Belgian Malinois: Dog Breed Information & Characteristics

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Belgian Malinois is an extremely intelligent dog breed that was initially developed to serve its purpose as a rescue dog or a herding dog. It is a medium-sized breed commonly known as Belgian Sheepdog or Chien de Berger Belge.

The name Belgian Malinois comes from the city in which the dog breed first originated, the Belgium city of Malines.

This dog was first initially restricted to Belgium only, however, between the era of the First World War and the Second World War, it gained much popularity.

belgian malinois

Often called Mals for short, the Belgian Malinois is an exceptional breed in terms of strength, bravery, and passion. It is often compared to the German Shepherd dog breed when it comes to its aggressive and obstinate nature.

The Belgian Shepherd Dog Club determined that these dogs were a congruous type of the native Shepherd dog breed with a square medium-sized stature and differed only in color, texture, and coat length.

Height

The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized dog breed. The average height for dogs of this breed is anywhere between 22 to 26 inches or 55.8 to 66.0 centimeters. The difference in the height of the male and female dogs of this breed is that the male dogs stand taller than the female ones.

Weight

When it comes to weight, the female dogs of this breed are heavier than the male dogs. This is also because the females are smaller dogs than the males.

The average weight of a female is 60 pounds or 27.2 kilograms. However, the average weight of a male is 80 pounds or 36.2 kilograms.

Life Expectancy

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They generally live a very healthy and active life. Their average lifespan is between 12 to 14 years.

However, this dog is prone to certain health conditions during the span of its life. A few common health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia or progressive retinal atrophy. With proper care and attention, as well as high-quality dog food, their life span can even be improved by a few years.

Belgian Malinois Dog Breed Pictures

belgian malinois pictures
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belgian malinois puppy

Belgian Malinois Characteristics

Now that you have become familiar with the basic features and physical attributes, let us now take a look at the characteristics of this dog breed.

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Affectionate With Family

They are very affectionate toward their family or pet owners. They rank very high in terms of the passion they have for the people who have taken them under their wing.

When it comes to family activities, gatherings, and outings, they love being involved in practically everything that goes on. Part of the reason why they choose living indoors over outdoors is that they can stay close to the heels of their owners. Hence, you should always make them feel like they have a voice and are being heard.

If you are someone who has a very busy lifestyle, the Belgian Malinois puppies might not be the ideal pets for you to have. This is because they crave human companionship and prefer staying around their families.

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Good With Young Children

They are extremely well-behaved around children, even toddlers, especially if they have gone through the process of early socialization and proper training.

It is important that you raise your Belgian Malinois puppy with your children so that it can learn and adapt to how to behave around them. However, because this dog was originally bred to be a herding dog, it is likely to tuck or softly bite the children’s heels, if not appropriately trained.

If you adopt an adult dog of this breed, then it is recommended that you introduce them to children who are a little bit older and are aware of how to behave around dogs.

In any case, you should not leave these guard dogs alone with children. This is important so that neither the children end up pulling your dog’s tail nor the dog tries to leave a bite mark on them.

Special care should be taken to teach your children not to bother the family pet during mealtime. They should not try to pull away the dog’s food.

Good With Other Dogs

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If you are bringing home an adult Mals, you should proceed with caution. The adult dogs of this breed can be very aggressive, pushy, and belligerent toward other dogs.

Therefore, just as it is true in the case of children, if you want this dog to get along with other breeds in the house, you should consider adopting a puppy.

If the Belgian puppy is brought up with other dogs, it learns to atone for its behavior toward them. A well-raised and well-trained Malinois can end up being very friendly in the presence of other dogs.

Are Belgian Malinoises Good with Cats?

This dog breed is great with cats, but the same principle needs to be followed: the dog must undergo a well-planned process of dog training so that it can learn appropriate behavior.

Since they have strong prey instincts, they have the tendency to chase or run after anything that looks small and furry and is in motion. Hence, you should not only train them to live with other cats but also tame their prey drive.

If your pet is properly and adequately trained, it will be extremely well-behaved in the presence of cats. The ideal situation would be to adopt a puppy and raise it with your cats.

When introduced to cats from a very young age, they can get along with your indoor pet cats fairly well.

Coat Grooming Frequency

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What will make you love your Malinois, even more, is that it has a very easily groomed coat.

All you need to do is give it a soft brush once a week, by making use of a bristle brush so that there is no clumping or matting of hair. During the period of heavy shedding in fall and spring, the frequency of brushing can be increased to daily brushing so as to tone down the extreme shedding of hair.

