Complete Belgian Malinois Guide: 6 Must Read Facts

Complete Belgian Malinois Guide 6 Must Read Facts Cover

The Belgian Malinois was born for hard work.

They were originally used in the Belgian countryside for herding but these days the breed has become a beloved home defender.

This pooch is one of the most protective breeds that you will ever meet.

They are a very high maintenance dog that demands specific conditions to make a good home.

If you think your home is ready for all that a Belgian Malinois has to offer then read on to learn exactly what it takes to care for this breed.

Belgian Malinois Working On Farm

Belgian Malinois At A Glance

  • Belgian Malinois Puppy

The Belgian Malinois is a strong and eager work dog that is built for any task.

This dog is at their happiest when they have a task or something to focus on. They are often used as guard dogs, watchdogs and livestock guardians – there is very little that this hardworking dog cannot do. Whilst this breed is not affectionate they do show their love by completing a job well.

  • Popularity: #43.
  • Speciality: Working dog.
  • Weight: 40-80 pounds.
  • Price: $2000-$3000.
  • Personality: Eager, confident and helpful.

Similar Breeds

Belgian Sheepdog
Belgian Sheepdog
Price: $1500-$2000
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Family Friendly: Sometimes
Size: 60-75 pounds
Shed: High
Activity: High
German Shepherd
German Shepherd
Price: $500-$1500
Lifespan: 9-13 years
Family Friendly: Yes
Size: 50-90 pounds
Shed: High
Activity: Medium-High

Belgian Malinois Overview

A Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois was originally bred for herding different kinds of livestock.

More recently they have been trained for home defense and service work. They make a wonderful guard dog and even have roles in the military. This breed’s high intelligence and versatility makes them capable of carrying out pretty much any task.

Mals are often mistaken for German Shepherds but if you approach one you will learn just how different they really are.

Unlike the Shepherd, Belgian Malinois are not likely to greet you with a smiling face.

This is a serious dog that is always alert.

They are not the friendliest dog and tend to ignore and shy away from strangers – they may even be a little bit aloof with their owners.

You must keep this dog busy at all hours of the day.

They are only truly happy when they have plenty of hard work to do.

This is definitely not a lazy dog breed, so they are not for those who are never at home or who like to lounge on the couch.


  • Can be trained for any task.
  • Dutifully guards and protects the home.
  • Fits a variety of roles and purposes.
  • Very good at canine sports.


  • Not very friendly.
  • Craves constant stimulation and activity.
  • Cannot be left alone.
  • Gets irritable easily.

A Day In The Life Of This Breed

Early in the morning your Malinois will set out on patrol before you wake up.

They will dutifully watch the windows and the front door making sure that everything is as it should be around the house.

When you are awake your pooch will join you at your side.

After breakfast and an early morning run they will be ready to really start the day.

While you work from home your Belgian Malinois will be hard at work too.

They will keep tabs on the house and the yard and let you know if something is amiss.

Throughout the day your dog will alternate between watching the house and allowing themselves a quick nap here and there. Eventually though they will get restless and beg for something else to do. When they want your attention they will come right over to you and put their paws in your face. That is your cue that it is time for a walk or a game in the yard.

Spend some time playing ball, tag and going through some of their favorite tricks.

Eventually your Belgian Malinois will tire out enough to let you go back to work.

At dinnertime take them out for a long run down the trail and then rejoice as the sun goes down and your pooch finally begins to calm down.

Your loyal pooch will position themselves right near the window or the front door to keep watch as you begin to wind down for the day. They will not rest until they are sure that everything is in order.

Once you fall asleep your Mal will join you.

The two of you can rest up together for another day of work and play.

History And Origin

Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois was originally bred as an all-purpose livestock guardian in Malines (Belgium).

At the time Belgium was well known for their herding dogs. The Malinois emerged at the same time as three other Belgian herding breeds: the Teruvren, Laekinois and the Belgian Sheepdog.

Because these 4 breeds were created at the same time they were often confused with each other as they all fell into the same classification and breed standard.

However their very different appearances and personalities eventually set them apart.

The Mal was introduced to the United States in 1911 and began to establish their own identity separate from their three cousins.

