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Belgian Malinois: Confident and smart

Belgian Malinois: Confident and smart

The Belgian Malinois, which is pronounced MAL-in-wah, is a medium-size Belgian shepherd dog! You’ll agree that this canine at first glance resembles a German Shepherd dog. According to the American Kennel Club, this breed ranks 43 on the list of the most popular breeds. And it’s not too hard to see why the Malinois puppy is as popular as he is!

These dogs aren’t only amazing family dogs, they are also known for their police work, secret service work, success in dog sports, and more. But this eager breed isn’t for everyone! They have a very high energy level, and they will need A LOT of exercise. 

In this article, we are going to take a closer look at everything that makes the Belgian Malinois as special as he is. So let’s dive right in and see what these intense dogs have to offer to you as a potential dog parent. 

History of the Belgian Malinois

Although the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd may appear to be linked at first glance, the breeds are separate and historically unconnected. The Mals are a robust, clever breed that were originally raised in northwest Belgium, near the city of Malines, where they were valued for their tenacity and used to herd sheep and cattle. The Malinois, Tervuren, Laekenois, and Groenendael breeds of Belgian shepherds were historically combined into a single breed.

According to the American Belgian Malinois Club , Malinois were among the first Belgian shepherd dogs imported into the United States (they arrived in 1911). They enjoyed a sustained period of popularity up to the start of World War II, which halted the shipments from Europe. In 1959, when the AKC recognized the Belgian shepherd dogs as a distinct breed, interest in the Mal increased, though it lagged behind the three other Belgian breeds in terms of popularity.

Belgian Malinois have a long history in the military and have served as machine gun pullers, ambulance dogs, and message bearers during World War I, according to the American Belgian Malinois Club. In Fayetteville, North Carolina, a tribute to military dogs includes a life-size statue of a Mal. This is a testament to how highly the breed is regarded for its service.

Most notably and most recently, a Mal by the name of Cairo supported Seal Team Six during the 2011 mission that resulted in the death of terrorist Osama Bin Laden. The breed is now in high demand as a working dog for a variety of jobs, including guarding and herding livestock and working alongside law enforcement. Modern Mals also make wonderful family pets due to their kind, playful nature and strong loyal inclinations. 

Belgian Malinois Breed Overview

The Belgian Malinois is a truly special dog breed. They are very strong and well-muscled, but at the same time very elegant. Unlike other muscular breeds, they aren’t bulky at all, but rather thin and strong. They are fairly tall too. Males tend to be between 24 and 26 inches at the shoulders, and females between 22 and 24 inches. Weight-wise the males are a little heavier than the females. Males weigh between 60 and 80 pounds, whereas females weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.

Malinois have short, straight hair. It actually feels quite hard to the touch. They also have a very dense undercoat. Their coat is typically rich fawn or mahogany-colored with a black mask on the face, black ears, and black tips on the hairs. But they can also be a full black Belgian Malinois.

These dogs bark a lot, as many other shepherds do, which might be an issue when they get bored. Although these dogs are not particularly bad diggers, if left unattended in the backyard with nothing to do, they can make sizable craters.

A Belgian Malinois has to be active frequently. Highly athletic and able to jump, pull sleds, compete in agility competitions, and of course, herd, these dogs perform best when they have a “job”, whether that be actively working as an assistance dog or in a law enforcement position or accompanying you on daily long jogs. They just need a task to accomplish. 

The Belgian Malinois’ coat is typically fawn or mahogany-colored with a black mask on the face


The Belgian Malinois is a great dog! They are very diligent, confident, and protective of their people and their people’s property in any situation. At the same time, this breed is affectionate with their family but does tend to be a bit reserved with strangers.

The Malinois is very smart too! They are quick learners and kind of people pleasers. They are eager to do whatever their people ask of them. However, these pups are the definition of high energy and it isn’t easy to keep up with them.

This is a great working dog that is always sure of itself and ready to protect. They’re warm and friendly with their family but standoffish with strangers until they get to know them. The Malinois is a great watchdog. They only use as much force as they need to protect their people and property. 

That said, temperament doesn’t just happen. It depends on a lot of things, like genetics, training, and socialization. Puppies with good personalities are playful and curious, and they are happy to come up to people and be held by them. Meeting the dog’s parents, siblings, or other family members can also help you figure out what the dog will be like as an adult.

One thing you need to take into consideration is that this breed needs early socialization. This means they should be in contact with many different people (young and old), sounds, and experiences. The issue with poorly socialized Belgian Malinois is that they could get aggressive.

Are they good family dogs?

Although well-socialized Malinois get along well with kids, especially if they’re raised with them, they might have a propensity to try to herd them when they play due of their strong herding instincts. Your Malinois has to learn that this kind of conduct is not acceptable. It may be better for an adult Malinois who has never lived with kids to live with kids who are old enough to engage with them appropriately.

