Belgian Malinois

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Get the information about the Belgian Malinois' traits, health and history in our complete guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
14 to 16 years
Size:

Large

Maintenance Level:

Medium

Shed Level:

High

Temperament:
EnergeticPossessiveFearless
Coat Color:
FawnMahogany

Best For

The Belgian Malinois is best for very active and athletic people with solid dog parenting experience. Older kids who respect this dog's boundaries are a must, as is a roomy home with outdoor space but without cats or other dogs.

Belgian Malinois Traits

What makes the Belgian Malinois a Belgian Malinois? Let's find out how they stack up.

Belgian Malinois Temperament

The Belgian Malinois’ personality is as spirited as they come, making them a good fit for pet parents who love to be on the go. Ready to toil tirelessly at any task, a Mal dog has a strong work ethic and is quick to respond to their human’s cues and commands.

The Belgian Malinois’ intelligence sets them apart, and their competency is a big reason why this herding breed is hardly ever unemployed. Originally, the Malinois served as a watchdog on farms and ranches, though today their career opportunities have expanded into public service. In fact, you almost want to salute these pups as they join search and rescue missions alongside the police and military.

While their possessive nature and a high tendency to bite (they have a powerful bite force) make them great guard dogs, it’s wise to supervise children around this breed. If you’d like to mix a Belgian Malinois with kids and babies in your home, know that compatibility rests heavily on early and consistent training and socialization, as well as a solid understanding of this breed’s disposition. Other animals, strangers and sudden movements could startle this alert, watchful canine. Know too that the Belgian Malinois dog breed has a naturally high prey drive, which means they’ll chase moving objects (think toddlers, cars, cats and other dogs), so a firm hand and lots of obedience lessons are critical.

Raising a Belgian Malinois puppy is indeed rewarding, in part because their intelligence and trainability make them a joy to teach. If you select this breed as your own, you’ll quickly see why their reliability and razor-sharp smarts are prized by so many.

How to Care for a Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois grooming won’t consume your days as their relatively short coat is easy to manage. But the time you save on hair care will have to be spent outside, whether in your backyard, at the park or on a hiking trail. Yup, exercise is no afterthought with this dynamic breed, so lace up your sneakers!

Belgian Malinois Health

Fortunately for those looking to add a Belgian Malinois as a pet, this breed is considered healthy. Still, as with any dog type, certain conditions may arise based on this animal’s genetics and physicality—and reputable breeders should screen for them. Here’s more about the Belgian Malinois health issues you may encounter in your pup, including signs to watch for and how they’re treated.

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: The hip condition is the result of an abnormal formation of the joint, which means the ball of the hip isn’t properly positioned in the socket. The elbow version also involves developmental abnormalities, and both types of dysplasia can lead to pain and lameness in your Mal. While these two health concerns are genetic in nature, excess weight gain may also be a factor. Treatment may require dropping a few pounds for hip dysplasia and, in more serious cases, surgery.
  • Eye Disease: Many dogs, whether they’re purebred or mixed breeds, can develop ocular conditions. In the Belgian Malinois, the three that are typically seen include cataracts (cloudiness in the eye’s lens), chronic superficial keratitis or pannus (a condition affecting the cornea) and generalized progressive retinal atrophy or PRA, which is the degeneration of the retina that can end in blindness. While there is no current treatment for PRA, dogs with the condition often adjust well to vision loss. Drug therapy or surgery are the go-to treatments for cataracts and pannus.
  • Cancer: Hemangiosarcoma, which affects the cells that line the blood vessels, is a common cancer in dogs. This condition can develop anywhere in the body, but it’s usually found on the skin, spleen, liver and heart. This cancer’s tumors are usually blood-filled and fragile and may spread to other parts of the body. If the cancer isn’t extensive, surgery may be recommended to either remove or shrink the tumor, along with a course of chemotherapy.

