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Belgian Malinois vs. Pitbull: Notable Differences (With Pictures)

Written by: Grant Piper

Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Dogster Team

Belgian Malinois vs. Pitbull: Notable Differences (With Pictures)

Belgian Malinois and Pitbulls are large and powerful dogs. Both breeds have the potential to be intelligent, loyal, and deeply affectionate. These breeds have a reputation for being intensely loyal and trainable but are also known for being rambunctious and unpredictable. So which breed is right for you? Both of these dogs are similar in many ways, and the final choice will likely come down to your individual situation and specific traits that you value. Perhaps you like the sleek appearance of the Malinois or the stocky build of the Pitbull. Maybe you are looking for a sappy family dog or a fierce guard dog. Whatever your preferences are, one of these dogs is sure to be a good fit.

This guide will go over everything you need to know about both Belgian Malinois and Pitbulls so you can make the decision that is best for you and your family.


Visual Differences

Belgian Malinois vs Pitbull - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – Belgian Malinois (BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock) | Right – Pitbull (Caroline Ziemkiewicz, Unsplash)

At a Glance

Belgian Malinois
  • Average height (adult): 22–26 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 40–80 pounds
  • Lifespan: 14–16 years
  • Exercise: 1–2 hours daily
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Mostly
  • Other pet-friendly: Frequently
  • Trainability: Extremely intelligent, working dog
  • Average height (adult): 17–19 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 40–70 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–16 years
  • Exercise: 1–2 hours daily
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Often
  • Other pet-friendly: Sometimes
  • Trainability: Eager to please, requires socialization


Belgian Malinois Overview

belgian malinois puppy running on grass
Image Credit: Anton Kudryashov, Pexels

Belgian Malinois are working dogs that thrive when they have a job or a purpose. These dogs are eminently trainable and form an extremely deep bond with their owner or handler. Belgian Malinois look very similar to German Shepherds and have similar personalities. Belgian Malinois are sleek, powerful, and large. They are also extremely easy to train and can be taught to do a number of different jobs. There is a reason these dogs work in policing, border control, and as sniffing dogs. They are very versatile.


Belgian Malinois are described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as confident, smart, and hardworking. They develop deep bonds with their individual people. These dogs are alert, intelligent, and intuitive. They are not as friendly or loving as Pitbulls. They thrive when they have a job and get plenty of stimulation. Belgian Malinois can be excellent family dogs, but they do especially well in a small household with one or two people.


Belgian Malinois are extremely trainable. They can learn over 100 words and dozens of commands. With intensive training, Malinois can be trained to do a large number of jobs. Belgian Malinois are often seen in the workforce doing a variety of different jobs. You can teach a Malinois a host of commands, train them to be a guard dog, train them in agility, and more. If you want a dog that you can heavily train and get involved with, a Belgian Malinois can be the dog for you.

belgian malinois lying down with a dog toy
Image Credit: Julia Malsagova, Shutterstock


Belgian Malinois are extremely energetic. They require ample amounts of physical and mental stimulation to fulfill their needs. You should exercise your Malinois at least an hour per day, but they will do better with 2 hours of activity per day. This can include long walks, running, biking, hiking, agility training, or another similar job. Since Belgian Malinois are working dogs, exercise and stimulation is a must. If you cannot give a Malinois the proper activity and stimulation, you might want to consider a Pitbull instead.


Belgian Malinois have a medium coat that needs some moderate maintenance. This mostly consists of brushing. A Belgian Malinois requires regular brushing to keep their coats fresh. These dogs also shed twice per year.  During these times, they will give off a lot of furs that you will likely need to clean up. Belgian Malinois do not require a lot of grooming compared to other long-haired dogs, but they need a lot more grooming care than Pitbulls.

belgian malinois dog being groomed or brushed
Image Credit: Jessi et Nono, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

The Belgian Malinois is suitable for active families or athletic individuals. They require a lot of stimulation and input for them to thrive fully. People who love taking their dogs on adventures will appreciate the intelligence, athleticism, and versatility of the Belgian Malinois. They love long walks, camping, hiking, car rides, games, and more. These dogs do especially well in smaller households where they can bond deeply with one or two people.

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Pitbull Overview

a pitbull terrier puppy on a wicker dog bed
Image Credit: Jordan Bigelow, Unsplash

Pitbulls are one of the most common and popular dog breeds in the United States. These dogs are intensely loving, dopey, and fun. They can make excellent family dogs. However, their size, willpower, and strength make training and socialization imperative. Pitbulls can make the perfect family dog, but they need to be trained and cared for in the right way to get the best results. These dogs are short, stocky, and powerful. They come in a variety of colors, including the popular blue color.


