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Belgian Malinois

Canines of the Belgian Malinois dog breed were originally

bred to be herding dogs. Today, they also work as police
dogs, protection dogs, and family companions. In the
hands of an experienced dog person, they are intense,
intelligent and athletic companions.

Breed Characteristics:
Adapts Well to Apartment Living 1 More info +
Good For Novice Owners 2 More info +
Sensitivity Level 5 More info +
Tolerates Being Alone 3 More info +
Tolerates Cold Weather 4 More info +
Tolerates Hot Weather 3 More info +
All Around Friendliness
Affectionate with Family 4 More info +
Kid Friendly 2 More info +
Dog Friendly 2 More info +
Friendly Toward Strangers 2 More info +
Health Grooming
Amount Of Shedding 2 More info +
Drooling Potential 3 More info +
Easy To Groom 3 More info +
General Health 3 More info +
Potential For Weight Gain 2 More info +
Size 4 More info +

Easy To Train 5 More info +

Intelligence 5 More info +
Potential For Mouthiness 1 More info +
Prey Drive 4 More info +
Tendency To Bark Or Howl 1 More info +
Wanderlust Potential 3 More info +
Exercise Needs
Energy Level 5 More info +
Intensity 4 More info +
Exercise Needs 5 More info +
Potential For Playfulness 5 More info +
Vital Stats:
Height: 1 foot, 10 inches to 2 feet,
Life Span: 12 to 14 years

inches tall at



The Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) is a medium-size Belgian

shepherd dog that at first glance resembles a German Shepherd Dog. Malinois are
shorthaired, fawn-colored dogs with a black mask. They are one of four types of
Belgian herding dogs, and have been shown in the U.S. as a separate breed since
Originally developed in Malines, Belgium, Malinois have a great deal of stamina
and truly enjoy working. They are intelligent and very active dogs that excel at
many tasks. In addition to herding, they also do well with police work, search and
rescue, and in performance events, such as agility.
People who are not familiar with the Malinois often confuse him with the German
Shepherd Dog (GSD), but there are significant differences in the body structure and
temperament of the two breeds. Malinois are smaller dogs with lighter bones. They
stand with their weight well on their toes, which gives them a square body profile,
while today's GSD has a long, sloping back and carries his weight flatter on his feet.
Malinois are fawn-colored, red, or brown, and the tips of their hair are black, while
the GSD is usually tan with a black saddle. Additionally, the Malinois has a more
refined, chiseled head that the GSD and smaller, more triangular ears.
Many think that the Malinois is more alert and quicker to respond than the GSD.
They're also very sensitive dogs that don't respond well to harsh training methods.
Some Malinois are friendly and assertive, but others are reserved and aloof with
strangers. They should never have a fearful or aggressive temperament. Because of
their energy level and sensitivity, Malinois are recommended only for people who
have previously owned dogs and have experience with dog training. Malinois are
very intense dogs who like to be included in all of the family activities. They aren't
well suited for people who work long hours or must travel often, leaving their dog
at home.

If you have decided that the Malinois is the breed for you, you should expose yours
to many different people, dogs, other animals and situations as early as possible.
Puppy kindergarten classes are recommended for your Malinois puppy, followed by
obedience training class.
Malinois are quick learners and eager to do whatever their people ask of them. They
excel are obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, herding, showing, Schutzhund and
other protection sports, search and rescue, and police work. Trainers describe them
as having a high "play drive," which means that they love to play, and about
anything you ask them to do is play to them.
But the Malinois' owner should never forget that this is a breed that was developed
to protect and herd. Poorly bred Malinois or ones that have been poorly socialized
may be aggressive out of fear or shyness. Additionally, although well-socialized
Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with them, they may
have a tendency to nip at their heels and try to herd them when playing.


