The Belgian Laekenois (pronounced "Lak-in-wah") is one of four varieties of Belgian herding dogs, which include the Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Groenendael. Each breed was named for the area in Belgium where they were developed. The Laekenois was established in the area of Laeken, and was traditionally used as a herding dog and guard dog. These dogs were also used during both World Wars as messenger dogs and to pull ambulance carts and even machine guns.
The Belgian Laekenois can suffer from cardiomyopathy (dilated), cataracts, cerebellar ataxia (spongy degeneration), degenerative myelopathy, elbow dysplasia, elbow dysplasia (fragmented coronoid process), epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, mucopolysaccharidosis VII, and progressive retinal atrophy. Genetic testing is recommended, including for the following additional conditions: hyperuricosuria, degenerative myelopathy, and progressive rod-cone degeneration.
The Belgian Laekenois is known for being intelligent, alert, and protective. As herding dogs, they have a strong work ethic and need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. They are loyal and form strong bonds with their families, but they can be wary of strangers. While they can get along well with children and other pets if properly socialized, they have a natural instinct to herd and may do so with children or smaller pets. Due to their protective nature, they can make excellent watchdogs.
Like all breeds, individual temperaments can vary, and early socialization and training are important to help ensure that they grow up to be well-rounded dogs. Given their high energy levels and intelligence, they thrive in homes where they can have plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
According to the AKC, the original duty tasked to the Laekenois was to guard linen drying in the fields.
Belgian Laekenois dogs were used during World Wars I and II as messangers. Unfortunately, the dangers associated with wartime caused their numbers to severely decrease.