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.

How is a Malinois different from a German Shepherd Dog (GSD)?

They are significantly different both in body structure and temperament. The Malinois is a somewhat smaller dog with lighter bone. The Malinois stands square, well up on its toes, while the GSD has a long, sloping back and walks flatter on the foot. The Malinois head is more refined and chiseled, with smaller, more triangular ears. The Malinois is a fawn dog, with black overlay (the tips of the hair are black), while the GSD is typically tan, with a black saddle. The Malinois is considered to be more alert and faster to respond than the GSD, but also more sensitive, which can make its training more difficult.  You can learn more about how to tell the difference on our “Malinois ID Page.”

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.   However, an adult Malinois that shows fearful or aggressive behaviors is either badly bred, badly socialized, or, most likely, both.  This is never acceptable temperament in a Malinois.

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?

The Malinois is a “protection” breed — it will defend its master and its master’s home. 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.  They are susceptible to hip dysplasia, however, which is a crippling inherited disorder, so it is important when getting a puppy to make sure that both its parents have had their hips checked and been certified by the OFA (a canine orthopedic organization) as good or excellent.  Breeders will generally tell you that a sire or dam is “OFA excellent” or “OFA good.”  If a sire or dam is not OFA certified, be sure to ask why.

How can I learn more about Malinois?

You may download and print out a packet of information provided by the American Belgian Malinois Club about the breed and about the club. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print this file.

You may also receive a hardcopy of this packet through the mail by contacting:

Corresponding Secretary

Please enclose a check in the amount of $5 made out to the American Belgian Malinois Club.

An excellent  place to see Malinois is at a local dog show.  Don’t approach handlers waiting to go into the ring, however, since they are usually very preoccupied at this time. Instead, wait until the class is over and then introduce yourself. Most owners and handlers will be more than happy to talk with you once the “main event” is over.