Working Line Tervuren

Haute Volée Tervuren breeds exclusively working-line Tervuren.

What is the difference between a working-line and a show-line Belgian?
Working-line Belgians might be fast on an agility course or flashy on an IPO field or in an obedience ring.  But they can also be a LOT of dog, and most likely too much for novice owners, older owners, folks just wanting a family pet. Even folks who have already owned Belgians are frequently surprised with how much more active and “pushy” a working-line Belgian can be.

They MUST have a job to do, and learn strict guidelines for how to behave.

We like to share this video, “So you think you want a high-drive puppy?” to give prospective puppy owners an idea of the energy level most working-line Belgians will have:
Working Line Puppy Video

The following site also offers a wisely cautionary note:
Malinois Advice
Worldwide, most working Belgians (both the sport competitors and actual working police dogs) are Malinois.  Working-line Tervuren thus almost always are Tervuren from Malinois lines — so the kind of dogs HV Tervuren produces are the same as the dogs featured in the videos above, only with more hair.

In some cases the parents of working-line Tervuren are Malinois, as is the case with our Austrian import D’Air (in Europe, where the Belgian varieties are considered alI one breed, pups are registered by phenotype: a coated pup born to Malinois parents would be registered as a Tervuren; a black long-hair born in a litter of brown long-hairs would be registered as a Groenendael). In some cases (Wings, Who) the Malinois ancestors are further back.

Working-line Belgians are from lines bred to “work” – which in the case of European Belgian Shepherds, means bred for protection sports: IPO (formerly “Schutzhund”), French Ring, Belgian Ring, Mondio Ring, KNPV (Dutch police dog training). They are bred to be high-drive, quick-reacting, highly intelligent, very active, and very athletic. Obviously, we want these characteristics for agility and other performance activities. But getting the right proportion of these qualities without also involving less desirable qualities is easier said than done. And they require above- average training and involvement from the owner.

To begin with, there are some important differences in dogs bred for the different protection sports. Mondio Ring III and French Ring III require a dog to move directly from the obedience to protection phases without a break, often working up to 45 minutes straight in drive, and “decoys” in these sports (the guys in the bite suits) seek a dog’s mental weak spots. IPO prioritizes flash and precision (the dog can be flashier since he has to work less long: the protection, obedience, and tracking phases are all separate), and a stable, confident grip (FR and MR dogs can bite anywhere on the suit, and change their grip without penalty; FR and MR decoys try NOT to get bit, so having a “full mouth bite” is not important in these sports). KNPV dogs (dogs typically sold after competitions to become actual police dogs) tend to be “harder” and are very often a bit larger than dogs bred for the other sports. KNPV breeders want dogs that can take down actual bad guys).

And, beyond these performance-based differences, there can be a “dark side” to dogs bred for protection. Some lines can be “twitchy” – nervous or even sharp. Some can be “hard” – impervious to correction, more difficult to train. Some lines (seen more often in dogs from countries that require the ankörung, or stability test) are almost German Shepherd-like in their stability – not as twitchy or handler-sensitive as agility people might like. The trick is to get a balance in these traits: not too soft (sensitive) but also not too hard, not too independent but also not too “needy” or handler-dependent, not too phlegmatic but also not too twitchy or too intense. In a given litter, there will typically be a range, and not all of these characteristics can be seen at eight weeks. But overall, the type of dog that we are trying to produce is socially and environmentally confident yet still handler-focused, intense and high-energy but not “spun” — able to think in drive – as we describe more fully in our “Breeding Philosophy.”

Overview of Sports

A good overview of some of these differences (in the sports, and in the breeding done to produce dogs for these various sports) can be found in these videos (most are by Michael Ellis, and other useful free videos he’s produced can be found at


Dutch KNPV

More about KNPV


Quick overview of IPO: IPO with GSD

Best of the FMBB 2010: FMBB 2010 — highlights from the international IPO competition of the Federation Mondiale de Berger Belge

Two short Ellis lectures on IPO:
IPO and More about IPO

Belgian Ring: Ring Sport

French Ring: French Ring

Mondio Ring: Mondio Ring

Michael Ellis and Pi at the Mondioring Nationals 2010:
Michael Ellis and Pi

Here are some additional sites you can go to for more information on working-line Belgians:

Facebook discussion page for working-line Tervuren

Pedigree Database

If you read French or can deal with Google translate, this site discusses the genetics behind working-line Belgians – and their “character” (thanks to Kate Hogan for bringing this site to my attention):
Genetics of Working-line Character