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Belgian Malinois

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The Belgian Malinois is a large purebred dog often mistaken for the German Shepherd. It is an energetic and alert dog and is successful in various areas such as carting, guarding, military work, police work, search and rescue, agility, competitive obedience, tracking, drug detection, schutzhund, herding, retrieving and sledding. It is also the dog of choice for the Secret Service agents who guard the White House and its grounds.

Here is the Belgian Malinois at a Glance
Name Belgian Malinois
Other Names Chien De Berger Belge, Mechelaar, Mechelse Herder, Mechelse Scheper, Pastor Belga Malinois
Nicknames Malinois
Origin Belgium
Average size Large
Average weight 60 to 75 pounds
Average height 22 to 27 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Straight, dense, short
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, brown, fawn, mahogany
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 51st by the AKC
Intelligence Excellent – very clever dog
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle most warm and hot climates, just not extremes
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle most cool and cold climates just not extremes
Shedding Moderate to frequent plus heavier shedding or blow outs twice a year with seasonal shedding
Drooling Low – not known to be a slobbering dog
Obesity Moderate – not especially prone to putting on weight
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate – brushing more often will help with the loose hair but two or three times a week could be enough
Barking Rare to occasional
Exercise needs Very active – will need active owners happy to be out
Trainability Easy to train – intelligent dog
Friendliness Very good – quite a social dog
Good first dog Good but better with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent – with the right socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is important
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization – had a high prey drive
Good with strangers Good with socialization
Good apartment dog Low – it needs space in its home and access to a good sized yard
Handles alone time well Good – can handle being left alone for moderate periods of time
Health issues Very good – a healthy dog usually though can be prone to eye problems and joint dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic medical needs
Food expenses $275 a year for dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, license, basic training and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1005 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1000
Biting Statistics Attacks Doing Bodily Harm: 13 Maimings: 8 Child Victims: 8 Deaths: 0

The Belgian Malinois' Beginnings

The Belgian Malinois was part of a group of sheep herding dogs known as the Chiens de Berger Belge. It was bred in the late 19th century in Belgium and as well as being a herder it was also used to guard and as a watchdog. The other three varieties were the Tervuren, the Laekenois and the Groenendael. Today some kennel clubs recognize them as types of one breed, where as some like the AKC see them as separate breeds (apart from the Laekenois).

In 1891 the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club or Club du Chien de Berger Belge was started. Members met to sort out the different breeds to work out which were native to which areas, one of them being from the area of Malines. Professor Reul went on in 1892 to write the first standards for the Belgian Shepherd Dog of which there were three varieties, the long haired, rough haired and short haired (later to be called the Belgian Malinois). In 1901 the Belgian Shepherd Dog was recognized as a breed.

In Belgium it was a very popular dog but it was only from 1911 to the end of World War II that the US also started to be interested in them. However after the war interest waned again at least in the US, in its home land it continued to be very popular. The Belgian's police force first dogs were the Malinois and they did very well in international police dog trials. During both world wars they were used as ambulance cart dogs, messenger dogs, guard dogs, red cross dogs and even light machine gun cart dogs.

New Lease on Life

The second American club was formed in 1949 and it was the same year that a kennel breeding Malinois has success at dog shows and so drew more attention to the breed. By the 1960s there were several breeders in the US. There as in many countries the Malinois is bred to be a working dog or a sporting dog. Because of their success in drug detection, search and rescue, police work and guarding they are famously used by the secret service to protect the White House grounds. It is now ranked 51st by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a large dog weighing 60 to 75 pounds and standing 22 to 27 inches tall. It has a strong and agile body, and is squared in shape. Its coat is short, straight and stiff, a hard outer coat and a dense under coat. Around the neck there can be more hair like a small mane. Common colors are fawn, mahogany, black and brown. It often has black ears and a black mask and can have white markings too.

It has a deep chest, flat head, pointed muzzle and a black nose and lips. Eyes are an almond shaped and medium sized brown color. Its ears are erect and triangular. In some countries the dewclaws are removed.


The Inner Belgian Malinois


The Belgian Malinois is an intelligent, loyal and protective breed. It is very alert and males a great watchdog, will bark to let you know of an intruder, but it will also act to defend you, the home and the family. It can be aggressive but with the right training and socialization this would only be as a response to a real threat.

A first time owner could try this dog but really it is best with someone with experience. It needs lots of training, lots of attention each day and lots of exercise and mental stimulation. It also needs a confident owner who is clear in their role as the pack leader. It is an energetic dog and has strong territorial instincts. It will try to dominate and needs owners who are able to check that. How good the owner is with it can really affect the temperament and behavior. This is not a dog to impulse buy and it would be very advisable to talk about being its owner with people who know the breed.

A well raised Malinois is loving, affectionate, likes to please and likes to be engaged in work or physical activities. This is not a dog for people who prefer to stay in and relax all the time. It is very hard working and can have energy levels high like a puppy even up to the age of five. If it is not being given enough stimulation it can become destructive. It can be left alone for some periods of time, but not for too long and really does need companionship and to be a part of the family. While affectionate with family it tends to wary of strangers.

Living with a Belgian Malinois

What will training look like?