Pitbulls are known for being hyper, lovey, and dopey. They love people and will quickly bond with families, even large families. Pitbulls love attention, love affection, and love being where the people are. Pitbulls can be very prey motivated and can exhibit predatory behavior if they are not exercised or socialized properly which can make them difficult to manage in certain situations. Pitbulls will love their families deeply and can become the perfect family dog that loves laying on the couch for snuggles as much as they like intensive evening walks.


Pitbulls are receptive to training, but they are not as trainable as Belgian Malinois (few dogs are). Pitbulls require extensive socialization. Socialization is best done when Pitbulls are puppies. They need to be introduced to a number of situations, including strangers, strange dogs, young children, public places, and more. Socialization is key to creating a calm and well-mannered Pitbull. Pitbulls can learn basic commands very easily, but they will not be able to learn complex tasks as well as Belgian Malinois can.

pitbull running in mid-air with owner standing by
Image Credit: elbud, Shutterstock


Pitbulls need to burn off energy on a daily basis. This is especially true if they are in good shape or are puppies. If you do not work them out, your Pitbull’s excess energy can make them crazy and hard to deal with inside. However, unlike Malinois, Pitbulls can settle down and become couch potatoes as they age. Pitbulls can do fine in the yard and with simple walks. They do not require as much mental stimulation as Belgian Malinois do.


Pitbulls have very short coats and require very little in the way of grooming. Your Pitbull might become smelly after hours of activity outside and will need periodic baths. They don’t need any haircuts, trimmings, or trips to the groomer. Their short coat means they rarely shed. If you are looking for a low-maintenance dog when it comes to grooming, the Pitbull is a great choice.


woman grooming or brushing a brown pitbull dog
Image Credit:, Shutterstock

Suitable for:

Pitbulls are suitable for families who are willing to put in the work upfront to make them good dogs. People willing to love a Pitbull, care for it, and socialize it will find themselves in possession of a loyal dog for life. Pitbulls can do well in large and busy households and can learn to live with other dogs. Pitbulls might not do well in houses with other small pets like cats, rodents, or birds due to their strong prey drive. Pitbulls are one of the most common dogs in North America because of their affectionate personality and strong family bonds.


Are Belgian Malinois or Pitbulls Better Guard Dogs?

Belgian Malinois make better guard dogs than Pitbulls. Belgian Malinois are extremely intelligent and can be trained to do a variety of jobs, including guard duty. Belgian Malinois can be trained to alert you when strangers are nearby. They can also be trained to protect people. Pitbulls can be aggressive if they feel like their family members are being threatened, but they do not make good overall guard dogs. Pitbulls are just as likely to jump up and lick a stranger’s face as they are to bark or bite a stranger. That makes them poor guard dogs but good family dogs.

Are Belgian Malinois or Pitbulls Better Family Dogs?

Both Pitbulls and Belgian Malinois can make great family dogs, depending on the situation. Pitbulls are incredibly affectionate and will deeply bond with their families. Belgian Malinois are less lovey than Pitbulls but can settle into a family. Pitbulls can occasionally be sketchy with young children or strange dogs, especially if they enter the family after the Pitbull is already established. Belgian Malinois might be better family dogs for people with kids and other pets. However, both breeds have the capacity for loyalty, love, and affection that people crave.

belgian malinois in the grass
Image By: Best dog photo, Shutterstock


Which Breed Is Right for You?

There is a lot to love about the Belgian Malinois and the Pitbull. Both dogs have the potential to be great family dogs. They are both athletic and intelligent. Both of these dogs will do well in a variety of situations.

Belgian Malinois require more stimulation and exercise than Pitbulls. They do better in small quiet households with a few people they are intensely bonded to. Belgian Malinois thrive on activity, athleticism, and adventure.

Pitbulls do not require as much physical and mental stimulation as a Belgian Malinois, but they do require more socialization and situational training. Pitbulls are intensely loving dogs that thrive on affection and attention. Pitbulls require very little grooming and can do very well in large busy families.

The final choice of which dog is the best for you will depend on your activity level, family life, and personal tastes. If you are in the market for a large, loving dog that has the potential to be trained, you will do well with either a Belgian Malinois or Pitbull.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: Dogster/Shutterstock

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