Your Cart is Empty

Belgian Malinois Guide: What You Need to Know

A Belgian Malinois dog sits in a green field

Today, the focused and energetic Belgian Malinois still remains one of the most popular dog breeds. Also known as the Belgian Shepherd, this breed belongs to theherding group, and is used for police and protection work.

This highly intelligent dog breed originated from Belgium. The Malinois has four variations throughout the world, not including the U.S. These include the Belgian Malinois, the Belgian Tervuren, the Belgian Sheepdog (Groenendael), and the Belgian Laekenois.

Belgian Shepherds are sheep herding breeds, and known as the Chiens de Berger Belge. They were bred during the 19th century as working dogs. The short-haired breeds came from Malines, and were named the Belgian Malinois.

This is a breed with a strong herding instinct belonging to the herding group. The Malinois makes for a wonderful companion dog, but needs plenty of positive dog training, socialization, and exercise during puppyhood, adolescence, and adulthood.


By 1959, the Malinois was first registered as a separate breed in 1959. Although closely related to the Belgian herding dog, the Malinois resembles the German Shepherd. Between the years 1911 and WW1, this breed was imported extensively into the U.S, but during WW2 the breed suffered when the dogs weren’t imported as much.

After WW2, registrations of the Malinois dropped, and one did not see as many of these dogs registered at shows. By the time the breeds were separated in 1959, the Malinois gained popularity again, registrations grew rapidly, though not as much as the other Belgian dog breeds. That said, this breed is known for its livestock herding abilities, and were bred by professional breeders wanting a working dog with emphasis on performance.

Sheep herders and cattlemen used the Malinois for herding purposes on their farms. Today, the Malinois enjoys vast popularity as a dog breed in the U.S., even surpassing the German Shepherd. This is because the Malinois is a working dog breed and makes for one of the best guard, police, companion and military dog breeds because of their high-work drive. This breed is well regarded as a peacekeeper throughout the world today.

Physical Description

The very focused and intelligent Belgian Malinois is muscular, lean, and serious. This breed has to have a job and plenty of exercise. The well-balanced and squarely built Malinois has intelligent almond-shaped eyes with a flat skull. 

The head carries a black mask. With erect ears that are stiff with black tips that are shaped like equilateral triangles, this very special dog breed has heavy, yet oval bone. The head is held high; the tail raised with a slight curve as the dog moves.

The Malinois is deep chested, and has a smooth and easy gait that is athletic and effortless. The Malinois is cat footed. With many different coat colors from fawn to mahogany in color; coat lengths and coat textures differ too, with the coat short, straight, and hard. The undercoat is dense.


  • Males:24-26 inches
  • Females:22-24 inches


  • 60-65 pounds

Activity Level

  • High


  • 10-12 years


The Malinois is not only intelligent and hardworking, but affectionate with family members as well. Although aloof with strangers, they are not aggressive unless it’s necessary for protective reasons. One of the best guard dog breeds, the Malinois is very responsive to all training, so it’s fun to begin training this wonderful dog breed that’s easy to work with. 

Additionally, all prospective Malinois parents need to understand that the need for regular vigorous exercise and positive training tops the list of requirements that need to be combined with plenty of socialization. This is a dog breed that does not do well in an apartment setting with little exercise. The Malinois needs large grounds to explore, plenty of mental stimulation, fun dog sports to participate in, so that he expends his excess energy. This is one of the most intelligent and responsive dog breeds to work with, and to have at home as a companion, but to be able to fully enjoy the Malinois, you’ll have to fulfil his strong work drive. That said, only experienced pet parents do best with this super intelligent and hyperactive dog breed. It takes patience, expertise, and kindness to work with this rather domineering dog breed. That said, the Malinois is also sensitive, curious, and just a blast to be around during all life stages, and if raised with love and respect, will become your very best friend overnight! You just have to be in tune with what this breed’s requirements are so that you’re not overwhelmed, most especially during adolescence.

