The Belgian Malinois dog – also sometimes known as the Belgian shepherd dog – is a large dog breed from the Kennel Club’s pastoral grouping, which at a glance can be mistaken for a German shepherd if you’re not familiar with dog breeds and the differences between them.
However, whilst the German shepherd and the Belgian Malinois breeds might share some basic physical similarities, they have very different personalities, and should not be considered as two sides of the same coin.
Belgian Malinois dogs are widely used across the world in a range of working roles, often with police and law enforcement agencies and the military, performing tasks including security and guarding roles, and active participation in the apprehension of criminal suspects. They thrive within such working roles, and many Malinois handlers would never consider working a dog of another breed – but do they actually make good pets?
In this article, we will attempt to answer this question. Read on to learn more.
The Belgian Malinois is a highly intelligent dog breed that has good problem-solving abilities, and a superior level of retention for a wide range of commands, including complex ones.
They are alert and watchful and can learn new things – good and bad – simply by observation, and tend to pick up new commands quickly, being willing to perform them under even adverse situations and when faced with a lot of stimulus.
The success of the Malinois as a working dog comes down to a combination of appropriate training, handling and management, and the strong bonds that such dogs form with their owners. They are protective and look to their handlers for instruction and direction, and when successfully managed, have an almost supernatural ability to read their handlers and interpret their movements and signals promptly and efficiently.
They are also very confident and bold, and not easily phased whilst their handlers are nearby for guidance.
The Belgian Malinois is also a very active breed that needs lots of exercise, which makes them well suited to working roles where they will be engaged in a task and kept physically active for large parts of the day.
However, without enough exercise and stimulation, or with poor management or erratic leadership, the Belgian Malinois can become very unruly, destructive, and dominant, and prove a real challenge to manage and care for.
Belgian Malinois dogs form very strong bonds with their immediate families, and are apt to be very protective of any children they see as part of their pack. However, they can be speculative and wary of strangers, which includes strange children that you might have over as guests, and they won’t tolerate poor treatment or teasing from children they don’t know, and so interactions with the dog should always be supervised.
The properly socialised, trained, and managed Belgian Malinois that has all of their needs met will happily socialise, play and interact with other well-trained dogs, and they often form strong bonds with other dogs that work or live with them.
They can be slightly dominant in a pack situation and again, won’t tolerate a lot of bad behaviour or social faux pas on the part of other dogs, putting offenders in their place promptly and warning them to mind their manners!
The breed also has a very strong prey drive and natural hunting instincts, which means that they can be challenging to keep within a suburban environment where smaller pets like cats may roam around, or if you have a cat or another small pet of your own, which is something to bear in mind.
The Belgian Malinois is a fast learner that is very smart and capable of retaining a large library of commands and skills, so if you are looking for a working dog or one to take part in canine sport, or if you simply enjoy teaching your dog and increasing their skill set, they may be a good pick.
However, the Belgian Malinois requires a competent and experienced handler who knows how to work with, rather than against, the breed’s traits, and who is adaptive, forward-thinking, and able to problem-solve on the go.
For the first-time trainer or a person who is not experienced with dogs of this type, training the Malinois can be highly challenging and ineffective, so think carefully about your ability to train, manage and handle a dog of this type before you commit to a purchase.
Whilst the Belgian Malinois can thrive in any situation if all of their mental, physical, and emotional needs are met, the Malinois has only really been seen as a domestic pet rather than exclusively as a working dog for the last couple of decades, and the breed is still undergoing something of a period of adjustment in that respect.
If your plan for dog ownership involves a short daily walk around the block, lots of time leaving the dog alone at home while you’re out at work, and most of your time spent with the dog chilling out on the sofa, the Belgian Malinois is unlikely to be the right dog for you.
However, if you understand the breed and appreciate their needs and challenges, and can provide for their sometimes onerous needs for exercise and mental stimulation, it is entirely possible to own a well-adjusted, obedient and thriving Belgian Malinois as a pet.