Belgian Malinois have a great deal of energy and need a lot of exercise.
Make sure you have the room and time to provide it.
Malinois are very intelligent and alert. They also have strong herding and
protection instincts. Early, consistent training is critical!
Although they are good-size dogs, they are very people-oriented and want
to be included in family activities.
Malinois are constant shedders. They shed heavily twice a year.
Belgian Malinois are intense dogs that are play-oriented and sensitive.
Training should be fun, consistent, and positive.
Because of their intelligence, high energy, and other characteristics,
Malinois are not recommended for inexperienced dog owners.
To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder,
puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her
breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might
pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.

The Belgian Malinois is one of four varieties of Belgian Sheepdogs, which were
developed in Belgium in the late 1800s. The four varieties are the Malinois (fawnmahogany, short coat with black mask), Tervuren (fawn-mahogany, long coat with
black mask) the Laekenois (fawn, rough coat), and the Groenendael (black, long
coat). The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes all but the Laekenois as
separate breeds in the U.S., while the United Kennel Club recognizes all four types
as one.
The Club du Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) was formed in
September 1891 to determine which of the many different types of dogs was
representative only of the shepherd dogs developed in Belgium. In November of
that same year, breeders and fanciers met on the outskirts of Brussels to examine
shepherd dogs from that area. After much deliberation, veterinary professor

Adolphe Reul and a panel of judges concluded that the native shepherd dog of that
province were square, medium-size dogs with well-set triangular ears and very dark
brown eyes and differed only in the texture, color, and length of hair. Subsequent
examinations of dogs in other Belgian provinces resulted in similar findings.
In 1892, Professor Reul wrote the first Belgian Shepherd Dog standard, which
recognized three varieties: dogs with long coats, dogs with short coats, and dogs
with rough coats. The Club du Chien de Berger Belge asked the Societe Royale
Saint-Hubert (Belgium's equivalent to the AKC) for breed status, but was denied.
By 1901, however, the Belgian Shepherd Dog was finally recognized as a breed.
Today's Malinois can be traced to a breeding pair owned by a shepherd from
Laeken named Adrien Janssens. In 1885, he purchased a pale, fawn rough-haired
dog called Vos I, or Vos de Laeken from a cattle dealer in northern Belgium.
Janssens used Vos I (which means fox in Flemish) to herd his flock and also bred
him to a short-haired, brindle-brown dog named Lise (also known as Lise de Laeken
or Liske de Laeken). After that mating, Vos I was bred to his daughters, establishing
a line of very homogeneous dogs with grey rough-hairs and short-hairs, and fawn
rough-hairs and short-hairs. Today, Vos I and Lise de Laeken are recognized as
ancestors not only of the modern Belgian Shepherd Dogs as well as the Bouvier des
Flandres and Dutch Shepherd Dogs.
Breeders decided to give each of the different varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dogs
their own names. The city of Malines had formed a club for the promotion of fawn
shorthairs Belgian Shepherd dog in 1898. Louis Huyghebaert, an early breeder
under the "ter Heide" kennel name, as well as a judge, author and the "godfather of
the Malinois" (and the Bouvier), along with the Malines club had done much to help
popularize these short-hairs, so the name "Malinois" came to be associated with the
fawn shorthairs.
In 1897, a year before the formation of the Malines club, Huyghebaert, suggested
that since there weren't very many sheep left in Belgium, that the shepherd dogs
should have field trials that showcased their intelligence, obedience and loyalty.
From this recommendation, dressage trials for the shepherd dogs were developed
that tested a dog's ability to jump and perform other exercises. The first dressage
trial, held on July 12, 1903 in Malines, was won by M. van Opdebeek and his
Malinois, Cora van't Optewel.
Belgian Shepherds were also used as guard dogs and draught dogs. They were the
first dogs to be used by the Belgian police. Before World War II, international
police dog trials became very popular in Europe, and Belgian dogs earned a number
of prizes at the trials.
When World War I broke out, many Belgian Shepherd Dogs were used by the
military for a number of jobs including messenger dogs, Red Cross dogs,
ambulance cart dogs and, according to some, light machine-gun cart dogs.