World War I saw the start of an extensive military career for the Belgian Malinois. But after World War II the breed began to decline in America until a boom in popularity during the 1960s.

The breed gained American Kennel Club recognition in 1959 and their three cousins were established under separate breed standards later on.

In their country of origin however, the Malinois is still classified under the same standard as the Teruvren, Laekinois and Belgian Sheepdog.

Today they are known for much more than just their farm work and military career. They are frequently employed as a police dog, service dog and a guide dog for the blind.

6 Fun Facts

  1. The Belgian Malinois is often known as Mals or Belgies. They are named after the city of Malines in Belgium.
  2. In 2011 a Mal named Cairo gained national attention as a member of SEAL Team Six. The brave and valiant pooch was part of the raid on Osama Bin Laden.
  3. This breed is related to three other Belgian herding breeds (Belgian Sheepdog, Teruvren and Laekinois).
  4. Whilst the AKC gave them their own breed standard in 1959, outside of the US they still follow the same breed standard as their 3 cousins.
  5. Their military history goes back as far as World War I and continued throughout World War II until a temporary decline in popularity. Today they are still trained for military operations.
  6. In addition to police and military work, Belgian Malinois have been trained as service dogs and raised for agility competitions in dog shows. They are still also perfectly capable of fulfilling their original purpose as cow and sheep herders.

Temperament And Behavior

Belgian Malinois Black

Belgian Malinois are extremely energetic and eager dogs that want to spend most of their day hard at work.

Unfortunately it can be difficult to have tasks ready for them at all times.

At home their desire to work can be fulfilled through playing and learning tricks – they are so smart that they can learn just about anything at all. This dog enjoys games of skill that require some level of brainpower or focus. They will not be happy if you simply toss a rope or a ball and leave them alone.

Belgian Malinoises will bark if they catch sight of something out of the ordinary.

They are they type of dog that bark at cars or people that pass by the house.

Young puppies tend to be suspicious of everything and are very noisy.

This is a family first dog that will not be friendly or social with strangers – in the best case scenario this pooch will ignore them completely.

Strangers should be encouraged to keep their distance even if your Mal is well socialized.

This serious breed does not tolerate teasing, rough play or any other rambunctious behavior.

If you socialize them at a young age with other similar dogs, then your pooch can learn to get along with other four legged friends. However they will not willingly seek interaction with other dogs.

Despite this dog’s confidence they can be quite sensitive.

At times they can even be aggressive but this is almost always the result of fear or distress. This does not mean that the dog is dangerous but rather that they have boundaries that should be respected.

The Belgian Malinois is not a cuddly dog.

They would rather show their love for you by protecting you or patrolling your home.

How Much Does A Belgian Malinois Cost?

This is a very expensive breed to buy and to care for.

You might be able to find this pup for around $1000 at the very cheapest. However most breeders will charge anywhere from $2000-$3000 for a Belgian Malinois puppy.

The cost will be much higher if you are looking for a pup that has already been trained.


Buyer’s Tips

  1. This is a very expensive breed so make sure you budget accordingly. Avoid bargain hunting for low priced Belgian Malinois as they could be more prone to aggression and behavior problems.
  2. A quality breeder may charge anywhere from $1000-$3000 for a puppy intended to be a house pet. But a service dog or a certified working dog can have a price tag of $10,000 or more.
  3. This dog works a lot so they will eat a lot too. A healthy and active Mal will go through much more food than other dog breeds. You can expect to spend at least $50 a month to keep up with your dog’s nutritional needs.
  4. If you are training your Malinois for a specific job or task then you will need much more than a run of the mill puppy class. The price for working dog certifications can run well over $10,000!
  5. Remember that this is a very high maintenance breed. They must have their own outdoor space complete with toys, a fence and anything else they need to stay active and fit. All together these requirements can add an extra $1200 or more to the price of your puppy.

Belgian Malinois Dog Appearance

Black Belgian Malinois

This breed is often confused with the German Shepherd.

However, Belgian Malinois are smaller and thinner than the Shepherd.

The pooch has a muscular and lean body with fully erect ears. Their long and limber legs were built to run like the wind and jump high.

Their breed standard calls for a tall, strong and very alert working dog.

