The Belgian Malinois is a herding dog that commonly work as police dogs. They were first bred around the city of Malines in the northwestern region of Belgium. In America, the Malinois has been registered as a separate breed since 1959. He resembles the German Shepherd Dog but his head is shaped differently, he is leggier, and smaller boned.
In 1911, Mals were first brought to America. They thrived until the beginning of World War II when the end of importation of European breeding stock began. The breed continued to weaken after World War II until the early 1960s when Mal admirers began replenishing its presence in America.
Belgian Malinois Appearance
The Belgian Malinois is a high energy, confident problem-solver. They are sturdy, strong-muscled, but more graceful than bulky. They stand 22 to 26 inches at the shoulder, are on average the same length as their height having a square stature, and weigh 40 to 80 pounds. Their coloring ranges from rich fawn, to red, or brown and the tips of their hair are black. They have black ears and a black facial mask.
Mals have short straight hair that feels hard. This short, waterproof coat is fairly easy to take care of. Weekly brushing with a medium-bristle brush keeps the dog looking his best, and promotes new hair growth while spreading skin oils throughout the coat as well. Malinois shed twice a year requiring daily brushing with a slicker brush to help to remove the loose hair. Occasional bathing is necessary to remove dirt and oil build up.
The Malinois life expectancy is 14-16 years. They are smart and excited to please. They excel at obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, herding, showing, search and rescue, and police work. Trainers describe them as having a high “play drive,” which means that they love to play, and they translate anything you ask them to do into play. Puppy kindergarten classes are recommended for Malinois puppies, followed by obedience training class. Mals require proper socialization to many different people, dogs, other animals and situations as early as possible or they may be aggressive out of fear or shyness. Additionally, although well-socialized Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with them, they may have a tendency to nip at their heels and try to herd them when playing.
Malinois require at least 40 minutes of exercise a day, and not just a walk through the neighborhood. They need to be actively engaged and mentally and physically put to “work”. An under stimulated Mal will act out in destructive ways. They need a fenced-in yard to run and burn energy.
Malinois are good with children and other animals when properly introduced or raised with them. However, they can also be protective, territorial, possessive, and jealous. Again, they are high-energy and, like many other herding breeds, are strongly interested in moving objects, showing what is called high “prey drive”. This trait can lead to chasing vehicles, children or animals if the dog’s natural instincts are not guided toward acceptable activities like hiking, running, physical training, etc.
Caring for a Belgian Malinois
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Belgian Malinois.
Malinois do well when consuming high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured with meat listed as the first ingredient or home-prepared (with veterinarian’s supervision and approval). Fresh fruits and vegetables can also be included in the Malinois diets. All diets need to be appropriate for the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). To avoid an overweight Malinois, calorie consumption and weight level needs to be monitored. Although helpful in aiding training, giving too many treats will cause obesity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Of course, a veterinarian is the best resource when there are questions regarding diet.
The Belgian Malinois is not a dog who can be left in the backyard, and daily walks are not enough either. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with his owner, is essential for happiness. To deprive a Malinois of activity and human companionship is to deprive him of his very reasons for being. Malinois are quick learners and eager to do whatever their people ask of them. Malinois make great running, hiking, and biking companions, and they excel at agility, tracking, herding, and obedience. They aren’t well suited for people who work long hours or must travel often leaving their Mal at home.
Malinois love to play so they translate anything you ask them to do as play. Their love of play and their eagerness to please is a great combination for training. Structured classes at an early age are recommended to adequately socialize and teach Mals what behavior is acceptable. This training will also tap into their loyal-ness and build trust between the owner and dog. The training should be firm, but not harsh. In addition to obedience/socialization classes Mals enjoy learning search and rescue and participating in agility training. These are activities the owner can work on at home with their Malinois.
The Malinois is generally a healthy breed, although the incidences are low, genetic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia which is where the ball and socket of the joints do not fit properly and hemangiosarcoma which are tumors in the blood vessels in the spleen or liver are known to exist. Mals are also known to have eye problems such as pannus; a condition affecting the cornea or the clear part of the eye, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA); degeneration of the retina causing vision loss, and cataract which affects the lens of the eye causing blurred vision. To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend regular tests on the dog’s eyes, hips, and elbows.
Teeth should be cleaned a couple of times a week. Keeping teeth and gums healthy is inevitable for the dog’s health. Gum disease can lead to heart, liver, and kidney problems.
Nails need to be trimmed regularly. Nails should never touch the ground; trimming is past due if nails are clicking on the kitchen floor. Nails that aren’t trimmed can splinter and infect the quick or grow and curl into the flesh. This can be painful for your dog to walk on and can affect his posture.