Frequent Questions

  • Are Tervs Compatible with Cats and other Pets?
  • Are Tervs Compatible with Children?
  • Are Tervs Compatible with other Dogs?
  • Can You Determine if My Dog Is A Terv?
  • Do Tervs Require Much Exercise?
  • Do Tervs Require Much Grooming?
  • Health Concerns
  • How do I find a Belgian Tervuren?
  • How Rare are Belgian Tervuren?
  • I sent in my Rescue Application. What's next?
  • Should I be cautious of ads in my local paper?
  • Should I Get a Male or Female?
  • Should I Keep My Terv Inside or Outside?
  • What about commercial breeders?
  • What Is a Terv's Life Expectancy?
  • Where is A Breeder Near Me?

Many Tervs live in harmony with cats and other household pets, but some do not.  

Sometimes a Terv will bond very closely to an animal of another species, and they might actively play, sleep together, or the Terv might adopt the other animal like it would protect its sheep.  Other times they might reach a coexistence understanding to ignore each other.  It seems to depend mostly on the specific temperament of each of the animals.  It may also relate to whether they have been raised together since one or both were puppies, kittens, etc.  Animals that run at the sight of a dog probably will trigger the chase instinct in a Terv, and that will lead to further problems.   Separate feeding times and locations also may avoid some conflicts.   Unfortunately, the only way to be sure is to try it out.

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 If you are looking for a dog for your child, a Tervuren may not be the best choice. 

However, if you have children and are looking for a dog for yourself, chances are your Tervuren will get along famously with them.  The point is, a Tervuren is as intelligent as a young child, and while he will love all of his family, he will tend to seek out the adults for his mentoring.   Children should not be expected to have the maturity required for consistent and fair treatment and training of a dog.  But if there's a dog in the house, children should not be denied the joy and some of the smaller responsibilities of having a dog in the family.

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Both male and female Tervs will get along with other Tervs and other breeds in the same household.

Most dogs get along well with dogs of the opposite sex.  The individual dog determines how well it gets along with his or her own sex.  Males have been known to live in harmony with each other, as have females, while other individuals do not get along with their own sex.  Tervuren are energetic and like to play.   Even innocent play times should be monitored so a smaller or older dog will not get hurt.

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Sometimes a Terv is  adopted from a shelter or acquired without the new owner getting much information about their new pet -- even its breed.  

Purebred dogs lacking official AKC papers can obtain official recognition and be allowed to exhibit in AKC performance events through a process known as "ILP."

Belgian Tervuren are an uncommon breed, and our Code of Ethics calls for the breeder to maintain responsibility if an owner cannot keep their Terv or no longer wants it for any reason.   Belgian Tervuren Rescue will act if we discover an unwanted Terv that its breeder has not taken back.  Accordingly, few Tervs are available to be adopted from animal shelters.

You may contact us and ask for an ABTC member to inspect your dog and advise you whether it is a Belgian Tervuren.  Most of the dogs we are asked to inspect are mixed breeds.  Only rarely do we discover a purebred Terv.    Before contacting us, you may refer to our Breed Type section of this website for numerous pictures of typical Tervs.

Some of the key identifying features of a Belgian Tervuren include:

  • Adult size 24-27"/ 55-70 lbs for males, 22-25" / 40-55 lbs for females.

  • Square shaped body, not rectangular like a German Shepherd.

  • Vari-colored guard coat -- black tipped with fawn or mahogany base.

  • Colorless, silvery hairs around front of muzzle.

  • Tuffs of hair in opening of ears.

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Regular, meaningful exercise is important to the health of the Tervuren.

Meaningful means doing things with the owner like daily walks or jogs, or playing tennis ball in a large, safe area where the dog can run and retrieve. Exercise is necessary for the mental and physical health of the Terv. Tervs are not normally "hyper" and prone to running away, but they are known to pester their masters into joint activities.

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The Tervuren has a soft undercoat with protective harsher guard hairs over top.


The hair doesn't usually mat unless it's neglected. Brushing and combing once a week for 15 to 20 minutes should be considered routine.

Please consider two things about grooming:

  1. If you brush and comb your Tervuren thoroughly and on a regular basis, you should hardly need to vacuum up hair from around the house any more than you would if you had no dog at all. A quick and complete brushing for just a minute or two daily, and a more thorough brushing about once a week is all it should normally take.
  2. Grooming your dog is an important and essential time for you to spend together. It keeps your dog's coat clean and healthy, gives you the opportunity to inspect your dog for any physical problems that might not otherwise be noticed, and most important, regular grooming insures that you are spending some good quality time with your dog. Regular grooming sessions build the dog's trust in the human hand. These sessions help build the self-esteem of master and dog. Read on for the difference in male and female shedding.
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All dogs, purebred or mixed, are at risk to some inherited health problems. In the Tervuren the following are the health issues most often addressed:  Also see additional information on this website provided by our Health Education Committee.


