Belgian Malinois Shepherd – Complete Breed Guide

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
The intelligent and confident Belgian Malinois is a world-class dog who thrives when has an active role. Learn what are their favorite activities and if they're are that similar to German Shepherd.
Dog Breed Group:
Herding Dogs
22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder
40 to 80 pounds
Life Span:
12 to 14 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The Belgian Malinois Shepherd is a world-class worker who coins an unbreakable bond with his human partner. Overall, the Belgian Malinois Shepherd is a confident, smart, and adaptable canine ready for activity and duty all year round.

Originally, this breed was bred to be herding dogs. Nowadays, they are mostly working as army or police dogs, protection dogs, and great family companions.

In the hands of an experienced dog person, they are active, athletic, and highly intelligent companions. Read on and discover how this strong breed got to its today protective role.

Quick Facts

Real name: Belgian Malinois
Other names: Chien de Berger Belge, Mals
Origin: Belgium
Breed type: Herding Dog
Weight: 60-80 pounds (male), 40-60 pounds (female)
Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
Lifespan: 14-16 years
Litter Size: 6-10 puppies
Color: Rich fawn with black-tipped hairs, mahogany with black-tipped hairs
Coat: Short, double coat, flat, straight

Belgian Malinois Shepherd: History

The Belgian Malinois Shepherd was originally bred around the city of Malines in the northwestern region of Belgium.

There are countries, where Belgian Malinois Shepherd is classified together with the Tervuren, Laekenois, and Belgian Shepherd (aka Groenendael), as a single breed overall known as the Belgian Sheepdog. However, back in 1959, in the States, the Malinois has been registered as a separate breed.

People often mix the Belgian Malinois Shepherd with the German Shepherd dog, although the Belgian Malinois Shepherd has a different head and a body that is finer-boned and leggier.

For a long period, the Belgian Malinois Shepherd was considered to be a livestock herder in their native land.

They were first bred by serious dog people who had one mission originally which was to produce dogs of hard-working character and strong protective needs. So, this breed was created to serve as a shepherd.

The Belgian Malinois Shepherds were first brought to the States in 1911 where they flourished until World War II started.

These dogs were used in war because of their great agility and intelligence, and their military engagement put them labeled an extremely important breeding stock.

The breed suffered during this period and the Malinois population saw fail in numbers until the early 1960s when admirers of the breed began the process of restoring its American population.

The Belgian Malinois Shepherds were prized as herders of all kinds of stock, but their physical capability and strong work drive opened many doors for them in a set of different activities.

Therefore, they easily become police and military dogs, which is why they are regular members of the K-9s division.

Each Malinois serve K9 with such distinction that the Fayetteville, North Carolina, memorial to military dogs features a life-size bronze of a Belgian Malinois.

Belgian Malinois Shepherd: Physical Appearance

The Belgian Malinois is a well-balanced dog with a strong and elegant appearance and proud posture.

This breed is always agile, strong, alert, active, and well-muscled. Males are almost always stronger and bigger than females, while females do have a strong feminine look. Overall, the Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized, square, and well-proportioned dog.

This dog is accustomed to living outdoors, although that’s not almost the case nowadays. The breed is more than capable of surviving outside, even in the cold as their coat was built to resist the soggy Belgian climate.

The Belgium Malinois Shepherd is a dog with great character and strength and if not handled right it will not be easy to retrain.

Males are slightly taller and heavier than females, while females have a more elegant look and posture.

In general, males are 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh 55 to 75 pounds (25 to 34 kilograms), while females are 22 to 24 inches and weigh 40 to 60 pounds (18 to 27 kilograms).

Their body is always covered with a short and straight coat that is hard enough to be weather resistant with a dense undercoat. The coat is more short on the head, lower legs, and ears. The hair is somehow longer around the neck.

The color of the coat varies from mahogany to fawn, with black tips on the hair.

The ears and the mask are black. This double-coat breed will always shed twice a year. They should be brushed at least twice a week and bath when dirty for keeping the great look and good coat condition.

Belgian Malinois Shepherd: Personality

The Belgian Malinois Shepherd is a devoted companion and he will always stay near his family members to protect them and keep them safe. Moreover, they usually make an extremely strong connection with just one human. However, he won’t ignore the others whom he feels close with.

