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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Sporting a mahogany coat with a black overlay and black mask, the Belgian Tervuren is a strikingly handsome member of the four herding breeds native to Belgium (where they are all considered a single breed).
The Belgian Tervuren is one of four related varieties of Belgian herding breeds. In their home country they are all known as Chiens de Berger (bair-zhay) Belge (belzh). The Terv is distinguished from the other varieties by his coat length and color.
Fair warning: The Belgian Tervuren’s breed standard says that he is “always in motion unless under command.”
The Terv is demanding of attention. He has an intense desire to be with his people and will follow them around. He is alert and watchful, but he also has a sense of humor. He should never be fearful, shy, or aggressive. He is an excellent watchdog and has the size and ability to be protective when necessary.
The ideal Belgian Tervuren has parents with approachable temperaments and has been socialized from an early age to be accepting. Those elements -- combined with companion
dog training -- make him a discriminating dog who can make appropriate decisions in terms of when to be protective.
When the Belgian Tervuren is raised with children, he can be well integrated. He is best suited to a home with older children who understand how to handle him with respect. Don’t forget that he is a herding breed and may have the tendency to chase or nip at children. This should never be permitted! The Terv may or may not get along with
cats. He has a strong prey drive and will often chase cats or other small furry animals outdoors. Still, some Tervs get along well with indoor cats if they have been raised together.
The Belgian Tervuren has high energy levels and needs much more activity than a walk around the block. Choose this breed only if you are a high-energy person who enjoys active daily exercises such as running, bicycling, and hiking. He’s well suited to just about any dog sport or activity you can teach, including agility, flyball, herding, obedience, rally, search and rescue, and tracking.
Begin socialization and training early to make the most of the Belgian Tervuren’s intelligence, rapid learning ability, and drive. He is sensitive to harsh corrections. Be firm, fair, and consistent, using positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards.
If your home has a yard, it should be securely fenced to prevent the dog from leaving the premises as well as to prevent strange dogs and other animals from entering. That doesn’t mean installing an underground electronic fence! If the Belgian Tervuren wants to leave the yard, a shock isn’t going to stop him.
This is an indoor/outdoor dog. While the Belgian Tervuren should have access to a securely fenced yard where he can run, he should be with his family when they are home. He enjoys the company of people he knows.
This herding breed from Belgium — he takes his name from the village of Tervuren — does not have a well-known history until the late 1800s. He may have been helping shepherds care for flocks for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1891, in a burst of national enthusiasm, that Belgian herding dogs were divided into types and given names. A standard for the Tervuren was written in 1893, and the Society Royale Saint-Hubert recognized the breed in 1901.
One of the early breeders of the dogs, M. F. Corbeel, who lived in Tervuren, bred Tom and Poes, who are considered to be the breed’s foundation dogs. They produced Miss, who in turn gave birth to Milsart, the breed’s first champion in 1907.
The American Kennel Club registered its first Tervuren in 1918, but few people took an interest in the breed. By the 1930s, Tervuren were no longer seen in the AKCstud book. In Europe, the breed survived two world wars, and in 1953 Belgian Tervuren were again imported into the United States. The AKC recognized the Terv as a distinct breed in 1959. Today the breed ranks 108th among the
dogs registered by the AKC.
The Belgian Tervuren is known for its intelligence and biddability, as well as a clever sense of humor. As a herding breed, the Tervuren was bred to work around the farm. Although the average Tervuren today does not live on a farm, his heritage makes him a very active dog that requires daily exercise and mental stimulation. The Tervuren is a dog that needs a job, whether that is biking, jogging, or kayaking with his owner or training in any number of dog sports. A bored Tervuren that does not get enough exercise is likely to take matters into his own paws, and, as a medium-size dog, he can do a lot of damage.
The Tervuren learns very quickly, making him an ideal candidate for dog sports such as agility, obedience, herding, tracking, or musical freestyle. You will find that your Tervuren enjoys trying new things and is eager to please. Be aware that this speed of learning can also be applied to undesirable behaviors – the Tervuren is sometimes too smart for his own good!
When training your Tervuren, use a gentle touch and positive reinforcement such as praise, toys and food rewards. If you are fair and consistent, you will find that he absorbs lessons very quickly.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and
parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
The socialization process never ends with a Tervuren, but the more that he is exposed to safely at a young age, the less chance that he will show fear or skittishness as an older dog. These experiences as a young pup will help him grow into a calm, sensible adult.
Around the house, you'll find that your Tervuren tends to follow you from room to room, always keeping track of where people are and what they are doing. He likes to be involved, and will try to “help” with whatever you're doing. While he should always be tolerant of strangers, the Tervuren usually bonds closely with a few people and is more aloof with people he does not know.
The Tervuren can be good with children and small animals such as
cats if they are raised together, but it is important to remember that he is a high-energy herding dog. Nips and roughhousing should not be tolerated. It is important to educate children about how to properly behave around your dog — he is likely to nip if his tail or ears are pulled. The Tervuren is best with older children that understand dogs and treat them with respect. The Tervuren is generally fine with cats in a controlled setting, but if the cat takes off running, all bets are off.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Do not wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a headstrong dog on your hands.
When looking for a Tervuren puppy, be sure to talk with your breeder and, if possible, meet both parents of the litter. Breeders have a wealth of knowledge about the breed and their particular dogs and will do their best to match you with the puppy that best fits your lifestyle. The breeder should also allow you to meet the parents of your puppy and any near relatives she might have in her household. This is important for getting a feel for what your puppy will be like as an adult and also for gauging temperament. The parents should be friendly and have been properly socialized from puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit diseases. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the frequency with which they occur.
Health conditions that have been seen in the Terv include epilepsy, osteochondritis dissecans, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, an eye condition called pannus, and allergies. It's also quite common for healthy Tervurens to have a white blood cell count that is below normal.
The American Belgian Tervuren Club -- the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States -- participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Belgian Tervuren to achieve CHIC certification, he must have hip, elbow, and thyroid evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. Hip scores from the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) are also acceptable.
Breeders must agree to have all test results -- positive or negative -- published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do the tests because she's never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked, or gives any other excuse for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy can develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs and the most common causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Terv at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Belgian Tervuren’s harshdouble coat sheds dirt, but he will need a thorough brushing once or twice a week to remove dead hair. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Have grooming tools such as a medium-size pin brush, slicker brush, undercoat rake, and a mat comb on hand. He sheds heavily once or twice a year and will need more frequent brushing during those times to control the amount of loose hair floating around. There will be lots of it!
He shouldn’t need a bath very often (unless he rolls in something stinky), but warm baths during shedding season can help remove dead hair. Trim his nails as needed — weekly for puppies and monthly in most cases for adults — and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Proper dental hygiene is also important. Brush the teeth frequently for overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a quality breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will have all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems. They are more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They should come back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Look for more information about the Belgian Tervuren and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the
American Belgian Tervuren Club. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ABTC’s
code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.
Avoid breeders who seem most interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy and whether your credit card will clear. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over-availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Belgian Tervuren puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show). Ideally, there should be working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Belgian Tervuren might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult Belgian Tervuren may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Belgian Tervuren in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Belgian Tervurens available on Petfinder across the country).
AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Belgian Tervuren. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a
dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Belgian Tervurens love all Belgian Tervurens. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs.
American Belgian Tervuren Club can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Belgian Tervuren rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you can bring a Belgian Tervuren home for a trial to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Belgian Tervuren, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an
Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, breeder purchase or rescue, take your Belgian Tervuren to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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