Breed Group: Herding
Temperament and Behavior
Keenly intelligent and always ready to work, a Belgian Malinois (Mal-in-wah) is a strong, active, responsive dog that throws himself into whatever he is doing, whether it is playing, guarding, agility competitions, police work, or search and rescue. At the same time, they are loving of family including children, and have a need to be around their people. The Belgian Malinois is not a dog for someone who spends long hours away from home or travels frequently. Also important is keeping them occupied physically and mentally. Denying them the companionship they crave or letting them become bored will lead to obsessive behavior. These are not dogs you can put in the backyard and forget about. A walk around the block won’t do either. They need hard exercise such as running, hiking, or chasing a frisbee. Advanced obedience, tracking, and agility training can provide the mental challenge they need. They are exceptional watch and protection dogs who communicate with their voice freely. They are reserved with strangers and territorial with other dogs. If raised with them, they will likely accept other pets but may still view cats, rabbits, and birds as prey and should be introduced with caution. Many poke or nip in an effort to herd.
Physical CharacteristicsSometimes mistaken for a German Shepherd Dog, Belgian Malinois are large agile, well-muscled dogs. They give the impression of being strong without being bulky. Males stand 25 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 50 and 75 pounds. Females are an inch or two shorter and about 10 pounds lighter. Their coat is short. Colors range from mahogany to fawn, with black-tipped hairs mostly on the chest, a black face mask, and black or dark brown ears. The coat needs minimal grooming. Belgian Malinois shed moderately year-round with heavy seasonal shedding twice a year. They do well in temperate climates.
Trainer's NotesTo prevent a Belgian Malinois from becoming shy or suspicious, they need more attention paid to socialization as young puppies than most breeds. They are thinking dogs that learn very quickly but are not for a novice owner or trainer. They will challenge all but the best trainers to keep up with them learning bad habits as quickly as those that are intended. Some are sensitive dogs that need a light touch while others are “harder”.
HealthBelgian Malinois are generally healthy dogs. Their most common health problem is Elbow Dysplasia which affects about 10% of all dogs tested. Another 5% suffer from Hip Dysplasia. Less frequently seen is Epilepsy, and thyroid problems. They live to be about 12 years old.
PopularityThe breed is ranked 87th in popularity with fewer than 1,000 dogs registered per year. They are much more popular in Europe, especially in France and Belgium. Young dogs that are too rambunctious for a novice owner or who fail to meet the temperament requirements for police work are often available through the breed rescue organization.
Breed HistoryThe Belgian Malinois is named for the town of Malines, Belgium, where it was originally bred to guard and herd livestock. It traces its development as a breed back to the late 1800s. In the United States, the American Kennel Club recognized the Belgian Malinois as a separate breed in 1959.
Additional InformationIn Europe, the AKC breeds called the Belgian Sheepdog, Belgian Malinois, and Belgian Tervuren, together with the Belgian Laekenois (a wire-hair variety the AKC does not recognize) are viewed as the same breed (called the Belgian Shepherd), with different coat colors and textures. The national Breed Club is the American Belgian Malinois Club.