Always supervise any interactions between small children and dogs to prevent biting or ear or tail pulling on either party’s behalf, and always teach kids how to approach and pet dogs. Teach your kids not to approach dogs that are eating or to try to grab the food from the dogs. With a youngster present, no dog should ever be left unattended.

If not raised alongside them from a young age, Malinois can be hostile against other dogs and cats. Start early and give your Malinois praise for good behavior if you want them to get along with other animals. It’s your obligation to keep your Malinois under control around other animals if it hasn’t been socialized.

Living with a Belgian Malinois

In the past, the Belgian Malinois was bred to herd sheep for hours at a time. Even though they aren’t used as herding dogs very often anymore, their stamina is still the same. Mals need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation every day. Mals can live in many places, even apartments if they get enough exercise, but they will be happiest in a home with a large, fenced yard where they can run around. Malinois like to be outside, but what they really want is to be with you all the time.

They get very close to their owners and are happiest when they are with them in everything they do. Because they are so loyal, Belgian Malinois shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time. A Mal that is left alone for too long will probably develop separation anxiety. If they don’t get enough exercise or care, they can become unhappy and act in ways that aren’t good for them.

Because they are smart and have a lot of energy, they are a great choice for an active owner who wants to spend a lot of time with their dog. If you want a friend who isn’t afraid to go on long adventures with you, the Mal will be the perfect fit. Adopting a Mal is probably not a good idea if you want a beautiful dog to sit at home with you. Before deciding on a dog, you should think about how you live. Talk to a reputable breeder or rescue group about what to expect. This will help you decide if this breed is right for you.


If you are adopting a Belgian Malinois puppy, the most important thing is to socialize them by exposing them to a variety of people, settings, and friendly pets under close supervision. Continue socializing your Malinois to reduce aggressive tendencies and timidity. Only in this way, will your pup grow into a well-mannered, calm, and friendly dog.

Additionally, make sure to establish a reliable schedule for your dog so they will know what to expect and will be prepared for their consistent training sessions. Just like any other dog breed, the Mal thrives on positive reinforcement training. If you are new to dog training and don’t know where to start, you can also roll your pup into a dog training class near you. 

While it will take your dog around a year to reach mature size, the breed’s mental development takes longer. These dogs don’t reach mental maturity until they are roughly three years old. To grow their minds, they require a lot of socialization and mentally challenging playtime. You can get your dog different puzzles that will get his neurons working. 

Although these dogs are quick learners, they do display some stubbornness. The three keys to training effectiveness are being explicit about expectations, being tough yet kind, and avoiding harsh treatment. If you are inexperienced, a professional trainer can help you and your dog in several ways. When looking for a dog trainer, do your research. Malinois learn best in an environment that is encouraging and rewarding and enables them to utilize their instincts to the fullest.

Exercising a Belgian Malinois 

You might’ve guessed it, the Belgian Malinois needs a lot of exercise! Generally speaking, they need 20 to 30 minutes of exercise three or four times a day. They love long walks, runs, and hikes, and just a quick walk won’t be enough for them.

They are made to do things. Your Belgian Malinois will be happy to go hiking or jogging with you. You could train them to do obedience or agility competitions. As long as you keep them busy, it doesn’t really matter what you do. Don’t be surprised if they run around in big circles in your yard. It’s a holdover from when they used to herd animals.

These dogs will thrive with an owner who will work with them and teach them many tricks. They need an owner who will have time to tend to their exercise needs. Simply put, they need an active owner who will be firm, but calm, and consistent with them.

If they get enough exercise, Belgian Malinois can do well in small spaces. They like places that are cool, but they do well in places that are warmer as well. They should always be treated like family members and live inside.

The needs of a puppy are a bit different. From the time they are nine weeks old to the time they are four months old, going to puppy kindergarten once or twice a week is a great way for them to get exercise, training, and socialization. They can also play in the yard for 15 to 20 minutes in the morning and evening. Throw them a ball that they can go get.

Coat & Grooming

The hair on a Malinois is short, straight, and feels rough to the touch. A dog that was raised to work outside in all kinds of weather has a hard topcoat and a dense undercoat to protect it from the weather. Around the neck, the hair is a little longer, making a sort of mini-mane.

The Malinois’s short coat is easy to keep in good condition. Brush it once a week with a firm bristle brush, and only bathe it when you need to. Malinois shed more in the spring and fall, but they shed all year long, as they have a double coat.

At least twice or three times a week, you should brush your Malinois’s teeth to remove tartar and bacteria. To prevent dog dental problems, the best option would be to brush their teeth every day.

