- The Malinois is one of four Belgian herding dogs that are all considered varieties of a single breed in their homeland.
- The Malinois’ fawn to mahogany-colored coat is tipped with black, and he has a black mask and ears.
- Because of his herding heritage, the Malinois tends to move in big circles
AKC group: Herding Group
UKC group: Herding Dog
Average lifespan: 12 – 14 years
Average size: 55 – 65 pounds
Coat appearance: Short, straight, water-resistant double coat
Coloration: Fawn, red or mahogany with black tips, or all black
Other identifiers: Medium-sized, square body similar to a German Shepherd; pointed, erect ears; deep chest; black nose; thin, tight lips; brown almond-shaped eyes; cat-like paws; and strong tail.
Known as the Chien de Berger, Belge in Europe, the Malinois is often seen riding in a police car. This herding breed from Belgium — he takes his name from the town of Malines — does not have a well-known history before the late 19th century the late 1800s. He may have been helping shepherds care for flocks for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1891, in a burst of national enthusiasm, that Belgian herding dogs were divided into types and given names.
The shorthaired Malinois became quite popular as a herder, and his abilities were later turned to police and military work. Photos at police dog trials in 1903 show Malinois climbing 10-foot ladders and performing other displays of agility. It’s not surprising that many of the dogs were conscripted during World War I.
The American Kennel Club accepted the breed in 1911, calling them Belgian Sheepdogs and not separating them by coat type. There was little interest in the breed, though, and they had disappeared in the United States by 1939. After World War II, more were imported, and in 1959 the AKC decided to separate them into three different breeds . The Malinois was less popular than the Tervuren and the Belgian Sheepdog, so he was relegated to the Miscellaneous Class and was not fully recognized again until 1965.
Today the Malinois is a popular police and military dog and can be a good family companion in the right home. He ranks 76th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The Belgian Malinois is a member of the Belgian Sheepdog family. Like other Belgians, the Malinois is a sturdy, alert, loyal companion, and can thrive as a farm dog or a family dog. As with all Belgian Sheepdog breeds, Malinois were bred to herd and protect livestock, so they must have constant activity, whether playing with children, going on long walks, or chasing a frisbee. Ever vigilant, they make excellent watchdogs, and can be trained to do a variety of tasks.
Although the Belgian Malinois, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, is not prone to any major health issues, it does suffer occasionally from elbow dysplasia, pannus, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hemangiosarcoma, and cataract. To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend regular tests on the dog’s eyes, hips, and elbows.
Although it can survive outdoors under various weather conditions, it prefers to remain indoors with access to fields or wide open spaces. Its favorite activities include herding, playing, and jogging, all of which are excellent sources of exercise for the breed. The Belgian Malinois’ coat must be combed occasionally and more during periods of shedding.
The Belgian Malinois will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is moderately active indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard. This breed prefers cool climates, but adapts well to others. It can live outdoors but would much rather be with his people.
Training is very important to this breed. Proper training, a consistent set of boundaries and discipline, and a master with a good presence of mind will all be important. This dog is not like the Golden Retriever, where training and socialization can be quite easy. Instead, the Belgian Malinois can be territorial and fearful of strangers if not raised properly, and will become uncooperative if not trained for obedience.
When trained properly, there are few dogs more loyal and obedient than the Belgian Malinois. As long as you can demonstrate authority over this dog, you should be fine. If this worries you, another breed might be more appropriate.
Malinois need a lot of vigorous activity in order to remain happy and healthy and should not be kept in an apartment. If they don’t get enough activity, Malinois can quickly become destructive.
Farms or houses with big, fenced-in yards are the most ideal settings for this breed. Active and able participants in outdoor activities, Malinois will want to be included in all family activities, whether doing farm chores, chasing a frisbee in the yard, or taking long walks in the park. They love to spend time outdoors, among their family and engaged in interesting and fun activities.
The Malinois has a short, straight coat that sheds heavily. The coat is heavier around the neck, on the tail, and near the back of the thighs. Brush it at least weekly to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. Brush a little more often to help keep loose hair from landing on your floor, furniture, and clothing. Bathe him only as needed.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush the teeth frequently for high overall health and fresh breath.
Well-socialized Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with them, but because of their herding heritage they may have a tendency to nip at their heels and try to herd them when playing. You must teach your Malinois that this behavior is unacceptable. An adult Malinois who’s unfamiliar with children may do best in a home with children who are mature enough to interact with him properly.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Malinois can be aggressive toward other dogs and cats unless they’re brought up with them from puppyhood. If you want your Malinois to get along with other animals you must start early and reward them for appropriate behavior. If your Malinois hasn’t been socialized to other animals, it’s your responsibility to keep him under control in their presence.
Is this breed right for you?
Meant as a working dog, the Belgian Malinois is happiest if given a job to do. A devoted companion, it does not enjoy living outdoors or being kenneled. The breed requires regular grooming, sheds heavily once a year and is best in cooler climates. Enjoying family, it needs to be socialized early with both children and other animals. Although the Belgian Malinois does OK with apartment life if efficiently exercised, it does best with a yard. If not trained in obedience or given daily athletic opportunities, this breed may become restless and destructive. The Belgian Malinois needs a strong and dominant owner to avoid any aggressiveness.
Did You Know?
This breed’s strong tracking skills made the Malinois a popular choice for police, military, and search and rescue work. That’s why many of these dogs were conscripted into World War I.
In popular culture
- Kane, the co-star of James Rollins and Grant Blackwood’s Tucker Wayne series, is a Belgian Malinois
- The American science fiction crime drama television series Person of Interest features a Malinois named Bear as a regular cast member.
- The titular character of the 2015 feature film Max is a Malinois, returning from service with the US Marine Corps.
- It was also used in Naaigal Jaakirathai (English: Beware of Dogs)in Tamil,India
- The police dog killed in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks was a Malinois named Diesel who was given a funeral with full honours.
- Rocket, a Belgian Malinois raised in India’s National Security Guard’s K-9 unit, as an expert assault and sniffer dog, was recommended for gallantry award in 2016, for detecting fidayeen presence in Pathankot airbase attack. During the operation he received burn injuries on his paws and forehead, but after treatment for weeks he was back on duty.
A dream day in the life
The Belgian Malinois will wake up at the crack of dawn to get down to work. After a hearty meal, it’ll be out the door, set for its day of guarding and herding. Once inside, this dog will be happy to hang with the family and do a bit of obedience training. It’ll be happy to end its day with a run around the block and a bone.