During the 1920s and 1930s, several outstanding Malinois kennels were started in
Belgium. During the first decades of the 20th century, Malinois and Groenendael
were the most popular varieties of the Belgian Shepherd dogs to be exported to
other countries. At that time, many were exported to the Netherlands, France,
Switzerland, Canada, United States, Argentina and Brazil.
In 1911, two Groenendaels and two Malinois were registered by the AKC as
"German Sheepdogs." In 1913, the AKC changed the name to "Belgian Sheepdogs."
The first dogs were imported by Josse Hanssens of Norwalk, Connecticut. He sold
the two Malinois to L.I. De Winter of Guttenberg, New Jersey. De Winter produced
several litters from the Malinois under his Winterview kennel name.
After World War I, many American servicemen brought back Malinois and other
Belgian Shepherd Dogs from Europe, and AKC registrations increased rapidly. The
first Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1924 and became a member
club of the AKC soon after that. In 1924 and 1925, Walter Mucklow, a lawyer in
Jacksonville, Florida, popularized the Malinois through AKC Gazette articles that
he wrote. He also bred Malinois for a short time under the name of Castlehead
By the end of the 1920s, the Groenendael and Malinois Belgian Sheepdogs had
risen in popularity to rank among the top five breeds. During the Great Depression,
dog breeding was a luxury that most couldn't afford, and the first Belgian Sheepdog
Club of America ceased to exist. During the 1930s, a few Malinois were registered
with the AKC as imports trickled into the country. Even after the Great Depression,
there were so few Malinois and interest in the breed had dropped so much that the
AKC put them in the Miscellaneous Class at AKC shows in the 1930s and '40s.
In 1949, a second Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in Indiana. In
that same year, John Cowley imported two Malinois and began his Netherlair
kennel. He showed several of his dogs and several people became interested in
them. By the 1960s, more people were breeding and showing Malinois. In March
1992, the American Belgian Malinois Club received AKC parent club status.
In the last decade, Belgian Malinois dogs have received a lot of attention for their
work in the military, drug detection agencies, search and rescue operations, and
police forces around the country. As a result, many Malinois have been imported to
the U.S. in the last several years. They rank 90th among the 155 breeds and varieties
recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Males are 24 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Females
are 22 to 24 inches tall and weigh 40 to 60 pounds.


This is an outstanding working dog who is confident and protective in any situation.
He's affectionate with family members but reserved toward strangers until he takes
their measure. The watchdog abilities of the Malinois are excellent. He protects his
people and property with only as much force as is required. Shyness and aggression
are never appropriate in this breed.
That said, temperament doesn't just happen. It's affected by a number of factors,
including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are
curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the
middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one
who's hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents usually the
mother is the one who's available--to ensure that they have nice temperaments that
you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also
helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Malinois need early socialization exposure to many different
people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they're young. Socialization helps
ensure that your Malinois puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him
in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and
taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet
neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.

Belgian Malinois are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain
health conditions. Not all Malinois will get any or all of these diseases, but it's
important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances
for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested
for and cleared of a particular condition. In Malinois, you should expect to see health
clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with
a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's
disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye
Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health
clearances by checking the OFA web site (

Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't

fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or
both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with
hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for
hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the
University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with
hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder
for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of
problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by
environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or
injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This is a degenerative eye disorder

that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the
back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of
blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for
blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a
habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs'
eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed
dogs with this disease.
Elbow Dysplasia. This is a heritable condition common to large-breed
dogs. It's thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones
that make up the dog's elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful
lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, or
medication to control the pain.
Anesthesia Sensitivity. Belgian Malinois are very sensitive to anesthesia.
They have a higher than average rate of death when put under anesthesia
because of their muscle to fat ratio. Be sure your vet understands this
sensitivity before allowing your Malinois to have surgery or even have its
teeth cleaned.

