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Experts Fear ‘Max’ Will Cause a Surge in the Popularity of Belgian Malinois

That increase will mean more Belgian Malinois surrenders, they say, as the breed's extreme energy levels and intensity make them the wrong dog for the average family.

Jeff Goldberg  |  Jun 26th 2015


Move over, Mad Max. A new Max is hitting the big screens today, and dog lovers are certain to go mad for this cinematic canine hero.

Max, which opens Friday, is the story of a military Belgian Malinois who returns home from service in Afghanistan, where his handler was killed in action. He grieves along with his stateside adopted family, that of his fallen handler. Together, they heal their wounded hearts and embark on their own adventures.

Audiences will surely want to reach through the movie screen and give big Max a big hug, if not take him back to their own homes.

And while such sentiment is certainly sweet, there is a concern developing by those who handle Belgian Malinois that like with other movie-star pups, such as Marley the Lab and those incorrigible 101 Dalmatians, there will be a surge in Belgian Malinois adoptions, and with this unique breed, a similar surge in surrenders.

Carlos was one of five Belgian Malinois who played Max.

Carlos was one of five Belgian Malinois who played Max.

“Many people who see the dog portrayed in this film may be drawn to the Belgian Malinois breed, but the overwhelming majority will not be equipped to live with an animal with such extreme energy levels and intensity,” Marcia Tokson, American Belgian Malinois Rescue (ABMR) president, told KMSP-TV in Minneapoils. “It is our recommendation that those considering a Belgian Malinois for the first time think seriously about adopting an older dog with known personality traits and qualities that can be matched to their home and lifestyle.”

Belgian Malinois, with their sheepherding ancestry and intelligent, trainable disposition, are ideal as police and military dogs. But they are also high-motor animals who do not necessarily make ideal house pets, especially for families not equipped to provide the dog an outlet for their energy on a daily basis.

Belgian Malinois by Shutterstock.

Belgian Malinois by Shutterstock.

“Being an experienced dog owner isn’t enough,” Chris Wodja, a dog trainer in Lake Oswego, Ore., told The Oregonian. “Malinois are for experienced dog owners that are also passionate and disciplined about training on a daily basis. Additionally, they must have the wherewithal and knowledge to train a dog that has lightning-fast reflexes and is extremely physical.”

For more information about whether a Belgian Malinois is a good fit for you and your family, several websites provide ample information about adopting do’s and don’ts, including the American Belgian Malinois Club and American Belgian Malinois Rescue.

“We are very concerned that the public will see this movie and recognize the beauty, intelligence, and athleticism of the Belgian Malinois, but not realize that the dogs currently being featured in movies and television are the result of years of intense training,” Judy Hagen, president of the ABMC, told KMSP. “Living with a Belgian Malinois requires a commitment to daily training and exercise. Without this they will find their own activities that will make your life difficult.”

Learn more about Belgian Malinois on Dogster:

About the author: Jeff Goldberg is a freelance writer in Quincy, Mass. A former editor for MLB.com and sportswriter for the Hartford Courant who covered the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team (Huskies!) and the Boston Red Sox, Jeff has authored two books on the UConn women: Bird at the Buzzer (2011) and Unrivaled (2015). He lives with his wife, Susan, and their rescue pup, Rocky, an Italian Greyhuahua/Jack Russell mix from a foster home in Tennessee, hence the name Rocky (as in Rocky Top).