Special Needs & Exercise

The hard-working Malinois makes for one of the best watchdog and family breeds, although this breed is super active, and may seem to always be on the go. That said, this dog breed has intelligence, focus, speed, and needs plenty of consistent exercise.

The Malinois has a tendency to move in a circle instead of a straight line. This is a high-energy dog breed that does not do well with just a regular neighborhood walk on a leash. Consider Schutzhund, herding, obedience training, tracking, and agility for this dog breed!

The Malinois needs lots of one-on-one attention, off-leash runs at the dog park and beach, as well as positive dog training and socialization starting during puppyhood. If positive and consistent dog training and socialization don’t start during puppyhood, you’re going to have a hard time later on. Training has to be geared towards the dog’s unique temperament. This breed is sensitive, and only does well with positive dog training.

Because of this breed’s dynamic temperament that is aloof with strangers, and possibly aggressive and domineering with smaller pets and children, expert pet parents with active lifestyles are recommended for the Malinois. The Belgian Malinois problem solves, and can be feisty during puppyhood if positive training has not been started. This is a dog breed that demands respect, attention and human bonding, and should not be left alone for long hours during the day. The Malinois gets bored easily!

The Malinois is sensitive to other people’s moods, and is an independent dog breed that enjoys almost all dog sports like agility, obedience training, search and rescue, dock diving, and so-forth. Ideally, the Malinois should have large grounds or a large garden or farm. These dogs do well on equestrian and cattle farms.

They also enjoy being indoors with their families, and have to be included as family members. That means bringing them along on family hikes, trips to the local Starbucks, and for a jog along the beach.

The Malinois at Work

There’s nothing better than seeing the Malinois at work! We’ve all formed close relationships with this breed because of their superior intelligence and work drive. The Malinois are often trained for police and military work after being imported from Europe. They are good as tracking dogs, and are highly effective in finding victims and suspects. 

As military dogs, the Malinois are also used for guard duty, crowd control, bomb detection, and tracking. The Malinois has proved to be outstanding in his power to sniff out drugs when used as detection dogs. In this job, they have to be able to cover large areas of terrain, jump onto cargo containers, and work successfully next to people. 

The Malinois as an Anti-Poaching Dog

There’s never been a time where wildlife needs as much protection against poachers as today.  According to Fido Friendly magazine, the“Triple-role’ sniffer dogs that are trained as anti-poaching dogs, together with their handlers, who are often wildlife conservationists, are trying to save some of the world’s most endangered species at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The increasing demand in Asia for rhino horn and elephant tusks are responsible for these massacres.”

That said, “Dogs are trained under the supervision of White Paw Limited, a UK based company owned by Daryll Pleasance.” He adds that “We aim to develop so-called ‘triple role dogs’—these are animals with a variety of skills including trackers, search (ivory, rhino horn, ammunition, explosives,) patrol and assault.”  The Black Rhino is extremely endangered, and conservationists are doing all they can to protect these ‘valuable’ animals from extinction.

Darryl Pleasants of White Paw Training works together with Ol Pejeta Conservancy in their fight against poaching. This ten-year plan aims to provide the entire northern Kenya with trained handlers and dogs. Kenya and South Africa have enthusiastically embraced sniffer dogs for increased security against poachers. 

These anti-poaching dogs together with the rangers are putting their lives on the line, covering an area of 360 square kilometers, where organized crime syndicates are using military equipment, and taking rhino and elephant poaching to a whole new level. 

He adds that “I recognize every dog as an individual with individual needs. By following a tailored program my aim is simple: To gain results through kindness and a clear understanding of a dogs thinking and background whilst giving you as an owner the lifelong skills needed to affect positive change. 

