Is The Belgian Malinois A Good Family Dog?

Have you ever seen a Belgian Malinois? If you’re not sure, let me assure you that yes, chances are you have. Like their German Shepherd counterparts, Belgian Malinois are famous police and military dogs.

In fact, they are even more sought after than the German Shepherd breed due to their quick wit, their eagerness to please, and their loyalty and courage.

So think back to long lines at the airport, when a small, black-muzzeled German Shepherd walked by sniffing luggage. Or, perhaps you were watching a police show on TV and saw a group of uniformed officers working with sleek, focused brown dogs you may have assumed were also German Shepherds.

Chances are you were looking at a Belgian Malinois.

Surprised? Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to mistaken a Mal for a German Shepherd, and many sharp eyed dog lovers do. Both breeds have large ears, keen eyes, and similar coloring, but there are some subtle, and not so subtle, differences that set the two apart.

The lesser known Belgian Malinoious, for example, continues to be somewhat of a mysterious enigma to dog lovers and families looking to add an intelligent, friendly four-legged member to their pack.

We know German Shepherds are smart and can make great companions for the right family, but what about the German Shepherd’s enthusiastic, intelligent, loyal, and brave counterpart, the Belgian Malinois?

If you have recently found yourself intrigued by the Belgian Malinois, you’re not alone. This is a breed who may have been slow to rise to stardom, but he maintains a loyal fanbase and may be more prevalent in our day to day lives than many Americans think.

But is this beautiful and clever breed a good family dog? Better yet, would he be a good family dog for your unique family?

That’s what we are here to find out. Join us as we learn all about the Belgian Malinois and discover what kind of family companion he would make for you.

Let’s begin!


What Is A Belgian Malinois?

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The Belgian Malinois is an intelligent, work-oriented breed who bonds closely with his family. 

The Belgian Malinois is simply yet deliberately built. The Mal, as he is often called, was created by serious dog enthusiasts who were more interested in brains than beauty and function over fashion. They needed a dog with stellar work-ethic, stamina, and drive.

Enter the Belgian Malinois.

This focused purebred is one of four Shepherd type dogs bred and perfected in Europe for working purposes.

Best known for his work as a police and military dog, the Belgian Malinois is a sturdy, intelligent, work-oriented breed who becomes closely bonded with his family members and needs to partake and have access to a number of mental and physical activities each and every day to keep him feeling happy and mentally sound.

Unlike a number of companion dogs who make ideal family pets for the average American family, the Belgian Malinois needs consistent work, play, and family time to keep him thriving. The Mal also tends to become extremely bonded with his human family and will suffer greatly if his needs are neglected by them or if he is separated too often from them.

We should say it now – the Belgian Malinois is not for the novice dog owner who is hoping for an easy, go-with-the-flow companion dog to lounge around the home and who will be fine on his own for hours at a time.

The Belgian Malinois is meant to be an intricate, working member of the family and will view his people as his pack. He is a strong, clever dog who can do well with children when raised with them and socialized properly, but he is not an ideal family dog for the average family looking for a companion pet.

And while the Belgian Malinois is often mistaken for his German Shepherd look-alike, and while he does have many of the same strong characteristics, there are several traits that set the Belgian Malinois apart.

Let’s learn more.

What Does A Belgian Malinois Look Like?

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The Belgian Malinois is often mistaken for the better-known German Shepherd. 

Belgian Malinois Height: 22 – 26 Inches

Belgian Malinois Weight: 40 – 80 Pounds

Belgian Malinois Coloring: Mahogany, Tan, and Black-Tipped Fawn

Belgian Malinois Coat Type: Double coated, weather-resistant, shedding

Let’s Learn More About The Belgian Malinois Appearance

The Belgian Malinois is a lean, muscular dog with long legs, a proportionate body, and a distinctive face. What sets him apart most from the German Shepherd is perhaps his size and his head.

The Mal is slightly smaller than his German Shepherd counterpart and has a black muzzle and black ears.  The rest of his body is often a shade of brown ranging in shades of tan to mahogany.

The Mal also has keen, brown eyes that are round and alert. His ears can stand straight up or lay floppy, especially when he is relaxed.

And while the Belgian Malinois is not a very large dog, he is still incredibly powerful and graceful. He is a swift runner and an agile champion, excelling in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and protection.

Speaking of protection, let’s talk a little bit about what the Belgian Malinois was originally bred to do.

What Was The Belgian Malinois Originally Bred To Do?

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Working dogs need extra care and patience from their owners.

Due to his name, it may come as no surprise that the Belgian Malinois originally hails from the city of Malines in Belgium.

