Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) vs German Shepherd – What’s The Difference?

For centuries, Central and Western Europe have been a breeding ground for some of the finest shepherd breeds in the world.

Herding dogs coming from Germany, Belgium, and Holland are famous worldwide and part of the households in every corner of the globe.

This is hardly surprising as they have the personality traits and physical abilities any owner would want.

All these dogs are hard-working, smart, highly trainable, athletic, and endlessly devoted to their family.

Of course, these breeds also have some distinctive features separating one from another.

Those differences are what you should look at when deciding which dog is right for you.

Below, I’ll compare two characteristic representatives of European herding breeds, Groenendael vs German Shepherd, to see what separates them and what each of them brings to the table for the potential owners.

So, let’s dive in!

AttributesGroenendaelGerman Shepherd
Good For First Time OwnersWith Restrictions Yes
Good Guard DogYesYes
Apartment FriendlyWith Enough ExerciseYes
Good Family DogYesWith Training
Barking And HowlingModerate To HighModerate To High
Height22-26 inches (55-65 cm)22-26 inches (55-65 cm)
Average Life Expectancy12-14 Years9-13 Years


Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) – Dog Breed Information

Groenendael or Belgian Sheepdog, as they’re mostly known in the US, belongs to the group of Belgian Shepherd breeds,

The group also includes Laekenois, Malinois, and Tervuren.

Depending on the national kennel standards these are sometimes considered separate breeds or different varieties of the same breed.

Groenendael’s roots date back to 19th century Belgium and the breeder Nicolas Rose. In fact, the breed was named after Rose’s estate, Chateau Groenendael.


Groenendael features a typical working-dog frame. Their body is squarely-proportioned, well-muscled, and rather lean.

Groenendaels are very athletic and move with elegance.

This breed has a double coat, making them adaptable to extreme temperatures. The topcoat is long, medium-harsh, and straight. The hairs of the topcoat are never silky or wiry.

The undercoat is softer, extremely dense, and varies in thickness depending on the climate.

Groenenedaels have shorter hair on the head, legs, and behind the ears.

The coat color is either completely black or black with small patches of white. The head is proportional to the body, with a skull that is more flat than round.

The eyes are medium-sized, almond-shaped, and dark brown, while the ears are erect and triangular.

Males are 24-26 inches (61-66 cm) high and weigh 65-75 pounds (29-34 kg).

Females grow around 22-24 inches (56-61 cm) and weigh 60-70 pounds (27-32 kg).


Like most herding breeds, Groenendael is very active, alert, smart, and devoted to the family.

They see the humans as their flock and are very affectionate towards them.

They do well with kids, but due to their herding instinct sometimes have a tendency to nip or nudge them.

Groenendaels are rather distrustful with strangers which, combined with their confidence and alertness, makes them great watchdogs.

However, without proper and early socialization, their distrust towards strange may turn into aggressive behavior.

Groenendaels have endless energy and are the happiest when they have a job to do.

Still, due to their intelligence and high activity level, they can sometimes be a bit mischievous and a bit difficult to handle.

On the other hand, their smarts and eagerness to please make them highly trainable and capable of learning new things rather quickly.

German Shepherd – Dog Breed Information

Probably one of the most popular family and working dogs in the world, German Shepherds were originally developed as livestock guardians.

Nowadays, besides being beloved family members, this breed is often used for military and police work and all-around dog capable of answering a variety of tasks.


German Shepherd is a medium-sized breed with a sturdy and muscular body, a bit longer than tall.

A bit wolf-like in appearance, they are rather graceful and extremely athletic. Their body is covered with a protective medium-long double coat.

The topcoat is extremely dense, with straight and harsh hair lying close to the body. It’s slightly wavy and can often feature a wiry texture.

The undercoat is thick and soft.

Color varies, but the most common combination is black and tan with a black mask and black patch across the back.

The head is cleanly chiseled with almond-shaped dark eyes and an intelligent expression.

The ears are upright, pointed, and wide at the base.

Adult males are 24- 26 inches (60-65 cm) high and weigh between 66 and 88 pounds (30-40 kg).

Females are 22-24 inches (55-60 cm) in height and 49-71 pounds (22-32 kg) in weight.


German Shepherds are very loyal, highly intelligent, fun to be around, and fearsome when it comes to protection.

When they’re not working, they are fairly calm and even-tempered, although never lethargic.

However, they excel when given a job to do.

As a very smart and energetic breed, they enjoy a challenge and require a lot of mental and physical stimulation.

They are devoted to their humans and form a particularly strong bond with their primary owner.

They love to play with kids and are rather mindful of them. Still, early socialization is must for little ones to be safe around them.

German Shepherds are fantastic guardians, both thanks to their bravery and protective instincts.

Always eager to learn, they’re fairly easy to train, even for the less experienced owners. GSDs are very obedient and lack the stubbornness of some other herding breeds.

Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog) vs German Shepherd – What’s the Difference?

GroenendaelGerman Shepherd

As they share a similar background, Groenendael and German Shepherd have plenty in common.

They have a similar build and body type, but they have different coats. Besides color difference, Groenendaels feature slightly longer, fuzzier, and harsher hair.

However, they shed less and require less grooming effort.

This makes them more suitable for living in an apartment, although they bark a lot more.

Both breeds are a solid choice for first-time owners as they’re very obedient, smart, and easy to train.

Still, the advantage here is on the German’s side as they’re one of the most trainable breeds in the world.

Each of these two breeds gets along great with kids, but Groenendaels are a bit more friendly and playful.

The Groenendael breed has a slightly longer life expectancy, but the Germans are a healthier breed in general and will require fewer trips to the vet.


If you’re an active owner looking for a smart, loyal, and hard-working dog, you can hardly go wrong with either of these two breeds.

The choice between Groenendael and German Shepherd mainly comes down to personal preference.

Be aware that neither of them is a good option for couch potato-type of owners.

They both require a lot of exercise and need a committed owner willing to dedicate a fair share of their time to them.

They will repay by the unlimited affection and gladly provide companionship in any activity you may think of.

No matter which one you choose, it’s important to train and socialize them early to keep them from becoming potentially aggressive.

Authored By

Madeline Wright

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