The Belgian Laekenois is a square, well-balanced, rustic-looking dog. The females should look more feminine than males, who, according to the standard, should look more "grand." While moderate in size and weight, the Belgian Laekenois's coat can make him look larger and more solid than his short-coated relative, the Belgian Malinois.
The head is long, strong, and lean, with powerful jaws and a slightly pointed muzzle. The eyes, brown and slightly almond shaped, should look alert, intelligent, and questioning. The erect ears are triangular; the stop is moderate. The nose and lips should be black. Both even and scissors bites are acceptable. The neck is round and outstretched; the withers are slightly higher than the back, which is level and straight. The abdomen tucks up moderately. The tail is strong at the base. When at rest, it is held low, with the tip level with the hock. When moving, the tail is raised and has a slight curve, but not a hook.
The pasterns are strong and only slightly sloped; the feet are round, and the toes are curved and close.
The coat, which should be about 2.5-inches long all over the body, is so rough and coarse, it looks disorderly and tousled. The base coat color ranges from grayish fawn through rich red, with a black mask and usually an overlay on the shoulders and on the tail. It’s not uncommon for the black mask to fade to grizzle once the dog reaches maturity. A small- to medium-sized white patch is allowed on the chest. Toe tips and chin also might be white. The gait should be smooth and easy and should convey an air of never tiring. At fast gaits, the dog "single tracks," which means both the front and rear legs converge toward the center. This is most efficient for working dogs.
One of four types of Belgian Shepherd, the Belgian Laekenois (pronounced "Lak-in-wah") originated at the Castle Laeken, just outside Brussels. In addition to herding and guarding sheep, the dogs also were tasked with guarding linen that was drying in the fields.
The breed's numbers dwindled during WWII, in part because they were used as messenger dogs for the military. A concerted effort to keep the breed alive―both in Europe and the United States―has allowed these intelligent, athletic, and versatile dogs to thrive. Though scruffy and cute in appearance, the Belgian Laekenois remains a serious working dog that needs a strong leader for an owner and lots of mental stimulation to stay balanced.
The breed was accepted into the AKC Miscellaneous Class in 2011.