As we mentioned briefly above, the Belgian Malinois was created by a group of focused dog breeders who desired to create a dog with fierce work-ethic and drive. Appearance was not the primary focus for these breeders, who focused instead on the dogs’ intelligence, stamina, and loyalty.

Originally bred as a herding dog, the Belgian Malinois is one of four shepherd type dogs to come out of Belgium around the same time. The other Belgium herding breeds he is closely related to include the Belgian Tervuren, the Belgian Laekenois, and the Belgian Shepherd.

In fact, in many countries, these four herding breeds are considered one breed and are referred to collectively as Belgian Sheepdogs in spite of their physical and temperamental differences.

However, since 1959, the Belgian Malinois has been officially accepted in the United States by major breed clubs as his own purebred.

The modern day Belgian Malinois may be most famous for his work as a police and military dog, but in his humble beginnings, this shepherd dog was created for herding and protecting livestock.

The Mal is so talented at herding and protecting that he is still in fact one of the most popular herding and guarding dogs to this day worldwide. Of course, there can be behavioral issues that arise with dogs who are as work-oriented as the Belgian Malinois and especially dogs with herding backgrounds.

Let’s learn more.

What Are The Temperamental Traits Of An Average Belgian Malinois?

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The work-minded Mal needs lots of socialization and training throughout his lifetime.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Belgian Malinois is described as being an energetic, athletic, and intelligent dog with unyielding loyalty to his family members.

Belgian Malinois dogs have an incredible eagerness about them that makes them wonderful to work with so long as they are being worked with correctly. These are dogs who require lots of one on one time with their owners and will learn best with the person they have bonded closest with.

With that being said, they are affectionate dogs who require just as much exercise and training as they do family time and fun. They will not do well left home alone for long periods of time and will become depressed and destructive if left to their own devices in a backyard or inside a home that hasn’t been properly dog-proofed.

Belgian Malinois dogs strive to be active members of their family and must be allowed plenty of time to play, learn, exercise, and snuggle.

Due to his herding background, the Mal is known to have a high prey drive and will take off after anything that moves quickly so they should be trained at an early age to harness this instinctual behavior into something positive. They should also be given a solid recall.

The Mal will also instinctually herd his family members and other household pets. Most often, children and smaller dogs and cats will be the target of his herding instincts. This could include nudging and nipping at the heels to get family and pets into the kitchen for meal time or into the bathroom for baths, which could be problematic and annoying for many families.

However, most experts agree that problematic Belgian Malinois are often the product of unwitting owners who have not properly trained and socialized their dogs.

Keeping that in mind, it’s very important for a potential owner to fully understand the commitment they are taking on when taking on a Belgian Malinois.

Keep reading to find out more.

Are Belgian Malinois Dogs Good With Children and Other Household Pets?

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When properly trained and socialized, the Belgian Malinois can get along with anyone.

Like any large, work-oriented breed, the Belgian Malinois will need to be trained and socialized at an early age. Of course, if you are anticipating bringing a Belgian Malinois into a home with children and other pets, it is wise to get one who is still a young puppy.

Belgian Malinois will do well with children and other pets when he was raised around them. Otherwise, if you opt to get an older Belgian Malinois, experts suggest making sure your children are old enough to understand how to respectfully and properly interact with a dog.

Not known to be aggressive when properly trained and Socialized, the Belgian Malinois can be territorial, resource aggressive, and jealous if not properly trained around animals and kids.

Remember, it is always best to supervise small children and household pets together, especially with larger dogs who are known to have guarding instincts or a higher prey drive, like the Belgian Malinois.

Experts also suggest speaking with children and educating them on how to handle a dog like the Belgian Malinois.

Again, I want to note that the Belgian Malinois is a wonderful dog, but he is not for the average family looking for a good, laid back family dog.

This is a dog who requires lots of training and socialization and needs to be an active and beloved part of his family.

Are you wondering what the daily training and exercise requirements might look like for a Belgian Malinois? Then keep reading, because we are about to tell you.

What Are The Training And Exercise Requirements Of A Belgian Malinois?

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All dogs need exercise and training. The Belgian Malinois just needs more than most. 

All dogs need daily exercise, training, and socialization to stay well-rounded, happy, and healthy. The Belgian Malinois just needs more than most.

What does that look like?

As far as exercise goes, the Belgian Malinois will need two or more walks a day and will prefer to do these walks with his favorite family member. He will also enjoy going on runs, jogs, hikes, or swims.

But the exercise doesn’t stop there. Your Belgian Malinois would prefer to hang with you all day if he could, running around the backyard playing games of fetch and learning new tricks or even just trailing along beside you as you go about your daily routine.

