Complete Guide To The Belgian Malinois: Care, Feeding, Exercise and More

Fierce, loyal, intelligent, and intensely protective, the Belgian Malinois is a powerful and beautiful dog. Not ideal for first-time dog owners, this dog breed is strong-willed and extremely energetic and can easily overpower and out-smart a novice owner. Still, The Belgian Malinois makes a protective family member for the experienced dog owner. It is an excellent addition to any family willing to put in the time and energy to train and socialize their Belgian Malinois properly.  

I’ve been a practicing veterinarian for over 20 years. I’ve seen some rather remarkable Belgian Malinois. I’ve also seen situations where dog and owner were not a good match. This is not a dog for an inexperienced dog-owner.

Before you go any further, check out this article from the AKC about whether or not a Belgian Malinois is right for you. I highly recommend it. They are truly amazing dogs, but it takes a special, motivated person to provide a good home environment.

How Big Do Belgian Malinois Get?

The Belgian Malinois is a large, athletic, and powerful dog. Males are typically larger than females. A male Belgian Malinois will measure about 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder, while a female will be slightly shorter, 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder. Expect males to weigh between 60 and 80 pounds, with the females weighing slightly less, at just 40 to 60 pounds.

What Do Belgian Malinois Look Like?

This dog features trademark coloration. The dog can be a brown color ranging from a dark fawn to a rich mahogany color. The tips of their hair, even along their body, is always black. The dog’s coloration will have a mask pattern, with the ears and face being dark chocolate or black in color. The dog has medium to long fur, with defined triangular ears and a swooping tail with longer fur. The dog often appears to look like a lighter, thinner, and more angled German Shepherd, without the defining dark saddle coloration along its back.  

There are a total of 4 different Belgian herding dogs that look similar:

In some countries these dogs are considered to all be Belgian Sheepdogs.

What Is The Personality of a Belgian Malinois?

Although the Belgian Malinois has an intimidating appearance and is often used for very serious and intense work, at his heart, the Malinois is a sensitive and affectionate dog. This breed of dog takes commands and training very personally, so only positive training reinforcement methods should be used. Always keep training sessions short, upbeat, and positive to retain this dog’s trust. 

At his core, the Belgian Malinois is a people-pleaser and wants to do anything in his power to keep his owner happy. This characteristic makes them extremely easy to train. Further, the dog is brilliant. The combination of high intelligence and eagerness to please make them well versed in many applications. They are often easier to train than German Shepherds and will learn new behaviors exceptionally easily and quickly. However, because this is a high-energy dog that can be strong-willed at times, it is not a recommended breed for first-time dog owners. This dog must only be housed with an experienced dog handler willing to commit to training and obedience.  

The Belgian Malinois makes an excellent guard dog. This dog is fiercely loyal to its owner and family but will be aloof toward strangers. The dog will never be outwardly aggressive but will jump to protect his family if force is needed. The Belgian Malinois likes to be around his family and should always be included in any family activity. If the dog is left unattended or unsocialized, he can become lonely and destructive.

What Is The Best Food For A Belgian Malinois?

For Belgian Malinois puppies, you will need to make sure you don’t feed them too much too fast. It’s easy because they are usually chow hounds, but you want to control their growth. Growing too fast can cause some early bone and joint problems that are easily avoided.

Best Puppy Food For Belgian Malinois:

Best Adult Food For Belgian Malinois:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

How Long Do Belgian Malinois Live?

14-16 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Concerns Do Belgian Malinois Have?

In my experience as a veterinarian, the most common reasons I’ve seen Belgian Malinois in my practice include:

  • Soft Tissue injuries/lacerations due to their robust exercise style
  • Arthritis in their hips
  • Pannus
  • Anxiety

What Are The Grooming Needs Of A Belgian Malinois?

Although this dog has medium-length fur and plenty of it, the Belgian Malinois has somewhat limited grooming requirements. The thick, waterproof coat can repel branches, thorns, and debris, which helps keep the coat clean. Simply brush your Belgian Malinois about once per week with a medium-length bristle brush. This step will help minimize shedding, remove any debris, and help move vital oils from the skin to the fur, keeping his coat healthy and shiny.  

The Belgian Malinois sheds a moderate amount, but regular brushing will help to keep shedding under control. Expect two significant sheds per year when the dog will “blow” his coat. This process is usually a seasonal occurrence in the spring and the fall. During heavy shedding times, additional daily brushing may help contain shedding.  

This breed of dog does not need to be bathed regularly and only once every few months or as necessary to remove dirt and debris. Washing your Belgian Malinois too frequently will pull too many essential oils out of his coat. Be sure to keep the ears and teeth cleaned and keep the nails trimmed. If the dog regularly walks or exercises on a rough surface, the nails may be naturally filed to an acceptable length. If not, a monthly nail trim should be sufficient to keep this dog happy.  

What Are The Exercise Needs Of A Belgian Malinois?

The Belgian Malinois is an extremely energetic, muscular, and athletic dog. This dog needs plenty of exercise to keep him healthy and well-exercised. This dog was bred to be a herding dog and still retain their incredibly high prey drive. If you own this dog, be sure to give this dog at least one hour of vigorous playtime and exercise. This breed of dog is happy to run with you for a jog or play a rousing game of fetch. The dog may be attracted to fast-moving objects, making him likely to chase cars, children, and other dogs. The Belgian Malinois may also try to herd children together while it plays with them.  

This breed of dog is incredibly intelligent, and it must be exercised mentally and physically. To keep this dog’s brain occupied, consider enrolling the dog in organized competitions for tracking, herding, and obedience. The dog will enjoy working in new capacities, learning new behaviors, and enjoying spending quality time with his owner. The Belgian Malinois excels at Schutzhund competitions that measure a dog’s ability to protect its owner. 

Belgian Malinois also excel at the following:

 Where Can I Find a Belgian Malinois?

Like many popular dog breeds, you can find a Belgian Malinois from a reputable breeder. Always be sure to vet your breeder before purchasing a new puppy. You should be able to ask your breeder questions about the parentage, ongoing care, and health of the puppies. If possible, try to meet all the puppies as well as the mother dog.

You never want a shy or overly aggressive Belgian Malinois puppy, but rather a confident and lively puppy. Most of the personality will come from the mother dog, so meeting the mother will give you a good idea of how your dog will be as an adult.

It is also possible to rescue a Belgian Malinois from available rescues around the country. Adopting a dog from a rescue allows you to not only get a purebred dog but will enable you to give a dog a much-needed home. Several reputable rescues specialize in Belgian Malinois, including the ABMC Belgian Malinois Rescue and The Malinois Ranch Rescue.

Where Can I Find Out More About Belgian Malinois?

AKC Breed Page

American Belgian Malinois Club

Complete Guide To The Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois Dog Complete Owners Manual

Special Considerations 

The Belgian Malinois was originally bred to work as a herding dog, and much of this ability still exists in the modern-day dog. It is not uncommon to see this dog working to herd loving family members together, including your children.

Because they are brave, intelligent, and athletic dogs, the Belgian Malinois is commonly used as a protection dog, police dog, or military dog working to protect, track, and detect potentially harmful substances and materials.  

This dog breed is only recommended for experienced dog owners. The dog is brilliant and high-energy, which can be too much to manage for a first-time dog owner. The dog is a people-pleaser and is strong-willed, and requires a sensitive yet consistent owner familiar with appropriate and positive training methods.