Idiopathic Epilepsy occurs in substantially all purebreds and mixed breeds. Idiopathic Epilepsy is defined as "repeated seizures of unknown cause".  Known causes of epilepsy can include heat, poison, head trauma, infections, parasites, diabetes, and birth defects.

The idiopathic condition is found with regularity, but not great frequency, in the Belgian Tervuren. The percentage may be as low as 2% or as high as 30%. We guess the actual numbers to be somewhere in-between.  It usually does not surface until between 2 and 5 years of age.  Typically, epileptic seizures occur once every several months, and will last about 5 minutes, although some more frequent and severe cases have been reported.  This is probably considered the Tervuren's most troublesome health problem.

The condition, or something that causes an individual to be susceptible, appears to be inherited in some Tervuren.  The mode of inheritance of epilepsy isn't understood, which makes it difficult to eradicate.  The ABTC is aggressively sponsoring veterinary research that, hopefully, will provide a better understanding of the nature and frequency of this threat.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia (HD) is found in the Tervuren. The incidence of HD found is low compared to many other breeds of this size and it isn't considered a major problem for the Terv.  The Greyhound is the only breed reported to have no known cases of hip dysplasia.  Still, buyers should insist on seeing proof that both parents are certified normal hips by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Most breeders X-ray their dogs and have the X-rays evaluated by the OFA.  The breeders should then be conscientious about not breeding affected animals.  X-rays should be taken after two years of age. The results are considered good for life.

Elbow Dysplasia

The incidence of elbow dysplasia appears to be higher than hip dysplasia although many numbers of dogs have not been evaluated.   Buyers should request proof of certified normal elbows by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited condition that leads to eventual blindness.  It has been reported in only a few Tervuren and is not thought to be widespread.  The American Belgian Tervuren Club encourages yearly eye exams and is watching the situation in hope that the frequency is not on the increase.  Buyers should insist on proof that both parents have received an eye examination within the last year that was certified by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).  Results of CERF exams are considered good only for one year.  Some eye problems, such as PRA, can surface any time during the dog's life.

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You especially are invited to telephone or e-mail people on the Breeder Referral list on this web site.

They have volunteered to help people who are searching for a puppy. They are selected for being well informed on breeding activity in their geographic region.

One of the best places to find breeders who are planning litters soon is in the ABTC's newsletter, "Tervuren News Tails" (TNT). Only ABTC Members in good standing may advertise in TNT, and they must comply with strict disclosure requirements.  Single copies and subscriptions are available to non-members. TNT has national coverage and will report on litters that local contacts might not know about personally.

If no breeders or contacts are conveniently close, ask your local veterinarian about any dog clubs in your area, or dog shows scheduled soon.  Area Club dog show schedules also may be obtained through links on this website's Activities page.  All-breed shows are announced on the AKC's website, and by show superintendents.  Persons at these clubs or shows may know of other breeders or owners that would be willing to help you.  You might also benefit simply from attending a show and talking with Tervuren exhibitors and meeting their dogs, even though the exhibitors might not be breeders.

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Belgian Tervuren are not considered a "rare breed," but they certainly are not as common as most other AKC-recognized breeds.

Out of the 151 dog breeds recognized by the AKC, the Belgian Tervuren ranked 115 in 2003.

For a puppy to be registered as pure-bred with the AKC, the breeder must register the litter when it is whelped. The number of these registrations is reported in the AKC Gazette.  In all of 2003, 82 Belgian Tervuren litters were registered with the AKC.  For comparison, 45,747 Labrador Retriever litters were registered.   That is over 500 to 1! 

The AKC also reported that 428 individual Belgian Tervuren were registered with them in 2003.   Registrations of individual dogs lag litter registrations by a few months, and not all get registered.  Offsetting this are some dogs imported from outside the USA.  If the average litter is six puppies, this would mean that roughly 500 Belgian Tervuren puppies may have been whelped in the entire USA that year.

We do not want to discourage you if you know that you were meant to belong to a Terv.   At the same time, you need to appreciate that Terv puppies are fairly scarce, and obtaining one probably will require some effort.

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We welcome applications to adopt a Terv that has been rescued by the ABTC, but please do not assume that one will be available at the same time you are ready.

Relatively few Tervs are rescued during a year, and there may be some competition to adopt them.  Contact the Rescue Chair for an estimate of availability.

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Substantially all Belgian Tervuren breeders are Members of the ABTC.

If you contact a breeder who is not an ABTC Member in good standing, we suggest that you ask why. Ask specifically if they ever have been refused membership or been expelled; and if they have ever been suspended by the AKC or ABTC, and why.