This is a dog who needs constant stimulation both mentally and physically, which is one of the traits that makes him such a fabulous police and military dog.

He enjoys nothing more than being a partner to his human, not just a companion. He will excel in dog sports like agility and obedience, and he will enjoy learning and then participating in household chores.

The most important thing to remember when training a Mal? Keep your Belgian Malinois training fun and exciting. Too much monotonous routine and he will get bored and distracted. This is a play-minded breed who likes to work hard and play hard, and will especially like it if these two things mesh into one.

Keep your Belgian Malinoius interested in training by using positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise, and help him learn by making training a fun game.

Does all of this sound daunting? It doesn’t have to be. For the right owner, the Belgian Malinois makes a wonderful companion and partner and all this training and exercise will help the two of you to bond closely and build a strong, trusting relationship unlike anything you’ve ever had.

On the flip side of this, if you do not have the time, attention, and discipline it takes to devote to the Belgian Malinois, you could wind up with a dog who has a whole lot of behavioral issues to contend with.

Belgian Malinois can be prone to some serious destructive behaviors if they are under exercised or if their training and mental stimulation is neglected. They can also develop aggressive tendencies, jealous streaks, and territorial behaviors, which can be especially dangerous with children in the home.

Now, we’re sure that’s a big pill to swallow, especially if you weren’t prepared for all the work a Mal was going to give you. Are you ready for the good, easy, simple thing about this dog? Then let’s talk grooming!

Is Grooming A Belgian Malinois Difficult?

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Grooming the Mal is easy so long as it is kept up.

Just like with exercise and training, grooming your Belgian Malinois is essential. The good news is that grooming a Belgian Malinois dog isn’t too difficult.

This is a double-coated breed whose undercoat is dense and wooly and whose outer coat is harsh and lays flat. This sleek, weather-resistant fur cleans itself naturally and takes little more than a few shakes to rid itself of mud, water, grime, and debris.

With that being said, the Mal does shed and he sheds most heavily twice a year during shedding season, which is usually in the Spring and Fall.

Outside of shedding season, your Belgian Malinois will only need to be brushed once or twice a week with a good slicker brush and deshedding tool to help keep loose hair from becoming tangled in the undercoat.

During shedding season, the Belgian Malinois will need to be brushed more often with good deshedding tools and other grooming tools to ensure his coat stays healthy.

Along with proper brushing, the Belgian Malinois will need an occasional bath to stay looking fresh. Be careful not to bathe your Mal too often or too little, as doing so could result in the stripping of essential oils his skin naturally produces and that help to keep his coat shiny and healthy.

So, how often should you bathe your Belgian Malinois? Experts suggest that these dogs get a bath no more than once a month and no less than once every six weeks. When bathing your Belgian Malinois, be sure to use a shampoo that is specifically formulated for dogs and made of high quality ingredients that won’t strip your Mal’s coat of its natural oils.

Like all energetic and athletic dogs, the Malinous will need to have special attention given to his nails. A broken or cracked nail could cause a Belgian Malinous to be in pain and could also result in infection. To avoid this, experts suggest having your Mal’s nails clipped or ground down regularly.

And while the Belgian Malinois is not particularly prone to ear infections, he should have his ears routinely checked and cleaned to help keep them free of debris, waxy buildup, and excess moisture.

Oral health is also an important part of grooming your dog, and keeping your Belgian Malinois teeth healthy could save you a good chunk of change in veterinary bills down the road.

We suggest cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly with a dog-friendly toothbrush and dog-friendly toothpaste. You can also invest in doggy chews that help to reduce plaque and fight tooth decay in dogs.

Remember, grooming plays a very big and important role in the overall health and wellbeing of your Belgian Malinois.

Still, all dogs can face genetic health issues that are outside of their owners’ control and the Belgian Malinois is no exception.

Let’s take a look at the Belgian Malinois dog’s overall health and lifespan.

How Long Do Belgian Malinois Dogs Live and Do They Have Any Major Health Issues?

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All dogs can be prone to genetic health issues, and the Mal is no exception. 

Whether purebred, mutt, or crossbreed, all dogs can be prone to facing genetic health issues during their lifetime and the Belgian Malinois is no exception.

And while lifestyle, diet, and exercise all play a role in the overall health of your Belgian Malinois, there are some inheritable diseases this breed can be at risk of inheriting that a prospective owner should be aware of.

The good news is that the Belgian Malinois has a generous lifespan for a larger dog and is, for the most part, considered to be generally healthy.

Take a look.

