Breed Type: Working
Country of Origin: Belgium
Popular Names: Belgian Malinois, Chien de Berger Belge, Mechelse Herder, Mechelaar, Mechelen, Pastor Belga Malinois
Height: (At the withers) Males 61 – 66 cm, Females 56 – 61 cm
Weight: Males 29 – 34 kg, Females 27 – 32 kg
Best suited as: Pet, working, or show dog with an active owner or family
Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
The Belgian Malinois Shepherd is one of four Belgian Shepherds. They vary only in coat length and colour.
These square-shaped dogs are sturdy but light on their feet. They are muscular, with long legs and cat-like, round feet in the front, and slightly oval-shaped feet in the back. They have deep chests and are very agile and graceful. They have tapered muzzles, dark eyes and noses, and high erect ears on top of large heads. The tail is of medium length and strong. At rest, they carry them with the end curved backwards. When moving, they carry them raised a bit higher, but never past horizontal, and the curve is a bit more pronounced.
Their coat ranges in colour from mahogany to fawn, with a black mask. Lighter dogs might have white on toes or chest. The mask must be pronounced and cover most of the face. The hairs on the body have a black tip which forms an overlay on some dogs, which may not be in stripes or large patches.
They have a double coat – the under coat is dense and thick while the top coat is short, thick, and crisp. On these dogs, the fur is very short on the outer sides of the ears, the head, and the lower legs. It is short on the rest of the dog’s body and fuller around the neck from the base of the ear to the throat where it forms a ruff, and at the tail. The back of the rear legs have fringes of longer hair.
At the end of the 1800s is Belgium, there were many herding dogs of varied types. Some dog fanciers decided to form an official breed and chose, with the guidance of Prof. A. Reul, the best dogs from which to head the breed. By 1892 a breed standard was in place that described one breed with three coat varieties: long haired, short haired, and rough haired. In 1901, they were registered with the Royal Saint-Hubert Society Stud Book.
The breed overall was designed to be dependable and resilient.
The short haired version is the Malinois, which was first bred in a city called Malines in the 1800s. They quickly became one of the most popular working dogs in Belgium. They were used during the wars as messengers and guard dogs. They were used by the Red Cross for multiple purposes. They are a versatile breed and they were – and still are – highly valued.
They travelled to the United States between 1911 and 1939. Their numbers there dwindled after WWII but their popularity elsewhere – such as Australia, Canada, Germany, and other European countries – continued to grow. They remain highly popular in their home country.
These dogs are prized by the Israel Defense Forces because they are small enough for handlers to carry, large and strong enough to be able to attack enemies, and less prone to heatstroke than other breeds because of their coat and colour.
A Belgian Malinois named Cairo was used in the U.S. Operation Neptune Spear, during which time Osama bin Laden was killed.
These highly athletic, affectionate, intelligent, high-energy, confident and loyal dogs are friendly and hard-working. They need early and constant socialization and training. Consistent, positive reinforcement training works best. Instead of running in a straight line, these dogs tend to run in circles. This is part of their protective instinct and exuberance.
They are suspicious of strangers and so make great home guardians and watch dogs but can become overprotective and territorial if permitted. Socialization and training will help reduce or eliminate these behaviours.
They do well with respectful children if raised with them, but all children need to establish their dominance by participating in their training. They can get along with cats if raised with them but strange cats and smaller animals are not safe around these dogs.
Although bred for herding, they are used often in police and military work, search and rescue, guard dogs, and service dogs. They love to be constantly working, so if they don’t have a job, they need constant activities and exercise to keep them occupied.
They love participating in family activities and can become prone to aggression or destructive behaviour when bored, under-exercised, or lonely.
Care and Grooming
Belgian Malinois are easy to keep groomed; they only need to be brushed once a week to keep their coats tidy and clean. They shed constantly throughout the year, with two or three heavy sheds when they blow their undercoat for the change of season. During this time they need to be brushed once a day to prevent mats and to help keep the home tidier.
They rarely need baths, unless they roll in something foul-smelling or otherwise hard to brush out.
Weekly tooth brushing and ear cleaning will keep your dog’s teeth and ears healthy. Clip its nails once a month if necessary. These are high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise – at least two to three hours per day of working, walking, running, and playing. They enjoy playing Frisbee, herding, agility, sledding, conformation, obedience, Schutzhund, tracking, and therapy work.
Most dogs of this breed live to between 10 and 14 years. They are prone to elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, skin allergies, and progressive retinal atrophy. All breeding stock should be tested for genetic conditions, so choose a breeder who is conscientious and has a good reputation.
Suitability As A Pet
These dogs are best suited for experienced owners. They do well with on-the-go families, active sporty people, farmers and ranchers who will put them to work, and other people who have lots of time to spend exercising with their dog. They are a strong-willed dog and the owner must be consistent, fair, and firm, or else the dog will walk all over him or her.