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Belgian Malinois dog breed profile

Did you know that Belgian Malinois make great police and military dogs?

Whether your dog is a purebred Belgian Malinois or a Belgian Malinois mix, learning about the breed can explain a lot about your pet’s personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you're looking to adopt a Belgian Malinois and want to do a bit of research first — we can help with that.

Belgian Malinois (whose looks are easily confused with German Shepherds) are super intelligent and trainable, making them apt police and military dogs. However, they’re also great family pets — if you can meet their physical and mental stimulation needs. 

What’s the history behind the Belgian Malinois breed?

It’s no surprise that the Belgian Malinois breed hails from Belgium (Mechelen, to be exact). The Malinois originates from the Belgian Shepherd dog, which dates as far back as the 1200s and was originally used for herding, Dr. Emily Singler, VMD, Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian, says. 

What do Belgian Malinois look like?

Because Belgian Malinois are related to other Shepherd breeds, there are some shared physical similarities. “These dogs have smooth, short coats and can come in different colors and patterns, including fawn, mahogany, red, red sable and fawn sable,” Dr. Singler explains.

You may notice that the Belgian Malinois' facial fur can often resemble a black mask. These pups are also super muscular, weighing 40 to 80 pounds and standing 22 to 26 inches tall. 

What's the difference between a Belgian Malinois and a German Shepherd?

Even though both dog breeds look slightly similar, they aren't totally alike. For example, the German Shepherd's signature topcoat isn’t as often seen in the Belgian Malinois. 

“With few other differences, the Belgian Malinois is a shorter-haired version of the German Shepherd,” Dr. Singler says. “Interestingly, other countries don’t separate the two breeds like in the U.S.” 

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What are Belgian Malinois’ personalities like? 

“This breed is very intelligent and energetic, easily trainable, loyal and protective,” Dr. Singler explains.

Belgian Malinois need families that meet their training, socializing and physical and mental enrichment needs because of their super smarts.

Like most hardworking dogs that require high mental stimulation, the Belgian Malinois can be prone to anxiety when not properly cared for. Anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors and fear-related aggression.

And although this breed can be great around children and other dogs, you should supervise any dog that isn't properly socialized and stimulated when they're in new situations.

Are Belgian Malinois often used as military or police dogs?

Because Belgian Malinois are highly trainable, they’re ideal pups for certain occupations. “This breed is often used as both military and police dogs because of their size, strength, intelligence, protectiveness, trainability, herding tendencies and hardworking nature,” Dr. Singler says. 

What health issues do Belgian Malinois face?

Though they’re not as prone to certain diseases and disorders as other predisposed breeds, Belgian Malinois have a list of potential health issues worth knowing about when adopting one. 

According to Dr. Singler, these pups can be prone to hypothyroidism, cataracts, lumbosacral stenosis (lower back compression that can lead to pain and difficulty moving) and eye diseases like pannus and retinal degeneration.

Tips for adopting a Belgian Malinois rescue dog

When bringing a Belgian Malinois (or any new pet!) into a home with small children or other animals, it’s important to introduce them slowly and carefully.

You should also ensure your new pup has a safe space (like a crate or bed) they can retreat to when overwhelmed. If you plan on crate training your dog, feel free to include toys and soft blankets to make them more comfortable. 

Are you interested in adopting a Belgian Malinois, Belgian Malinois mix or any pet at all? Then check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend.

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Photo by Przemyslaw Smit on Unsplash

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