Belgian Malinois Average Lifespan:

  • 14 to 16 Years

Belgian Malinois Potential Health Issues:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Cataracts
  • And Pannus and hemangiosarcoma

Recommended Health Tests For The Belgian Malinois Dog:

  • Hip evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation

What Is The Ideal Home Type For A Belgian Malinois Dog?

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The Belgian Malinois is adaptable to different living arrangements so long as he is properly exercised. 

Wondering if the Belgian Malinois would do well in an apartment? The answer may surprise you!

Yes, we know we spent the majority of this article harping on how active and athletic the Belgian Malinois dog is – and oh he is – but this is a breed who is surprisingly low-key when indoors. He enjoys his family time and will love lounging about on the couch, at the foot of your bed, or in his snuggly space by the fire.

The Mal can do quite well as an apartment dwelling dog so long as he has an adequate amount of exercise and is able to hang with his favorite people. Remember, this is a family oriented dog who will not do well on his own for all day long.

He can easily become bored, depressed, and destructive when he is alone and should therefore be crate trained for when owners inevitably need to leave him on his own during the day.

Puzzle toys and playing brain games can also help keep your Belgian Malnious distracted and busy while you are away, but, for the most part, this is a dog who will do best when you are around and will prefer to just hang with you.

And while the Belgian Malinois can do well in apartments, he does best in homes with yards and secure fences. He will enjoy having some free range, outdoor space to run around and play with his toys.

Of course, if you do plan on getting a Belgian Malinois and you don’t have a yard, that’s fine too. Just remember that he will need lots of exercise and even more so if you don’t have a space for him to run and play on his own.

Is A Belgian Malinois Right For My Family And Our Lifestyle?

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The Belgian Malinois can make the greatest companion for the right person or family. 

If you’ve read this far, there is a good chance you’ve already made up your mind as to whether or not the Belgian Malinois is the right dog for you and your family.

I mean, let’s face it. This isn’t a blurred-lines kind of dog. This is a take it or leave it kind of breed who needs an owner who can provide him with the right amount of exercise, mental stimulation, and companionship that he needs on a daily basis.

Anything short of that will be a disservice to the Belgian Malinois and to you and your family.

With that being said, the Belgian Malinois is a great dog. In fact, he can make one of the best doggy companions to the right owner due to his loyalty, intelligence, and his eagerness to learn and please. Of course, if his potential is left neglected, this is a breed who can become a nightmare and be quite destructive, territorial, and even aggressive.

A Belgian Malinois may be right for your family and lifestyle if you are active, are able to get a Belgian Malinois at a young age and train and raise him with children and other pets, or if you are able to get a Mal who was raised with children and pets and you know and trust his temperament.

The Mal may be right for you if you work from home and have the free time to commit to training and exercising him each and every day.

If you are unable to commit this time and attention to your Belgian Malinois, then we highly encourage you to look at other dogs who would better suit you and your family’s lifestyle.

Choosing Your Belgian Malinois Puppy – Tips On Finding The Best Puppy Or Rescue Dog Possible

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Whether adopting or buying from a breeder, it’s very important to trust the sources you go through to get a new dog.

If you think a Belgian Malinois is the right dog for you, that’s great. These are wonderful dogs for the right home and person, although they do require lots of work, time, and commitment as we now know.

Regardless of which kind of dog breed or mix you get, it’s always important to get your dog from a responsible, reputable person or place you trust.

A happy, healthy dog begins at the source. For those of you with children and other household pets in the home, we do suggest getting a Belgian Malinois puppy who you can raise with your children and pets.

If you choose to go through a breeder, keep in mind that reputable breeders can be more expensive. Still, they will be able to offer you certificates of health that prove their puppies are ready to go home with you and have been cleared for any serious health concerns.

Furthermore, you can get an idea of your puppy’s temperamental traits based on it’s parent dogs. Of course, remember that genetics go hand in hand with the environment your puppy will be raised in and his temperament will be based on all these factors.

This means that your puppy can come from good breeding stock but the ensuing training, exercise, and socializing is up to you.

In order to get the healthiest Belgian Malinois possible, we urge you to steer clear of backyard breeders, online sellers, and pet stores. While these options may be cheaper upfront, they could wind up costing you more in the long run in vet bills as well as emotionally.

If you prefer to adopt your Belgian Malinois, (and we always support adoption or rescue), opt for a dog who has a history of living with children and other household pets and who has been properly socialized.

When choosing to adopt or rescue a Belgian Malinois, experts suggest that you do plenty of research as there are likely a number of breed specific shelters that specialize in this breed with experts who will be able to help you find the Belgian Malinous who will fit in best with your unique family and lifestyle.

Do you have experience raising a Belgain Malinois dog? What advice would you give potential owners of this dog breed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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