Belgian Malinois: Essential Breed Info & 5 Key Considerations

I’m sure you’ve noticed the striking dog making waves in blockbuster movies and trending across social media platforms…

Yup, that’s the Belgian Malinois.

As captivating as they appear on screen, there’s so much more to this breed than just their Hollywood charm.

With their undeniable allure, it’s easy to envision one as your next furry companion.


The Malinois is popular in film and police work for a reason.

It demands understanding, dedication, and a complete lifestyle change.

Dive into the essentials of this breed with me to ensure you’re well-equipped with knowledge so your decision to welcome (or admire from afar) a Malinois is right for both you and the dog.

Belgian Malinois Breed Information

The Belgian Malinois (pronounced as “mal-in-wah”), originating from Malines, Belgium, is a distinguished member of the Belgian Shepherd family, a lineage renowned for its diverse coat varieties and working capabilities. This family comprises four unique coat types:

  • Belgian Malinois (fawn, short coat)
  • Belgian Tervuren (fawn, long coat)
  • Belgian Laekenois (fawn, wire coat)
  • Groenendael, also known as the Belgian Sheepdog (black, long coat)

While globally, these varieties are generally grouped under the umbrella term “Belgian Shepherd,” the American Kennel Club (AKC) opts for a distinct classification. Each coat variation is recognized and registered as an individual breed in their categorization. This differentiation underscores each variant’s unique characteristics and identities in the canine community.

Physical Attributes and Temperament

Two belgian malinois sitting next to each other.

Height & Weight

Male Belgian Malinois stand between 24 – 26 inches tall at the withers (shoulders) and weigh 60 – 80 lbs.

Females stand between 22 – 24 inches tall at the withers and weigh 40 – 60 lbs.

General Appearance

The Belgian Malinois is an embodiment of grace, strength, and agility. This square-built canine presents an elegant facade, underlined by its head and neck’s pronounced and dignified posture. The dog exudes an aura of vitality and alertness, standing firm and even on all four legs. It gives onlookers a sense of sturdiness without appearing overly hefty. While both genders are impressive, the male Malinois typically carries a more majestic aura, whereas the female exudes a refined femininity.

Facial Characteristics

The head of a Malinois is sharp and robust but lacks any sign of cumbersomeness. It aligns in proportion with the body. The dog’s facial expression resonates with a sense of alertness and curiosity, with eyes that shimmer with intelligence and inquisitiveness. These medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes are preferably a deep shade of brown, encased with black rims.

Its ears, erect and firm, resemble an equilateral triangle, harmonizing with the head’s size. Droopy or semi-pricked ears are seen as undesirable traits. The skull displays a flat top and is symmetrical in width and length. The muzzle exudes a subtle pointedness, with its length mirroring the top skull, both lying parallel. Housing a black nose, the strong jaws of this breed are encased with tight black lips, with no trace of pink on the exterior.

Coat Attributes

The Malinois boasts a coat that’s short yet resilient against the elements, thanks to its weather-resistant nature and a thick undercoat. The fur is notably short on the dog’s face, ears, and legs. However, around the neck, it elongates to form a collarette, with similar longer fur seen on the tail and thighs’ rear. This breed has moderate shedding year-round and typically undergoes heavy shedding twice a year when the seasons change

The Malinois’ primary coat color ranges from a vibrant fawn to a deep mahogany, accentuated by black-tipped hairs, lending an overlaid appearance, with a black mask and ears. A lighter shade of fawn highlights the underbody, tail, and breeches. While color adds to the overall appearance, it should never overshadow structure or temperament. White markings are limited to the toe tips and a minor spot on the breastbone, without extending towards the neck. Any other white markings are typically considered undesirable.

Malinois Temperament

The temperament of a Belgian Malinois is central to its identity. This breed exudes confidence with a composed demeanor in unfamiliar situations. While they might be reserved with unfamiliar faces, their loyalty and affection towards their family are unwavering.