Brushing is important as it helps in spreading the natural oils on the dog’s skin all over its body. As a result, the dog is well-protected and the coat ends up looking shiny.

This will also help in reducing the shedding of the coat during heavy periods and getting rid of any loose hair so that you do not end up finding dog hair all around your home. The recommended frequency during this period is at least once every single day.

Coat Type

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The coat type of the Belgian Malinois is such that when you touch the coat, it feels hard, but in terms of appearance, it is extremely soft.

The coat consists of straight hair that is split into two layers: a soft thick undercoat that shields the dog from extreme and wet weather conditions, along with a hard overcoat.

When it comes to the color of the coat, it ranges from a light fawn color to a mahogany color. There appears to be a kind of dark-colored mask over the face and ears of the dog. The tips of the hair on the dog’s coat also appear to be dark, almost black in color.

The lower part of their chest, back area, and tail are lighter in color than the rest of the body.

The lightest color that a Malinois can have is fawn and, in the case of these dogs, you can often spot a white marking on their chest. The end of their toes can also sometimes have white color.

Other rare colors that the coat of a Malinois can have are gray, cream, and black.

Coat Length

The length of their coat is short. In the circumference of the neck, the coat is slightly longer, which makes the dog look like it has a tiny mane resembling that of a lion. This is also called a collarette.

The length of the coat is also slightly longer at the tail and on the back of the legs of the dog. However, when this dog is standing up, the coat is not long enough that it touches the ground and does not even appear to be hanging on the dog’s body.

The only parts of the body that the coat is extremely short are the dog’s ears, the lower part of the legs, and the head.

Their coat length is highly important. This is because in the year 1892, all Belgian Shepherds were classified into three categories in terms of the length of their coat:

  1. Dogs with short hair

2. Dogs with medium hair and

3. Dogs with long hair.

This was specified in a Belgian Shepherd dog standard written down by the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club for all Belgian Shepherd dogs.

Openness To Strangers

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In most cases, they are friendly dogs even when approached by strangers. However, they have a protective streak about them, and if they detect even the slightest danger or unease in the presence of a new person, they have a tendency to show signs of aggression and become loud.

This is mainly because they were originally bred as herding dogs and are very protective in nature.

In some cases, you will find that they are almost intimated by a stranger or someone the dog is not familiar with. In almost half of the cases, these dogs are not open to unfamiliar faces and are withdrawn and distant.

This breed can also serve as military dog or excellent watchdogs because of their behavior toward strangers. In most cases, you will find them withdrawn, distant, intimidated, or even, hostile. However, in other instances, they can prove to be very friendly dogs.

You should make sure that your dog is properly trained so that it does not start to reap havoc after hearing the slightest strange sound. This may result in making the dog become more skeptical and dubious than need be.

Watchdog or Protective Nature

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They are extremely protective of their pet owners. They are not very aggressive dogs, but when it comes to their families and their home, they can display signs of hot passion.

Even in these situations, they do not need to be too intense and only use as much energy as is required to get rid of the posing threat.

Having said that, the protection dog has a sound instinct for its territory. The good part is that these dogs are not in the need of any kind of training that will turn them into protection dogs. This comes very naturally to them.

Only when they detect a threat they issue a bark to alert their owners and protect their people.

Adaptability Level

When it comes to people, they should be properly introduced to strangers in order for them to acknowledge that they mean no harm to the family. Only when they are assured, would they lean towards friendly behavior in front of new people.

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When it comes to other dogs and pets, they should be brought up with them so that they can learn to be around them. It is not ideal for them to be introduced to other pets when they have become adult dogs.

Living with a Belgian Malinois is easy. They can adapt to any kind of living situation, be it a small apartment or a house with a huge backyard. This is only true, however, if they are compensated with plenty of exercise time. If you feel like the dog is active indoors, it is having the time of its life outdoors in your backyard.

In terms of weather conditions, this breed prefers to stay in cool climates. However, it has a high adaptability level and can learn to become accustomed to any weather.

Energy Level

This breed is known for being highly energetic and active. These dogs need their daily dose of mental stimulation and physical exercise in order to burn off their energy.

If you are a person with a very busy schedule and do not have a lot of time to spend with your pet, then the Belgian Malinois is not the ideal pet option for you. This goes also for people who are couch potatoes and love staying indoors more than they enjoy the outdoorsy lifestyle.

