The Groenendael is a variety of dog that is included in the Belgian Shepherd breed, but sometimes treated as a distinct breed. The Groenendael is recognized, either as a breed or a variety of the larger breed, by all major kennel clubs, such as the Kennel Club of the UK. In the American Kennel Club, it is called the Belgian Sheepdog, a term otherwise synonymous with Belgian Shepherd Dog more broadly.
Like all Belgian Shepherds, the Groenendael is a medium-sized, hard-working, square-proportioned dog, in the sheepdog family. The Groenendael is recognized by its distinctive black coat.
The Groenendael should be athletic, strong, imposing, rustic, and balanced in appearance. It should look natural, never as though it has been prepared just for the show ring. Its coat should be profuse, but never look as though it would inhibit the dog's working ability in any way. The colour is always black, with sometimes small white markings being allowed on the chest,chin and feet. Floppy ears are considered a fault when showing. When being shown, its handler should never have to force it into position; ideally the handler should not have to touch the dog at all.
The Groenendael should be 60–66 centimetres (24–26 in) at the withers for males, and 56–62 centimetres (22–24 in) for females. The weight should be approximately 25–30 kilograms (55–66 lb) for males, and 20–25 kilograms (44–55 lb) for females.
The Groenendael has a thick, double coat. The texture should be hard and dense, never woolly, silky, frizzy, fine, or wiry. The undercoat should be thick and profuse. In conformation shows, dogs without an undercoat are heavily penalized.
A Groenendael at 4 months
The Groenendael is intelligent, active, loyal and quietly affectionate. Groenendaels are not a breed for the faint of heart. However, for those who have plenty of time, energy, confidence and love, they are wonderful friends. Training and socializing is essential. They are wary of strangers and protective. They love children as long as they are introduced to them at an early age. The Groenendael bonds deeply to its people and cannot live outdoors or in a kennel. It needs to spend time with its family every day and may experience separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.
The Groenendael needs a large amount of exercise as a rule. Expect to spend about two hours a day working with it. Exercise should include not only a walk, but also a training session to keep the dog mentally stimulated. These dogs have great "work ethic" and need a job to do, such as obedience, flyball, schutzhund training, dog agility or livestock work in order to be happy. They are a sensitive breed and cannot be trained using harsh training methods. They do not need much grooming, however when shedding (which happens once or twice a year) they lose massive amounts of coat and need grooming every day.
Belgian Shepherds can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at non-competitive herding tests. Groenendael exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials. One of the basic activities of the Belgian Shepherd was guarding the flock. This make that the Belgian shepherd is extremely useful for protection purposes. The Malinois is famous for its IPO or Police-dog performance, but the Groenendael can also be used for this purpose.