Hard working, strong, elegant, and proud, these words perfectly describe one of the most effective search and rescue dogs on the planet, the Belgian Malinois.
At first glance, you may believe that there’s a German Shepherd staring back at you, but you would be wrong. The Malinois is a whole different breed, with their square face and trademark black mask.
This breed was often referred and classified in a different name, or in a different group, until 1983, when the American Kennel Club moved this large size, highly energetic, herding dog, into the Herding Group.
Today, they are very popular among the military and police, but are also winning the hearts of many households.
What makes this dog so popular within the canine community?
Here is what you need to know about the Belgian Malinois.
The common mishap with this breed is to be confused as a German Shepherd. While the Belgian Malinois is just as agile and strong, they are far more elegant in appearance, with less bone structure.
This breed got their start in Belgian, and specifically around the Malines region, from where they get their name.
At first, this short haired breed was used as a herding dog. This intelligent breed thrived then as it still can today, at herding larger animals along the pastoral. The Belgian Malinois was also used as protector of farm property. There strong and impressive appearance makes them fit for the guarding role.
In the late 1800’s, a veterinarian and Malinois enthusiast, Adolphe Reul, compiled a group of over 100 Belgian Shepherd dogs together to establish a breed. From here on, the breed would begin to perform at shows, and aiding people as a working dog.
They were first registered in Belgium and France as one breed with four varieties. A long haired coat dog called a, Tervuren. The Laekenois, a rough coated fawn, that has been dropped from the American Kennel Club registration. The Groenendael, which is now called Sheepdog. Finally, the Belgian Malinois, a short haired fawn with a black mask.
The first Belgian Malinois to arrive in the United States was in 1911. The American Kennel Club recognized both the Malinois and Groenendael as German Sheepdogs. Two years later, they would be registered in the studbooks as Belgian Sheepdogs. That stuck with them until 1959, when the breed was separated from the other variety.
Registered under the miscellaneous class during the late 50’s and early 60’s, due to their fall in popularity, it was 1965, when the American Kennel Club gave the Belgian Malinois the title of Working Group.
This led to a growing interest, primarily within the military and government. In fact, the dog has been used for many search and rescue missions on behalf of the United States military. It was Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, that helped the Navy Seals find and kill Osama Bin Laden.
Today, the breed excels obedience, sledding, conformation, tracking, and can still be quite the herding dog. On top of doing work for the United States Secret Service and other world governments, the Belgian Malinois can be quite the family companion.
With an impressive resume and a growing reputation as a pet, the Malinois has moved up to the 47th most popular dog, according to the American Kennel Club.
The Belgian Malinois is considered to be a large sized dog with a high amount of energy.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Malinois male can stand between 24 to 26 inches, while the female’s height can range from 22 to 24 inches.
A male Belgian Malinois can weigh between 60 to 80 pounds, as a female will range around 40 to 60 pounds.
This is a working dog, which requires plenty of activity. A bored Belgian Malinois can become problematic. One of the reasons they have thrived so well as a K-9, emergency, herding or rescue dog, is their intelligence level and the desire to please its humans.
Another reason, unlike other working or services like German Shepherds or the Rottweiler, the Malinois can be scooped up much easier by their handlers or masters. While they are big enough in size to stand up to a criminal or enemy, they aren’t too big to be handled.
The Malinois shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time, and would much prefer the company of their master and family. If you have a job to do, try to incorporate your dog along.
This breed does very well with smaller children, as they are very loving and protective like they were in Belgium as protectors of the farm.
This isn’t a dog that you raise in an apartment. They need space, they need to move, and an apartment will only cause them more issues than not.
They can thrive in any weather, but would much prefer something mild or temperate.
This dog is very loyal and proud. The Malinois lives to satisfy and win the approval of their master and works as hard as possible to earn that approval.
Not a loud dog, but will bark when they need to. They are okay with strangers, for as long as they have their early training and socialization. If a Belgian Malinois feels threatened, they won’t think twice to react and act.
Although they are happiest out in the field, serving some great purpose, and with a team of heroes, they do make wonderful companion dogs for the family. Gentle and sweet, loves affection and attention.
The Belgian Malinois is a very healthy dog, that enjoys a long and promising life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. There aren’t any known major health complications affiliated with this breed, however, that doesn’t mean they can’t catch something due to neglect.
