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Belgian Malinois… Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

Belgian Malinois dog

The Belgian Malinois is one of those “types” of dogs that will often be mistaken as a “mutt” because he looks very similar to other more common dog breeds such as a German Shepherd. But the truth is the Belgian Malinois belongs to a group of dogs collectively referred to as “Chiens de Berger Belge,” which consists of several different types of Belgian sheepherding breeds that were specifically bred to work as shepherds and guard dogs for their original owners in Belgium.

Other dogs in this group include the following:

What makes the Belgian Malinois dog so great is that they are a brilliant dog that is very cool and collected even under pressure. He’s also a speedy and agile dog, so these dogs have often been used by police and rescue operations worldwide.

But this does not…

This means that a Belgian Malinois dog will be suitable for everyone. This is why, in this article, we wanted to take a moment and discuss some of the pros and cons of owning a Belgian Malinois so that if you ever get a chance to get your hands on one, you’ll have a better idea if owning one will be the “right” choice for you. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it!

Belgian Malinois  Fast Facts

Country of Origin:  Belgium

Original Purpose: Herding Dog, Guard Dog, or Watch Dog

Height:  22 to 26 inches tall

Weight:  60 to 65 pounds

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Dog Breed Classification:  Herding Dogs

Origin of the Belgian Malinois

As we mentioned, the Belgian Malinois belongs to a “class” of Belgian sheep herding dog breeds collectively referred to as Chien de Berger Belge in their home country of Belgium. Many of the dogs in this group will be named by the “specific” city where they are most common, and the Malinois is no different as its origin seems to come from the town of Malines.


Besides the fact that this breed originated from Belgium, little is known about the species. We do know that he was created to be a shepherd dog and was used by shepherds for sheep and cattle for hundreds of years. That said, the Belgian Malinois didn’t actually “earn” its name until approximately 1891 when the Belgian authorities thought it time to give proper names to the different dog breeds unique to their country. Then, once Belgians had a word to “attach” to this quality dog breed, he soon became a national treasure and quickly became very popular throughout the country, where they remain one of the most popular sheepdog breeds today.

Given how easy to train these dogs are, it’s no surprise that the Allied forces recruited the Malinois during World Wars I and II, where he proved he could get the job done in any situation, displaying great courage under fire.

Malinois in America

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Malinois in 1911 as a Belgian Sheepdog, which is a bit silly because it doesn’t take a “dog expert” to see that these two “types” of dogs are DIFFERENT! Fifty-four years later, the AKC finally got around to seeing the “errors of their ways” and eventually recognized the Belgian Malinois as its unique breed, bringing us to where we are now. The Malinois is now as American as any dog breed in the U.S. It is often referred to as the American Belgian Malinois, often used as an excellent guard dog or police dog, and simply a great family pet!

Physical Characteristics

First and foremost, the Belgian Malinois is a pretty BIG dog. Ranging between 60 to 65 pounds and standing right around two feet tall, it’s easy to see what police departments worldwide value the Malinois for its strength and size. He was easily recognizable with his short hair, black mask, large ears, and brooding eyes. The Belgian Malinois will have a smooth coat of fawn or mahogany, tipped with black, and walk the “leaning forward” gait, a unique trait of most “shepherd type” dogs.

You’ll also notice that your Malinois will typically like to move in big circles rather than straight lines, almost as if they constantly try to “determine” where the “action” will come from!

Personality and Temperament

The Malinois temperament depends on his training. If he has been trained well right from the time he is a puppy, he will be brave, courageous, and relaxed in the company of other people and never shy or aggressive. If not, you will likely find you’re now the proud owner of a very rowdy, big, strong, and fast dog!

So take it from us: if you decide to purchase a Malinois puppy, or better yet, adopt a rescue Malinois dog, be sure to enroll them in obedience training immediately. Not only will they “take” to the movement, but training a Malinois is a lot of fun because they’re great students!

Their training…

It should include mental stimulation exercises and other methods such as agility, herding, flyball, obedience, search and rescue, rally, and tracking. And don’t forget to keep a few treats on you because while Malinois dogs love being praised, they typically prefer treats instead.

Are Belgian Malinois dogs suitable for children?

The Belgian Malinois dog breed is a herding dog, which means he might nip at or chase small children, mistaking them for small animals. So, if you decide to adopt a “rescue dog,” be sure they were raised with small children in the house. Otherwise, you might not want to bring a Malinois home if you have small children.

Now if you…

Have older children, or you adopt a Malinois puppy and socialize them early; they should do fine. You want to make sure that your Malinois knows not to chase and that you’re children learn how to behave around animals.

Malinois as a family pet

In addition to being an excellent “companion” animal, the Belgian Malinois will also be an excellent watchdog or guard dog. He is alert, always looking for trouble, knows who to protect and be wary of, and generally can discriminate between the good and bad guys. For these reasons, he is one of our “go-to” breeds when recommending a “larger” dog for families.

Potential Health Concerns

Since the Belgian Malinois is a purebred dog and a rather old one, there is always a chance that he could develop a genetic disorder that may be more common within the breed. Unfortunately, the Belgian Malinois breed does suffer from an increased risk of developing:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy, which is a deadly eye disease.

Okay, we know what you’re thinking: is he a healthy dog? Can I take the chance of bringing a Malinois puppy home?

Yes! Certainly…

Provided you get him from the right breeder, one who shows you proof of DNA testing. Also, ask the breeder for the following certifications…

  • PennHIP or OFA certification for hips
  • A CHIC certification from the American Belgian Malinois Club
  • OFA clearance for elbows
  • An eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

A Malinois can also suffer from the following diseases…

To be safe…if you are considering adding a Belgian Malinois to your family, we suggest you take a moment to see what it might cost to purchase a pet insurance policy for them as well. You see, this way, if your Malinois does develop some medical illness or injury later on in life, you won’t be on the “hook” for the total cost of their medical bills.

Now, will purchasing a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

Probably not, but how will you know for sure until you know what the cost would be? This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet created our Best Pet Insurance Companies article so that our readers can get a rapid idea if pursuing a pet insurance policy will be “right” for them.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • nicole February 4, 2020, 10:00 am

    i know that these dogs love to have a job and something to do. however how good are they at being service dogs? i have always loved the breed and their work ethic but i want to make sure i choose the correct breed for my next prospect

    • indulgeyourpet February 4, 2020, 11:42 am


      That’s a great question, but given the importance of having the right answer we wouldn’t want to take a guess without knowing for sure. Our advice would be to reach out to local service dog trainer (if you yourself aren’t one) or perhaps contact a local Belgian Malinois breeder who may know of examples where these types of dogs are performing this very valuable role.



      • Kristal D. May 27, 2021, 6:54 pm

        The Belgian Malinois is really versatile. A breeder and trainer can help match you with the right pup. A well trained Malinois would make an exceptional service dog.

  • Bill November 6, 2020, 1:42 pm

    We got our Belgian from a very reputable breeder in Nakina North Carolina.

  • Fern L H. November 28, 2020, 10:04 am

    Where can I purchase a Belgian Malinois pup with the above verified certificates. I live in Fayetteville Ga.

    • indulgeyourpet November 28, 2020, 11:56 am


      That’s a great question, but unfortunately one that we wouldn’t have an answer for. Perhaps you can see if there is a local Facebook page for a local Belgian Malinois club in your area. If so, not only would you probably be able to get an answer there, you’d probably meet a lot of other folks with similar interests.

      Good luck!


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