All of their angles should be proportionate and form a square body shape. Their neck should be long and tall with legs long enough to run for long distances across the countryside.

Their running gait is quick, elegant and graceful.

Wherever this pooch goes they carry themselves with poise and confidence.


  • Males: 24-26 inches tall and 60-80 pounds.
  • Females: 21-23 inches tall and 40-60 pounds.


Most often you will find a Belgian Malinois with a fawn colored coat and a black mask around their eyes, ears and muzzle.

However you can sometimes find this dog in a deep mahogany color and even black Belgian Malinois.

This working dog has a short and rough double coat to protect them from bad weather conditions while they work outdoors. It is very coarse and feels rough to the touch.

Their coat is wind and rain resistant.

You can expect their fur to shed year round so they will need brushing at least twice a week.

Belgian Malinois Care Guide

Belgian Malinois With Puppies

A Belgian Malinois is only suitable for an active owner who is experienced with working dogs.

This dog is not good for people who have a sedentary lifestyle, or who are away at work for long hours.

Mals are very high maintenance.

They need to be kept busy or they will destroy the house and tear up the furniture in no time at all. Keeping their mind and body active is the most important part of caring for this breed.


This extremely active dog that needs to be running for most of the day.

You can take them out for a walk, a run, or a jog for just about any length of time.

A well trained Mal can walk at your heels off leash but they must be fully trained and socialized before this is attempted. For the rest of the day you should keep your pooch running and jumping until they are ready to wind down. You can even tie their harness to your bicycle and let them run beside you.

Fetch, catch, tag and tug of war are all great games to keep a Belgian Malinois busy for hours. You can even set up your own obstacle courses and agility courses in the backyard.

  • Total Daily Activity: 90 minutes.
  • Activity Level: 5/5.
  • Favorite Activity: Running.


Belgian Malinois Dog

As a rule you should brush this dog’s coat at least twice a week.

Their double coat will shed all year long but especially during the spring and fall blowout season.

Steel currycombs and other tools built for shed control can be a big help (especially during the shedding season).

The good news is that year round shedding controls the length of their coat so a haircut will not be necessary.

Clean your dog’s ears thoroughly as they can collect a lot of dirt and grime as they work outside. Your dog will not have to be bathed very often but dirt should be wiped away with a damp cloth.

Check your dog’s nails every two or three weeks. when they are long enough to make clacking sounds against the floor it is time to trim them down. However most active dogs wear their own nails down through work and play.


This is a hardworking dog and they need the best possible diet to fuel their busy lifestyle.

Belgian Malinois will benefit from both raw food and formulas specifically made for high-activity breeds.

Belgian Malinois should eat roughly 3 to 4 cups of high quality dry kibble. You should aim to give your pooch around 1200-1600 calories a day.

You can feed your dog one cup in the morning, afternoon and evening. If your pooch needs a little extra you can give them slightly larger serving sizes for breakfast and dinner.

Their diet should be made up of protein and fat as the primary ingredients. This will help to maximize both energy and muscle condition. You should still give them carbohydrates but only a small amount. Make sure any carbs are natural and healthy sources rather than unnecessary treats or additives.

Health Concerns

One of the biggest health concerns with Belgian Malinois is their eyes.

Sadly they are notorious for having eye problems – especially later in life.

Cataracts are one of the least severe of these problems.

The first sign of cataracts is a milky and glazed appearance in the affected eye. If left untreated cataracts will lead to blindness – it must be treated via corrective eye surgery.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is one of the more severe eye disorders that this breed can get. This condition always leads to total vision loss.

At first your dog may display some minor issues with vision and coordination. They will have an especially hard time seeing things in the dark.

Over time your dog’s vision will degrade until total blindness sets in.

There is no cure or treatment for this condition and dogs suffering from PRA must learn to manage their blindness.

Apart from eye concerns though Mals are health and robust working dogs.

How Long Does A Belgian Malinois Live?

You should expect a health Belgian Malinois to live for 14-16 years.

How To Train A Belgian Malinois Dog

Belgian Malinois Puppy

The good news is that this breed is one of the easiest breeds to train, and there are a ton of puppy training tips that will help you train your Belgian Malinois.

