Origin, form, function and use. Their origins are tandem, though developed in different countries in Europe, they are both bred to guide and guard a flock of sheep as their primary development. The Belgian Shepherd falls into four categories: Belgian Tervueren (pronounced Ter-Vur-Oon, the placement of some of the "e"s indicate umlauts, the dots over a, o, and u, the pronunciation of which we lack in English), which has a longer coat of fawn or darker color, the Belgian Malinois (Mal-In-Nwah) the most commonly seen in the U.S., is short coated, fawn with a black mask, the Belgian Groenendael (Groon-En-Dell), which is long coated and black and the Belgian Laekenois (Lak-En-Nwah), with wire or rough coated fawn or grey. Their lines follow the function of ages of herding for the Belgians, who developed the breed with an eye to proud carriage, square, solid physique and keen intelligence. Because they are less popular than their German cousins, the breed is primarily devoid of genetic weaknesses. In some countries, they are considered one breed, interbred commonly, but in the U.S., the AKC limits registration that evidences interbreeding three generations back. They register all but the Laekenois.They are generally not considered as pets, as their utility is of high function. They can be companions in the family order, but will always be alert to Doing A Job. They require early training and socialization, though they do not tend toward dominance, rather they tend toward becoming that smarty-pants over-achiever that drove the teacher crazy. If they don't have a job, they will invent one.German Shepherds from Germany were of a more varied stock originally. Like the "collies" in the British Isles, form fitted function, but in that case, distinctive separate breeds arose. Over time, before our worlds collided, the governing group developed one solid breed standard at the turning of the nineteenth century, and German Shepherds from that era, though not as refined, bear striking resemblance to what we know today. They are also guiding guarding dogs, but with a greater range of utility, hence you will see Seeing Eye German Shepherds, but will not see Seeing Eye Belgian Shepherds commonly. They are stockier in build, their heads a little coarser, with great jaw strength. Their coloring is either the classic tawny and silver or black, with the darker color draped across the back like a mantel. They may also be Black and Tan, with no white. This marking is similar to the Rottweiller, with eyebrows, feet and vent (under the tail) a reddish color. The colors must be rich and not washed out.Because of Rin-Tin-Tin (the cowboy version of the farming Lassie), popularity shot up to the deficit of quality, hence today, the breed struggles against hip displasia, skin and bone problems. Additionally, the unfortunate development of a dog that will naturally slope has become a weakened animal. The original topline of this breed was straight and sturdy--as they still are in their homeland--however, the show stance, when stacked, is one leg well back, the other well forward. This was meant to show a dog ready to spring into action and power, but breeding has developed a dog that has a sloping topline. These dogs are wonderful learners, but tend toward the dominat side, thus, one must be a firm, consistant trainer and training must commence early, with loads of socialization to round out a friendly family pet.These are more common as family pets than the Belgian cousins, due to their popularity. Like the Belgians, they must have a job or they will find one for you. The distinction between the two is subtle, but worth noting.One last note, unless you are performing in Schutzhund work, it will not be necessary to Sentry or Attack train any of your Shepherds. After the second year, they will develop their own sense of protectiveness, if you have done the homework in time--early socialization--you will have a buddy who will welcome all, great or small, unless an actual threat or home invasion is occuring, then the dog will do what they do naturally--they got your back!