The Belgian Malinois is an intelligent, focused, active, and faithful dog breed. People originally bred it for herding.
The Belgian dogs serve on the front lines in military and police units and search and rescue operations. The Secret Service and Navy SEALS use them. Don’t let that stop you from considering this breed if you want an active companion.
You should know a few things if you consider getting a Belgian Malinois puppy. First, you may want to learn about their behavior. Secondly, it is essential to know how long they typically live. Last, you may want to find out if they shed or have any health issues, such as hip problems.
Find answers to those questions in this complete guide to the Belgian Malinois breed.
With their European backgrounds and striking similar physical appearance, many people confuse the dogs with German Shepherds.
However, there are many differences between the breeds.
The Belgian dog’s lovely fawn easily distinguishes it. The dog’s coat is short and sleek, with black tips and a softer undercoat. The muzzle is black, as are the alert, naturally erect ears.
Male dogs weigh 55-75 pounds and measure 24-26 inches at the shoulders. Females are smaller, weighing 40-60 pounds and measuring 22-24 inches at the shoulders.
This breed usually lives for 10-12 years with good care, but some can live up to 15 years.
Like many other shepherds, the dogs express themselves with plenty of barking, which can become problematic with boredom.
These dogs dig big holes if they are bored and left alone in the backyard without anything to do.
A Belgian Malinois requires plenty of activity. These dogs are athletic and can jump, pull sleds, compete in agility contests, and herd. They do well when they have a purpose, like going on long runs with you or working as a service dog.
The dogs are popular choices for use as military dogs, guard dogs, or in a law enforcement capacity.
Before we take a closer look at common health problems in Belgian sheepdogs, it’s worth mentioning that reputable breeders offer complete transparency about the parents’ health clearances, including certifications on hips and elbows, heart, and eye health.
Certificates don’t prevent issues from occurring, but they do provide proof that the pup’s parents are sound.
A good breeder will allow you to meet and interact with the puppy’s parents. They won’t hesitate to provide you with reliable references, including prior clients and their veterinarians.
There are a few common health issues associated with the breed:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Corneal disease
- Sensitive skin/allergies
- Thyroid disease
- Anesthesia sensitivity
Genetics affect the price of these dogs. You’ll pay more for a puppy from a good line.
Even if your dog has health certifications, there’s no guarantee they won’t have common health problems throughout their life.
At the same time, purchasing a Malinois for a low price can be a recipe for disaster.
If, for example, your dog has hip dysplasia, you could pay thousands for surgery or need to put your beloved pet to sleep. That’s a choice no one wants to make.
You’ll first notice the dog’s intense intelligence and high energy. These dogs are always active and need exercise and stimulation to prevent boredom and find ways to entertain themselves.
This breed isn’t the best choice for a first-time dog owner, nor is it ideal for someone who prefers watching TV over more active pursuits.
Individual temperament varies, but there are some general characteristics. The dogs are often quite aloof with strangers, but they will make friends once it’s clear that someone new is welcome in your home.
These dogs take guarding home and family seriously and will be highly protective once bonded with you.
While the dogs are attentive and can be very good with kids, it’s important to note that not all Malinois have the right temperament to be a family pet and share a home with small children.
Smaller dogs, cats, and other small pets don’t usually make excellent companions for these dogs.
This breed doesn’t do well when left alone for long periods. It can cause issues like being shy and biting out of fear. Another large dog makes the ideal companion for those times when you can’t be by your Malinois’ side.
It’s best to wait until your first dog is fully grown or introduce a new puppy to your home simultaneously. Another Malinois would be a fantastic companion, but be very careful about getting two dogs at once unless you’re an experienced dog owner who can handle the demands of grooming and exercise.
Caring for your pet, including frequent brushing and bathing, will keep your dog’s short-haired coat looking and feeling its best. Even with grooming, you can expect your dog to shed a bit.
Because the dogs have double coats, the undercoat will “blow” or shed twice annually, creating quite a mess if you don’t stay on top of things.
If you’re adopting a Belgian Malinois puppy, socialize them by exposing them to many people and different situations and friendly dogs while supervised.
Keep socializing your Malinois to prevent shyness and keep aggressive tendencies to a minimum.
Additionally, ensure that you set up a solid routine for your puppy so they know what to expect and are set up for success. These pups love to play fetch and will have fun finding objects you hide from them.
Puzzle toys and interactive feeders keep the dogs active and engaged but avoid “tug” games to prevent accidental biting. Whichever games and training techniques you choose, consistently reward your puppy for doing the right thing.
While your dog will grow to adulthood within about a year, the breed’s mental development takes longer.
These dogs are not considered mentally mature until about age three. They need lots of interaction and stimulating playtime to develop their minds.
While these dogs are fast learners, they do exhibit some willfulness. Making expectations clear, being firm but kind, and avoiding harsh treatment are three keys to success in training your dog.
If you’re inexperienced, you and your dog will benefit from some of the assistance of a professional trainer.
Do your homework when looking for a dog trainer. Malinois learn best in a supportive, rewarding environment using positive reinforcement that allows them to make the most of their instincts.
Suppose your dog will be a pet, not a working dog like a police or military dog. There’s no need to fall for the misconception that “only a Belgian Malinois trainer can teach a Belgian Malinois correctly.”
Any good trainer can help your dog learn what you want them to know.
The dogs enjoy agility training and do well in competitions. As for protective work, they have strong instincts.
Unless your dog is destined for a lifetime of police or military work, there’s no need to teach them how to be a protection dog to guard your home and protect you from intruders. They’ll do it on their own.
Long walks — at least 40 minutes to an hour daily- will do the trick if you’re not into running.
They quickly become destructive without plenty of exercise and exciting chew toys. Consider whether you’re prepared to provide the necessary activity for a Belgian Malinois.
Finding a Belgian Malinois
If you’re hoping to buy a puppy, dig deep when looking for a reputable breeder through the American Kennel Club Marketplace.
Check references, read reviews, and see if you can interact with others who have purchased puppies from the same breeder. Double-check to ensure that the breeder is not operating a puppy mill.
If you don’t have your heart set on a puppy, consider adopting an adult dog from a rescue. Many wonderful dogs have lost their homes and need new families to love.
Choosing the right dog
Is a Belgian Malinois the right dog for you? Mals are intense and energetic. However, they can also be loyal and loving. This is possible if they are treated well, appropriately trained, and given chances to be active and engaged.