What is a Malinois?

The Malinois is the short-coated variety of the Belgian Shepherd Dog.  They are fawn colored with a black mask.  In the United States they have been shown as a separate breed since 1959. Dogs are 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Bitches are 22 to 24 inches and weigh 40 to 60 pounds. This is a “high energy” dog that does best when it has a definite purpose in life. It is generally not a dog for the novice dog owner, for, while it is extremely trainable, it does not do well with poor or insufficient training.

What is correct Malinois temperament?

Correct Malinois temperament can range from bold and friendly to reserved and aloof with strangers.  It is important to recognize, however,  that aloofness is very different from a fearful or aggressive temperament, which is always incorrect.

Good temperament starts with good breeding.  It is enhanced by a positive bond with the owner and by good socialization during the puppy period, including exposure to new locations, meeting people active in various activities, and walks on leash in familiar and unfamiliar locations. Snapping, growling, backing away or bolting with a “don’t touch me!” attitude is undesirable behavior in a Malinois.  It should never be rewarded at any level in the show ring.

Some Malinois puppies go through temporary emotional phases in their first year and may occasionally act silly, out-of-control, overly exuberant, fidgety or suspicious.  A well-bred and well-socialized Malinois will quickly outgrow these behaviors and a judge should be forgiving of them in a puppy.   Fearful or aggressive behavior in an adult Malinois is never acceptable.

What kind of home is suitable for a Malinois?

An owner who gets the most out of his or her Malinois is usually one who has had some previous experience of dog ownership and dog training. Even so, many new owners are not prepared for the high degree of “intensity” in this dog’s personality. Whatever they do, they do to the maximum: whether that be work, play, or just adoring you, their master. The Malinois likes to be included in all your activities, so if you like jogging, hiking, running, biking, obedience, out-of-door activities, or just spending a lot of time with your dog, then the Malinois may be a good choice for you. However, if you often work extended hours, must travel frequently, or have other activities that often keep you away from your dog, then this is definitely not the breed for you.

What kind of training does the Malinois need?

The Malinois is an active, intelligent dog that requires early exposure to different people and dogs so that he will be accepting of them when he grows up. The Malinois also requires training to control his high energy and exuberance and channel them into useful activities. A puppy socialization or puppy kindergarten class is recommended for Malinois puppies. First-time Malinois owners are often amazed and delighted at how quickly these dogs learn and how sensitive they are to corrections, but these same traits can get them into trouble if their owner fails to take the time to train them properly, or combines harsh corrections with poor training techniques.

What activities do Malinois excel at?

Just about anything their master asks them to do! There is almost nothing a Malinois won’t try if encouraged by his master. These dogs excel at obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, herding, showing, Schutzhund and other protection sports, search and rescue, police work, and just about anything else a dog can do. There are even Malinois who lure course! These dogs are described by professional trainers as having high “play drive” which means that everything is a game to them, and they love games!

Are Malinois aggressive?

In its origins as a herding and general farm dog, the Belgian Malinois was able to defend its master and its master’s home and the same is true today.  However, a well-bred, well-socialized, and well-trained dog will calmly evaluate every situation and use good judgment in responding. It should not be aggressive or nervous in its attitude towards strange people or situations. Dogs with poor temperaments or who have been poorly socialized or trained, however, may be “shy-sharp” — snapping or growling out of fear or aggression. For this reason, it is important to buy your Malinois from a breeder who produces dogs with good temperament and to get your puppy used to meeting new people and dogs early in life, so that he will have a relaxed and accepting attitude towards them when he grows up.

Are Malinois good with children?

Yes, particularly if they are raised with them. If they are not raised with children, they should be given ample opportunity when young to meet and interact with children. Remember, however, that this is a relatively large, very active, very quick-to-respond dog. As with any such dog, they should never be left unsupervised with very small, or unruly children.

What kinds of health problems do Malinois have?

Malinois are generally healthy dogs, living an average of 10 to 12 years.  Although the incidence is low, genetic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia are known to exist in the breed.  Evaluation and registration of dogs is available through Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Ontario Veterinary College and Penn Hip.  ABMC also recommends that all breeding stock pass an eye exam.  Results of all health clearances can be checked through the OFA website http://www.offa.org/ .

How can I learn more about Malinois?

  • Visit a local dog show and talk with Malinois owners
  • Contact breeders listed on the ABMC Breeder Referral List. These breeders have signed the ABMC Breeder Code of Ethics.  We suggest you talk with at least 3 breeders before acquiring a Malinois