If your dog doesn’t naturally wear down its nails, you should cut them. You can hear them clicking on the floor when they’re too long. If you don’t know how to do that, you can ask your vet or groomer to do it for you. And finally, check their ears too. If they are dirty, clean your dog’s ears with a few cotton balls and a cleaning solution. If you notice redness, or a weird discharge, contact your vet right away.

Start brushing and examining your Malinois when it is still a puppy. Dogs are sensitive about their feet, so touch them often and look inside their mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience by giving praise and treats. This will make it easier for them to be handled as adults for vet visits and other things.

Feeding the Belgian Malinois

This breed of dog is big and has a lot of energy, so he will definitely need a lot of food. Mal eats about three cups of food every day. If your dog gets a lot of exercise, is a working dog, or just had a very busy and active day, he might need a bit more. As your dog gets older and less active, you can cut back on the amount of food you give him. 

If you can’t afford to buy so much good dog food, you might want to get a smaller dog instead. But it shouldn’t be a choice to be cheap and buy the cheapest dog food you can find. He will feel better and be able to spend more time with you if he eats good food. They will also give him a lot of omega fats, which are important for his skin and coat and for keeping his joints healthy. Cheap dog food is full of fillers like corn and other grains that don’t provide your dog with any real nutrition.

Most of the food you give your dog should be made of protein. Mals grow up to be big, muscular dogs, and they need a lot of protein to do this. Some dog owners also choose to feed their dogs raw food. This diet is mostly raw meat, vegetables, and other foods that come from animals, like eggs. But if you’re thinking about doing that, we think you should talk to a vet first.


The Belgian Malinois is a breed that is overall healthy and can live for 14 to 16 years. But like all breeds, the Mal is susceptible to some health problems. The most common health issues that your dog could face are:

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit tightly into the hip joint. It is passed down from dog parent to puppy. Elbow dysplasia is also a disease that tends to run in families of large-breed dogs. It’s thought to be caused by the fact that the three bones that make up a dog’s elbow grow at different rates. Both of these health issues will cause pain and loss of mobility in your dog. 

PRA is a disease that causes the photoreceptors at the back of the eye to die, eventually leading to blindness. PRA can be found years before a dog shows signs of going blind. Luckily, dogs can use their other senses to make up for the fact that they can’t see, so a blind dog can still live a full and happy life. Just don’t move the furniture around all the time.

The Belgian Malinois doesn’t take anesthesia well. Because they have more muscle than fat, they die more often than most dogs when they are put under anesthesia. Before letting your Malinois have surgery or even just his teeth cleaned, make sure your vet knows about this.

Not all Mals have serious health problems, but if you are thinking about getting one, you should know about these common problems. And it’s important to buy all dogs from reputable breeders who will do all the recommended health tests. Check their National Breed Club for a list of reliable breeders. 

Belgian Malinois VS German Shepherd

As we already mentioned, many people have the tendency to confuse the Belgian Malinois with the German Shepherd dog. But there are certain differences with the Belgian Malinois VS German Shepherd comparison that will make it easy for you to always know which of these two breeds a dog belongs to. 

First of all, these two dogs aren’t the same color. The Belgian Malinois has a black mask and black ears while being more blond or fawn in color. The German Shepherd, however, combines black and dark blonde fur with a significantly deeper overall appearance. This breed’s coat can occasionally have three or more colors.

These two breeds are around the same height. Males measure 24-26 inches tall and females 22–24 inches. But compared to most German Shepherds, Malinois are much slimmer. The Malinois female weighs 40–60 pounds, compared to the male’s 60–80 pounds. A female German Shepherd can weigh up to 70 pounds, while a male can weigh up to 90 pounds.


In conclusion, the Belgian Malinois is an amazing dog! Very loyal, smart, and loving. However, they are not for everyone! They need a very responsible owner, who will have a lot of time for them. Who will take good care of them and their needs, which includes hours of exercise daily! 

Generally speaking, they are great with other pets and children. However, because they were bred for herding, they could try to nip at your child’s heels in order to herd them when playing. This kind of behavior is another reason why they need a firm and responsible owner.

Because they are so sensitive and high-energy, Malinois are only good for people who have owned dogs before and know how to train them. Malinois are very active dogs who like to be a part of everything that the family does. People who work long hours or travel a lot and have to leave their dogs at home aren’t good candidates for them.

If you have decided that the Malinois is the right breed for you, you should introduce yours to as many different people, dogs, other animals, and situations as soon as possible. Your Malinois puppy should go to puppy kindergarten classes and then obedience training classes.

Malinois learn quickly and are willing to do anything their people ask of them. They are good at obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, herding, showing, Schutzhund and other protection sports, search and rescue, and police work. Trainers say they have a high “play drive,” which means they love to play and will do just about anything you ask them to.


My name is Jackie and I am a veterinarian with a degree in veterinary medicine. With extensive experience in treating various animals, I am known for my compassionate and personalized approach to animal care.