The Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is not the appropriate choice of a canine companion for
everyone. Usually highly active, and agile, with high levels of confidence,
tempered with a sensitive nature, makes the Malinois more appropriate for
experienced dog owners. The following information is provided to help you
familiarize yourself with what owning a Malinois can mean to your lifestyle and
One of four breeds, called Belgian Shepherd Varieties in the country where they
originated, the Belgian Malinois is named for the township area of Malines
Belgium where it was originally valued and bred for it's flock tending
abilities. Two World Wars nearly eliminated all four varieties and forever
changed the focus of admirers and breeders of this proud, elegant dog. Today,
highly valued for its versatility, the Malinois does just about any activity
its owner does. Recognized by the AKC in 1959 the Malinois joined the
Miscellaneous Class and by 1965 gained full breed status in the Working Group.
Today the Malinois is part of the Herding Group created by AKC in 1983.
The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized, well-balanced, square dog, with an
exceptionally proud carriage of the head and neck. The dog is strong, agile,
well-muscled, and alert. It stands squarely on all fours. The whole
conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.
Males are 23-27 inches in height, measured at the withers, and weigh 65-75
pounds; females are 21-25 inches and weigh about 50-60 pounds. The coat is
comparatively short and straight, with dense undercoat. The hair is somewhat
longer around the neck - where it resembles a ridge or collar - and on the tail
and the back of the thighs. Color ranges from rich fawn to mahogany, with black
overlay, mask and ears.
Malinois are essentially natural dogs and very low-maintenance. Ears, tail, and
dew claws are fine as is; no cropping is necessary. Very little grooming is
needed; however, Malinois shed profusely twice a year.
The breed has a life span of approximately 10-12 years. A number of Malinois go
grey on the chin at a very early age, sometimes as early as 18 months. These
are informally called "frosteds". Do not assume that a dog with a grizzled
muzzle is an older animal.
Malinois are quite sensitive to anaesthesia and generally require a smaller
dose than is indicated by size and weight.
Hip dysplasia is a potential problem with the Malinois though not currently a
significant one. (Of 830 evaluations from 1-1-74 to 1-1-98 6.3% rated
Intelligent and attentive, the Malinois is known for its trainability, and is
being successfully worked in conformation, obedience, schutzhund, ring sport,
herding, and tracking. The breed is also increasingly in demand as "sniffing"
dogs, locating drugs or bombs at airports and borders.
Typically, Malinois are affectionate with children and other animals. They may
tend to be both bossy and protective.
Malinois make excellent pets, but, they are not good kennel dogs. They are very
gregarious and need to be an integral part of the family. If bored, a Malinois
*will* entertain itself, frequently at its owner's expense.
It is important to remember that these dogs are extremely sensitive. Although
frequently mistaken for German Shepherd crosses, Malinois do not respond well
to the severe training methods sometimes associated with the GSD. Harsh
training can ruin a Malinois.
Descriptions of all the Belgians include "natural tendency to move in a circle
rather than a straight line", and "always in motion". These are busy dogs. They
need plenty of exercise and like to have a job to do. A fenced yard is best,
but even an outdoor dog tends not to get enough exercise on its own. They need
regular walks and play periods. Most Malinois love catching balls and Frisbees.
They are impervious to bad weather and make excellent jogging companions.
Recommended mileage is up to 35 miles per week. (Don't start running with your
dog until it's at least a year old.)
The Transition Period:
When a Malinois is going through transition, he has lost his bond and security.
If frightened or feeling stressed the Malinois may be shy, or may react
An added variable is the 8-12 month period. During this time
, but not all, Malinois that have been very stable will act inappropriately.
To judge the behavior accurately, you have to know the dog's history and
genetic background. When in transition, the Malinois needs time to re-bond in a
quiet, secure, and relaxed atmosphere without being put in stressful
situations. This usually takes about two months.
Once bonded, the new owners can start to introduce the dog to new situations.
After a period of a few months to a year, depending on the background of the
dog, you can have a self-confident, devoted, intelligent, stable dog.
Most breeds don't need this kind of handling. Because of their independence and
high activity level the Malinois is not for everyone. They like to snap their
jaws, and herd everything. They need a soft-spoken voice and a firm hand. From
our point of view, the Malinois is not a dog for the first-time dog owner.