Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois
John Walton
Written by John Walton

It is widely believed that there is a dog for every kind of person out there, a dog for every lifestyle and a dog for every single personality, capable of matching perfectly with the owner and synergizing into the perfect master – pet relationship.

There is one less known dog breed that can do what they do but in spades. A dog that is the backbone of canine police forces, canine military units, search and rescue dogs, customs patrol, a dog that not only has the intelligence, the strength and the endurance to take on everything that we can, but also have the courage to recognize danger and act in a selfless fashion towards it.

This dog is not a super hero; this dog is the Belgian Malinois, and it has been making dog history ever since the breed first appeared in the late 1800s. Something to know upfront about this dog is the fact that you have already seen it in action, riding along with police units, in war zones and combat news, sniffing around with the airport police and even accompanying search and rescue parties, however, you are likely to have mistaken it for the German shepherd because of their looks. They are very similar, and it is quite easy to mix them up, however the simplest way of telling them apart is by looking at their coats.

The German Shepherd has a more elegant, slightly longer coat, more beautiful and more regal. The Belgian Malinois on the other hand has a shorter, more compact coat, usually lacking the black and brown color scheme that the German Shepherd sports.

There are, of course several other differences that you can use to tell them apart, however this one is the most obvious one and by far the easiest method that you can use.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Herding dogs
Height:1 foot 20 inches to 2 feet
Weight: 40 to 80 pounds
Life Span:12 to 14 years

The Belgian Malinois is more or less the super hero of dogs. It can and will do anything that is required of him to do. Literally, this dog has made a fine reputation for itself in some of the harshest and unforgiving places that the world had to throw at it, and it came out with a wagging tail and a smile on its face.

This dog served in wars, and it is still an integral part of military operations in the Middle East and other theaters of war. Due to its elevated level of intelligence and adaptability, this dog managed to find its place as a police dog, a fire dog, a search and rescue dog, a sniffer and a soldier in the front lines.

Probably one of the braves, smartest and most enduring dogs in the world, the Belgian Malinois was initially bred and designed in order to do something else entirely.

It all started in Belgium in the late 1800s, in the city of Malines, when a group of dog breeders and trainers came together and started working on breeding the ultimate sheep dog, a dog that is smart, witty, fast to react, and with basic senses second only to its ancestor, the wolf.

After years and years of trial and error, they finally came up with the Belgian Malinois, a dog which was to surpass all other dogs and outperform them at every single step of the way.

It took a while before other nations got wind of this dog, and only recently it managed to make its way to the United States, however this dog quickly found its place among the bravest men and women that the world has ever seen.

It is so versatile and so intelligent that it even managed to secure a permanent and important role in modern warfare as we know it today.

It is even rumored that among the members of the strike force tasked with taking down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on the 2nd of May 2011, there was a Belgian Malinois accompanying them and helping them every single step of the way.

Yes, this is indeed a tough dog, a dog that has made history, and a dog that will continue to do so; however one must ask the question: is this dog a good dog to have as a pet?

The answer to that is pretty simple. The Belgian Malinois would make a great pet and a great addition to your family, however it is not for everyone, and a dog of this caliber requires a lot of things that inexperienced dog owners and first time trainers will have trouble providing.

Main Highlights
  • This is a very smart and witty dog.
  • It is capable of adapting to harsh situations and hostile environments.
  • It’s bravery and loyalty are unmatched.
  • It is often confused with the German Shepherd.
  • It is a great pet to have, but it requires a lot of training and discipline.
  • This dog has a strong personality and a lot of willpower behind it, so be ready for a lot of training.
  • This dog is not recommended for first time dog owners because of its stubborn and difficult nature.
  • This dog is great with other pets, dogs and people, it the dog has been properly socialized and trained from a young age.
  • This dog packs a lot of power and a temper to match, which is another reason why training is imperative from a young age.
  • This dog was created and bred to be a herding dog, and it sports the pack mentality, often seeing the family as the pack.
  • This dog can be a bit weary towards strangers, often keeping a very close eye on them and jumping at the slightest provocation either towards the dog itself or towards family members.
  • This dog can live anywhere, even in small apartments.
  • The Belgian Malinois needs a lot of exercise, so it is recommended for people with an active lifestyle or athletes.
  • This dog might seem clownish and a bit dopey at times, however it is just an act, the dog is actually very smart and very witty.
  • There are few, if any, second chances with this dog, due to its stuborn and intelligent nature.
  • These dogs tend to be dominant, the true pack leaders, so you might have some trouble grabbing control back if you happen to lose it.
  • The dog requires training from a very young age, and the owner needs to keep practicing and keep enforcing the training constantly.
  • It is a fairly clean and sanitary dog, with a short and easy to clean coat.
  • This dog might have a short coat, but it sheds a lot, especially during the summer and autumn.
  • This is a medium sized dog, however because of its active style, this dog eats almost as much as big dogs.
  • This is a generally healthy breed, however some health problems can occur when the dog becomes of old age.
  • If left untrained, you will struggle when it comes to controlling the dog, and the dog will boast a dangerous temperament towards strangers and other animals.
  • This is the kind of dog that is loyal enough to take a bullet for you without hesitations and without expecting anything in return.
  • It is not exactly famous or at least well known, nor is it a dog that is easily recognizable.
  • This dog needs lots of attention, exercise and patience.
  • Because of its strong will, it’s known to act out and test the limits of your patience.
Breed History

The story of this breed starts in Belgium, in the city of Malines, where a group of dog breeders and trainers got together and decided to start working on the perfect herding dog.

