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Belgian Shepherd (Malinois) Dog Breed

Average sizes and life expectancy for this breed:

height 56-66 cm
weight 25-30 kg
lifespan 12-14+ years


The Belgian Shepherd Malinois is one of four shepherd breeds native to Belgium. These include the Tervueren, Malinois, Groenendael, and Laekenois. All of which were named after the region they were first bred in. The Malinois breed was initially created to be a hard-working herding dog and protector. As a result, they have become known for their high intelligence, strong work ethic, and desire to stay active. They have been highly prized in Belgium for decades, however, more recently, these handsome dogs are becoming recognised the world over.

These medium-sized dogs resemble German Shepherds in appearance and temperament. They are generally fawn-coloured with black masks and a willing temperament. This has seen them utilised as drug detection and police dogs the world over. In fact, they can easily be confused with German Shepherds, especially if you are not familiar with this rarer breed. However, Malinois are generally more compact and active. They also shed less.

The Belgian Shepherd Malinois is affectionate and can form strong bonds with their owners. However, these dogs have strong instincts so they need an owner that can devote plenty of time to training. Moreover, early socialisation is crucial to ensure your pup grows up into a well-balanced, confident, and obedient adult. Through proper training and handling, the Belgian Shepherd Malinois can excel in different canine activities. They can even be used as assistance and search and rescue dogs.

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Featured Image
Summary Image
  • iconGitBranch Registration: KC, AKC, FCI
  • iconGlobe Country of Origin: Belgium
  • iconArrowOutSimple Size: Large
  • iconDog Coat: Short
  • iconSwatches Colours: All shades of red, grey, and fawn with black overlay
  • iconBrain Temperament: Confident, smart, loyal, hardworking, active, protective, alert

Exercise Needed Daily: 2 hour


Shedding: Medium


Type of home: House with a Garden


Training: Easy


Hypoallergenic: No


Potentially dangerous: No


Grooming: Once a Week


Watchdog Ability: Intensive


Barking Level: Medium


Good with Children: With Supervision


Environment: City & Countryside


Good with Other Animals: With Supervision



The Belgium Shepherd Malinois was first developed in the late 1800s in a region of Belgium known as Malines. The Malinois is one of the four varieties of Belgian Shepherd breeds that were named after the regions in which they were bred. The Malinois was created because breeders desired to develop a resilient herder and protector with a strong work ethic.

The Club due Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club), a Belgian breed club, was established in 1891 where the four varieties of Belgian Shepherds were given their own breed standards. These were established by Professor Adolphe Reul, a Belgian vet. The Belgian Shepherd Malinois remains popular in their native Belgium because of their handsome appearance and strong devotion to their owners as well as their unwavering dedication to their jobs.

The Belgian Malinois first arrived in the United States in the early 1900s. Due to their intense work ethic, many were used during World War I to carry important messages between platoons. Belgian Shepherd breeds were also used to pull machine gun carts and even ambulances. However, unfortunately, the Great Depression and World War II saw the introduction of strict importation restrictions which caused the breed to lose popularity in the US. It wasn’t until the 1960s that they became popular again. The American Kennel Club finally recognised the breed in 1959.

In the UK, the Malinois has gained popularity as an effective working dog for the police and the army, as well as a devoted canine companion for owners who understand their unique needs. However, these dogs must be kept active. In fact, many owners enroll their canine companions in a variety of dog sports such as flyball, agility, obedience, and working trials.

In the UK, the Belgian Shepherd Malinois is known by a number of different names, including Mali, Belgian Malinois, or simply Mal. However, it’s worth noting that the UK Kennel Club classes all four varieties of Belgian Shepherd as a single breed. Other groups, such as the American Kennel Club, tend to class them as separate dog breeds.

Breed History
Breed Appearance


These handsome-looking dogs have long, well-chiselled heads, with well-defined centre lines and a moderate stop. The Belgian Shepherd Malinois has a slightly elongated muzzle that tapers gradually to the nose, which is black in colour with slightly flared nostrils. Their eyes are somewhat almond-shaped, medium in size, and dark brown with black rims. These dogs boast a curious and alert look which adds to their appeal.

The Belgian Shepherd Malinois boasts triangular-shaped ears that are held high on the head and erect. These dogs have strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite. They also have well-muscled necks that gradually widen towards the shoulders. Their withers are well-defined and their forequarters are long and strong with slanted shoulder blades. Furthermore, they have strong dewclaws that are accepted under the UK breed standard.

Belgian Malinois have strong bodies that are both powerful and elegant. They boast deep, well-let-down chests, and well-sprung ribs. The upper body is straight, wide, and well-muscled with broad rears that slope slightly. Their hind legs are powerful, straight, and strong. Their toes are close, tight, and nicely arched with large, thick feet, dark-coloured nails, and springy soles. Their front feet are round, while their back feet are slightly oval-shaped. The Belgian Shepherd Malinois has a fairly long tail that hangs down and is set firmly at the base. The tip is a little raised when they are relaxed and held higher when they are alert or excited.

The Belgian Shepherd Malinois has a double coat of short, straight hair that is thicker on the tail and around the neck, where it forms a collar from the base of the ears to the throat. Their hindlegs are also fringed with longer hair. These dogs have a thick undercoat that is fairly woolly but never wiry or silky. The top coat is close-lying and firm to the touch.

These dogs come in a variety of shades in terms of coat colour. All shades of red, fawn, and grey are accepted under the UK breed standard, often with a black overlay. The black colouration is usually more pronounced in mature males, especially on the shoulders, back, and ribs. The tail should also have a significantly darker or black tip compared to the rest of the body.