This breed is intelligent, alert, and serious – yes, serious. This breed is known for taking commands and jobs seriously. That’s just one of the things that makes them perfect for protection and law enforcement.

Interestingly, they are great when it comes to finding bombs and drugs and for gas detection. Moreover, they are superb in search and rescue, tracking, and being therapy or assistance dogs to the elderly, ill, or disabled people.

This is also a demanding dog that needs an experienced owner. They are extremely loyal and protective and every Mals wants just one – to be with his family members.

Good to know: This breed prefers cool climates and they do the best in at least an average-sized yard to play.

Belgian Malinois Shepherd Is A Confident Dog

Every experienced Belgian Malinois owner would tell you that this breed is extremely confident. They are confident and protective in every situation.

They are also intense and have a strong desire for regular physical and mental stimulation. They can be quite aloof with strangers which is why you should be careful when introducing new people to your Malinois.

The same is true for other animals, especially cats because these dogs can show a high level of dominance.

As mentioned before, this breed doesn’t do well when kept in crates or limited spaces, since they have a lot of energy and need a lot of mental stimulation.

When kept in such conditions, Belgian Malinois can become destructive and bored. They are very devoted and affectionate toward their family members.

Make sure that you don’t encourage their guarding instincts when young, as they can easily get confused and start guarding you in situations that are marked as inappropriate. Their instincts can easily kick in, if and when necessary.

Just like any other dog, Malinois need early socialization and are often exposed to different people, sounds, experiences, sights and smells – when they’re young.

Early socialization helps ensure that your Malinois puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Having a proper training sessions and classes in puppy school with a professional trainer is a great start.

Furthermore, keep your Belgian busy and visit often dog parks to run with other dogs and even stores that allow dogs so he can get custom to unknown people and sudden moves and noises without reacting.

All in all, each Malinois owner should invest time to develop his strong social skills.

They are great with children, but shouldn’t be left alone with toddlers. Toddlers scream and run, and Belgian will constantly be trying yo keep the toddler in one spot.

The Belgian will be fine with living both in the apartment and in the house. If you’re living in an apartment make sure that you provide enough daily exercise.

Before you welcome Belgian Malinois into your home, make sure that you do your research on how much owning a Belgian Malinois will cost you.

Belgian Malinois With Children And Other Pets

If introduced to children as a puppy there won’t be any issues, as Malinois are great with children in general, especially if they are raised with them.

But, bear in mind that Malinois has a strong DNA tendency for herding, meaning that they will try to herd children all the time as children tend to run around.

It’s crucial to teach your Malinois how to handle kids and how to be tolerant, as important as it is to teach your children how to behave around dogs.

If you welcomed an adult Malinois and not a puppy to your home, the best way for him and your children to get along is if you have children that are mature enough to interact with him properly.

Inform yourself on proper ways to communicate and interact with your dog, as well as how to interpret your dog’s body language properly.

Knowing how to approach and talk to a dog will make the interaction much easier not only when it comes to training, but also in your everyday activities.

You should educate your children on how they should interact with a dog in a safe and welcoming manner. Teach your children never to approach any dog while he’s eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. Also, no dog should be left unsupervised with a child.

Malinois can show a bit of aggressive behavior with other dogs and cats unless they got used to them in early puppy-hood.

If you want your Malinois to get along with other animals you should start early and always reward them for good behavior.

After all, it is up to you to socialize your dog with other animals and to keep him in control in their presence. Just one more of the many reasons why you should demonstrate that you are the leader of the pack.

Belgian Malinois: Grooming

The Belgian Malinois has a waterproof coat that is easy to take care of. When it comes to grooming you should have regular brushing sessions with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt, or a hand glove that will keep the dog looking his best.

Regular coat maintenance will promote new hair growth and skin oil distribution and skin health in general.

Don’t forget to brush Malinois teeth , and use this time to check their gums as well, as their oral health can be good health indicators. Check and brush his teeth once a week.

Keep their nails trimmed and short. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Short and trimmed nails keep the dog’s feet in good and healthy condition. Furthermore, the best thing that you can do about grooming is to start grooming your dog as a puppy so he can get used to being handled.