Belgian Malinois History

Recognized as an official American Kennel Club breed in 1959, the Belgian Malinois’ origin can be traced to the city of Malines, Belgium, which is responsible for the dog’s name. Their history is also closely linked to other similar sheepherding canines, including the Belgian Sheepdog and the Belgian Tervuren (both long-haired dogs), and in other countries, these Belgian breeds share common physical characteristics.

Mals made their name as stellar herders of livestock back in Belgium and were valued as hard workers on farms and ranches, keeping track of sheep and cattle herds. This breed journeyed to the US in 1911 and grew in popularity until World War II, when the importation of European dogs was halted. This animal’s post-war popularity was low until the 1960s, when fans of the Belgian Malinois decided to bring the breed back into fashion.

Today, while this pup isn’t nearly as well-known as their near-doppelgänger, the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois’ talents and temperament are highly coveted by police and military, and they’ve been put to good use as service dogs. One example of the breed’s exceptional bravery is the role that Cairo, a Belgian Mal, played in 2011. Along with members of the US Navy Seal Team Six, this special pup took part in the raid that captured the infamous terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

If you’re considering adding one to your family, keep in mind that the Belgian Malinois’s price varies, depending on where you live and which breeder you contact. A general price range for a Mal pup runs from $1,500 to $4,000. For that, you usually are getting a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can find a reputable breeder at the AKC’s website. Of course, if you’d rather bring home an older dog, local rescue organizations and animal shelters are always worthy options.

FAQs

Do Belgian Malinois shed?

Yes, Belgian Malinois shed. Malis shed twice a year (spring and fall), but you can keep their short, thick fur under control at these times by brushing it every day. Head outside to give your Mal pup some regular coat care, which will help all that extra fur fall away and keep it out of your house.

How do you pronounce Belgian Malinois?

To pronounce “Belgian Malinois,” it might help to put on a beret and eat a baguette. Or maybe not. This Belgian dog has a French name. (French is one of the official languages of Belgium.) So, if you didn’t study French in school, we’ll help you sound it out: BEL-juhn mahl-uhn-WAH (the “s” is silent!).

Are Belgian Malinois good with kids?

The Belgian Malinois can be a loving, protective family dog as long as canine training has been introduced early on. Because of this breed’s high energy level and a tendency to bite, careful supervision is recommended around the Mal and small children.

Are Belgian Malinois aggressive?

The Belgian Malinois can be aggressive, in part due to their high prey drive, which is the breed’s inborn need to give chase. As a result, a Mal may dash after little kids, cars, other dogs and cats, which can appear to some as hostile behavior. But with proper training and socialization, a Belgian Malinois can be a loving member of the family.

Are Belgian Malinois good family dogs?

Yes, the Belgian Malinois can make a good family dog with proper obedience lessons and a pet parent at the helm who’s a skilled and confident leader (prior dog experience is strongly encouraged for this breed).

What are the most popular Belgian Malinois names?

The most popular Belgian Malinois names include Ace, Klaus, Magnus, Adele, Nadia, Lara, Bax, Augustus, Petra, Zara, Aldous, Beau, Belle, Anika, Boris, Apollo, Atlas, Axel and Bruno. Find more dog name inspiration here.

What are the most common Belgian Malinois mixes?

The most common Belgian Malinois mixes are:

  • Belgian Malinois-German Shepherd mix (Shepinois or Malinois X)
  • Belgian Malinois-Husky mix (Belusky)
  • Belgian Malinois-Labrador mix (Malinois Lab)
  • Belgian Malinois-Dutch Shepherd mix (Mali-Dutchie)
  • Belgian Malinois-Australian Shepherd mix (Belgian Malinois Australian Shepherd)
  • Belgian Malinois-Rottweiler mix (Belgian Malinois Rottweiler)
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Top Takeaways

The Belgian Malinois is a strong, regal dog who just wants to work and play hard alongside their BFF (that’s you!). Varied and lengthy exercise sessions are the key to this dog’s happiness, so if you love the great outdoors, look no further than this highly intelligent special breed.

Expert input provided by: Dr. Jerry Klein, DVM, American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer and Mary R. Burch, PhD, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and AKC Family Dog Director

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