For someone with experience training a Malinois is easy as it is very intelligent, loves to work and is inclined to listen and obey. It will in fact need less repetition than most other dogs so can be trained quite quickly and taken to something far more advanced than just basic training. It will need you to be vary firm though so that you are the clear alpha and be ready for its attempts at being dominant. This does not mean you need to be harsh or negative with it. Positive training is far more effective. With confident leadership and rules that you are consistent with things will go better.

As well as undertaking obedience training and house breaking you also need to start early socialization with it. This will help it become a much better and more confident dog and one you can trust when out with it. Also keep in mind that some can still display herding behavior such as nipping at people, animals and children's heels, chasing them and circling them. Training will be needed to deal with such problems.

How active is the Belgian Malinois?

The Malinois is a very active breed and will need not just a lot of physical exercise but also a lot of mental stimulation. Make sure it has toys to rotate through and take the training further than just basic. It is a hard working dog and has a lot of stamina and endurance too. It needs to be in a home with some room and with a yard that is at least medium sized. It will also need owners who are happy to be very active and do not begrudge the time it needs spent outside on long walks, hikes, play and so on.


This is a breed that does very well in dog agility trials, and sporting trials and events. It can be kept successfully as a pet as long as you are able to engage it throughout the day. It will be happy to join you and hikes, jogging or even biking when trained properly. It should be taken for four 30-40 minute vigorous walks a day, or 2-3 longer ones. The walks should be brisk, something leisurely is not going to be enough for them. It will also like to have time off leash somewhere safe. A dog park is somewhere it could do that, have some socialization time and also play with you.

Caring for the Belgian Malinois

Grooming needs

The Malinois sheds a moderate to frequent amount and will also have seasonal heavy shedding or blow outs. There will be loose hair to clean up around the home and from clothing and it is not a hypoallergenic breed. Regular brushing can help lower how much loose hair there is, use a firm bristled brush and brush at least two to three times a week, if not daily. Do not be tempted to bathing too often though. That can actually dry out the skin so keep baths for when it really does need one.

You will also need to brush its teeth at least two to three times a week, check its ears for infection and wipe them clean once a week and have its nails clipped if it does not wear them down naturally. Be careful with his nails as there are vessels and nerves in them lower down the nail that will bleed and cause pain if nicked. You could leave this to the vet or professional groomer.

Feeding Time

A dog of this size is going to need 2½ to 4 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, but that should be split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. How much your Malinois needs exactly can vary depending on its size, level of activity, metabolism and age. Try to feed it a good quality food so that it has more nutritious content and less filler ingredients.

Belgian Malinois with children and other animals

This dog is good with children when it has had proper socialization and training. It is especially protective of children it has grown up with. They make good playmates together and can help to tire each other out! Young ones should be supervised though and taught how to touch and play nicely.

With other pets socialization is again a key component of how well it does around them as it does have a high prey drive. With pets in the home it has been raised with it is more accepting. With strange small animals or animals it sees outside it is likely to want to chase them as prey.

Around other dogs socialization is very important. Malinois are protective and territorial and have dominance issues. Around strange dogs especially ones of the same sex, it could have aggressive tendencies. However with proper socialization and training that can be controlled and it will then only react if the other dog actually does challenge them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns


With a lifespan of 10 to 12 years and being a healthy breed there are not as many health issues that can affect the Malinois. But there are some and they include joint dysplasia, eye problems, skin allergies and anesthesia sensitivity.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports on dogs attacking people and doing bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 34 years, the Belgian Malinois is mentioned 13 times. 8 of those were maimings, so the victims suffered permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. 8 of the 13 were children and there were thankfully no deaths.

The Malinois averages at 1 attack doing bodily harm every 2 and a half years. This is not a breed to fear or be worries about as being overly aggressive. But it can snap or over react as can any dog in certain situations. There are some important things owners can do to reduce the risk. Make sure your dog is one you can handle, get a dog that suits your experience, your level of activity and fits into the size of your home. Make sure you can give it the attention it needs, that you socialize it and that you give it least basic training. A dog that is well cared for and well raised, and fed properly is one less likely to be involved in any kind of incident.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A shelter dog is likely to be an adult but will cost less at around $250 to $350. A pet quality Malinois from a good breeder is more expensive costing about $1000. You can likely find something for less from puppy mills or backyard breeders, but there will be no guarantees with lines and breeding. This is not a route we recommend. If you want a dog that is show worthy and from a top breeder you can pay up to $5000 for one.

Initial costs for items needed like a crate, bowls, leash, collar and other miscellaneous items come to about $150. Initial medical concerns like shots, deworming, blood tests, examination, spaying or neutering and micro-chipping come to another $300 or so.

Annual costs for food based on a good quality dry dog food and treats are about $275. Annual medical basics like check ups, pet insurance and flea prevention come to about $485. Annual non-medical needs like basic training, license, toys and other miscellaneous items come to about $245.

This gives a yearly cost that starts at about $1005.


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The Belgian Malinois is absolutely a great working dog and could be a great pet too but really needs a specific kind of owner. You need to have knowledge and experience of owning dogs like this and be ready and able to be a firm owner, giving essential socialization and training. You also need to be fit and active as it needs a lot of exercise each day. A couple of 15 minute strolls are not going to be enough at all. It will also need mental stimulation as well as physical.

This is an intelligent dog, it has a lot of love and loyalty to offer and in the right home could be a magnificent addition to the family. It loves to be around people and is bright, joyful and eager. It may take a lot of attention and care but it is a very rewarding dog to have around if you can meet those needs.

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