian wants to be part of the action, WITH you!  If it's the right breed for you, you may never want another breed; if it's not the right breed for you, the Belgian can be a nightmare. 

Belgians are known for their intelligence and amazing working ability.  This is a breed which can practically do it all, most times, the dogs only limitation is their owners!  I know at my home, that's certainly the case.

ok, ok, so what kind of problems do they have?

No pure-bred dogs are without their problems, and Tervs are no different.  However, the Belgians in general are considered to be one of the 'healthier' breeds, especially compared to say, Boxers or Golden Retrievers.  Belgians have had incidences of hip and elbow dysplasia; your best safeguard against this is to only buy dogs from parents that are OFA/Penn Hip/or GDC certified (other countries have their own registries, these are the major US registries).  Although certification of the parents is no guarantee against problems, it is thought it betters the odds of not having orthopedic problems.  Be aware though, we had a bitch from 5+ generations of OFA certified 'good' or 'excellent' hips, and she was moderately to severely dysplastic.  Sometimes things happen for no apparent reason.

*** Warning -- rant to follow <g> ***

All breeders are not 'ethical breeders.'   Saying the parents of your puppy-to-be have their health clearances is not the same as PROVING IT.   In the US, it's pretty darn easy to verify current health clearances on dogs by simply using the 'search OFA records' at the OFA website
The same for CERF records (and that is my biggest pet peeve of the moment) - go to
and do a search for the prospective parents of your puppy.  There are far, far too many litters out there with parents who have not been eye checked in YEARS - if ever!! 

In August 2007 of this year, and again in November, I looked up a few litters here in the US on the CERF site that were interesting to me -

litter 9
november The bitch just had a litter of 6 in April of 2007, yet now has a new litter of 7 born in November...a repeat breeding.  Neither sire or dam have any health clearances whatsoever yet the breeder claims his dogs are healthy.  Well if you don't test, do you truly know?  Although the breeder claims his dogs are from Championship lines, the sire and dam have never seen a show ring to prove their merit.  Back-to-back breedings are very hard on the female and never taken lightly by conscientious breeders.  The most common reason(s) for back-to-back breedings is in the use of frozen semen or if the first litter was very small...3 or fewer puppies.   Neither of these reasons apply to this breeder. 
litter 8 november A father-daughter breeding that most likely was unplanned.  Accidents do happen but neither sire or dam have current CERF exams.  Happily though hip and elbow clearances are done on both.
litter 7 november Sire has not had his eyes examined with CERF since 1999 yet the dam is current for 2007
litter 6 august Sire's CERF (eyes)  has not been updated since 1999 and the dam isn't even listed (and she had a litter last year)
litter 5 august  Dam has current CERF (06) yet sire has not been checked since 04
litter 4   august Dam was last checked in 03, and the sire? not listed at all
litter 3-2-1 august same breeder on all 3 prospective litters.  The sire is not listed at all, in spite of siring multiple litters in 2006.  By the way, he also just got his OFA hip clearances in July 2007 (when he turned two years old) and it seems elbows were not cleared or done.  The dams of the litters (including those 2006 litters) are not in the CERF database at all, and only show OFA hips

Are these breeders doing all he/she can to better our Belgians?    You decide. 
 the breeders of several of these litters are current members in good standing of the ABTC
(American Belgian Tervuren Club)

Hopefully in the near future there will be a resource for puppy buyers looking for litters (of any Belgian flavor <g>) from breeders who do 'walk-the-walk' when it comes to carefully breeding their Belgians.  A new site is coming online called   www.belgianpuppy.com and litters advertised there must meet minimum requirements for listing.  NONE of litters listed immediately above would be eligible for listing on this new site.

Now -- let's look at a few more examples from August 2007 and one from November 2007

A- sire and dam eye checked in 2006 (current) and OFA clearances on both hips and elbows
B sire and dam eye checked in 2006 (current) and both have OFA clearances on both hips and elbows, dam is also thryoid and cardiac checked
C sire and dam are eye checked in 2006/2007 (current), both have OFA clearances on hips, elbows, cardiac and normal thryroid.

Many times breeders like the three listed immediately above do have waiting lists for puppies but I hope that you can understand and appreciate why!   
All of these litters above would be eligible for listing on www.belgianpuppy.com...and no, I don't have an interest in the site, but I do think it's a great idea.

As a breeder, one of the first things I believe in is to 'do no harm' -- and for us, that means showing our dogs and health testing our dogs before they are bred...and afterwards too. We also ask that puppies we bred have their health checks done as well so we can get a true health picture on the dogs we produce.

***  rant over :-) but please read on ***

Epilepsy is present in the Belgian.  It is estimated that anywhere from 6% - 30% of Tervuren are affected.  It is in practically every dogs pedigree out there.  Conscientious breeders will not breed from affected animals (those that themselves seizure) but may judiciously use non-seizuring relatives in their breeding program.  If someone tells you their lines are seizure free, be suspicious...if there were such an animal, breeders would be lined up for miles to breed to those lines!  Sadly, the mode of inheritance of epilepsy is as of yet, unknown.  However, studies are underway to identify the DNA of affected and carrier animals, we hope that a marker test will become available within the next year or two.  Then, in time, it may indeed become possible to have dogs that are epilepsy free.

Many feel that auto-immune illness are on the rise.  From simple allergies to Lupus and all stages in-between, it's becoming more prevalent in the Belgians.  Is that because of better awareness of our dogs?  Is it because of over vaccination?  Is it due to the environment?  Probably all of the above, and of course, some are genetic as well.