Belgian Malinois can do well in small quarters if they receive enough exercise. They
prefer cool climates but adapt well to warmer environments. They do best when they
are allowed to be a part of the family and are able to live indoors at least part of the

If possible, provide your Malinois with some off-leash exercise in a fenced area in
addition to long walks or jogging. Malinois need about 20 minutes of activity three
or four times a day, and a leisurely walk won't satisfy them. They're built for action.
If you like to hike or jog, your Belgian Malinois will be happy to be by your side.
Consider training him to compete in obedience or agility. It doesn't really matter
what you do as long as you keep him active. Don't be surprised if he runs in large
circles in your yard; it's a remnant of his herding heritage.
Puppies have different exercise needs. From 9 weeks to 4 months of age, puppy
kindergarten once or twice a week is a great way for them to get exercise, training,
and socialization, plus 15 to 20 minutes of playtime in the yard, morning and
evening. Throw a ball for them to fetch. From 4 to 6 months of age, weekly
obedience classes, daily half-mile walks, and playtime in the yard will meet their
needs. From 6 months to a year of age, play fetch with a ball or Frisbee for up to 40
minutes during cool mornings or evenings, not in the heat of the day. Continue to
limit walks to a half mile. After he's a year old, your Malinois pup can begin to jog
with you, but keep the distance to less than a mile and give him frequent breaks
along the way. Avoid hard surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. As he continues to
mature, you can increase the distance and time you run. These graduated levels of
exercise will protect his developing bones and joints.
Malinois are sensitive and highly trainable. Be firm, calm, and consistent with them.
Anger and physical force are counterproductive.

Recommended daily amount: 2 to 3 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided
into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism,
and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the
same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will
need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a
difference the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your
dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.If you're unsure
whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look
down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back,
thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to
feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food
and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Malinois, see our guidelines for buying the right food,
feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

Coat Color And Grooming

Malinois have short, straight hair that feels hard to the touch. The hard topcoat and
dense undercoat provide weather resistance for a dog that was bred to work
outdoors in all conditions. The hair is slightly longer around the neck, forming a
sort of mini-mane.
The coat is typically fawn- to mahogany-colored with a black mask on the face,
black ears, and black tips on the hairs. Fawn-colored Malinois sometimes have a
tiny bit of white on the tips of their toes or a small white spot on the chest.
The short, smooth coat of the Malinois is easy to groom. Brush it weekly with a
firm bristle brush, and bathe only when necessary. Malinois shed year-round, more
heavily in the spring and fall.
Brush your Malinois' teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar
buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want
to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim nails regularly if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear
them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the
dog's feet in good condition and keep your legs from getting scratched when your
Malinois enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.
Begin accustoming your Malinois to being brushed and examined when he's a
puppy. Handle his paws frequently dogs are touchy about their feet and look

inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise
and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other
handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness,
tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on
the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes
should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help
you spot potential health problems early.

Children And Other Pets

Well-socialized Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with
them, but because of their herding heritage they may have a tendency to nip at their
heels and try to herd them when playing. You must teach your Malinois that this
behavior is unacceptable. An adult Malinois who's unfamiliar with children may do
best in a home with children who are mature enough to interact with him properly.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any
interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail
pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog
while he's eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left
unsupervised with a child.
Malinois can be aggressive toward other dogs and cats unless they're brought up
with them from puppyhood. If you want your Malinois to get along with other
animals you must start early and reward them for appropriate behavior. If your
Malinois hasn't been socialized to other animals, it's your responsibility to keep him
under control in their presence.

Rescue Groups
Belgian Malinois are often purchased without any clear understanding
of what goes into owning one. There are many Malinois in need of adoption and or
fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you
don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or
a local breed club and they can point you toward a Malinois rescue.

ABMC Belgian Malinois Rescue

ResQ Belgians
Belgian Shepherd Rescue

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