American Belgian Tervuren Club

Welcome to the ABTC online Judges' Education Guide. The intent of this guide is to discuss and illustrate those points of the standard which deal with qualities most unique to the breed, which are commonly referred to as "type". It is directed to judges and aspiring judges of the breed under the AKC breed standard who already have general knowledge of soundness in the Herding breeds.

Copyright © American Belgian Tervuren Club, Inc. 2000-2019, all rights reserved. 

The judge plays a vital role in the survival of the Belgian Tervuren as a functional herding dog with correct breed type. Championship titles, Group and Best In Show winners are sought after in pedigrees. Only when the dogs possessing correct type are the dogs rewarded by the judge in the ring, will the breed continue to improve.

 Please judge positively. After all, all dogs have faults. The breed standard gives far more attention to describing the features the dog should possess, those which make him look and function like a Belgian Tervuren, than it does in listing faults.  The standard is a blueprint of positive breed type. A dog that possesses the most positive qualities is quite likely to be the best representative of the breed.

A dog with outstanding breed type should always be in strong contention for the winners circle, remembering all the while that

The Belgian Tervuren is a herding dog and versatile worker. The highest value is to be placed on qualities that maintain these abilities, specifically, correct temperament, gait, bite and coat.

img1827wThe Tervuren is a sheep herding breed and a versatile all-around worker. It is by nature an active and responsive dog, full of life and delighted to be with its owner. It is very zealous for the attention of its family, which accounts for its outstanding success and popularity as an owner-trained and handled breed.

 In the Ring

The natural protective instincts of the Tervuren make it a breed which does not immediately make friends with strangers. While they typically show much interest in interacting with their handler, it is not typical for an adult Tervuren to be overly friendly to strangers. While a certain aloofness with strangers is considered normal, the dog should be confident and trustworthy in the ring, always displaying good manners.

 A judge should never reward a dog that must be held up for exam or that acts fearful or untrustworthy. While some judges prefer that a dog's muzzle be held during an exam (or some handlers offer the courtesy of holding the muzzle), take note of how a dog so controlled is reacting to your exam. As a judge you should never make excuses for unstable behavior when it is observed. Usually owner-handled, Tervuren do not normally stand like a statue in the ring, and will use their ears to show their awareness to the environment.

 "The Belgian Tervuren reflects the qualities of intelligence, courage, alertness and devotion to master. In addition to his inherent ability as a herding dog, he protects his master's person and property without being overtly aggressive. He is watchful, attentive, and usually in motion when not under command." ...

"In his relationship with humans he is observant and vigilant with strangers, but not apprehensive. He does not show fear or shyness. He does not show viciousness by unwarranted or unprovoked attack. He must be approachable, standing his ground and showing confidence to meet overtures without himself making them. With those he knows well, he is most affectionate and friendly, zealous for their attention and very possessive."

--- From the AKC Belgian Tervuren Standard

 About Puppies

Puppies often go through very normal stages of developing personality, exhibiting everything from exuberant friendliness at one moment, to uncertainty over their new surroundings the next moment. As long as the puppy is willing to accept the exam and is not untrustworthy, a judge should give consideration to a puppy entry that acts a bit, well, like the puppy that it still is.

Please also be sure to read the section on “how to examine the Tervuren”, where we discuss the appropriate manner in which to approach and examine the breed.

1929pedigreewThe Belgians were a rustic, brave dog, known for exceptional intelligence, athleticism and trainability. They were found working with the farmer – herding sheep and other small livestock; protecting home and property; and doing varied tasks for the modest working people of Belgium. They were prized in their homeland as police dogs and as war dogs.

The Belgians share a common ancestry. Originally classified as simply long hair, short hair, and rough haired, irrespective of coloring, to this day in their homeland they remain a single breed with varieties, named according to their phenotype, or appearance, which is not always the same as their parents.


How the Belgians got their names

The Belgian coat types were always diverse, born as varying coat types often within same litters of the Belgian Sheep Dog breed (Le Berge Belge). The specific variety names evolved in recognition of areas around Brussels where a fancier or group of fanciers became known for selecting and maintaining one of these coat types.

The short coated Malinois was named for the Maline region to the north. The long coated black Groenendael, known by us as the Belgian Sheepdog, was developed by the owner of a famous restaurant, the Chateau de Groenendael. The Tervuren got its name from the village of Tervueren (now spelled Tervuren), where a brewer, M.C. Corbeel, selected and bred together his long-haired blacked fawn dogs, born from black dogs, in about 1895. Another variety, the rough coated Laeken, is named for Laken, near Brussels. After the World Wars, the modern Tervuren evolved anew from long coats born in litters of Malinois, which were then bred to Groenendael and selected out again for their coat coloring. The first breed standard was put into effect in 1892. The breed was at first dividided into three varieties with no distincton of color: the long-haired, the short-haired, and the rough-haired.

tervmalew groenendaelw malinois3908w laekenoisw


The Belgians evolve into 3 AKC breeds

The first Belgians arrived in the United States in 1908. They were shown in the ring along with other shepherd breeds, as Continental Shepherds. The black Groenendael was the predominate long-haired variety for many years, both in the U.S. as well as in Europe.