O-Tahn-Agons Genteel MinuetAlso inquire regarding what titles are held by the litter's sire and dam. Most breeders of Belgian Tervuren use only animals holding breed championships. A large proportion also prefer animals with performance titles in addition to a championship. A sire and dam lacking any titles might indicate that you have contacted a "puppy mill." Such commercial breeders usually lack the time and commitment to train and achieve titles on their dogs.

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The male is larger and grander in size and usually carries a masculine ruff framing his head and neck.

Male or FemaleA male will hold his coat longer than a female, who typically sheds her coat between each heat period. The male tends to have only one major shed each year.

Neutered male and female Tervs carry a thicker coat and have less major sheds than intact dogs, but shed more steadily. A neutered male often loses the longer neck furnishings typical in the intact male, but will still look masculine.

Both male and female train very well and can do well in competition. The female usually has two heat periods per year. An intact female may show slight mood swings before each heat period, which can be frustrating to a competition trainer. Most AKC performance event rules do not allow a bitch in heat to compete.

An intact male can become love struck without much encouragement. This can be frustrating or a source of amusement to the owner, depending upon how one wishes to look at it. In some views, the male seems a bit more sensitive and gentle to those he loves. He works for you, while the female works in partnership with you, seemingly more as an equal, in her mind. A female knows what she is about and carries an inner confidence and air. Choose whichever sex would best fit into your household and expect equal enjoyment, be it for companionship or competition training.

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Tervuren are comfortable under most weather conditions if they have shelter from extreme heat, dampness, and cold.

Tervs are social "pack" dogs and can become distressed if they don't share a regular learning relationship with their masters. They do best mentally if they spend a good portion of their time indoors with the human family, and are not treated as "kennel dogs." They are best kept as house dogs, especially during the time you are at home.

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That ABTC has no philosophical conflict with breeding Belgian Tervuren and charging money for puppies.

Our concern with commercial breeders (a.k.a. "puppy mills") and pet shop sales lies in several related issues:

  1. Puppy mills tend to scrimp on their care for their dogs in order to minimize costs. This sometimes is carried to extremes that constitute neglect or cruelty. While the U. S. Department of Agriculture is supposed to regulate every kennel with four or more breeding bitches, they have a very small staff and make infrequent inspections.
  2. Puppy mill operators often lack the time or motivation to provide essential human contact at key phases of puppy development. Tervs do not thrive when continuously confined and deprived of human interaction. They are very social animals, and especially REQUIRE human interaction during their first 14 weeks. Its absence will produce a feral animal, and inadequate socialization is a prime cause of later "temperament" problems.
  3. Puppy mills tend to act as suppliers to pet shops, which we disapprove of for the reasons below. A member of the ABTC who sells to a pet shop may be expelled from the ABTC.
  4. Pet shops, as well as puppy mills, often fail to provide essential socialization during the formative weeks of a puppy's development. This is likely to result in what appears to be "temperament problems."
  5. The Wall Street Journal reports that a very high percentage of puppies obtained from pet shops have some disease or health problem.  No matter who you buy a puppy from, be sure to obtain documented assurances that hereditary health risks are low, and that the puppy's current health is sound. The sire and dam should have documented evaluations of their hips and eyes, at a minimum.  In addition, reputable sellers usually grant a brief health warranty in the form of a full refund return if diagnosed with any disease by a veterinarian within a short time after purchase.
  6. Pet shops usually will not screen potential puppy purchasers for their suitability for the Belgian Tervuren breed. Tervs are not a breed that will satisfy all types of dog owners. They have a temperament and activity level that is not suitable for many pet owners -- particularly if they have never owned any dog before. The ultimate result may be an unhappy owner and an unhappy dog. Such purchasers with unrealistic expectations are likely to dispose of the dog in a pound or shelter within the first year.
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Tervuren are considered to be a healthy, long-lived breed for their size.

Typical Tervuren live to approximately 14 years old. Tervs may be considered "old dogs" when they reach 12 or more years. Some have lived to the ripe old age of 16.

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Depending on where you live, there may or may not be a Tervuren breeder nearby.

Some states contain a large number of breeders (e.g. California, Michigan), and some have none that we know of (e.g. Arkansas, Mississippi).

The ABTC Membership Directory lists 206 Belgian Tervuren kennels. A few of these currently do not breed at all.  Many of them breed only on a very limited scale -- maybe only once every three to five years or so.  Relatively few breed yearly or more often.  See the map below showing the number of ABTC member kennels by state.   We invite you to contact a volunteer from our Breeder Referral list  who will help you contact an active breeder as close to you as possible.  

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Even when there is an active breeder nearby, they might not have a litter available, or even planned for soon.  If you want a Terv, you might have to look to some more distant location, and be prepared to wait a while.

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