The Breed History
This is one of four coat types of the Belgian Shepherd type dog. This breed originated in the town of Tervuren, Belgium. The other haircoat types are Malinois, Groenendael, and Laekenois. Their common ancestor is the Belgian Sheepdog. The Tervuren are the longhaired, colored other than black variety, though hairs are black tipped. The Tervuren is considered a later variety that the Malinois, and may be derived from the Groenendaels since matings of the latter can produce the Tervuren coat type. Though these coat types share a single breed standard outside the AKC and America, the types are split into separate breeds here, with minor distinguishing characteristics. The first breed standard for the Tervuren was drawn up in 1893. The AKC registered these dogs first in 1959.
Breeding for Function
Very high intelligence and trainability are a breed hallmark. Obedience, herding, tracking, sledding, drug detection, and Schutzhund represent some of their talents. Historically, herding was their primary purpose, with farm protection running second. Currently, they serve as service dogs, police and security dogs, and are widely used in agility trials. Many are also companion dogs.
Height at Withers: female 22-24" (56-61 cm), male 24-26" (61-66 cm).
Weight: Average 62 lb (28 kg).
Coat: The outer coat is long, dense and straight. Hairs are hard but not wiry. The undercoat is dense and soft. Furnishings are more developed in males. Facial hair is short. A non-black longhaired Belgian Shepherd-type dog is the distinguishing characteristic of a Tervuren. Black masking and a fawn to mahogany base color with black tipping is the preferred combination, but other non-black colors are accepted. The dogs tend to get darker with age. A small white chest patch is accepted.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: These dogs have a strong constitution, square in conformation (females may be a bit longer), lithe and well balanced. Tervurens are solid without being coarse, the head is long, well chiseled, and the eyes are medium sized, almond-shaped, and dark brown in color. The ears are stiff, erect and triangular, the muzzle is pointed, the stop is moderately well defined, and the nose is black. The neck is long, well muscled, and not throaty. The topline is level, the thorax deep, and the abdomen moderately tucked up. The tail is high set and reaches to the tarsus at rest; in action it may be held horizontal to the topline. Limbs are straight boned, and the bone is oval in cross section. Dewclaws may be removed in front, and are usually removed in the rear. Feet are small, compact and well knuckled up with strong nails. The gait is springy and ground covering. As for the Malinois, the standard stipulates a preference to move in a circle over a straight line. This may reflect the herding heritage of this breed.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Defensive-protective, devoted (even possessive), courageous, may be snappy, and has high exercise needs and a high base activity level. Grooming needs are low, and moderate shedding occurs. They are generally good with other dogs in the household, and have variable tolerance to other smaller pets. Not the best choice of dog for a household with a child; they do best with experienced owners.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Leukopenia: Physiologic leukopenia, resulting from low numbers of neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes, may be a typical finding in a large percentage of healthy Belgian Tervuren and is not of clinical importance in otherwise healthy dogs. Healthy Belgian Tervuren may also have RBC counts and hematocrits higher than expected for healthy dogs. In one study of 180 healthy Belgian Tervuren in the United States, total WBC counts ranged from 2,610 to 16,900. All dogs were otherwise clinically normal. In a study in Belgium, only 1 of 94 Tervuren was identified with the condition. Reported at a frequency of 1.3% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 4.4% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 3.6% affected. Reported at a frequency of 2.2% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Belgian Tervurens have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Idiopathic Epilepsy (Inherited Seizures): Control with anti-seizure medication. In the Belgian Tervuren, seizures can be partial or generalized. In the Belgian Tervuren, epilepsy has a high heritability of 0.77 to 0.83 with a polygenic mode of inheritance, though influenced by a single autosomal recessive gene of large effect. Genome-wide linkage scan identifies multiple chromosomal locations for possible epilepsy liability genes. Epilepsy may afflict as much as 17% of the breed. Reported in 8.9% of dogs in the 1998 Tervuren Health Survey, and 8.5% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey. Prevalence of 9.5% in Denmark with an average age of onset of 3.3 years.
Allergic Dermatitis (Atopy): Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported in 7.3% of dogs in the 1998 Tervuren Health Survey, and 7.3% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 6.88% of Belgian Tervuren CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported in 2.0% of dogs in the 1998 Tervuren Health Survey, and 3.8% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Cryptorchidism: Unilateral or bilateral undescended testicles. Reported in 5.1% of males in the 1998 Tervuren Health Survey, and 3.3% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey. This is a sex-limited disorder with an unknown mode of inheritance.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate cataracts predominate, though posterior nuclear and capsular cataracts also occur in the breed. Identified in 2.44% of Belgian Tervuren CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported in 3.4% of dogs in the 1998 Tervuren Health Survey, and 6.2% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Belgian Tervuren with a cataract.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 3.0% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 6.6% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Gastric Carcinoma: Diagnosis by contrast radiographic examination, endoscopy, and biopsy. Surgery is the only potentially curative modality for localized gastric carcinoma. Though the prognosis is poor, prolonged survival times in individual animals are possible. Reported at a frequency of 1.13% in Tervurens in Holland, with a mean age of 9.5 years at diagnosis. Computed heritability was 0.09 with a male predominance.
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia/Micropapilla: Congenital defect of optic nerve development affecting vision, or a small optic disc. Identified in 1.05% of Belgian Tervuren CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Demodicosis: Demodectic mange has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Reported in 2.1% of dogs in the 1998 Tervuren Health Survey, and 2.7% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Cancer: Mammary (breast) cancer is reported at a frequency of 1.6%, Lymphoma 1.3%, and Osteosarcoma 1.3% in the 2003 American Belgian Tervuren Club Health Survey.
Vitiligo: Pigment loss most commonly affecting the face and mouth in young adult Belgian Tervurens is due to a regression of melanocytes in the epidermis. Although there is partial repigmentation in some dogs, complete repigmentation does not occur. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Retinal Dysplasia: Focal folds and geographic retinal dysplasia are seen in the breed. Dogs with the geographic form should not be bred. Identified in 0.58% of Belgian Tervuren CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus): Belgian Tervuren dogs are more predisposed toward this condition than other breeds. It can cause vision problems due to corneal pigmentation. Age of onset 2-5 years. Treatment with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication. Identified in 0.56% of Belgian Tervuren CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any affected Belgian Tervuren.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive degeneration of the retina, eventually causing blindness. Age of onset 4-5 years. Reported to occur at a low frequency in the breed. CERF does not recommend breeding any Belgian Tervuren with PRA. Mode of inheritance presumed to be autosomal recessive.
Anasarca, Anterior Crossbite, Atrial Septal Defect, Level Bite, Lymphedema, Oligodontia, Prognathism, and Wry Mouth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests are available for presence of black-and-tan and sable coat colors from HealthGene and VedtGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. (See CHIC website; www. caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend patella evaluation and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Chien de Berger Belge, Tervueren, Terve, Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Shepherd.
- Registries: AKC, UKC (under Belgian Shepherd), CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), under Belgian Shepherd, ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), under Belgian Shepherd, NKC (National Kennel Club), under Belgian Shepherd.
- AKC rank (year 2008): 103 (452 dogs registered)
Internet resources: American Belgian Tervuren Club Inc.: www.abtc.org
Belgian Shepherd Dog Club of Canada: www.bsdcc.org
Belgian Shepherd Dog Association of Great Britain: www.bsdaofgb.co.uk
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