The first notable characteristic of the Belgian Tervuren is its extraordinarily imposing presence. Its long coat, which is usually a stunning overlay of black and mahogany, makes this dog among the most elegant of breeds. Although the “Terv” was bred to be used as a versatile farmhand, one would be hard-pressed to find a more noble service dog. These brave and loyal heroes are now used as agents of law enforcement, for bomb and narcotic detection; as guard dogs; and as assistants for people living with disabilities.
Belgian Tervurens were originally bred in the 1800s by M.F. Corbeel, who named the breed after his hometown village in Belgium. Their hesitant popularity, which didn’t begin in the U.S. until the mid-1950s, remains rather stagnant, as the breed ranks 107th out of 194. The Terv is one of four Belgian Shepherd breeds – including the Malinois, Laekenois and Groenendael (known as the Belgian Sheepdog in the U.S.) – each with a distinctive coat appearance. Most breed clubs around the world lump them together as a single breed, but not the AKC. A Belgian Tervuren won the Westminster dog show only on one occasion, in 1983, which happened to be the year that the Working Group featured a separate Herding class. A classic herding dog, the Terv is as adept at rounding up sheep as any of the top shepherd breeds.
The Belgian Tervuren seems to possess an abundance of the best personality traits of their many predecessor breeds. They share certain exceptional abilities with their shepherd cousins, such as intelligence, alertness, and agility. Their notable intelligence makes them highly trainable with a humorous side. They are also very “caring,” which makes them the quintessential pet for service and therapy. They are a sporty breed and excel at competitive activities such as agility, tracking, herding, and sledding. The Belgian Tervuren is designed for activity and is often said to be in constant motion. However, maintaining control of their propensities is manageable through good training because of the Terv’s inherent capacity for obedience.