When you buy from a breeder, you should research and do your due diligence. Find out if they are reputable and make sure they can show you various clearances of the puppy you’re buying. Routine visits to the veterinarian’s office is crucial in aiding you dog’s health.
The Malinois has a few areas of concern that you can look out for.
Most of the issues this breed encounters seems to be with the eyes. Progressive Retinal Atrophy can be found with the Belgian Malinois. This degenerative eye disorder can cause blindness in both eyes due to the rod cells in the retina systematically failing.
Cataracts are something to look out for, when the natural eye lens becomes cloudy, which will cause blurry eyes and opaque.
They may suffer from epilepsy, although they aren’t any more at risk than other breeds.
Hemangiosaroma, which is a rapidly growing cancer that is deadly and usually found in dogs. This disease is a malignant tumor of the blood vessel cells.
Pannus, which is another condition to the eye, affects the cornea and at times is called, “gray pink eye.”
Elbow Dysplasia is also something to keep an eye out for. This growth disturbance of the inside elbow joint can lead to reduced range, pain, discomfort, and osteoarthritis.
Your dog may not encounter these health concerns at all.
Considering this breed is very health as well as active, you really have nothing to worry about as far as weather conditions. Your Belgian Malinois will be fine in warmer weather but does fine with cooler temperatures as well.
Regular exercise is vital with this breed. They are very active and need a job. You will find yourself walking or running with them at any chance they get. If need be, you can try to break their exercise requirements up throughout the day. You can play a little fetch, or obedience playing, or take them along with you for a long walk, so that they don’t get bored. A recommended 60 minutes per day will help go a long way with this breed.
They should socialized at an early age. This will invite a more friendly and less aggressive dog, although they aren’t know for aggression.
You should watch this breed with smaller children. Since they are strong and powerful, an accidental knockdown could very well happen.
Brush their teeth 2 to 3 times per week. Promotes better gum health and keeps your dog teeth in great shape. Bathe as you see fit, however, this dog shouldn’t need too much bathing as a low maintenance dog. That all depends on what role you give your dog. Clipping their nails will help reduce overgrowth, but will also help them when they take long walks with you. It’s common to witness split or cracking nails if they aren’t well maintained.
Your dog will eat differently than other depending on their age, metabolism, activity rate, whether they’ve been spayed or neutered.
A breed like the Belgian Malinois should consume meat or healthy levels of protein. Anywhere between 28 to 33 percent protein should be enough. The first ingredient should be a meat product like chicken, lamb, meat, or fish.
This breed enjoys treats, bones, veggies, and eggs.
If you are going to feed them dry kibble, you should make sure that it’s high quality food that is appropriate for the breed and their group size.
The suggested amount of food for the Belgian Malinois is 2 to 3 cups of food per day. You can always feed them two or three times per day. This will help reduce the chances of your dog from experiencing bloat.
As always, you should leave your dog some fresh, drinking water.
The American Kennel Club describes this breed as having five accepted coat colors and one marking. They are famously known for wearing their Fawn colored coat, with a short and straight coat that is very water resistant. They have a dense undercoat to help them with wet conditions.
They are considered to be a seasonal shedder, that will require frequent grooming. You could chip away at the effort by making it easier for yourself, when you brush daily. Brushing two or three times per week should cut the mustard.
The accepted coat colors based on the AKC standard: Fawn, Fawn/Sable, Mahogany, Red, Red/Sable.
The one accepted marking found on the Belgian Malinois is their trademark black mask.
Fun Belgian Malinois Facts
- This breed has been used in many raids, including the November 2015 Paris Attacks, when seven year old hero, Diesel, a Malinois assault dog, was killed in a shootout. Diesel was honored and given a funeral.
- The Belgian Malinois is preferred over the German Shepherd as the guard dog for the White House.
- The Malinois is also used by India’s National Security Guard commando unit as a sniffer dog.
- They’ve been featured on popular shows such as, Person of Interest, which features a Malinois named Bear.
- A co-star in the Tucker Wayne series is a Belgian Malinois.
The Belgian Malinois continues to make a name for their breed as one of the most dynamic and resourceful breeds on Earth.
Beginning as a pointer, flusher, and herding dog, they have transformed into the dog their humans needed them to be.
While it’s true, the Malinois makes a great service dog for the military and police, they also make a great companion as a sweet and devoted family dog.