These dogs were born to be trained and they consider it to be just another part of their day at work. For the most part they consider training to be fun and stimulating.

Whilst repetition is key just remember that too much repetition quickly turns to nagging.

Treat each command like a task that you are setting the pup to.

Your pup will complete each task, earn its reward and realize that completing further tasks will lead to further rewards.

This allows for a stream of reinforcement that will keep them motivated.

For those slightly more stubborn Belgian Malinois then a training class may be needed. You will also need training classes if you are attempting to get you dog certified in a specific role.

In addition to any training classes socialization is absolutely vital.

While this dog may never be especially friendly to others they can learn to tolerate others.

Time at the dog park mixed with a few hours at a puppy class full of similar breeds will help your pup get used to having other dogs around.

Just remember that all working dogs need lots of mental stimulation in order to be happy. When there is no guard duty and no work to be done this pooch enjoys learning new tricks. A backyard hurdle race is a great way to train your pup while allowing them to show off their athleticism and agility.

You can change the difficulty of the course each time to keep your dog from getting bored.

When they are successful, reward them with a pat and a tasty treat.



There is certainly a lot that a Belgian Malinois has to offer.

If you are looking for a hardworking dog that will dutifully protect you and your family then you should strongly consider the Mal.

However you should only ever adopt this dog if you are willing to put it to work.

They need a dedicated and active owner to keep their mind and body busy.

Since they hate to be left alone they are one of the best dogs for owners who work from home.

As long as you keep them hard at work they will be very happy. This pooch shows their love for you by fiercely defending your home – you will never feel safer or more secure than with one at your side.

If you are willing to commit to the task, you will never know a more loyal friend.

Let us know your thoughts about the Belgian Malinois in the comments section below…

About John Woods 299 Articles
John Woods is the founder of All Things Dogs, member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, graduate in Animal Behavior & Welfare and recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.


  1. The German Shepherd is more sociable with family and they are more guard dog/ attack dog/ military service dog.

  2. I have a 7month puppy with all the behavioral traits you mentioned but the color. It has a grey upper coat and fawn undercoat. Still need to know if she is of the Mal breed spec.

  3. We adopted a year old Mal about 6 months ago. We have a little land and livestock + 2 teens. I think we found the perfect dog. The chickens don’t agree, but we’re working on it. Successfully I might add. Manny even deals with the cats now. I have to say this article is spot on except for the fact he is very affectionate. We have socialized him well and he is friendly to all. Unless he gets that “vibe”. When “Vibed” he is not aggressive, but aloof until he knows the person/animal is no threat. I am pretty particular, but feel very safe when I’m not home or wife and daughter are with the dog. That is very reassuring to say the least. I know this dog will not put up with ANY aggression toward my family. That said, the absolute best part of this dog is his personality, he is always happy and fun to be around. You can rough house with him. It might be his favorite game. The author was correct in another thing, he is smart. Incredibly smart. He was heeling off leash within a week. The high energy part is a blessing and a curse. My daughter is a distance runner and he will wear her out then run after my son on his mountain bike for hours – incredible. Hopefully he’ll slow down a little bit when they go to college for the sake of my wife and I. Well, I guess being an old in shape guy isn’t too bad. In a nutshell, if you have the ability to provide a good home and these traits interest you, you really need to consider the breed.

    • So we adopted what we thought was a mixed breed of German Shepherd and American Bulldog. Mother died after birth and we never got to see her. He is nearly 5 months old now and I am inclined, as he has grown to believe he is a Mal. Very smart, build like one, and color is spot on. He is “lankier” than a German Shepherd. I had recalled seeing Monkey do the obstacle course which is what triggered my suspicion. Ours is quit affectionate as well. Curious as to what others look like at various ages? Also, best time for training?

  4. I’m interested in adopting a mal. I would greatly appreciate one. I have plenty running space. Mydogs passed away. I had them as pups. They were 13
    +. Died a year apart

  5. I am thinking about getting a Mal puppy. I have experience with German Shepherds but love the looks of the Mal. I currently have a 7 year old male miniature pinscher who is well socialized with other dogs of various sizes as well as people and children. In your opinion do you think a Mal pup will work with my male Min Pin? Thank you.

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