Make grooming a positive experience filled with rewards and praise. That way you will build a strong ground for another handling, including an easy approach when it comes to easy veterinary exams or professional groomer visits.

Use grooming sessions to check the dog’s overall health and skin, search for the signs of redness, inflammation on the skin and ears, and nose.

Also, this can be your time when you get to learn how to communicate with your dog in different ways using non-verbal communication. Last, but not least, have a weekly check-up on the ears and mouth.

Do Belgian Malinois Shepherd Shed?

Long story short, yes. Although their coat is easy to take care of, this breed is known for shedding all year round, while they shed heavily twice a year.

This is similar to German Shepherd shedding. During this period you should brush his coat at least once a day with a slicker brush to remove the loose hair.

As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause dog problems walking and running, and can even cause pain.

How To Train Belgian Malinois Shepherd?

Like any other herding breed, Malinois have a strong prey drive and they are highly interested in moving objects. This trait leads to chasing children, other animals, and especially vehicles.

That’s why Malinois should be directed into acceptable activities through training. Every Malinois owner should dedicate a significant amount of time to obedience training and early socialization.

This breed is alert and highly intelligent. Besides, they have strong protection and herding instincts.

Again, consistent and early training is critical, especially because Malinois are intense dogs. Overall, training your Malinois should be positive, fun, and consistent.

Always bear in mind that the Belgian Malinois Shepherd is a working dog, meaning that he needs to be disciplined and trained properly, or otherwise he will demonstrate destructive behavior.

As highly intelligent dogs they are suited for many different tasks that they will happily perform.

Interestingly, Malinois are very sensitive and receptive to emotions and tone of voice, so make sure to not use any harsh treatment during your training sessions or in general.

You should start training your dog as soon as you bring your puppy home. Moreover, you should always use positive reinforcement.

Socialization is the key with this breed, and due to their alertness to strangers, lots of socialization as a puppy is key to building their character.

As a herding breed, your dog will demonstrate chasing, biting, and nipping, and this is something that you should focus on early in your training. Again, the best training program is to demonstrate consistency.

Belgian Malinois Shepherd: Exercise

The Belgian Malinois should be engaged with his owner, physically and mentally. This is not a dog who can be left alone in the backyard or be satisfied with short daily walks. This dog asks for at least 2 hours of physical activity per day.

This dog is happy when he works, even if it means running for hours, active Malinois is a happy Malinois. They are great companions for hiking, running, and biking.

Split up their daily physical activities into 3×30 minute sessions. This is a great way to mimic their natural behavior when herding. Next to proper physical stimulation, they need proper mental stimulation as well.

To meet this need you should use a variety of exercises including:

  1. Long walks
  2. Fetch
  3. Hikes
  4. Hide and seek

If your Malinous is not stimulated mentally and physically you can expect destructive behaviors such as aggression, chewing or barking to develop through time.

If this sounds like too much work and taking from your time, we would recommend you choose another breed.

Belgian Malinois: Health

In general, Belgian Malinois is considered to be a healthy breed. If you got a puppy from a responsible breeder you should expect that he or she screened the dogs for health conditions such as certain eye problems and hip and elbow dysplasia. Check ears regularly for any sign of infection and brush his teeth frequently.

Recommended health tests for this breed are:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation

Is Belgian Malinois Shepherd Your Next Dog?

If you are looking for a dog who is loyal and loves outdoor activities such as hiking and running, you should think about welcoming the Belgian Malinois in your home. Just make sure that you have enough time to spend outside and to train your Malinois properly.

Know that this versatile dog is among the best tracking dog breeds, so make sure that you can indeed provide the proper training, exercise regime, and overall proper care.

This breed isn’t suitable for novice owners and they need an experienced dog owner to guide them. In fact, they will thrive in hands of an experienced dog owner who knows how to work with shepherd dogs.

This breed benefits from positive reinforcement and doesn’t respond well to harsh treatment or negativity, so you should avoid it by any cause.

Always make sure that you meet the dog’s physical and intellectual needs and provide enough space for entertainment and exercise.

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