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Is a Belgian Malinois the right dog for me

We get many emails asking us to help people decide if a Belgian Malinois is right for them, here are some of the questions and answers.

First you have to remember that Malinois are a dog, somewhat like every other dog. They need to be raised and trained properly or things can and will go wrong. The real problem is that raising and training a dog properly leaves a lot to interpretation, one persons view of properly vs. another’s view is very different.

If you can commit the time and effort to teach your dog how to behave in a manner that fits in with your environment, which may include learning how to do this as well as actually doing it, then you’re heading in the right direction. Malinois in this sense are just as viable an option as getting a Labrador or German Shepherd.

To simplify things I’m going to put up some frequently asked questions and the answers we give.

Q. My friend has a Belgian Malinois and says I need more experience before I get one.

A. In some cases I feel that people who have Mals say this to appear more experienced than those they are talking too. Remember Malinois are a high drive dog, this means they are easy to motivate, if you do the motivating you will do well.

Q. Are Malinois hyper active?

Venom Chilling inside
Venom Chilling inside

A. I don’t breed hectic buckets of nerves that can’t stop. Our Malinois sleep inside, they will watch movies with us, cruise on the couch with you as long as their drives are balanced. This means they need daily drive stimulation.

Hyper activity is usually prevalent a dog that becomes hyper stimulated by a certain trigger and cannot bring itself down.
This in my opinion is a temperament flaw. Our dogs will work very hard, have extreme drives, but can switch off , travel hours in the car, stay in crates and live in a back yard. They do not pace or constantly run.

Q. Are Malinois and kids a bad mix?

Venom with my Daughter
Venom with my Daughter

A. It is unfair to say that any breed of dog is great for kids. Dogs and kids deserve to be taught to understand each other, expecting a dog “just to know” is stupid. Our Malinois and all our pups are raised with kids, once they go to their home this should continue. They again need to have their drives balanced, a dog of any breed that has uncontrolled prey drive can be a hazard with kids.

 

 

 

Q: Are Malinois just like German Shepherds?

Wisdom catching a ball
Wisdom catching a ball

A. No, I have owned quite a number of German Shepherds, locals and imports and I find that Malinois are very much more people driven than most German Shepherds. The German Shepherds I had were bonded with me but not to the level that I have found Malinois to be.

They in most cases are more agile and have higher intensity in drive than most German Shepherds. This is not always a bonus though, if you have no use for very high prey drive, the Malinois may be unsuitable for you.

There are sure to be people with well bred German Shepherds that have loads of pack and prey drive that will disagree with what I have said above, but I am not talking about their dog, I am talking about one breed to another.

Q. Are Malinois aggressive dogs?

021066 (2)048 (2)062037 (2)030029024

A. Most Law Enforcement Agencies, Armed forces etc these days are highly populated with Belgian Malinois, this isn’t because by nature they are aggressive, this is because they are highly trainable.

Just like any breed, they can be trained to be aggressive or can become aggressive through poor exposure, socialisation and handling.

I breed working line Belgian Malinois, my aim to produce a super confident dog with extreme drives but able also to relax and be a dog.

The dogs I breed are not going to be couch potatoes nor are they going to back down if pushed. This does not cause a problem if you train them and are fair with them. If you want to train via brute force you’re liable to find problems in the dogs I breed.

Strong willed
Strong willed

Q. If I want a puppy from Herzhund Malinois, do I just pay a deposit and come and choose a puppy?

A. No. I do not take deposits until I have a good understanding of each puppies temperament, once done I look on the puppy list and find the best homes for the pups I have.

I know my dogs very well, I have been involved in breeding, puppy selection and training my whole life, I can make an experienced and educated choice for you. If you did not like the choice I made I will happily discuss this with you and we can work to a workable solution.

I live with the puppies in the whelping box, I know everything about them and experience allows me to predict their attributes very well. It is in my best interest to give you a puppy that will be the best dog you will ever own.

Q. My son is 11 years old and I want to buy him a Belgian Malinois because …

A. Sorry, no. We don’t sell dogs for kids companions, an adult will need to take responsibility for the dog and its training and habituation. I would be 100% happy with your children being involved in the training, handling etc. Just not making the life decisions for the dog.

Q. Do I need a big yard for a Malinois?

A. No, I prefer not to try and have the dog self entertain in a yard, I would prefer you live in an apartment and do things with the dog every day, rather than assume the dog is happy as he has a big yard to run in. Malinois are intelligent dogs, running around the yard doesn’t cut it.

