Height: 1.8 – 2.2 feet
Weight: 55 – 75 pounds
Life Span: 10-12 years
Coloring: Mostly Brown
Area of Origin: Belgium
Similar Breeds: German Shepard Dog, Belgian Sheep Dog, Australian Shepard, Belgian Tervuren, Border Collie, Bearded Collie and Briard.
History and Origin:
The Belgian Malinois originates from Belgium and was developed as a herding dog. They still do herding work but today they are more likely to be seen as a police dog, family dog or guard dogs. They were originally within the classification of the Belgian Shepherd Dog and were developed in Belgium as the Mailnois in the 1900s.
Named after the city of Malines in Belgium, the Malinois are not very common in the US like they are in their country of origin. In Belgium in the 1900’s there were four varieties of Belgian Sheepdogs. These included: the Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Laekenois and Belgian Groenenfaii.
All of these varieties share the same heritage and foundation. In fact, as mentioned previously, most countries do not recognize them as 4 different breeds. Instead they are classified as varieties of the same breed with different types of coats. The only country whose breed standard recognizes 4 different breeds is the United States and the American Kennel Club.
The United States AKC does not recognize the Laekenois at all. The United Kennel Club, also in the United States, does not recognize 4 separate breeds but rather registers them as one breed – the Belgian Sheepdog. Whether as a variation of a breed or representative of a variety of a breed, the Belgian Malinois is very intelligent and performs in a wide variety of jobs.
Over the years, the jobs performed by the Malinois included police dog, guard dog, and search and rescue. They are skilled at tracking, herding, and as service dogs. They have been trained to work in bomb and narcotics detention. Competitively they excel at agility and obedience.
This breed needs to be challenged and like many other shepherds and mountain dogs, the Malinois is not a dog for everyone. They need a strong leader, daily vigorous exercise and some form of a job. Of the four Belgian Sheepdogs, the Malinois was the first type established. Until then the other three were called the Belgian short-coated Sheepdog who is not the Malinois.
All four types are popular in Belgium today where the Malinois is bred to be a working dog and used in professions such as search and rescue, police dog, and guard dog work. This is also true in the United States, Australia, most of Europe and Canada. Some of the organizations using this dog include the Royal Australian Air Force, The United States Secret Service, and the United States Armed Forces. The breed is also used by the US Navy SEALs and Israel Defense Forces.
Personality and Temperament:
The Belgian Malinois is a very intelligent dog and if trained properly, a very obedient one as well. The breed is bright and observant, and they come complete with very strong instincts in respect to territory and protection of its own. At the same time the Malinois can be sensitive and shy so that early and strong socialize is required.
They require not only good socialization but a strong, confident owner and consistency in the rules. However the Belgian Malinois will not respond to an aggressive or harsh owner. Puppies must be socialized right from birth because their instinctual response to protect their territory is so very strong. They need boundaries and rules and if they get what they need they can be great family pets.
Again they are great with kids if they are socialized with kids. If kids are a part of their pack or a part of their flock, they will guard and protect them and never hurt them. You might want them to be your only pet though as they can be aggressive and dominant with smaller animals – another dog, a cat, a rabbit, even a bird. You need to be a strong enough leader to teach and convince the Belgian Malinois that aggression and dominance are not behaviors you will allow them to display.
Since they began as herding dogs they maintain that herding gene and they will chase, block or circle anything smaller than them that they believe needs to be herding. Again this is a behavior you do not want to encourage but rather to discourage it. The role of the primary owner or pack leader is instrumental here in how your adult dog turns out.
The temperament and aggressiveness of the Malinois is determined by how the owner treats and leads the dog. Only a person who is truly an alpha in a canine pack should own this breed of dog. The Belgium Malinois will be as intense and dominant as the person lets them be. If you want this breed make sure you can be the alpha and be it all the time. They are actually easy to train because they have a high reward drive.
Exercise & Training:
The Belgian Malinois is rather easy to train due to their high drive for rewards. However they need a job and need a lot of exercise. This is not a couch potato dog. They have perhaps the highest energy level of any breed of dog and you have to diffuse this energy. We have already said they need a job. They also need exercise.
