The Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) is a dog breed known for being a hard worker and for being very protective of their family and home. They are built for hard work.
They are a medium-size Belgian shepherd dog that look very much like a German Shepherd.
They were originally bred as herding dogs, but are now mainly used as police or military dogs, as close protection dogs, as guard dogs, or as loving members of a family.
As a world-class working dog, Malinois forge solid and unshakable bonds with their owners. They are intelligent, self-assured, and adaptable. Physically they are strong and well-muscled, but in a very lean and elegant way. The proud carriage of the head is a breed characteristic.
Belgian Malinois love play and action and require a lot of attention from humans. They thrive on this interaction as it’s their main reason for existing.
They are quite demanding and need a firm hand when it comes to training them. Malinois are people-oriented dog, so when underemployed and neglected, problems arise. That is why you see so many of them in dog rescue shelters, as people will buy them without properly understanding the breed. Malinois are happiest when they get enough of exercise, preferably beside their adoring owner.
Colors range from a deep fawn to a dark mahogany. The dark ears and mask draw attention to the brilliant, inquisitive eyes, which are the colour of dark Belgian chocolate. If you’ve ever watched a Mal complete an obedience routine, you know how intelligent and enthusiastic this breed is.
History of The Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois breed was developed in Belgium around the late 1800s and is one of four varieties of Belgian Sheepdogs.
These four variants are:
(fawn-mahogany, short coat with black mask)
(fawn-mahogany, long coat with black mask)
(fawn, rough coat)
(black, long coat).
All Malinois alive today can be traced back to a breeding pair owned by Adrien Janssens, a shepherd from Laeken. He bought a pale, fawn rough-haired dog called Vos I (translates to Fox in Flemish), from a cattle dealer in northern Belgium in 1885.
Vos I was used to herd his flock and also bred him to a short-haired, brindle-brown dog named Lise.
Vos I and Lise are commonly acknowledged as ancestors of modern Belgian Shepherd Dogs, as well as the Bouvier des Flandres and Dutch Shepherd Dogs.
Vos I was then bred to his daughters, which created a line of very similar looking dogs with grey rough-hairs and short-hairs, and fawn rough-hairs and short-hairs.
So where did the name Malinois come from?
The name came from the city of Malines in Belgium, where a club for the promotion of the fawn shorthairs Belgian Shepherd dog was founded in 1898.
The Malines club, along with Louis Huyghebaert, who was an early breeder, as well as a judge, author, and the “Godfather of the Malinois”, had done much to popularize these short-hairs, and the name “Malinois” came to be synonymous with them.
No Sheep For The Belgian Shepherd Dogs
Before the Malines Club was founded, Louis Huyghebaert had an idea to set up field trails for the fawn shorthairs Belgian Shepherd dog, since there weren’t that many sheep to herd in Belgium. He wanted to show what the breed was capable of and to showcase their incredible attributes of intelligence, obedience, and loyalty.
The first trials were held in July 12, 1903 in Malines, which was subsequently won by a Malinois called Cora van’t Optewel.
Guard & Military Dogs in World War I
Belgian Shepherds have also been used as draught dogs and guard dogs. Because of their loyalty, intelligence, and trainability, they were the first Belgian police canines to be deployed.
Belgian Shepherd Dogs played a very important role in World War I. The Belgian military used several Belgian Shepherd Dogs for a variety of roles, including messenger dogs, Red Cross dogs, ambulance cart dogs, and light machine-gun cart dogs.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Belgium produced a number of exceptional Malinois and Groenendael kennels. Belgian Shepherd dog breeds were transported to other nations during the early decades of the twentieth century. Many were sent to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, Argentina, and Brazil during the time.
Malinois To The Americas
Malinois became so popular during the Word Wars thatmany American veterans returned from Europe with Malinois and other Belgian Shepherd Dogs. During that time, Malinois AKC registrations increased rapidly.
Belgian Malinois dogs have got quite a bit of press in the previous decade for their work in the military, drug detection agencies, search and rescue operations, and police departments around the country. As a result, a large number of Malinois have been imported into the United States in recent years.
Conan, a Belgian Malinois, was injured in a military operation in 2019 that was aimed at Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Conan was hailed as a hero at The White House after making a full recovery from the mission.
Belgian Malinois are strong, athletic dogs, with a well-muscled body and a square build. The head of the Belgian Malinois is relatively long and narrow, with a tapered muzzle.
The ears of the Belgian Malinois are erect and pointed, and the eyes are almond-shaped and dark brown in color. The coat of the Belgian Malinois is short, dense, and straight, with a thick undercoat.
Malinois have a lovely temperament if they are well-trained and given what they need (exercise, companionship, mental stimulation)
The Belgian Malinois breed are known for being very active and intelligent dogs. They are friendly, protective, hardworking and alert.
They do need plenty of stimulation and exercise. You can’t ignore this breed and expect them to amuse and entertain themselves. They are working dogs and live to work.
If poorly trained, Malinois can become destructive or develop neurotic behaviors. This is caused by not having enough stimulation and exercise.
Belgian Malinois are a medium to large breed of dog, with males typically standing between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder, and females 22 to 24 inches. Males of the breed typically weigh between 60 and 80 pounds, while females tend to weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.
Belgian Malinois dogs are an active breed that needs plenty of exercise. A daily walk or run is a good way to keep your Belgian Malinois dog in shape, and they will also enjoy playing fetch or other games.
Belgian Malinois dogs are intelligent and trainable, but they can be headstrong, so it is important to start training early. The breed is also known for being protective of their family and home, which makes them excellent guard dogs.
Grooming & Care
Belgian Malinois dogs have a short, dense, waterproof coat that is easy to care for. The breed does not require a lot of grooming, and a weekly brushing is usually sufficient.
Brush with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt, or a hound glove will keep your Malinois looking sharp. By brushing once a week, it promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat as well.
Malinois shed twice a year, and a daily brushing with a slicker brush will assist remove the loose hair during this time. Nails should be cut on a regular basis in all breeds, since extremely long nails can cause pain in the dog as well as issues walking and running.
Malinois are high energy dogs that need lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation. They have sharp and inquisitive minds that can get them into trouble if not channeled in the right direction. They have a natural urge to work and to earn their food, which is why they make incredible search and rescue, bomb and narcotics, and tracking dogs. Work, reward and rest is the process that they live for.
It is vital that socialization with other people and animals happens promptly in the early life of a Malinois puppy. To achieve a well rounded Malinois, they need to be exposed to a wide range of sounds, environments and sights, as well as firm yet positive reinforcement training.
Children & Other Pets
Belgian Malinois are typically friendly with other pets and children, more so if they’re introduced to the family as a puppy. If you’re bringing home a rescue Malinois, it’s important to introduce them to other pets and children slowly and under close supervision.
There are no health issues with the Belgian Malinois breed. Overall they are considered to be a healthy breed with a decent life expectancy. As with all breeds, there will be health conditions that they are more prone to. A good breeder will test their breeding Malinois for a number of conditions such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. They will also check the eyes with a thorough eye test as well as testing for hemangiosarcoma, cancer and epilepsy. This is done so that future offspring of breeding couples remain fit and healthy.
Belgian Malinois dogs have a life expectancy of 12-14 years.