The two World Wars had a devastating impact on the Belgians abroad, especially the Tervuren coloring, which did not yet have a large following. Today there are no existing lines of any Belgian varieties remaining in the United States that can be traced back to dogs that were in this country before World War II. Following World War II, the Tervuren as we know it today was revived anew by supporters in Europe, selecting long-haired blackened fawn and gray dogs produced from Groenendael and Malinois breedings.

 Belgians were shown as one breed in the U.S., dominated by the black Groenendael, until 1959. In 1953 a few breeders imported Tervuren puppies from France with the intent of breeding and showing them. This caused quite a stir among some of the black dog fanciers, who were concerned about color issues. So in 1959 the AKC gave each variety separate breed status.

The black dogs, having the greatest number of registrations, took on the original breed name of Belgian Sheepdog. The Tervuren and Malinois formed new clubs and drew up their own breed standards. The Lakenois was not included in AKC registration, but today holds FSS registration status and is now shown in performance events. The Lakenois remains to this day dependent upon occasional breeding to the Malinois to improve health and fix type.

And so it is that the Belgian breeds indeed have much in common.

Of course, in the AKC show ring each is shown under the breed standard set forth by its parent club. While there are significant differences in emphasis, faults and disqualifications, the ideals remain essentially the same across the board, except for coat or color.

If you judge in Canada
Please note that in Canada, the Belgians are shown as one breed, The Belgian Shepherd Dog, consisting of all four varieties: the Groenendael, Laeken, Malinois and Tervuren.


wylie5876wThe Belgians were a rustic, brave dog, known for exceptional intelligence. They were found working with the farmer – herding sheep and other small livestock; protecting home and property; and doing varied tasks for the modest working people of Belgium.They were prized in their homeland as police dogs and as war dogs.

In 1914, Belgium produced the first war messenger dog. Her name was “Taki”, a Belgian Groenendael (Sheepdog). The January 1930 American Kennel GAZETTE contained a story about Taki, who eventually came to the United States as an old dog.wardogsw

In 1923, a statue was erected in Amsterdam to honor a renowned Tervuren, Albert, who was an accomplished police dog. Surviving photographs showing Tervuren, Groenendael and Malinois police and war dogs demonstrate their great popularity and success in those venues during that time.

Still today, the Tervuren's desire to learn and work, combined with their athletic and agile build and protective coats make them useful in a wide variety of pursuits.

okc rubble april 1995The Belgian Tervuren has proven its excellence in many arenas: as search and rescue dogs, as assistance dogs, leader dogs for the blind, racing sled dogs, in protection, police, narcotic and bomb detection, and of course, in herding. The Tervuren has an enviable breed record as an outstanding performer in AKC events. The ratio of performance titles to registrations, and the ratio of breed Champions holding performance titles is among the top (if not the top) of all breeds.

In AKC History, the Belgian Tervuren is credited for being:

  • The first single dog of any breed to obtain the AKC title of Herding Trial Champion
  • The first single dog of any breed to earn the combined titles of Ch/UDT/OTCH and be a High In Trial obedience winner 
  • The first single dog in the Herding Group (and 2nd all-breed) to win both Best In Show and High In Trial obedience at the same show
  • The first dog of any breed holding a Champion Tracker title to win a Best In Show

In 2002, the American Kennel Club awarded the prestigious ACE award for the top Search and Rescue dog to a Belgian Tervuren.

So proud are Tervuren owners of their dogs' accomplishments in performance venues that long ago the American Belgian Tervuren Club adopted as its official motto: "A well balanced Belgian Tervuren has a Ch. on one end and a UDT on the other"



perf male3wSilhouette counts. The first thing a judge should consider is whether the dog has the look which is unmistakably Tervuren. It is not a good Tervuren if it does not have correct silhouette, no matter how nice it may look or move..

The Tervuren stands naturally with proud carriage of head and neck over a balanced, square body having medium bone and balanced angulation front to rear. The slightly long, arched neck gives the head a most elegant carriage. Its straight, dense, natural falling coat should not obscure the outline. Faced with a black muzzle, alert high set ears and intelligent expression, the entire picture should say Belgian

"The first impression of the Belgian Tervuren is that of a well-balanced, medium size dog, elegant in appearance, standing squarely on all fours, with proud carriage of head and neck. He is strong, agile, well-muscled, alert and full of life. He gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. The male should appear unquestionable masculine; the female should have a distinctly feminine look and be judged equally with the male. The Belgian Tervuren is a natural dog and there is no need for excessive posing in the show ring."

--- From the AKC Belgian Teruven standard

Let's compare the outlines of 3 breeds.These 3 herding breeds are shown as comparison because they all have the same ideal size (dogs 24-26 inches; bitches 22-24 inches) and they were all bred for similar purposes. Note the distinct difference in the overall general appearance and outlines 

bi1s collie gsd
Belgian Tervuren Collie German Shepherd Dog


Sex Characteristics

Adult males are distinctly masculine, and females are likewise feminine. A judge should be able to distinguish a male from a female with ease. Our standard instructs the judge to judge a female equally with the male. A judge should consider each sex based on its unique qualities, and reward the best.

gmalesilw  lffemw