Their protective instinct is finely balanced, ensuring they guard their loved ones without unnecessary aggression. This breed’s essence lies in its fervent wish to be productive and its alacrity in following its owner’s directives. During puppyhood, the Malinois needs to properly socialize with humans, animals, and a variety of environments.

Warning: A carelessly bred Malinois is prone to severe temperament problems. Be sure to buy from a responsible breed-specific Malinois rescue or from a reputable breeder who breeds their dogs with a great temperament in mind.

Born to Serve: The Work-Centric Nature of the Belgian Malinois

Malinois, nestled within the herding dog category, epitomizes fervor and dedication in working roles. Their innate intensity, boundless energy, and unyielding drive make them especially favored choices in critical roles such as police dog work, search and rescue, and Military Working Dog assignments. Moreover, their prowess isn’t limited to operational duties; they shine brilliantly in competitive protection dog sports, often leaving spectators in awe.

Understanding the depth of their commitment to tasks and their inherent need for engagement is essential. Given their zealous nature, the Malinois pairs best with handlers who match their vigor and provide purposeful tasks. As such, they may not seamlessly fit into the mold of a conventional family pet, requiring an environment that understands and caters to their specialized needs.

Health Profile and Considerations for the Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois stands out as a breed that generally enjoys robust health. Thankfully, they are not extensively burdened by a myriad of severe genetic ailments. However, like all breeds, they aren’t entirely exempt from health concerns. Among the Malinois, some recurrent issues include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and specific eye conditions.

When considering the acquisition of a Belgian Malinois, it’s imperative to turn to breeders who prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs. A reputable breeder is discerning and adheres to stringent health screening protocols. Potential owners should look for breeders who ensure that their dogs have successfully passed the following evaluations:

  • OFA Hip Exam: This test assesses the health and structure of the dog’s hips, aiming to detect or rule out hip dysplasia.
  • OFA Elbow Exam: Similar to the hip exam, this evaluation is designed to scrutinize the dog’s elbows for any signs of elbow dysplasia.
  • Genetic DNA Testing: Such tests provide insights into the dog’s genetic makeup, ensuring they’re free from inherited conditions and offering potential owners a clear understanding of the dog’s genetic health landscape.

Adherence to these standards is a clear sign that the breeder is committed to upholding the breed’s integrity and ensuring that the Malinois puppies are set up for a life of health and vitality.

Critical Considerations Before Bringing a Belgian Malinois Home

If you’re thinking about getting a Malinois, take these breed characteristics into consideration before doing so!

Belgian Malinois showing its teeth, aggressive, growling

Malinois Use Their Mouths

Amongst the dog professionals and protection sports enthusiasts, the Malinois often earns the playful yet telling moniker of ‘Maligator,’ a fusion that underscores their mouthy tendencies reminiscent of an alligator’s fervor.

This propensity for using their mouths isn’t merely a random behavior—it’s deeply rooted in their genetics.

That means you can’t truly train it out.

Let that sink in.

The Malinois inherently has a more pronounced mouth-driven behavior than many other dog breeds.

This genetic trait means that they have a compelling need to engage their mouths, making it imperative for owners and trainers to provide suitable outlets for this behavior.

Whether through structured bite training, interactive toys, or other controlled activities, ensuring the Malinois has appropriate avenues to express this instinct can be crucial for their well-being and the safety of their surroundings.

The Malinois’ genetic propensity to use their mouth makes them a poor candidate as a family pet, and they are less likely to do well in homes with kids.

training of belgian shepherd

They are High-Drive Working Dogs (for Life)

The Belgian Malinois is a working dog, embodying tireless commitment and boundless energy. Their widespread utilization in police and military roles is not coincidental. With their unparalleled drive and relentless zeal, the Malinois is truly a force to be reckoned with.

For those considering a Malinois as a companion, it’s crucial to understand that basic canine routines won’t suffice. Merely engaging in standard obedience training, taking daily strolls, or indulging in sporadic play sessions isn’t enough for these dynamic canines; they need a lot of mental and physical exercise.

