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Belgian Malinois: Pictures, Care, Traits & More

Written by: Chris Dinesen Rogers

Last Updated on January 29, 2024 by Dogster Team

two belgian malinois dogs lying on the ground

Belgian Malinois: Pictures, Care, Traits & More

People may mistake the Belgian Malinois for a German Shepherd because of their close physical resemblance. Both are herding animals and excel at this job. However, that’s where the comparisons end. You may see this pup called a Belgian Shepherd. The Malinois is one of four varieties of this breed. The differences involve the canine’s appearance and the dogs’ historical regions.

Height: 22–26 inches
Weight: 40–80 pounds
Lifespan: 14–16 years
Colors: Mahogany or fawn with a black mask and ears
Suitable for: Active families looking for a loyal and affectionate companion or working dog
Temperament: Intelligent, energetic, protective, loyal

This breed comes from the Malinois or Mechelen region in the north-central part of the country. The area is well-known for its high-quality wool. That explains the need for a reliable herding dog to tend to the livestock. The Belgian Malinois shares many traits that we’d expect to see in a canine in this role. They are intelligent animals and are best suited for experienced pet owners.

Belgian Malinois Characteristics

  • Energy: 5/5
  • Trainability: 4/5
  • Health: 4/5
  • Lifespan: 4.5/5
  • Sociability: 3/5

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Belgian Malinois Puppies

Belgian Malinois puppy
Image Credit: OlgaOvcharenko, Shutterstock

The Belgian Malinois is relatively popular, coming in at 32nd on the list of the most popular breeds of the American Kennel Club (AKC).1 We suggest purchasing from a breeder or reputable seller because of the four varieties. AKC recognizes all of them as separate breeds.

These puppies are energetic and quite playful. They have a moderate tendency for nippiness. However, they have a strong prey drive due to their herding history. Early training and socialization are imperative with this breed. The dog’s high energy, intelligence, and sensitivity may be challenging for individuals new to pet ownership.

Understanding your financial and time commitment is essential when considering a Belgian Malinois or any pet. Their welfare and quality of life are serious responsibilities that no one should take lightly.

This pup may tolerate some me-time, but you shouldn’t consider this breed if you live alone or are away from home a lot.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Belgian Malinois

A dog with a history of working must be intelligent. They may spend time alone in the field, and they must be alert to potential threats. These dogs also have an independent streak that comes with the territory. That means two things for you as a pet owner. First, they are easy to train with an innate understanding of what’s expected of them. They are very eager to please.

Second, the Belgian Malinois must have mental stimulation and enrichment to be a good pet. After all, a bored pup is a destructive one. If you don’t keep your dog occupied, they’ll find something to do, whether or not it’s appropriate.

The Belgian Malinois is reasonably playful and adaptable. However, the breed’s history makes this dog wary of strangers, particularly if the animal wasn’t socialized properly when young. These facts underscore the significance of this breed’s suitability for experienced dog owners. Consistency is the key to training this breed successfully.

belgian malinois dog police training
Image Credit: encierro, Shutterstock

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

If you’re looking for a watchdog, the Belgian Malinois can fit the bill. While this pup can keep up with the kids, they probably aren’t the best choice if you have young children. They aren’t as tolerant of roughhousing since it borders too closely on their duties as a herder. We recommend teaching your kids to give your pet their space when sleeping or eating to avoid conflicts.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽 

The Belgian Malinois is a relatively large dog and can provide a formidable challenge to other pets. Socialization is most effective if done when the dog is young. A cat that runs away from this dog will get chased because of the breed’s prey drive. It simply falls in line with being a herding animal. However, each dog is different, and their behavior with other pets depends largely on socialization and individual temperament.

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Things to Know When Owning a Belgian Malinois

Understanding your responsibilities is imperative before getting a dog. Their care is more hands-on than other pets, such as cats. Training is also a time commitment, with ongoing reinforcement of your pet’s canine manners.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Your Belgian Malinois will thrive if you give your dog a high-quality commercial food formulated for their dietary needs. They may vary depending on your pet’s life stage, health status, activity level, and age. Fortunately, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) makes your task easier with the information on pet food labels.

Information such as the ingredients and nutritional analysis will provide the things you need to pick the right food for your dog. A product labeled as “complete and balanced” will meet the recommendations of the AAFCO. Diets of puppies, pregnant-lactating, and adult dogs vary. For example, a puppy should get food that provides at least 22.5% protein and 8.5% fat, while the figures are 18% and 5.5% for adults.