It is not ideal to leave these dogs alone for an extended period of time. This is because these dogs have a very high energy level and need to be up and about all the time. If left alone with nothing to do, they will get bored.

This will lead to the development of undesirable behaviors such as biting, scratching furniture, chewing carpets, barking, or even incessant howling.

Barking Level

In comparison with the average dog, the Belgian Malinois has a tendency to bark more frequently than you or your neighbors would like. Barking might just be another way that the dog attempts to communicate with its new pet owners.

In most instances, the barking sound symbolizes that the dog has gotten bored and needs attention. This signifies that the dog has not been provided with enough outdoor time that it would like and is in dire need of physical and mental stimulation.

In other cases, the dog barks to alarm or alerts its owners of an impending threat that they should be wary of and prepare for.

The barking habit is not as troublesome as you think. It is very easy to train such an intelligent dog breed. You can tone down this behavior and train the dog to only bark when it is extremely necessary.

Mental Stimulation Needs

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As can be inferred from the high energy levels of this dog, the Belgian Malinois needs to be mentally stimulated at all times.

This means that you should learn to always keep the dog occupied by providing it with dog puzzles, games, or just about any other mental activity.

Keeping the dog’s mind active will prove to be beneficial for you because if the dog gets bored it can cause a lot of damage to the house.

Does a Belgian Malinois Shed?

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The Belgian Malinois sheds hair all around the year but this problem intensifies during the spring and fall seasons. This happens because the dog is getting rid of the coat to make way for a heavier coat for winter and a lighter coat for summer.

In order to maintain the shedding, it is important that you keep up with the coat grooming regime for the dog. All you need to do is give it a soft brush once a week, by making use of a bristle brush so that there is no clumping or matting of hair.

During the period of heavy shedding in fall and spring, the frequency of brushing can be increased so as to tone down the extreme shedding of hair.

What To Expect When Caring For a Belgian Malinois?

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If you are a first-time dog owner, then they might not be the most ideal pet for you. This is because this dog breed requires a lot of time and attention from its pet owners.

On the plus side, the Belgian Malinois is extremely easy to train and groom and is also not prone to a lot of health conditions that you should be worried about. Their nutrition and dietary needs are also fairly standard.

Health

This is generally a very healthy breed, however, it is prone to a few health conditions. As a potential pet owner, you should be aware of these health concerns before you go out and actually purchase it.

What Diseases are Belgian Malinoises Prone To?

The most common health issues that the Belgian Malinois is prone to include the following:

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Hip Dysplasia

This is a hereditary condition in which the hip joint does not snuggly fit into the thigh bone of the body of the dog. This results in excruciating pain for the dog which leads to limping, lameness, or in a few extreme cases, even arthritis.

Arthritis usually develops because of the degeneration of the dog’s bones. It is important that dogs are not bred further. Hence, if your pet is diagnosed with this condition, you must inform your respective breeder so that the further development of this dog is stopped immediately.

Elbow Dysplasia

This is a condition in which the main three bones that combine to form the dog’s elbow grow at different rates. This leads to a condition called joint laxity which causes a lot of pain to the affected dog.

Your dog might also become lame from the affected limb. The only treatment for this condition is medical surgery to correct the bones. In a few cases, however, this condition cannot be treated medically and should be managed with painkillers.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy or PRA

This is a condition in which the photoreceptors located at the back of the dog’s eye lenses are affected. This degenerative eye disorder can cause the dog to become blind.

However, you may not detect progressive retinal atrophy until the disease has progressed to an extreme stage. Dogs that are affected by this condition learn to use their other four senses to find their way around the house and live happy and peaceful lives.

You should also help the dog by making it a habit not to move the furniture around a lot. This helps the dog in staying familiar with its surroundings.

Anesthesia Sensitivity

All these dogs have a sensitivity toward anesthesia. Dogs of this breed that are put under anesthesia are more likely to end up dying. This is primarily because of the higher ratio of fat in their body than healthy muscles.

It is important that you inform your vet of this condition of your dog, before giving them a go-ahead to go through with a surgical procedure. In a few cases, something as simple as teeth cleaning can also prove to be a huge task.

Although these Belgian breeds are susceptible to developing the above conditions, with proper care and attention, as well as high-quality dog food, these dogs can live for 12 to 14 years.

Grooming

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Dental hygiene is one of the core components of the grooming of the Belgian Malinois. You should brush the teeth of your dog at least twice or thrice on a weekly basis. This helps in protecting the dog’s teeth from all bacteria and tartar.