Q. What is a daily routine for a Malinois?

Stainless steel
Stainless steel

A. That is a big question to answer, best I can do is this. If you get a puppy, raise it so that your life cycle meets the dogs expectations, socialise the dog appropriately, (this article may help) you will shape a balanced dog.

You will have to train the puppy properly, this doesn’t mean puppy school and hope for the best, you will need to teach the dog what you expect and keep training until your dog understands this is how we do it.

Once this is done, I find living with Malinois awesome. A very easy to motivate, very bonded dog with low health concerns and a fun loving attitude. I do not have time to train my dog or play with him every day, but I do something with them every day. My car is set up to take my dogs any place I go and even a trip to the shop means he comes with me.


I hope these questions help you understand that the focus isn’t so much about whether I should get a Malinois or not, but whether you get a dog or not.

The second point to note are that you should get a Malinois that is suited to your goals, not just a puppy from “X” kennel because they are good dogs, good at what?

You have to commit to having a dog, you will be the centre of the dogs universe, you can’t drop in and out as you please thinking as long as the dog is well fed he will be ok. I don’t think that is ok for any dog and it certainly wont be ok for a dog that I bred.

Malinois are a serious dog, a fun dog, a playful dog, a powerful dog, an intelligent dog…

If you are lucky enough to get one of my dogs, and you train the dog well, you indeed will have an amazing animal. Remember that it is YOUR responsibility to choose the right breeder, the right dog and not to make a heartfelt choice, think it over, commit, be rewarded.

In this equation there are 3 parts. Me, you and the dog. When you get the dog home you will control two thirds of the players on the team, therefore you control two thirds of the outcome.

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32 comments

  1. Hi Steve,

    I just came across your website. My situation is that I have a Mal who is going on 3 years old. He and I belong to a club and I am hoping to obtain by IPO 1. I getting negative comments from people telling me that my dog is too much dog for me or why do you want Mal. I get along great with him. When he was younger we did have a little bit of a rough time but now everything is great. I am new to the working sport of IPO. I have been training for IPO going on 3 years. The people who have commented to me have many years of experience than me. A few people said I should have gotten a German Shepherd. Don’t get me wrong, I had a German Shepherd when I was younger and do love them. But I love the Mals. How do I get these people to button it, in a nice way? They make me feel that I am not qualified enough to train or have a Mal. If I felt that he had been too much dog, I still would keep him and work even harder. What do you think these people are saying when they say “to much dog for me” or “you are not suited with this dog?

    • Its a sad situation when people put negative feelings on you all the time, that for sure wont help.

      I would say “mind your own business” if it were me. If you are happy with your dog that is all that matters.

  2. Hi Steve, I work near K9 Officers. I love to go and pet the blood hounds. One Belgian Mal is very aggressive. Luckily, he’s behind a steel cage. Is there any way to act around him that will make him not want to kill me? I try to be still around him, and not rile him any further. I have to confess that I did jump a bit the first time I met him “face to face” through the cage. I know he thinks he’s only doing his job. I will NEVER try to pet him, but I sure would like it if he would not lunge and bark so ferociously at me. He doesn’t do that with everybody. What can I do to “calm” him, or is it even possible?

    • I would speak with the dogs handler and perhaps when he is out of the cage he may be less aggressive.

      • Yeah I have about a four-year-old Belgian Malinois triple registered I’m reading all these horror stories about them not making good pets I’m no professional dog training the mind is outstanding it performs well at everything I ask him to do maybe it’s just me being good with dogs I don’t know his training was a breeze I’m just curious on why people are saying these horrible things about this breed dog as far as I’m concerned there will be no other breed of dog for me as long as I live I would recommend it for anyone that is willing to take the time to raise them right

  3. Steve, I own a 7 month old German shepherd male, I’m looking at adopting a similar age mal that a friend is giving up due to not having the time to train. Both dogs are fine around each other in the park and show no aggression. Do you think this could work?

    • Getting along in the park is not getting along every day, but I dont think it should be a problem if you have the time and the skill to train them both.

      Adding a second dog to your household is like adding 3 times the work of one. So factor that in.

