Breed Guide: The Belgian Malinois

Learn all about this majestic large breed dog with our Belgian Malinois breed guide.

Belgian Malinois Dog Breed History

The Belgian Malinois is one of four breeds that come from Belgium. All four Belgian breeds are sheepdogs that are used to putting a hard day’s work. This breed comes from the Flemish city of Machelen.

These dogs were bred by people who were looking for the best of the best. They wanted a dog that would have no peer when it came to work ethic. This made the Belgian Malinois the premier breed for Belgian sheep and cattle herders.

The breed was first registered in the US in 1959, but they showed up in the US back in 1911. After World War II started, the importing of European dogs slowed down. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the breed began to be imported again enough to help establish their US population.

Belgian Malinois Physical Traits

People who are not familiar with the Belgian Malinois commonly mistake them for German Shepherds. They do share similar features, especially in the face. The Malinois is a much smaller dog though. They are also shaped a bit differently. The Belgian Malinois carries its weight more on its toes while the German Shepherd’s sloped back leaves its weight on its feet.

The Belgian Malinois stands just over two feet high and weighs 60 to 80 pounds. These dogs are lean, so they are all muscle. They’ll show you too. The Belgian Malinois needs to be worked just like they are used to, so you’ll have to be certain to give them plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Health Traits

This breed is actually known for living a long, healthy life. They are prone to few health problems, but things to look out for in this breed include:

  • Hip Dysplasia – This hereditary condition causes pain between the thigh and hip joint. It’s caused by the displacement between these areas and can lead to lameness, discomfort or even immobility.
  • Elbow Dysplasia – Just like with Hip dysplasia, this is caused by displacement in the elbow joint. Elbow dysplasia can be treated, though it can still be a painful condition.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – This is a condition where your dog begins to lose their vision. First, they might have a hard time seeing at night, then they can lose sight completely. The good news is that this is a slow process that you and your dog can adjust to.

Overall the breed is very healthy. Responsible breeders test all their dogs as well to ensure they would not be passing down unfavorable genetics.


The Belgian Malinois is a breed that’s rather easy to take care of when it comes to grooming. They have tightly packed, thin hair. This means that they will not need their hair cut, but rather a weekly grooming will suffice to keep them looking good. This breed doesn’t have a shedding period wither. You can consider brushing more often simply to keep your house clean.

This breed will need their teeth brushed at least twice a week. If you can get it closer to every other day, that would be best. Otherwise cut their nails as needed, and be sure to check them over weekly for any sign of infection or parasites.


The Belgian Malinois is a very hardworking dog breed. They are used to watching diligently over their herd, so this also makes them very aware and observative. The breed is also very intelligent as well.

These personality traits are what has made the Belgian Malinois a great choice for police and military dogs. They are also protective of their families. This makes them a great guard dog for the family.

Though, any intelligent breed needs to be challenged. The Belgian Malinois is used to having lots of stimulation, so they likely won’t be happy as a couch potato. They are also going to need to be socialized very well at an early age. This breed will be happy to show love and affection toward their family but will be wary of strangers. Early socialization gives this breed a step up when it comes to dealing with others.

Final Thoughts

The Belgian Malinois is a wonderful companion breed. They will thrive if you live an active lifestyle and if you’ll take them outside to burn their energy. They also do exceptionally well with agility and obedience training.

These dogs are herders, so early socialization is key. If they are not socialized correctly, they may become nippy and mouthy to small children. As long as you are a responsible owner though, this breed can be very rewarding and loving.

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