Possible Health Concerns

The Belgian Malinois is a healthy dog breed with no major health concerns, yet this breed may be susceptible to the following health conditions:

  • Anesthesia Sensitivity:Belgians may be extremely sensitive to Acepromazine, an anesthetic. Tiny doses added to anesthetic meds have left some Belgians unable to stand for 24 hours after surgery. Some Belgians may also require IV fluids to recover fully after being given Acepromazine. Deaths have been reported after the use of Rompun in this dog breed.
  • Stomach Cancer: Belgian Shepherds may be prone to stomach cancer. Symptoms are similar to those of chronic gastritis. Canine breed disposition has been suspected, although no confirmed studies have as of yet confirmed it.
  • Hip Dysplasia:Thisis a hereditary developmental disease. HD affects Malinois. HD occurs when the hip joint fails to develop properly. In the Malinois with HD, the head of the thigh bone does not fall into the hip socket. The imperfect fit results in the joint becoming loose and unstable, and results in osteoarthritis.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is the name for a group of diseases that cause degeneration of the retina. This will include inherited abnormalities of the light- sensitive cells.
  • Epilepsy: This is a brain disorder that is marked by sudden bursts of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. This results in recurrent seizures. Seizures that are longer than 5 minutes, or that are consecutive without full recovery necessitate immediate veterinary emergency care.
  • Bloat:The Malinois breed is deep- chested, and may be prone to bloat. Bloat is a life threatening emergency. It is caused by the twisting of the stomach, together with the accumulation of gas, with or without fluid. It is best to never elevate your dog water and food bowls. 

Stress is also a major factor in causing bloat. Avoid feeding your Malinois a large meal, followed by exercise. At the first signs of dry vomiting, restlessness and discomfort, contact your emergency veterinarian. Don’t wait for a few hours. This is a true emergency that is life-threatening!

For the Malinois, you will need to consider the following tests: Hip, eye, and elbow. It’s important to note that the puppy Malinois under 6 months of age needs to have special exercise programs during puppyhood, so as to prevent hip dysplasia and other injuries related to sports and exercise. 


There is no “best diet” for your Malinois. Each and every dog will have different nutritional requirements. Dogs are individuals like people. A diet that works for one dog may not be the best for another. Age, energy level and individual medical concerns play a large role for each patient. If your Malinois takes part in agility or expends lots of energy in dog sports, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian for nutritional and supplement advice.

But it’s very important to understand that dogs have to be fed for the life stage of the puppy or dog. You’ll need to also keep in mind that the life stage that a pet food is marketed for, may not be the same life stage for which the food actually meets the minimum requirements. As a pet parent, the best thing you can do is educate yourself about dog food formulas, and also whole food ingredients that are healthy for your Malinois. 

By understanding the importance of high-quality ingredients such as whole meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, as well as the different macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbs, you’ll get to know what your Malinois does best on. Providing your Malinois with the most appropriate diet that is healthy and beneficial to his life stage will help give your furry best a long and healthy life.

The take on what your Malinois should be eating:

  • Dog food formulas should contain no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives such as propylene glycol.
  • Diets should include whole foods instead of processed foods.
  • They should also use real meat instead of meat meal.
  • Organ meats are good.
  • Look out for by-products such as organ meats, which are fine, but no non-meat parts.
  • There should be a good source of calcium in the dog food formula.
  • The formulas should contain vegetables for fiber and nutrients such as flavonoids.
  • Diets need to be tested using AAFCO feeding trials, or by formulation to meet AAFCO nutrient profiles
  • There must be specific quality control measures to assure consistency and quality of all Ingredients used, as well as for the end product.
  • All dog food diets should be complete and balanced.
  • The dog food formula should indicate what life stage it is intended for.
  • AAFCO provides nutrient profiles for all different life stages, all but for one, the senior geriatric dog.
  • All dog food formulas must meet the AAFCO profiles for all life stages, and must meet the minimum nutrient levels for growth and adult maintenance in dogs.
  • A reputable and knowledgeable dog food company that has the highest quality control measures must make the dog food formula.
  • Dog food should not be made in China, nor should any of the ingredients originate from China.
  • Malinois pups should only eat a puppy food formula, and should always be fed a puppy formula.
  • Large breed pups like the Great Dane or German Shepherd need to be on a large breed puppy diet to ensure correct growth, and no growth abnormalities.
  • Formulas should contain antioxidants, Omega 3’s, healthy ingredients and a balanced diet for the appropriate life stage.