  4. Natalie Pallier

    Hi Steve,
    I have a 1 year old Belgian Malinois who I got from a rescue shelter at eight months old. She is on the small/slight side for a Malinois, and is much more relaxed than many other Malinois (as long as she gets her two runs/play sessions each day she mostly sleeps and relaxes or plays with her chew toys and soft toys in our apartment the rest of the time. She likes to watch out and ‘keep guard’ but never barks, and is friendly with all people and dogs, whilst not being too ‘over the top’. I would call her quietly confident. Her training has come along well, she now walks on a loose lead very nicely, has a good recall, sit, down and stay. BUT her one obsession appears to be footballs/basketballs (especially other people’s – which I think is down to the people running around and shouting etc whilst playing, which just makes it look even more fun). As I live in London, this makes it really hard to give her off-lead walks in any of our lovely parks unless it’s first thing in the morning, if I don’t want to pay for loads of balls when she grabs them and ends up puncturing them. So I only walk in the parks first thing, for her longest walk in the day. We loves to chase and bring back the tennis balls that I throw and I also got her some football-sized dog balls and footballs of her own at one point to see if that would help her be less obsessed with other people’s and see them as less ‘high value’, but so far that hasn’t really worked. She will drop everything and run if she sees someone else kicking a football or bouncing a basketball. Food treats at that point don’t seem to cut it either. I would love to get to the point where I can take her at other times and she will ignore the footballs and basketball, or at least listen to me when I call her back from them. For other dogs it seems to be squirrels etc, or other people’s picnics. For mine, it is most definately footballs where she ‘zones out’ and is super focused on them. I think maybe there is something in her history around footballs. Any tips for how I could perhaps train her out of this?

    • Hi Natalie, I would buy a couple of footballs and have them in your house, and discourage her from touching them. It wont take long before she will not pay them any attention.

      Then I would look for a game that satisfies her prey drive (no footballs) and develop that into a game with her.

      I would then only offer that game with you when there is a football near by and have her make the choice to play your game instead.

  5. I volunteered at a veterinary hospital and the place always boarded police dogs and I bonded with a Belgian Malinois there. I was told she was troubled/aggressive and to be careful around her. Even the police handler was having trouble with her. However, she was always okay with me. I went into her run often and just sat there, hung out with her and petted her. She would come up to me real close and always first greet me by sniffing my face real close, practically touching. Then she would bury her head into my body/chest. I am wondering what this behavior mean? Could you please explain? I already have a dutch shepherd with me now and I would like to get a Belgian in the future.

    • Malinois are a very affectionate dog normally, so her enjoying the affection is not uncommon.

      They are also a more sensitive dog and sometimes the people who work with them have experience with other, harder breeds and they are too harsh with the Malinois they have, this can make the Mal unpredictable and overly hostile.

      Like every breed, you have to find what makes them work best.

  6. Thanks so much for this article! I was SO relieved to see your comment about Malinois living in apartments. I just bought my first Mal. She’s 3 months old and we train three times a day. Most people tell me that I shouldn’t have her in an apartment, but my thought echo yours. The dog should be doing something every day. With proper training and excersise, I hope to help my pup become an awesome dog.
    Thanks again for your insight!

  7. HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP HELP….
    Can someone pls help us. We recently got a 6 month old Mil we have had her about a month when we first brought her home my 6 year old was jumping around dancing and she barked at her…kinda scared me a little but she didn’t have any signs of aggression but the bark…. I had my daughter do the dancing again and brinks (my dog) barked again at her…. She didn’t do it again until yesterday my daughter said she came into my room while brinks was on the bed and was trying to grab something off NY nightstand and brinks snapped at her and bit her i n the face… My daughter does stretch the truth sometimes and has no marks on her face…. But then my boyfriends daughter was outside and running around like a crazy girl and brinks was sitting next to my boyfriend and brinks lunged and snipped at my boyfriends daughter. …. She recebly started barking at everyone and her tail is wagging in a parallel position and she is partly positioned in a playful way but the bark says otherwise and she almost looks like she wants to bit…. Nothing in my gut tells me she would harm my children but after yesterday’s incidents I feel I have no choice but to get rid of her. We found someone who would take her and met them she was cool with the guy after barking and we handed the leash and he walked her then the wife got out of the car and it seems like she wanted to attack her……. Showing teeth in all…. The people said she would be okay but we were not comfortable with it and didn’t go through with it. I obviously love my children and would never do anything to put them in harms way but something tells me to keep this dog, I can’t explain it… I was so excited because this has been my dream dog and when we got her she attached to my boyfriend who was a little scared by her BC she looks like a GS that he got bit by in college…. But they bonded from the start…. I don’t want to give her to someone and she hurt someone because of something we did on our partm…oh also…when we went to the owners house to pick her up when we first got her she didn’t bark at all at us she was a little submivissi. Has anyone had a dog like this can someone pls help…. Thank you… Halee