These energetic canines are known to be remarkable working dogs. They are intelligent, protective, devoted, and highly motivated. However, for this reason, it’s essential that they are only matched with active owners who have the time and commitment to give these dogs the consistent training, socialisation, and mental and physical stimulation they need. Belgian Malinois are not best suited to first-time dog owners or for people who live in apartments. These dogs have a strong protective and territorial streak which can lead to the development of unwanted behaviours if they are not trained properly.

The Belgian Shepherd Malinois forms strong ties with their owners and families. Therefore, they do not like being left alone for any length of time. So, make sure that there is someone home most of the time.

While the Belgian Shepherd Malinois is protective and confident, they can be wary of strangers, this includes unfamiliar dogs. So, it’s best to keep these dogs on a leash until fully trained. Saying that, these traits make these canines the perfect watchdog breed.

Breed Personality
Breed Trainability


Belgian Shepherds Malinois must be handled and trained by an owner that understands their needs. These active dogs are very intelligent and learn new things very quickly; both the good and the bad. Because of their strong territorial instincts, they must also be socialised from a young age. Puppy obedience classes are a great option for this breed.

Belgian Shepherds Malinois are sensitive to their surroundings. So, consistent, positive reinforcement works well. These dogs do not respond well to harsh training methods. Remember that respect training is very important.

Belgian Shepherd Malinois dogs are known to be fairly vocal because of their history as herders. This trait becomes more pronounced when they are bored, so keep your Malinois entertained with plenty of games, puzzles, training sessions, and physical exercise.

Coat & Care

The Belgian Shepherd Malinois has a thick, dense double coat. However, surprisingly, they are not high maintenance in the grooming department. A thorough brush once a week with a firm slicker brush is all that’s needed to keep their coats in good condition. However, bear in mind that they will shed more heavily during Spring and Autumn. So, more frequent brushing may be needed during these times to keep on top of any loose fur and to prevent tangles. On top of this, these dogs require infrequent bathing. Around once every three months is ideal. Bathing too often can strip the skin and coat of their natural oils.

Their nails should be checked and trimmed roughly once a month to keep them in good physical shape. This is important because long nails can be painful and even cause mobility issues. As you do this, check their paw pads are dirt and injury-free.

The ears must be examined frequently for any signs of an ear infection. These can include redness, swelling, excessive wax, and repeated head shaking or tilting. Clean their ears once a week using a clean cloth moistened with an appropriate ear cleaner. If you do notice any unusual symptoms, it's important to book your dog in for a vet checkup. Ear infections can be painful and are notoriously difficult to treat if left to fester for too long.

Daily dental hygiene is still the best way to stop tooth and gum disease and bad breath. However, twice weekly brushing is sufficient to avert any bacteria and tartar from building up. Consult with your vet on the best dental products for your dog's needs.

Furthermore, it’s good practice to regularly examine the body as you clean your canine to check for any rashes, wounds, and other signs that they may have an infection or other underlying condition. Their eyes must be clean and bright without inflammation or discharge.

Breed Coat & Care
Breed Health


Belgian Shepherd Malinois’ are fairly robust, healthy canines that can live for up to 14 or 15 years if well cared for and provided with a nutritious diet that fulfills their unique needs. Exercise and mental stimulation are also essential for this breed. Make sure you take the time to search for a licensed and trustworthy breeder. This way, you will know that your new puppy has been well cared for and appropriately socialised. A good breeder will also perform DNA tests on your pup to check for any underlying health conditions that you need to be aware of.

Belgian Shepherd Malinois can develop some of the health conditions listed below:

  • Hip Dysplasia – An inherited health condition where the thighbone does not fit firmly into the dog’s hip joint. Some dog breeds display pain and limping on one or both back legs, while others do not show any outward signs of discomfort. However, over time, this condition can lead to joint issues and mobility problems later in life.
  • Bloat/Gastric Torsion – Also called Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This occurs when the stomach is bloated with air or gas and then twists. You must seek veterinary attention immediately if you notice your dog continuously retching because this is a potentially life-threatening illness. It often affects large dog breeds with deep chests.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – A family of eye diseases that causes the eye retina's slow deterioration. At an early stage, your dog can become night-blind. As this condition progresses, their daytime vision may be affected, leading to complete blindness. Many dogs adapt well to partial or complete vision loss. Just make sure that their surroundings stay the same.
  • Dermatitis – Also known as canine atopic dermatitis. This is an inherited tendency to develop allergic symptoms following repeated exposure to certain allergens.
  • Obesity – Unfortunately, this is a common issue in Belgian Malinois, which is why it is important to keep them on a strict, nutritious diet tailored to their needs. Obesity can increase the risk of heart conditions and even certain types of cancer. It can even exacerbate joint issues such as hip or elbow dysplasia.

Children & Other Pets

Belgian Malinois are known to form strong ties to their owners and families, including children. However, continuous training is essential to keep their strong protective instincts in check. They also may be too boisterous for younger children. Remember to supervise all interactions between your dog and children to prevent any incidents.

In general, Belgian Shepherd Malinois are highly affectionate and they love to be involved in everything that goes on in the home. They are best suited to active families because these dogs rarely tire and can get bored very easily.

A well-balanced, well-socialised, and well-trained Belgian Shepherd Malinois can generally tolerate being with other household pets such as other dogs and cats, given that they grew up together under one roof. However, some Malinois dogs may exhibit aggression towards other dogs. Remember, as always, early socialisation is crucial for this breed to prevent excessive dominance and possessive behaviours.

Breed with Children & Other Pets

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