They demand consistent, advanced training and tasks challenging their minds and bodies.

The expectation that they might mellow with age?

Think again.

Unlike many breeds, the Malinois maintains its intensity, often amplifying fervently as they transition from puppyhood to adulthood.

If a laid-back family dog is more in line with your vision—one who enjoys strolls, a game of fetch after a long day at work, and cozy naps beside you but can keep up on a hike—a Labrador Retriever would be a better fit.

Malinois are High Maintenance Dogs

In terms of grooming, they’re relatively low-key, shedding primarily during seasonal changes. However, the aesthetic appeal can swiftly be overshadowed if their robust mental and physical needs aren’t adequately addressed.

The Malinois isn’t a breed that’s content with idleness.

Every fiber of their being craves engagement, making them ill-suited for households where they might be left to their own devices for extended durations.

Their innate enthusiasm and drive dictate a lifestyle packed with varied activities and dog sports that challenge them mentally and physically.

They continually seek challenges, pushing their owners to innovate and adapt. If you’re considering a Malinois, be prepared for a lively journey where you’ll often strive to remain just ahead of their boundless energy.

Malinois are Velcro Dogs

The Belgian Malinois isn’t just your everyday companion; it’s the shadow that never leaves your side.

Often dubbed as “velcro dogs,” these dogs exhibit a profound bond with their humans. Their dedication goes beyond the usual canine-human relationship; it’s an unyielding connection where the Malinois yearns to be near its chosen person every moment of the day.

This innate desire for closeness stems from their unwavering loyalty and deep-seated attachment.

With a Malinois by your side, anticipate a partner that seeks your presence relentlessly, offering steadfast loyalty in return. If you prefer uninterrupted personal space, you will want to reconsider this breed as your companion because you will be over it one week in.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd sitting next to each other (side profile)

Belgian Malinois are Not German Shepherds

At a passing glance, the Belgian Malinois might be confused with the more well-known German Shepherd, leading some to label them as “skinny German Shepherds on crack.” But a deeper dive reveals a world of differences between these two breeds.

Beyond their distinct appearance, the Belgian Malinois boasts a heightened level of athleticism and vigor. Their insatiable drive for activity often surpasses the German Shepherd’s, demanding a greater commitment to mental engagement and physical activity.

While both breeds have carved a niche for themselves in various roles due to their intelligence and trainability, the energy and requirements of a Malinois set them apart.

For those familiar with German Shepherds, it’s essential to approach the Malinois as an entirely separate entity with its unique set of needs and characteristics.

Understanding this distinction is crucial for anyone considering bringing a Malinois into their home.

Where to Buy a Belgian Malinois

Bringing a Belgian Malinois into your life is a big decision. If you’re convinced that you can rise to the challenges of owning one, the next step is crucial: sourcing the right Malinois. First and foremost, immerse yourself in the world of this extraordinary breed.

Meet the Breed in Action

Witness the breed in its element before committing to a purchase. Look for local clubs dedicated to dog sports like IGP, Mondioring, or French Ring. These clubs provide an unparalleled opportunity to observe Malinois in action and interact with those who dedicate their lives to the breed and sport. It’s also an excellent way to network with potential breeders and receive recommendations.

Adoption vs. Breeding

  • Breed-Specific Rescues: Unfortunately, many Malinois end up in shelters due to the surge in the breed’s popularity. Unprepared owners, lured by the breed’s ever-growing popularity, often feel overwhelmed. Adopting through a dedicated Belgian Malinois rescue ensures that you’re matched with a dog that suits your lifestyle and gives a dog a second chance.
  • Responsible Breeders: Not all breeders are created equal. The breed’s newfound fame has led to a rise in backyard breeding, often prioritizing profit over the well-being of the dogs. It’s vital to separate these from breeders who have the breed’s best interests at heart.

