Photo: AKC

This little-known Belgian herding dog is reminiscent of a playful boy who just had his hair tousled. He is highly intelligent, and his inquisitive expression says: “I’m ready for play!” He is also the American Kennel Club (AKC) latest addition to its register. 

One of the four native dogs of Belgium, the Belgian Laekenois (pronounced lak-in-wah) is a herding dog that was used to guard people and property as well as tend to the owner’s flock and herd.  

Although similar in body and temperament to the Malinois, Shepherd and Tervuren, the Laekenois differs in coat colour, texture and length, as well as region of origin. It is also the rarest of these Belgian herders.

Bit Of History

During the early part of the 20th century, the owners and breeders in Belgium urged the authorities to accept varieties of these herding canines based on the colour and region of origin. The fawn, rough-haired varieties were given the name Laekenois (derived from the town of Laeken). 

The Laekenois’ original duty, in addition to guarding and tending the flock, was to guard linen drying in the fields. The dog was also deployed as a messenger dog during both World Wars and as such, was made the target of a bounty. Needless to say the breed, along with others, suffered a sizable drop in its numbers during those days.

Fortunately, European breeders were able to restore this variety after the conflicts were over. The dog’s ability to adapt to new situations and to respond to his master’s commands made him popular with owners. Known as an alert, intelligent, and inquisitive animal, he is typically reserved with strangers, but affectionate and friendly with those he knows well. 

Built For Work

Owners need to display a confident, natural authority over this high-energy dog.
Photo: AKC

This strong and sturdy dog is easily distinguished by a rough, tousled coat that requires regular brushing. The coats come in shades of red or fawn or greyish tones. He has a long, lean head with prick ears, a square body, and a rough coat in red, fawn or greyish tones.

The body is sturdy and well proportioned, while its hindquarters are muscular. The triangular-shaped erect ears are set high on the head, and the blackened muzzle and head are fringed, giving the dog a shaggy, woolly look. 

The front legs are very straight, parallel and vertical to the ground and there you can expect dense hair growth on the tail. Its almond-shaped eyes are dark with rims that contrast with lighter coloured hair.   

On Guard

As a working dog, the Laekenois needs an active lifestyle with plenty of exercises. The dog thrives on high-quality dog food, and some dogs are prone to getting overweight if not exercised fully. 

The dog is highly adaptable, being right at home in the city or the country. The Laekenois is highly affectionate and very protective of his master and property. He bonds with only one or two people in its lifetime but generally accepts their friends and other family members too.

Owners need to display a confident, natural authority over this high-energy dog. Consistent rules must be set early and made clear. It’s also best to have them trained and socialised right when they are still young. They are good with children too – again if taught to socialise with youngsters at an early age.

With sufficient daily exercises, the Laekenois will do alright in a city apartment or flat. This is a working dog that is accustomed to an active outdoor life. As such it needs lots of workouts, including long daily walks. While it does prefer the cooler climes, it adapts well to other conditions too. 

The Laekenois needs an experienced owner to handle them as these energizer-battery dogs are extremely intelligent. They need leadership and lots of daily workouts. While they are not for everyone, they do make an excellent family companion with the right owners.


Temperament:    Affectionate, Alert, Intelligent
Height: 61 - 66 cm (male), 56 - 61 cm (female)
Weight: 24 - 29 kg
Life Expectancy: 10-14 years
Health:  No major health concerns. Some minor concerns include skin allergies, eye problems, occasionally hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.