- Breed group — Herding group
- Height — 22-26 inches
- Weight — 40-80 pounds
- Coat type, length & texture — Smooth and short double coat
- Coat color — Ranges from rich fawn with black-tipped fur to mahogany with black-tipped fur, plus black ears and mask
- Exercise needs — High
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — When necessary
- Life span — 14-16 years
- Temperament — Confident, protective, and obedient
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — Belgium
Belgian Malinois fun facts
- The Belgian Malinois is just one variation of the Belgian shepherd, all named for specific Belgian villages. The Malinois is named for the Mechelen (or Malines) village in Belgium’s Antwerp, Flemish region.
- The breed has a long history in police and military service. It had numerous roles in both world wars and remains popular among Navy SEAL teams.
- In 2011, a Belgian Malinois named Cairo was instrumental in helping a U.S. Navy SEAL team capture Osama bin Laden.
Belgian Malinois temperament and characteristics
Belgian Malinois vary in temperament depending on early socialization, access to physical activity, and other environmental factors. They have strong protective instincts and may need extensive attention, especially at a young age. In the right home with ample physical activity, this playful, intelligent, and athletic breed will thrive. Malinois can also be good with children and other animals when properly introduced.
Common Belgian Malinois health problems
Though Belgian Malinois are a relatively healthy breed, these dogs are prone to a few specific health conditions beyond common ailments such as dental disease and bacterial or viral infections.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia. This chronic condition occurs when joints develop improperly in growing dogs. Hip and elbow dysplasia are common in larger breeds such as the Belgian Malinois.
- Bloat. Dogs with deep and narrow chests like the Belgian Malinois are at increased risk of bloat. Gasses build up in the chest cavity, which can displace the stomach. Bloat can become fatal, so know how to recognize the signs.
- Vision problems. Belgian Malinois, unfortunately, inherit several eye ailments, and unaddressed issues can lead to vision loss or blindness.
Cost of caring for Belgian Malinois
Common health issues such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cataracts range between $1,500 to $5,000 each to diagnose and treat. One way pet owners can reduce out-of-pocket expenses is by purchasing health insurance. You may also consider developing a pet budget.
History of the Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois were officially classified in Belgium during the late 19th century as one of four varieties of Belgium shepherd dog:
- Belgian sheepdog. Also known as the Groenendael or Chien de Berger Belge, these watchdogs often have long, black hair.
- Belgian Malinois. Malinois have relatively shorter fur and don a distinct pair of black ears and a black mask.
- Belgian Tervuren. These dogs are known for their elegant, abundant coat and high intelligence.
- Belgian Laekenois. The affectionate Belgian Laekenois is a rare breed compared to its fellow Belgian shepherds. This breed has a more rough, curly coat that varies in color from fawn to gray.
In 1911, the Belgian Malinois arrived in the United States, but their popularity waned until after the end of World War II. In 1959, the American Kennel Club recognized them as a separate breed. Though the Belgian Malinois were bred to be sheepherders and guardians in their native lands, they’ve become beloved pets worldwide.
Caring for your Belgian Malinois
Bringing a new puppy of any breed into your home and life can be overwhelming. You’ll need to schedule your first trip to the vet, plan out your dog’s vaccinations, and even puppy-proof your home. Beyond the basics of caring for any pet, your Belgian Malinois may require more of you than some other breeds.
Due to its highly protective nature, you’ll want to get right to training for socialization so that you can introduce your Belgian Malinois to new people and animals. We highly recommend puppy training classes for this breed.
Lastly, no one likes to think about losing their new dog, but unforeseen things happen, and it’s important to be ready. Consider looking into FidoAlert, which provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared.
Belgian Malinois fare best when their owners have the time to train them and maintain their physical activity needs. Thus, the breed is not ideal for those who work extended hours and is generally not recommended for novice pet owners.
Exercise tips for your Belgian Malinois
- Go beyond your daily walks — Some owners recommend 90 minutes to two hours of exercise each day, spread across two to three walks or runs.
- Let your pup run around in a fenced yard — Belgian Malinois might not be well-suited to apartment living.
- Bring Fido — Take your pup along when you go out for a jog, hike, or weekend camping trip.
To avoid boredom, acquaint your pup with mentally stimulating puzzle toys or interactive games like tug-of-war.
Belgian Malinois have short, dense coats that don’t require daily or even weekly brushing, but you will notice more shedding as the seasons shift and a buildup of dirt and debris from extreme weather. You can minimize dander with consistent brushing and a bath every few weeks as needed.
The double coat of a Belgian Malinois takes a little extra attention, but with a routine and the right equipment, it’s manageable:
- Divide the coat into different sections — A double coat has a tough outer layer and a softer underlayer.
- Brush out each section — Work your way from the skin outwards, using a pin brush and detangler spray to remove knots.
- Brush and smooth — Use a bristle brush to smooth the fur back into place.
Diet and nutrition
It isn’t difficult for a Belgian Malinois to pack on some extra pounds. When considering their nutrition, prioritize healthy fats, proteins, and all the essential vitamins they need to thrive.
In general, an adult Belgian Malinois should eat about two or three cups of high-quality, large-breed dry dog food each day, depending on the caloric density of their diet. If your pup gets picky or isn’t getting enough water, you can mix in some canned food. As always, refer to your pet’s vet for questions related to diet and nutrition, including food portioning.
Training your Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois are highly trainable, but you must put in consistent time and effort. This breed thrives on positive reinforcement, and over-discipline can deter these sensitive souls from listening. You’ll also want to focus on keeping boredom at bay and start socialization early to expose them to other animals, people, and environments.
Breeds similar to the Belgian Malinois
Not quite sure that a Belgian Malinois is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- German shepherd. The popular, highly intelligent German shepherd is known for its protective and powerful personality. While often stereotyped as aggressive, a well-trained German shepherd can be great with other animals and children.
- Dutch shepherd. Another highly intelligent, highly-trainable breed with herding instincts is the Dutch shepherd. These protective, even-tempered dogs are beloved for their affectionate nature.
- Border collie. Looking for a high-energy pup for the big family? Well-trained and socialized border collies make great pets for active families — they are known to be sweet with children and other pets.
Frequently asked questions
What kind of dog is a Belgian Malinois?
The Belgian Malinois, part of the herding group, is a short-coated variety of the Belgian shepherd dog.
What is the temperament of a Belgian Malinois?
Belgian Malinois are confident, protective, and highly intelligent. They may be reserved with strangers and other animals, but proper socialization and training can encourage this breed to be more friendly and affectionate.
How do you train a Belgian Malinois?
Belgian Malinois are incredibly intelligent dogs and are considered highly trainable. In addition to crate training, your socialization and early training should include extensive physical exercise and mental stimulation. Belgian Malinois love structure. Professional training is also recommended for this breed.
Is a Belgian Malinois a good first-time pet?
No, most vets would not recommend a Belgian Malinois for novice pet owners as they need more time and exercise — both physical and mental — compared to other breeds.
Are Belgian Malinois good with kids?
Belgian Malinois can be great with kids, especially if they are raised alongside the children. For unfamiliar or especially unruly young children, the Belgian Malinois may have a hard time adapting, so prioritize early socialization and training. Remember, you should never leave any dog unsupervised with young children.