Choosing a Reputable Breeder

If you opt for a breeder, here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Transparency: A reputable breeder will be open about their breeding practices, the lineage of their dogs, and any health issues.
  • Health Testing: Confirm that the breeder routinely tests for common genetic conditions in the breed.
  • Facility Inspection: A trustworthy breeder will allow you to visit and inspect where the dogs are raised.
  • Commitment: Good breeders often want to ensure their dogs go to good homes. They may ask you questions to gauge your suitability for the breed.
  • References: Ask for references or testimonials from previous buyers. This can provide insights into the breeder’s practices and the health and behavior of their dogs.
  • Contracts: Many breeders will have a contract that outlines the responsibilities of both parties, especially if the dog cannot be kept by the buyer.

Taking the time to carefully vet your sources, whether a rescue or breeder, will ensure a smoother transition and a happier future for both you and your Malinois.

Frequently Asked Questions

Technically, yes, anyone can own a Belgian Malinois. However, ownership and apt suitability are two distinct matters. The Belgian Malinois isn’t your run-of-the-mill breed and demands much more than casual strolls and intermittent play.

Potential owners should critically assess their commitment levels before embracing this breed. Merely meeting basic dog care standards won’t suffice; the Malinois requires an owner passionate about investing significant time in continual training throughout the dog’s life. You will have a terrible time if you can’t completely change your lifestyle to fit this breed.

The Belgian Malinois is not your typical companion dog. Rooted in a history of rigorous work, this breed thrives best under the care of individuals with a deep understanding of canine behavior and training. Ideal owners often have a background in dog training, handling, or other professional capacities that involve working closely with high-drive working dogs.

This breed’s intensity and drive are best matched with someone who appreciates these traits and knows how to channel them effectively. The Belgian Malinois is best suited for individuals ready for a committed partnership rather than a casual pet-owner relationship and who have experience with working dogs.

At its core, the Belgian Malinois is not instinctively a guard dog. They may prioritize self-defense over protecting their owner in threatening situations without proper training. For a Malinois to act as a reliable protection dog, they require intensive and specialized training from professionals, and such training comes with a hefty price tag—often exceeding $20,000.

If your primary intent is to deter unwelcome guests, many breeds with a natural propensity to bark can serve as effective deterrents without the need for advanced training. It’s crucial to understand the difference between a dog that barks as an alert and one that’s trained to engage and protect.

Malinois bite.

Their bitey nature may seem aggressive to those unfamiliar with the breed, but it’s essential to recognize this as a fundamental trait. Malinois have been selectively bred over generations for tasks that engage their mouths—this isn’t a flaw but a highly sought-after trait in the breed.

Their lineage compels them with an innate drive to use their mouths, whether it’s out of excitement, play, or communication. While consistent training can teach a Malinois to channel this instinct towards toys and suitable outlets, their underlying propensity to nip or display mouthy behaviors will persist. It’s not a sign of aggression but rather an expression of their unique genetic makeup and working heritage.


Getting a Belgian Malinois is understanding and embracing this remarkable breed’s essence. Known for their intelligence, energy, and loyalty, Malinois stand out as the top dog for work and sport. With a home that invests time and energy into the breed, they’re also affectionate family members who thrive on close bonds with their owners.

However, a Malinois isn’t the right fit for everyone. Their need for regular mental and physical stimulation and strong protective instincts requires an owner who understands the breed’s unique characteristics and needs. Remember, educating yourself on the Malinois and engaging in preventive measures for their care will ensure a fulfilling and harmonious relationship.

Intrigued by the Belgian Malinois and eager to discover more about this dynamic breed or other dog breeds that might suit your lifestyle? Join my community for a deeper dive into the world of dogs. Subscribe to my newsletter for comprehensive breed guides, training tips, and everything you need to know to find and care for your perfect canine companion.

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Much of the information provided in this article is gained firsthand from experienced working Belgian Malinois owners and handlers who are passionate about this breed.

American Kennel Club. (2023). Belgian Malinois. Retrieved from

American Belgian Malinois Club. (2023). Retrieved from

European Belgian Malinois Club. (2023). Belgian Malinois breed standard. Retrieved from

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