The Laekenois is a breed of dog, sometimes classified as a variety of the Belgian Shepherd rather than as a separate breed. This breed is not fully recognized in the United States. However, they can be shown in Britain, Canada, Australia, and throughout Europe, along with all three of the closely related breeds which share a heritage with the Laekenois: the Tervuren, the Malinois, and the Groenendael, the last being shown in the U.S. as the Belgian Sheepdog.
Like all Belgian Shepherds, the Laekenois is a medium-sized, hard-working, square-proportioned dog in the sheepdog family with sharply triangular ears. The Laekenois is recognized by its woolly brown and white coat, intermixed so as to give a tweedy appearance. Most kennel clubs' standards allow for black shading, principally in muzzle and tail, indicating the presence of the melanistic mask gene.
Laekenois can compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Belgian Shepherds exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.
The Belgian Laekenois originated as a dog for herding sheep at the Royal Castle of Laeken.Besides its role as a herding dog, this breed is also used to guard linen that is placed in fields to dry. In the First and Second World War, the Laekenois was used a messenger dog .
The Laekenois is considered both the oldest and the most rare of the Belgian Shepherd Dogs. Until the advent of dog shows in the early 1900s, the four varieties were freely intermixed, in fact, there are only three genes (short/long coat, smooth/wire coat, fawn/black coat) that separate the varieties genetically. Purebred Laekenois occasionally give birth to smooth-coated puppies, which, depending on the pure-bred registry, can be registered as Malinois.