Belgian Malinois

The fawn colored dog with the black markings may at first appear to be a German Shepherd, but take a closer look - it could be a Belgian Malinois. The Malinois is smaller than the German Shepherd, has a shorter coat, and a is different in overall conformation. Both are "shepherd" breeds with a history of herding livestock and the Belgian Malinois represents one of the four Belgian shepherd type breeds.

Belgian Malinois
Original image by user Stonnie Dennis Dog Photography on Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.
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Belgian Malinois dogs are often recognized for their work in the military, drug detection agencies, search and rescue operations, and police forces around the country. They are commonly bred and imported for this purpose, but that doesn't mean that they are not kept as pets. In the right circumstances, the Belgian Malinois can make a good family pet. Prospective owners should be willing to take a few things into consideration, particularly the activity level of the Malinois. These dogs require a lot of exercise and owners should be willing to commit a block of time, three to four times a day to spend exercising and playing with their dogs. Because they are smart, loyal, enjoy all types of play, and are eager to please, they excel in dog sports like flyball, agility, and herding trials. All of these activities will provide the much-needed engagement and exercise. In addition, proper and early socialization is extremely important for a Malinois to become a well-rounded dog. Experienced dog owners with a steady, consistent hand and an active lifestyle may find the perfect companion in the loyal Malinois.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Belgian Malinois breed is also commonly known by the names Malinois, Chien de Berger Belge, Mechelaar, Mechelse Herder, Mechelse Scheper, Pastor Belga Malinois.

Popularity: Moderately popular

Life expectancy: 10 - 12 years

Breed group: Herding Dogs (AKC)

Size: Large

Male Female
Height 24 - 26 in 22 - 24 in
Weight 60 - 64 lbs 60 - 64 lbs


Colors: Black, Brown

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Low

Good with children: Yes

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: Very high

Exercise needs: Very high

Tolerates being alone: Average

Hunting drive: High

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Average

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Occasional

General health: Good

Cost to keep: Average


The history of the Belgian Malinois can be easily traced back to the late 1800s when the four primary varieties of Belgian Sheepdogs were developed. The varieties include the Tervuren (fawn-mahogany, long coat with black mask), the Laekenois (fawn, rough coat), and the Groenendael (black, long coat), and of course, the Malinois (fawn-mahogany, short coat with black mask). There is some debate as to how these varieties should be divided in the show ring. In the United States, three varieties are included and dogs resembling the Groenendael variety are referred to as the Belgian Sheepdog. In the UK, all four varieties are judged as a single breed.

Modern Malinois dogs can be traced directly to a breeding pair owned by a shepherd from Laeken named Adrien Janssens. He began breeding shepherd dogs in 1885 and established a line-breeding program. These dogs are the foundation of not only all of the Belgian Shepherd Dogs but also Dutch Shepherd dogs and the Bouvier des Flandres. The four varieties began to differentiate themselves by separate breeders who bred for a specific type, and the different breeds were born. All varieties of the breed excelled in herding and as draught and guard dogs. During World War I, these brave, loyal dogs were used by the military as messenger dogs, Red Cross dogs, ambulance cart dogs and, according to some, light machine-gun cart dogs.

Exportation of Belgian Sheepdogs began in the 1920s-30s and they began to pop up all over the world. The Malinois was arguably the most popular export. Their popularity grew, especially in the Unites States, when U.S. servicemen brought Belgian Sheepdogs back from World War II. By the 1960s, more people were breeding and showing Malinois. In March 1992, the American Belgian Malinois Club received AKC parent club status.


Belgian Malinois appear proud and elegant but may surprise you with their playful personality.
Typical characteristics are:

  • Clean, well-proportioned head, dark brown eyes, triangular ears, pointed muzzle, and an alert, attentive expression.

  • The powerful, athletic body is not bulky.

  • The tail is carried high when the dog is alert.

  • Short hard coat with thick undercoat.

  • Colors: fawn to mahogany, with black tips on the hairs.



Belgian Malinois are a highly intelligent breed. They will pick up new skills incredibly quickly and as the owner and trainer, you will need to be one step ahead of your dog. A Malinois requires varied activities to keep him mentally stimulated and entertained. They are loyal to their owners and very eager to please. Because of their sensitive and sometimes strong-willed personalities, they require a steady, kind, experienced, and confident owner/trainer and are not recommended for novice owners. They respond well to consistent and playful training methods. Belgian Malinois excel in activities like agility, flyball, frisbee, and herding trials.

As with all intelligent breeds, Malinois require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with plenty of exercise and a job.


Belgian Malinois are extremely high-energy dogs and require a lot of exercise. They need at least 20-30 minutes of vigorous activity, two to three times per day. Preferably, exercise involves some time off-leash and engaging in an activity with you. They enjoy all types of play, which benefits both exercise and training.

A bored Malinois is definitely an unhappy dog. Bored dogs with too much excess energy will quickly develop and undesirable and destructive habits and may bark incessantly.

Exercising your Belgian Malinois puppy requires a few special considerations.They have an increased risk of hip dysplasia. Avoid exercising on slippery surfaces and climbing stairs under the age of 3 months. Exercise is needed, however, as strong muscles will increase the stability of the hip joint. Outdoor exercise on soft, uneven grounds seems to have a lower risk. Try to avoid exercise that involves running, jumping and playing on hard surfaces until the age of two.


Malinois are people-oriented dogs and will want to be around their owners as much as possible. They will not appreciate being left alone for long periods of time. Loneliness and lack of attention/exercise may result in undesirable and destructive behaviors.


Belgian Malinois are good watch dogs and will alert you if there is an intruder. A well-bred and socialized should not be aggressive and early socialization is important. Puppy obedience classes are wonderful for both socializationand training.

Living Conditions

Because they need some time to play off-leash, Belgian Malinois are not well-suited for apartment living, but this does not necessarily mean they need a huge home or yard. They are likely to stick near their owners, so a small yard will suffice and they are happy to play with their owners or go for a jog or an adventure. They do extremely well in rural areas where they have the room to run and play.

Belgian Malinois tolerate cold well but are prone to overheating. They will need a cool place in the summertime and in warmer cimates. Their need for human companionship means that they will be incredibly unhappy if left outside alone for long periods of time.

Children and Other Pets

Belgian Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with them and properly socialized. However, they will often try to herd children and even nip at their heels, especially if the children are running. Malinois should be taught early when herding behavior is appropriate and when it is not. Special consideration should be taken with small children (under the age of 6).

  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Belgian Malinois may be agressive with other dogs and pets. Early socialization is extremely important is they are to live peacefully with other animals.


The average life expectancy of a Belgian Malinois is between 10 - 12 years. Like all breeds, the Belgian Malinois is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Belgian Malinois is prone to these diseases:
  • Elbow Dysplasia (hereditary)
  • Anesthesia Sensitivity (hereditary)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»


The Malinois has a short, smooth coat that doen't require a lot of maintenance. They shed all year and weekly brushing brushing with a stiff bristle brush helps to remove dead hair and keep the coat healthy.

Your Malinois needs few baths, probably two or three times a year or when he gets dirty using a pH balanced shampoo designed specifically for dogs.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. This helps prevent tartar build up and teeth problems. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.


Feeding recommendations: 2 to 3 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).

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