With a short waterproof coat, the Malinois makes grooming fun. The Malinois has a short waterproof coat that is wonderfully easy- to- groom with a medium bristle brush. You can also use a curry brush throughout the coat to keep it flat and smooth. Rubber grooming mitts also make grooming more thorough by removing dead hair. Shedding in the Malinois occurs twice a year, and extra grooming will be needed then with a slicker brush to remove loose hair. You’ll need to groom regularly to remove shed hair.

The Malinois needs periodic baths with an organic pet shampoo to maintain healthy skin and coat. Excessive bathing needs to be avoided to maintain sheen and avoid irritation. Regular teeth brushing is also just as important to avoid dental issues. Twice yearly visits to the veterinarian for dental hygiene maintenance is required. Ears need to be regularly wiped out, and nails trimmed regularly to prevent pain when walking and running. As usual, use a safe and effective canine sunblock to prevent sunburn in dogs when out and about because your Malinois is just as prone to getting skin cancer as you are!

Adopting a Belgian Malinois

Adopting a Belgian Malinois means taking high-energy levels into consideration. If you have children, it’s vital that you adopt a Malinois that is friendly, socialized and positively trained. If you have other pets, you’ll also need to make sure that they’ll be safe. You’ll also need to ensure that this breed gets plenty of mental stimulation and regular exercise.

When adopting a Belgian Malinois, it’s important to spend time with this breed at the shelter to find out more about any behavioral issues. Some Malinois may be more energetic than others, while others may need more socialization and training. Some may be shy and anxious, while others may just be wary and scared!

This breed does best with expert pet parents that have an active lifestyle, and a large backyard or farm. As with any dog adoption, make sure that you have the time and resources to take good care of your Malinois.The Malinois makes for a tremendous furry best friend that will always be there for you, but this breed will need plenty of one-on-one time.

Always adopt a Malinois with the right temperament for you and your household. Because many dogs at shelters may have behavioral issues, your shelter will probably provide post-adoption help.

This could include free positive dog training classes, 24-hour behavior hotlines, Skype online dog training help, adoption counselling for pet parents, and even home visitations which work best.

That said, it’s important to remember that your Malinois deserves the best each and every day. That includes mentally stimulating daily exercise together with a regular dog sports program to ensure a healthy and happy Malinois!

Meet The Author 

Claudia Bensimoun

Canine Specialist & Writer

Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist and author, and specializes in veterinary content, and eBooks. She's a long-time feature writer for Animal Wellness magazine, Fido Friendly magazine, and the United States Dog Agility Association. In addition, Bensimoun has written for numerous pet websites, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Her interests include wildlife conservation, animal welfare, disaster/ humanitarian relief, veterinary research, and veganism.

Recommended Articles

The Best Quotes About Dogs To Make You Smile
The Best Quotes About Dogs To Make You Smile

by M M 4 min read 0 Comments

Read More
healthiest dog breeds
The Healthiest Dog Breeds

by Grant Withers - Canine Specialist & Writer 4 min read 0 Comments

Dogs are an amazing part of life and can bring joy to your whole family, but when your little fur ball gets hurt or sick it can be a scary time. In this article I will be looking at the 9 healthiest dog breeds and how they made the list.
Read More
How to Get Rid of Dog Smell
How to Get Rid of Dog Smell

by Claudia Bensimoun - Canine Specialist & Writer 8 min read 0 Comments

Accidents happen. If you're wondering how to get the urine and dog smells out of the carpet and furniture in your home, here are some easy tips!
Read More