You can have a Belgian Malinois in a smaller space or an apartment as long as you are willing to provide him with the exercise outlets he needs. You need an average size yard or a large dog park. They can live outside as they did for generations defending their flocks, but they are much happier living with people. They just need an active outdoor life. If you don’t have a large yard then you must take at least one long walk every day. Then let them be off leash in a dog park or similarly safe area several times a week.
Training them and entering them into competitions will also make for a very happy and less intense house dog. They love and excel at most AKC sponsored competitions including agility, tracking, flyball, herding and obedience. They are particularly good at herding taking about 40 AKC herding titles in one year.
The Belgian Malinois is a large, square dog with a deep chest, level topline, and a proportionate, flat head. They have a pointed muzzle and tight lips with a black nose. They have brown, almond shaped eyes and erect, triangular ears. The Malinois is said to have cat like feet and a double coat that is weather resistant. The coat is straight and it is short, in fawn, red, mahogany and black. The ears are black and he has a black mask. The hair around the Malinois’ neck is longer than the rest.
Given all of these characteristics, the Belgian Malinois is easy to groom. Regular brushing with a bristle brush that is firm is all she needs. You should only bath a Belgian Malinois when you absolutely have to. When you give the Malinois a bath, the weatherproofing is also washed off their coat. They do not shed on a regular basis but do blow their coat twice a year. They never need trimming and you should never strip them. If they are active or have a job, they might wear down their toenails naturally and not have to have them cut. Remember to remove the dew claws and brush their teeth.
Groom and brush the coat once every four to six weeks. In the spring and fall they blow their coat and more extensive brushing is needed in order to remove the undercoat. Because they are working dogs, you need to check their eyes for foreign materials every time they come inside from working.
Once a month you will want to clean their ears with an ear cleaning solution. Only clean what you can see. Do not force anything into their ears. Bathing for this breed is an interesting proposition. Most groomers will bath the Belgian Malinois twice. The first bathing is for general cleaning and the second for any specific needs your particular dog needs. Sensitive skin? Allergies? Particularly odorous? There are special shampoos for whatever your dog needs. There are special shampoos for those twice a year sheddings.
The Belgian Malinois has a problem with hot spots in the hot months of the summer. In order to prevent this the undercoat needs to be completely removed during the spring shedding. Attention by a professional groomer is very beneficial at this point to insure that all of the dead under coat is removed. In the winter the coat should be treated with a hydrating lotion or spray.
Finally don’t forget this big dog’s paws. Every week some type of balm or even Vaseline should be applied to the pads of the paws. Make sure you keep the pads pliable and soft so that they will not dry out and crack or peel.
Health and Wellness:
The good news is that the Belgian Malinois is generally a healthy dog. They do have some of the usual health concerns but it is always generally a very healthy breed. But even the healthiest of breeds has some medical issues to deal with.
These minor medical concerns include eye issues, elbow dysplasia, excessive aggression or shyness and skin allergies. They do not have the chronic issues with hip dysplasia that other similar breeds have. They are a lighter more compact version of the German Shepherd Dog. Many GSD do battle seriously with hip dysplasia.
The Belgian Malinois can have cataracts, thyroid issues, and progressive rerinalatrophy. There is also a propensity for thyroid issues and epilepsy. However there has been targeted and selective breeding in an attempt to reduce the instances of these health concerns.
Interesting Facts About the Belgian Malinois
- Canada, Australia and the rest of the United Kingdom still consider the Malinois as one among the Groenendael, the Laekenoism, the Tervueren and the Malinois as the same breed.
- The breed is accepted as a separate and distinct breed only by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
- The Belgian Malinois loves hard work and shows it as a sheep dog.
- The Malinois is seen by other registries besides the AKC as one variety of the four varieties of Belgian Shepherds and not as a separate breed.
- The Belgian Malinois is excellent as a police dog and guard dog.
- The Malinois is bred to be a working dog primarily in the United States, Australia, Canada and many European countries. Many have served in search and rescue, personal protection, search and detection and police work.
- Among the United States Military Services, the U.S. Navy Seals used the breed in Operation Geronimo (also called Operation Neptune Spear) in which the Seals killed Osama bin Laden.
Organizations Dedicated to the Belgian Malinois
- The American Belgian Malinois Rescue
- The High Mesa Malinois and Mondioring Association
- An online association that is dedicated to the Malinois. The members of this organization work solely with the Malinois. The come from various parts of the United States including New Mexico, California, Wisconsin, Texas and Colorado.