the fire within...

About the Breed

The Belgian Tervuren is a variety of Belgian Shepherd. In most of the world, "Belgian Shepherd" is a generic term whose denotation encompasses the Belgian Tervuren (who has a long-haired brown coat with black overlay), the Belgian Sheepdog (whose coat is solid black, and who is also known as the Groenendael), the Belgian Malinois (who has a short-haired brown coat with black overlay), and the Belgian Laekenois (who has a rough brown coat with black overlay).

The Belgian Shepherds show many common characteristics. In appearance, they are much alike except for their coat. There is great disagreement among breeders and owners about whether the different varieties also show different temperaments. It is a fact, however, that the Belgian Malinois is the variety most commonly seen working in the protection sports, and the Belgian Tervuren is most commonly seen in the AKC rings performing in the sports of agility and obedience. It is open to question whether this distribution reflects more heavily the preferences of the owners or the abilities of the dogs. Most likely both factors contribute, just as there is good evidence that different breeders' lines of Belgian Shepherds display differences in temperament.

There are many excellent web sites that describe each of the four varieties. Our links page will point you to places where you can learn more about the history and current status of the Belgian Shepherd.

Is the Terv a match for you?

Before we founded our kennel, we went looking for a high-energy dog who could excel in a variety of performance events — one who would love the training as much as we did. We wanted a dog who would likely lead a long, healthy life. We wanted an attractive dog who had sufficient presence to be an effective deterrent against crime. We were also willing to commit the time to training and attention that this sort of dog deserves. The Belgian Tervuren fit our requirements; it is the perfect breed for us and for people who have similar needs.

On the other hand, the Tervuren requires a great deal more supervision and vigilance than do most representatives of other breeds that we have owned in the past. This character is seen particularly in Tervuren from working, as opposed to show, lines. Justin, our foundation stud dog, is typical of a working line Tervuren. Until he was almost 2 years old, we could not leave Justin unsupervised in our home for any substantial length of time. He chases cats when he can get away with it. He has the potential to show aggressive reactions. He is demanding of time and attention, and is not easily ignored. Although he is willing to entertain himself and is capable of the task, he expects quality time on a regular basis. Justin is clearly happiest when he has work to do, whether that work be doing his obedience routines in a competitive trial or showing off tricks for a neighbor. He is also a dominant dog who could easily take over a household whose members were not experienced in the handling of high-drive breeds. My current dogs, Soja and Cisu, though different from Justin, are also typical of working-line Tervuren. Neither is particularly dominant, and both love people and children. Nonetheless, their tremendous energy and intense desire to work make them challenging dogs to own.

At Sprite Tervuren, we breed to produce dogs who have a high energy level, great willingness to please, love of work, physical agility, keen intelligence, intensity, physical soundness, stability, sociability, and courage. Although every puppy is an individual, the average puppy from working lines will show more of these qualities than will a dog bred for conformation shows. Occasionally, we produce a puppy who is difficult to place as a result of her inherited traits — for example, a puppy who has enormous energy, an independent temperament, a lack of stability, or a tendency toward aggression with strangers. We go to great lengths to ensure that these puppies are placed only in those homes where their owners have the experience and interest required to work with them successfully. In all cases, we make a strong effort to ensure a close match between the needs and experience of a potential handler and the character of the puppy.

The person who is likely to enjoy a Sprite puppy is interested in working her dog, whether or not she wishes to compete. This person enjoys channeling the energy of a willing companion, and uses mostly positive methods to reach that goal. The ideal handler for a Sprite puppy is aware that puppyhood is a challenging time — and that chewing, biting, excessive energy, and other puppy "flaws" are a normal part of the process of growing up. In addition, it is not unusual for a puppy to go through phases of shyness or aggressiveness as she tries out various behaviors. Firm but fair handling will resolve most of these issues, but reaching a comfortable resolution can take time and work.

Sprite Tervuren puppies also make great hiking or running companions for families whose members lead an active lifestyle even if they do not formally work their dog in any sports. In addition, most litters are likely to have one or two lower-energy or less confident puppies who are not well-suited to serious working homes, so there may be a perfect Sprite puppy for handlers who primarily seek a pet.

In summary, anyone considering purchasing a Belgian Tervuren (or any other variety of Belgian Shepherds) should be aware of the needs of the breed. This dog is a vigilant, watchful, intelligent animal who expects to be a significant part of your family. Look beyond the beautiful show dog to the working character underneath, and be certain that you are comfortable with the breed.

If, with that knowledge, a Sprite puppy sounds like the dog you are seeking, please contact us (650-851-1757 or We'll discuss your needs, expectations, experience, and lifestyle to ensure that you and your new companion will form a fulfilling partnership for life.

Learn More

The following is by no means an exhaustive list of all the relevant pages on the Internet. Rather, it contains pointers to a few sites that either are well linked to other sites, or have a particular interest in working dogs. A link is not necessarily an endorsement!

Belgians as a Whole
Belgian Dogs - Contains a great deal of information on the history, genealogy, genetics, and ethology of the Belgian Shepherd.
Lily Rock Belgian Rescue - Southern CA. Please consider a rescue Belgian—it may be just the right fit for your household!
Kennel van het Borufseveld (working Tervuren in Holland)
Kennel Etulinjan (working Tervuren in Germany)
Kennel Falkvindens (working Tervuren in Sweden)
Fanfare Working Tervuren (Molly Butler)
Kennel L'Izaville (working Tervuren in Holland - no longer breeding)
Kennel Marjorienkes (working Tervuren in Holland)
Kennel Nangijala (working Tervuren and Malinois in Norway)
Kennel Robshoeve (working Tervuren in Holland)
Kennel de la Rouquine (working Tervuren in Holland)
Kennel Tarkatan (working Tervuren in Finland)
Ours du Musher (working Tervuren in France)
Malinut page
Malinois du Ciel Rouge (California, USA)
Clovis Ticho and friends (Holland)
Sheepdog (Groenendael)
Claire de Lune - Excellent Pedigree tool!
Hebiron - Working Groens
Ulu's Page
The LaekenZine
Breed Organizations
American Belgian Laekenois Association (ABLA)
Belgian Sheepdog Club of America (BCSA)
American Belgian Tervuren Club (ABTC)
The American Belgian Malinois Club (ABMC)
United Belgian Shepherd Dog Association (UBSDA)
United Kennel Club Home Page (UKC)
American Kennel Club Home Page (AKC)

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