The differences exist because young animals need additional nutrition to support growth and development. Higher concentrations aren’t necessary for an adult animal. Excess amounts increase the risk of weight gain and obesity with its associated health risks.

You should feed a puppy three to four times daily to keep their blood sugar stable. We recommend setting up a schedule to monitor your pet’s caloric intake. You can cut it down to twice daily when your Belgian Malinois reaches adulthood. While this breed is active, we still suggest monitoring your pup’s body condition for unhealthy weight gain.

belgian malinois with a food bowl
Image Credit: BoJack, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

The Belgian Malinois is accustomed to exercise. We recommend walking your pet for at least an hour daily. That will help keep your dog fit and trim while providing valuable physical and mental stimulation. You can also use it for opportunities for socialization. We suggest asking your vet about puppy playtime. Some clinics offer this service to help pets meet other animals.

Treats are undoubtedly a part of your pup’s diet. We recommend using them as a training aid. You can use them to hone your pooch’s leash manners. They can provide an excellent way to forge positive associations to shape your pet’s behavior in appropriate ways. We prefer walking versus letting your dog run outside in the backyard whenever possible. Think of it as bonding time with your pet.

Training 🎾

Training offers another way to provide enrichment. It can challenge your pet mentally to make associations and remember tasks. Of course, the basics are critical for commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “no.” They can be lifesavers. You have a dog that is willing and able to learn, so take advantage of it. It will benefit you and your pet.

Consistency is vital for establishing routines and building memories with their associated neural connections. You may find it helpful to have one person in charge of training, although everyone in the household should be on the same page. Despite the breed’s independence, they’re not overly stubborn. This pup wants the praise you’ll give them when they do their job right.

Grooming ✂️

The Belgian Malinois’ coat is weather-resistant, which is a boon for an animal that is outdoors a lot. This breed sheds, making regular grooming essential. We recommend brushing your dog weekly to distribute skin oils and keep the fur mat-free. This breed sheds biannually, making it necessary to control hair loss. It’s also an excellent time to check your pup’s ears and nails if they need attention.

You should also look at your pet’s eyes for any abnormal discharge or redness. The breed is susceptible to eye issues. Treating problems early is the best prevention against significant issues. You may find it more manageable if you give your dog a treat.

Belgian malinois dog running
Image Credit: Julia Malsagova, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Belgian Malinois is a relatively new breed. That reduces the chances of hereditary and congenital conditions from inbreeding versus a dog that has been a long-time favorite. Nevertheless, this breed has an increased risk for specific issues.

Minor Conditions
  • Ear infections
Serious Conditions
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Pannus

Male vs. Female

The size differences between males and females are only slightly noticeable, with males being generally larger. Some individuals may choose the latter because of this fact, but either sex will make a delightful pet. Training and the animal’s upbringing are the most significant influences on their behavior.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Belgian Malinois

1. Brussels Is the Epicenter of the Four Varieties.

We mentioned four varieties based on appearance. Nonetheless, all four are centered around the capital and largest city, Brussels.


2. Enthusiasts Selectively Bred the Belgian Malinois to Be Hardworking.

Herding is physically demanding for any dog. Enthusiasts recognized other vital traits, such as being hardworking. This characteristic is still evident in these pups, with many finding jobs in the military and law enforcement.


3. The Belgian Malinois Is an Elite Member of the Navy SEALS.

A Belgian Malinois named Cairo was part of an elite Navy group called SEAL DevGru unit. They have the distinction of bringing down Osama bin Laden. This breed exceeded expectations and is synonymous with this military branch.

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Final Thoughts

The Belgian Malinois is a handsome dog and has many traits that speak to their intelligence, strength, and hardworking temperament. This breed has much to offer the right family. They are eager to please, with the ability to get whatever job is assigned to them completed. However, they’re not a pet for everyone. They need someone who understands their need for a consistent and experienced owner. These animals are loyal yet sensitive, and they’re not ideal for first-time pet owners.

Nevertheless, the Belgian Malinois will thrive if given enough mental stimulation and attention. This pup will reward you with steadfast loyalty and protection, and they can make wonderful companions.


Featured Image Credit: Benjaminj88, Shutterstock

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