The Groenendael should be athletic, strong, imposing, rustic, and balanced in appearance. It should look natural, never as though it has been prepared just for the show ring. Its coat should be profuse, but never look as though it would inhibit the dog’s working ability in any way. The colour is always black, with small white markings being allowed on the chest. When being shown, its handler should never have to force it into position; ideally the handler should not have to touch the dog at all.
The Groenendael has a thick, double coat. The texture should be hard and dense, never woolly, silky, frizzy, fine, or wiry. The undercoat should be thick and profuse. Inconformation shows, dogs without an undercoat are heavily penalized.
The Groenendael is (very) intelligent, active, loyal and quietly affectionate. Groenendaels are not a breed for the faint of heart. However for those who have plenty of time, energy, confidence and love, they are wonderful friends. Training and socializing is essential. They are wary of strangers and protective. They love children as long as they are introduced to them at an early age. The Groenendael bonds deeply to its people and cannot live outdoors or in a kennel. It needs to spend time with its family every day and may experience separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.
The Groenendael needs a large amount of exercise as a rule. Expect to spend about two hours a day working with it. Exercise should include not only a walk, but also a training session to keep the dog mentally stimulated. These dogs have great “work ethic” and need a job to do, such as obedience, flyball, schutzhund training, dog agility or livestock work in order to be happy. They are a sensitive breed and cannot be trained using harsh training methods. They need thorough grooming once a week, however when shedding (which happens once or twice a year) they lose massive amounts of coat and need grooming every day.
The Groenendael average lifespan is 12–14 years. It is prone to cataracts, epilepsy and hip dysplasia, although these problems have been minimized through selective breeding.