If you are looking to avoid bad breath and gum-related diseases, it is best to increase the frequency of brushing to daily.

Maintaining the nails and keeping them short is another important aspect of grooming. This should be done on a regular basis and if you hear your dog scratching the floor or hard surfaces, it might be time for another trimming session.

This is important because Belgian Malinois is one of the most passionate and loving companions and you do not want your dog to leave a mark on your skin as it jumps on your lap in excitement all of a sudden.

Exercise

belgian malinois puppies

The favorite part of the day for your pet would be when the dog is outdoors. The dog can easily run for 5 miles and even if you are a trained bicyclist or runner, the dog can easily make you feel tired.

Given their high energy levels, these dogs love to spend time playing and exercising their limbs. It is not sufficient for them if you simply take them out for a short walk in the park as these dogs expect more.

These dogs need pet owners who can match their energy and exercise needs. This should include spending time bicycling, running, jogging, and playing, or even going on adventures like hiking, camping, and swimming.

These dogs also enjoy indulging in dog sports and are intelligent enough to quickly learn the rules of just about any game. Activities like playing catch, flyball, search and rescue operations, tracking, or even ones like herding, rally, obedience training, and agility, are some of their most-loved ways to spend time.

All in all, before going out and purchasing or adopting a Belgian Malinois puppy, you should be prepared to spend a lot of time with your new pet, and that too, outdoors.

Training

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These dogs are sole people pleasers. They are also highly intelligent which means that it is very easy to train these dogs.

When training these dogs make sure that you make use of the positive reinforcement technique. This would require you to provide the dogs with treats, praise, and appreciative pets, during the training session.

These dogs do not respond well to firm and harsh instructions hence you should always make sure that you do not use such means.

The ideal time to train this breed is when the dogs are still young puppies. However, be mindful of never making the dog exercise too much during the training sessions as it is still developing and might end up hurting itself, especially since the dog is prone to develop hip dysplasia.

Early socialization is also important for the Belgian Malinois. This helps boost the awareness, consciousness, and confidence levels of the dog. You should also learn to use obedience training, consistent training, and instinct training methods as they prove to be very effective for the dogs of this breed.

Nutrition

Given the size and weight of the Belgian Malinois, it is important to keep in mind that these dogs need an adequate amount of nutrition to stay healthy and maintain their shape. A proper diet also helps in keeping these dogs fueled and energetic at all times.

Their diet should include lots of proteins and good fats. To be accurate and precise, each meal should include protein in the ratio of 25% to 30%. When it comes to good fats the ratio should be 10%.

The adult dogs need to be provided with one to two meals every day. Each meal should include 1 or 1.5 cups of food. However, in the case of puppies, this frequency needs to be increased. The puppies should be fed at least four times or at most six times every day. This is true for puppies as young as eight weeks of age.

During the 19th century, these dogs were fed high-quality raw food in Belgium. Such a diet can also prove to be beneficial for them in the current times.

Conclusion

The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized dog breed and is one of the herding breeds. In 1959, it was officially registered with the American Kennel Club.

The Belgian Malinois is very affectionate toward its family or pet owners. It is extremely well-behaved around children, even toddlers. This dog breed is great with other dogs and cats but the dog must undergo a well-planned process of training so that it can learn appropriate behavior.

In most cases, the Belgian Malinois are friendly dogs even when approached by strangers. However, in other instances, you will find them withdrawn, distant, intimidated, or even, hostile. Belgian Malinois dogs are extremely protective of their pet owners.

In comparison with the average dog, the Belgian Malinois has a tendency to bark more frequently than you or your neighbors would like. The diet of these dogs should include lots of proteins and good fats. They were also used as military dogs.

If you are a first-time dog owner, then the Belgian Malinois might not be the most ideal pet for you. This is because this dog breed requires a lot of time and attention from its pet owners.

On the plus side, the Belgian Malinois is extremely easy to train and groom and is also not prone to a lot of health conditions that you should be worried about. Their nutrition and dietary needs are also fairly standard. The Belgian herding dogs generally live a very healthy and active life.

Hope you enjoyed reading about these gorgeous Belgian dogs, keep coming back to learn more!

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Cody Mitchell
Cody Mitchell is a pet lover and a passionate pet writer. He has worked as a professional writer for over 6 years, with a focus on creating compelling content for pet-related brands. His work has been featured in major publications. When he's not writing, Cody can be found playing with his two dogs (a labradoodle and a cocker spaniel) or cuddling his cat.

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