Breed At A Glance


Alert, high-energy, friendly, protective breed, good for police/military

Life Expectancy
11-13 years

Average Height
Males 24-26″, Females 22-24″

Average Weight
Males 65-75 lbs, Females 55-65 lbs

Coat Color
Mahogany with black overlay, brindle or tan with black ears and muzzle or mask

Coat Length/Texture
Short, harsh topcoat with fine undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Heavy year-round

Also known as Malinois, Mechelaar, Mechelse scheper, Chien de Berger Belge, Belgian Sheepdog

General Temperament

The Belgian Malinois is a highly intelligent breed with a strong work ethic and devotion to it’s owner. It’s intense energy and focus is typical of many other working breeds, and they are happiest when given the opportunity to challenge their minds and bodies. Like its Belgian cousins the Tervuren, Groenendael, and Laekenois, the Belgian Malinois has been bred to promote it’s herding ability, loyalty, and protective instincts. Considered to be one of the more intelligent breeds, Malinois are frequently used in law enforcement, search and rescue, and the American Armed Forces, and can make excellent guard dogs.

The Beligan Malinois has a sensitive yet intelligent nature similar to the Tervuren. They love to learn and want to please their owners, and therefore can learn obedience and house training easily with early consistency. Forceful or aggressive training is discouraged; the Malinois requires a kind yet firm approach to develop love and respect for it’s owner. They are happiest with an owner who has the time and willingness to develop a regular working relationship with their dog.

Malinois can be very reserved with strangers. They also possess a strong prey instinct and tend to chase smaller animals, including other family pets. Early and extensive socialization can allow the Malinois to become well-rounded and social. With this training, they can be playful, loving and loyal members of the family.

Breed History

The Belgian Malinois, named for the Belgian city of Malines where the first breed club was formed, is one of the four varieties of Belgian Sheepdogs (the other varieties include the Tervuren, the Groenendael, and the Laekenois). In Belgium, as well as most other countries, all four are considered to be the same breed, distinguished only by their coat color and texture.

Prior to the Industrial Age, the rural farmers of Belgium had a great need for a general purpose herding and guard dog. The protective instinct of these dogs provided security for the farm and the family, and their herding abilities assisted with the daily maintenance of the stock. The mental development of the breed as a versatile helper and attentive companion paralleled the physical evolution of a medium-sized, well-balanced animal with strength and stamina. With industrialization, the rural farm dog became less important, but the beauty and loyalty of the breed made them well appreciated as family companions.

The American Kennel Club classified the four Belgian Sheepdogs as one breed until 1959, when the Malinois and the Tervuren were given their own classifications.

Body Structure and Composition

Like many other working breeds, the Malinois was bred based on working ability as opposed to physical form, so individuals can vary greatly in appearance. Many appear at first glance to be short-haired German Shepherds, though they are smaller and more compact, and their backs are parallel to the ground (instead of sloping from shoulder to rump). Malinois are generally described as being “square,” meaning that they are almost equally as long as they are tall, and carry their weight squarely on their toes. The level back leads down to a long tail and deep chest. The triangular ears are held erect on top of a flattened skull. Malinois are evenly brown or mahogany with some degree of black overlay or tipping, and have a dark muzzle and ears.

Malinois males are often noticeably larger and more robust than females, who are usually more gracile in appearance.

Medical Information

Belgian Malinois are generally very healthy dogs that are more likely to suffer from accidents on the job than inherited medical issues, though hip and elbow dysplasia are somewhat common to this breed. These afflictions can result in arthritis or general pain as the joints degenerate.

Due to their high muscle to fat ratio, Belgian Malinois are particularly sensitive to anesthesia. It is important to discuss this with your veterinarian before surgery.

Anecdotal Information

The Belgian Malinois is the preferred breed of the American Armed Forces. In fact, Navy Seal Team Six used a Belgian Malinois named Cairo during Operation Neptune Spear, during which Osama Bin Laden was killed.

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