  8. Natalie Rubenstein

    What do you think about adopting a 5 year old neutered Belgian Malinois from a shelter? He has had one family before being surrendered. If nobody steps up to adopt this guy, I might have to be the one to do it so he doesn’t get put to sleep or go crazy being in a cage. I live on 3/4 acre, could take him on hikes with me, but I am not a dog handler or trainer and I have a 12 year old son and a 17 year old beagle at home with me. 🙂 Any thoughts? And, thanks.

  9. I have a 10 month old female Belgium Mal. Aleah is easily the most intelligent, high strung female dog I have ever known. She is extremely high action, jumps from the floor to the ceiling (literally) from a sitting position. She has a high energy and bite drive. Her intense (notice I said not aggressive) nature is part of what I love about her. Show her how to do something three times, and she’s got it. Her grandfather is a 7 time World Champion Schutzhund winner. She can be the most aggressively playful dog, or the most intuitive and gentle that I have ever seen. Aleah (Hebrew for “Ascending”) has gently and repetitively removed a piece of food from my wife’s mouth so delicately, it was as if she knew this was a test and didn’t want to hurt her. When I was trying to pass a kidney stone and laying on the bed, knees drawn up in intense pain, she would jump up on the bed and lie there with her muzzle next to my face and gently lick my hand to let me know she understood. At SHOT show, I ran into a trainer that had a Mal with him that he had trained into a PTSD dog. Honestly, I am convinced there is nothing these dogs can’t do. If you are thinking of getting one, go for it, but be prepared for a great deal of high maintenance in the beginning. The females seem to generally develop a stronger feel for family and her “Pack”. Even the cat is part of her Pack. I have personally seen Aleah jump eith feet from a sitting position, outside to place herself between Sophie the cat (part of her pack) and a neighbor’s dog that had wandered in to take a bite out of Sophie. Aleah ran the dog to the edge of her yeard and then came back.

    Belgium Mals! I love them!

    Mike

  10. I do not really agree that Mals were not bred to be aggressive because originally breeds like Mals, Beaucerons, Dutch Sheps were bred to fight people if need be and to protect the shepherds from being robbed and murdered back in the day. Im talking about the tending breeds, the breeds that protected the sheep and kept them with in a certain area by following furrows and in a sense became a living fence line. Tending dogs are dogs that are commonly used in police work, Schutzhund and French Ring. Dogs like GSD, Belgian Malinois, Lakenois, Tervern, Gronendahl, Beauceron, Bouvier, Dutch Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer. They tend to be long legged and have an energy saving gait that enables them to work many long hours.

    I have a 13 year old Mal that is so intelligent and I have a 6 year old Beauceron that I have done some tending style herding with and they’re great dogs. I will say however they need a job and need to be both physically and mentally challenged or you may end up with some undesired behaviors

    • I think Sue the key point I was answering was that “are Malinois aggressive dogs?”. My answer was that I feel that they are not aggressive by nature, like some breeds may be, but they can either be trained to be or get out of control easy.

      I think most dogs that are given nothing to do with return undesirable traits, I think the same goes for people lol. Those traits though won’t be in their “nature”, but their “nurture”. In other words, given a job the traits would not be evident. Your dogs are an example, given a job they are fine, if they were bred to be aggressive and it was a temperament trait, it would be there regardless.

      Like prey drive is part of the Malinois temperament, if you encourage prey drive or discourage it in your Mal, it is still there.

      Finally though some breeders amplify traits that may not represent the breed, I don’t.