Eye problems are not unknown either.  From cataracts, pannus and PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) and items in-between,  it's been diagnosed in the Tervuren.  In the US, we can obtain CERF registry numbers on dogs whose eyes are considered to be free of inheritable disease.  A CERF number is only valid for one year, and should be updated through out the dogs life. 
Although a CERF number is not foolproof, it, like an OFA rating on hips and elbows (at minimum), is another mark of a conscientious breeder, who is trying to breed the best dogs he/she can.
  Unfortunately, in other countries eye exams are not done annually, if ever.  The importance of YEARLY eye exams is clear -- we've had dogs here in the states that have cleared once, even twice, but as they got to age 2-3-4, cataracts had developed.   As I've found out from sad, hard experience, eyes can change over the years...and ignoring the issue isn't helping our beloved breed one iota.  We had dogs that were clear for years, develop a single punctate cataract (which is cleared by CERF as a breeders option) and then, some 2-4 years later, have that same dog have cataracts in BOTH eyes which of course, is not acceptable for CERF or breeding.  Although the affected dogs still have excellent vision, they do have the pinpoint caratacts.  It is highly doubtful that we at Chimeric will breed another dog with a single punctate cataract again.   After consulting with eye specialists, we will continue to use clear tested relatives of affected dogs here in our limited breeding program.  The old adage 'don't throw the baby out with the bathwater' does seem to apply here and more than a few people have wondered if I should go ahead and spay my girls with these cataracts.   For me, the answer is easy on the surface... of course.  The reality of it is harder, especially in light of what other breeders consider acceptable.
No one ever said breeding was easy...especially if you want to do it well. 

Character in the Belgians can be variable.    In my experience, Tervs can vary from a happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever type of temperament, to fearful of it's own shadow.  Neither extreme is correct, although for my money, I'll take the Golden Retriever type any day.   My absolute preference in temperament is a confident dog, aloof with strangers, protective of home and hearth, eager to please his/her master.  As with many of the Herding breeds, early socialization is a MUST.  Most Belgian youngsters/adolescents/young adults go through several 'weirdies' phases in their lives.  Some last a few days, others longer.  Generally, if they're not coddled or forced, they'll grow out of it and become stable adults.  Your breeder can give you further advice on dealing with the 'wierdies'

alright, I'm not turned off... I was a difficult child and I turned out alright, tell me more

You should know that the Tervuren is a VARIETY of the Belgian Shepherd Dog breed.  The four varieties are, Groendael (black long hair), Laekenois (curly coated), Malinois (short coated) and Tervuren (originally long coated, other color than black).

Only the AKC (American Kennel Club) insists that the Belgians are breeds --  However, the truth of the matter is often found in the whelping box.  Tervurens can be born from Groenendael parents, and visa versa.   If you're not interested in AKC conformation showing, you may find a great Tervuren from a Groenendael breeder!

Be an educated consumer -- learn about this breed BEFORE you bring home that adorable fluffy puppy.  Attend some dog shows in your area and talk to the exhibitors.  Meet some Belgians!!   Call a few breeders, talk to them.  Surf the net, many Terv breeders are now on-line.  Don't be swayed by a lovely website!  Most breeders will interview you just as hard as you should them... you and your dogs breeder will be in communication for a long time, the life of the dog.  Ask for references from people who've bought puppies from that breeder.  Choose someone you feel comfortable with; review the contract(s), make sure there are no gray areas.   Beware of those breeders who will accept credit cards for the purchase of your new companion.     Responsible breeders should stand behind their dogs with guarantees.  Reasonable expectations on BOTH sides go a long way towards having a rewarding relationship with your dogs breeder.  If possible, meet the sire and the dam of the pups, however, sometimes geography prohibits this. 

Think you want to add a Tervlet to your family?  Sit down and honestly evaluate why you want this dog/what you expect the dog to become.  Share this with the breeder; most breeders try to make a 'match' between the puppy and owner.  With one of our litters,  there was a family with a young child, out of 5 pups, I felt that 2 (it turned out that 3 were) suitable to live with a young child.  If that family had insisted on taking another puppy than one of the two I'd chosen, they would not have been getting a puppy from me.  
Beware those breeders who demand non-refundable deposits within 48 hours of contact.  Will that breeder take special care to match you with a puppy to suit your needs?  How does a breeder know at 2-3-4 weeks of age how those puppies are going to turn out?  More likely you'll get whatever they have, no matter what you request.
Good Breeders do try to place their pups in life-long homes.  A mis-match from the start is not great for anyone...

Ok, you know what you want, and have found a breeder, you've told your breeder what you're looking for... what's next?  The hard part, waiting for that very special puppy!  Believe me, if the Belgian is the right dog for you, it'll be worth the wait.  



a few more place to learn more about Belgians

American Kennel Club American Belgian Tervuren Club
The BSDA of GB web site

and in particular....     Living with Belgians  &  FAQ on Belgians

The Belgian Shepherd Dog Association of Great Britain's web site.  Check out the whole site, it's very informative, and oh, so British <g>

United Belgian Shepherd Dog Association www.belgians.com
The Belgian Shepherd Club of Canada

Their overview of Belgians (up in Canada, as in the rest of the world, the Belgians are one Breed with four varieties) is quite interesting, informative and accurate!


want to learn the history of the breed from A-Z?  This is the place!!

The Digital Dog Breed Advisor


 This website and its contents are copyright 2007 by Carole T. Corbin
No part of this website may be copied or otherwise reproduced without her express written permission.
Photographs throughout this site are copyright Carole T. Corbin or their respective photographers and as such may
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