The idea was simple. The dog needed to be of medium size, strong enough to handle anything that the wilderness can throw at it, smart enough to adapt to any situation and loyal enough to protect the herd and the master from anything.

So they were basically stretching their chances, however after several years they managed to come up with the dog that did it all, and they named it The Belgian Malinois.

Over the years, this dog has made itself useful in a lot of fields, going above and beyond the call of duty multiple times.

Only recently it managed to find its way to the United States, where it became incredibly popular with law enforcement and the military.

Over the years, the Belgian Malinois saved hundreds if not thousands of lives in the Middle East, acting as a bomb sniffer and keeping the soldiers safe from any unwanted explosions.

Even today, this is the preferred breed for the troops in Afghanistan and in other war zones, because of its capabilities, intellect and above all else loyalty.


This dog is a medium sized dog. It’s on average between 1 foot 20 inches and 2 feet tall at the shoulder. It also weighs as much as a medium sized dog, between 40 and 80 pounds.

What can be noticed right off the beat in regards to the Belgian Malinois is its muscular body. With a very strong chest and powerful back muscles, this dog might be the size of a medium dog, but it’s almost as strong as a big dog.

Personality and Character

The Belgian Malinois is a very smart dog, and along with its intelligence comes a very strong personality and a truckload of willpower; and the dog is not afraid to show them.

It is not exactly easy to train, however if trained by the right people, and if the master is willing to continue practicing with the dog and reinforce the training constantly, the dog will be obedient, respectful, and will not challenge you as much and as often as he or she would without said training.

It is a loyal and protective dog, so socialization from a very young age is a must. It is more or less the perfect guard dog, however keep an eye on the dog around strangers or if you bring someone new into your home, the dog will be a bit weary of them.

Health and Potential Problems

Like most dogs of its size, the Belgian Malinois comes with a few health risks.

Like the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois can develop dysplasia, and there is the risk of sight problems as the dog gets older.

Don’t worry though, the chances of this happening are relatively slim, and with regular visits to the veterinarian, these problems can be caught early on and treated before they become a real risk.

Another thing to mention here is the fact that, just like the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois runs the risk developing a life threatening stomach infection during the puppy years.

Once formed, this stomach infection becomes incredibly dangerous, so make sure that your local veterinarian pays very close attention to the dog and you visit him or her frequently during the dog’s younger years.

Care Features

Caring for the Belgian Malinois is not an easy thing to do. First of all, make sure that the dog starts training from a very young age, preferably as young as 4-6 weeks old, and that the very first thing that the dog experiences is proper socialization and interaction with other dogs, other pets and other humans.

This will come in handy later on and it will save you a lot of trouble and headaches because the dog will not be as dangerous as it can be, and it will be a bit more relaxed and a bit more lenient and inviting towards new animals and people.

Another thing to note here is the fact that the dog needs a lot of exercise every single day in order to keep his or her health up and general disposition at an all-time high.

This dog is very clever, and it’s only a matter of time before he or she learns how to open doors and even windows, so make sure to keep an eye on your Belgian Malinois, in case he or she becomes a bit to adventurous.

Feeding Schedule

Here is where things become very interesting, and all of a sudden the idea of owning a Belgian Malinois becomes a bit complicated. The Belgian Malinois is a medium sized dog, that requires a lot of exercise at a daily basis. Because of its need for exercise, the dog’s metabolism tends to be very high, and as such, he eats like a big dog.

To put this into perspective, for a fully grown Belgian Malinois, you are looking at around 3 meals per day.

It is not advised to keep your dog on an exclusively carnivorous diet, even with a lot of daily exercise. Make sure to mix in some vegetables in every now and again, and sure your dog gets a lot of water.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Belgian Malinois comes in a variety of coats, ranging from tan to dark brown, however the face and ears are always black, often resembling charcoal.

The coat is a rather short and comfortable one. It feels pleasant to pet and it is easy to groom. Be careful though, this dog sheds a lot more that you would expect, especially during the spring and autumn.

Grooming the Belgian Malinois is quite easy; however you will not be able to stop the shedding. Simply brush the dog once per week and make sure to give the dog a bath every now and again as the coat is able to trap dust despite its short size.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Belgian Malinois, if properly trained and socialized from an early age, is a great pet to have around the house, and it can be great with kids, other pets and even the senior members of the family.

Something to keep in mind though, when it comes to other pets, is the fact that this dog is not all business all the time.

It is a very intelligent and quite witty dog, however at the same time, the Belgian Malinois likes to have its fun. So what you might end up with is a dog that likes to play with other pets, and as time goes by, a dog that convinces other pets and inspires them to more or less make fun of yo, in a rather clownish and amusing fashion.

The Belgian Malinois is a very special dog. It is able to thrive in places where other dogs are far too afraid to venture. It is very popular with law enforcement and the military, however it is also a great dog to have around the house and probably the perfect guard dog.

You will have to pay a lot of attention and spend a lot of time with this dog, not to mention the fact that the Belgian Malinois requires a lot of daily exercise. However if you truly feel that the Belgian Malinois is the dog for you, and you have your heart set on owning one while at the same time ready for the things that you will have to do and the training that you will have to provide your dog with, then you might find that Belgian Malinois is a great choice for a pet.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.