As one of the four Belgian herding breeds, the Belgian Malinois is a large breed with an energetic and sometimes intense personality. They were named after the city of Malines, where they were initially developed, and have been around since the 19th century. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the Belgian Malinois arrived in the United States and since then, these dogs have worked as police or military dogs, drug detection dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
They typically stand 22-26 inches tall at the shoulder and typically weigh 60-65 pounds, making them medium-large dogs with lots of energy and a strong desire to be active. The Malinois coat is a short, straight, weather-resistant double coat that typically comes in a tan, light brown, or black color. Brushing at least once a week can help remove loose, dead fur and prevent matting; brushing will need to happen more often in spring and fall when these dogs shed their winter or summer coats.
The Belgian Malinois and the ‘101 Dalmation Syndrome’
In February of 2022, a movie starring Channing Tatum and a Belgian Malinois opened in theaters. DOG is a buddy comedy that follows the road trip of an Army Ranger and a military dog on their way to the funeral of a fallen friend. Whenever a movie features a dog breed, there seems to be a related uptick in public interest in the breed, a trend called ‘101 Dalmatians Syndrome’. Because DOG features a Belgian Malinois as a titular character, those in the animal welfare world worried that their popularity would increase with the release of the movie but people would not be fully prepared to care for these dogs.
Health-wise, Malinois dogs are typically healthy dogs but there are some minor concerns to keep an eye out for, like allergies, epilepsy, hip/elbow dysplasia, and pannus (extra growth in their joints). Temperament-wise, these dogs are bright, athletic, and fun but because of their history as herding dogs, Malinois dogs can have a high prey drive and a strong herding instinct. Those traits can mean they may not be the best dogs for families with small and rambunctious children or small animals (like cats), as they could become nippy or focus too much on chasing/herding everyone in the house. Families that have older children with an understanding of canine body language and a willingness to help with fun training activities could be great for a Belgian Malinois.
For some, the Belgian Malinois is a desirable guard dog because of their looks and natural instincts to protect their humans. However, without proper training, exercise, and enrichment, these dogs can become destructive and potentially aggressive or reactive. Malinois dogs do often have an eagerness to please and high intelligence, making them incredibly fun dogs to train and work with. Dog sports, scent work, hiking, positive reinforcement training games, learning tricks, and daily walks are all some activities that a Malinois could be great in. But because of their intensity in energy and temperament, they’re definitely not for the faint of heart and will need plenty of attention every single day.