      Thanks for your reply, 13 year old Mal, you been loving them for a while 🙂

      • I agree with you Steve that you can nurture aggression but I also think that many of the breeds I mention do have a nature to bite someone threatening them or their owners. This is why police do not prefer golden retrievers as the ultimate K-9 to take down a suspect, maybe a great detection dog but not a fighter. My Beauceron has had some protection training and wont back down from a fight but my Mal never has had any of that type of training. My Mal has defended me 2x from people who were both seriously dangerous and I never encouraged him to be aggressive. He saw the danger and responded in an appropriate manner, he didn’t bite but made it quite clear he would. Im not saying that all tending breeds will bite, but it is easier to train the bite into them. Don’t get me wrong Mals are my favorite type of dog and, Twist, my Mal is hands down one of the most intelligent and trainable dogs Ive ever had. I am sorry if you thought I was criticizing your breeding practices because that could not be farther from the truth. You always have good sound advise and I know you are the utmost responsible breeder. We need more people like you.

        • There is no doubt you will have a better chance at training a Malinois to bite someone that say a Golden Retriever, and I do know that Golden Retrievers never bite, except (read this).

          Now of course not all Goldens are like this one, but when you say “My Mal defended me” your talking about a one off that happened twice, this Golden is a one off that happened 4 times.

          Dogs are amazing animals and they don’t know a rule book or template exists, when I speak I am drawing from a lot of experience and when most people quote what their dog did, they are drawing from what their one dog did, so there is a difference.

          My Malinois will bite, they are trained to though, they will not bite without cue or provocation though, yours may too, but it is pretty common to also find them living in homes where they aren’t at all aggressive. Most dogs that are not trained and bite are nervous or fearful (not saying that yours is) and they are doing so out of self preservation.

          Most dogs of a breed are shaped by the breeders goals and or environment, if a breeder wants to produce dogs that are Military working dogs for example, they may value temperament traits such as social dominance, fight drive etc. If they had been breeding for a while and you got one of their pups, I would suggest you would have a dog that if pushed would push back hard.

          If the breeder trained for say ANKC obedience, they may look for pack and food drive and solid nerves, if these traits were prevent in the pups you may not be able to get them to bite.

          Both breeders could be breeding Malinois. This demonstrates what an awesome and flexible breed they are.

          • Right I am a trainer in the USA and I specialize in aggression modification and I find the most dangerous dogs are fear aggressive. I know that fearful, anxious, and nervous (aggressive) dogs are not the best choice for protection work. The best candidates are confident self assured animals. I know that each individual dog can be as different as people are, no matter the breed. Here in the US I would say Chihuahuas are the most aggressive breed. LOL Most of the dogs that I work with are fearful and anxious and are picking up on their owners emotions and anxieties. The owners aren’t intending to make their dogs aggressive but I see it happen all the time.

            Thank you for the story about Busta, it was sad but makes a point. I worked at a vet clinic years ago and was taking a beautiful buff cocker back to the exam room when he started lunging at me repeatedly. I had to pull the leash up to keep from getting bitten, he meant business. I got him secure by putting the leash over the top of the exam table and tying it to the other side. I went and got the vet and when we walked into the room he was wagging his tail and was as wiggly as a puppy and doing play bows. He died of a brain tumor 3 months later.

            Any dog can become aggressive given the right circumstances that leads to a bite. One thing I tell my clients repeatedly that aggression doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is mean, mad or bad but it is a act of survival. I think we have more fear aggression here (US) because people here treat their dogs like furry people. I imagine this problem is not so prevalent in Australia but Im not sure of that.

            I have friends, where I herd, Dart, my Beauceron that train military attack and detection dogs. Steve spent 1 1/2 years in Afghanistan training dogs to detect IEDs and training is much different than what his wife, Barb, trains such as drug, prison contraband They were the first trainers in the world to train conservation detection dogs that find endangered species through their scat. So I am aware of the different training methods and what it takes to find the best dog for the job, but no means am I a expert

            Thanx Steve, I always learn a lot here.

          • Your always welcome here.

            Australians not treating their dogs like kids? Hmmmmmm lol.

          • Love the reference to a Golden, and totally agree with you. Most Goldens are gentle like Chilli, we have only ever come across 1 that was so fearful of everything and would go on the defensive.
            It broke my heart to see this and the lady who brought it training only came once 🙁 I think she put it in the too hard basket.
            Talking to her she was almost in tears as she saw Chilli and then looking at her dog , saw a polar opposite. I wish we had know you back then as you could have greatly helped her

        • Hit enter too early, yep your right, Mals are super trainable dogs, I love them, even these little pups we have are outstanding!

          I didn’t thin k you were criticizing, we love feedback on the blog, helps us put out stuff that people like, or are passionate about. All’s good there.

  11. Oh I wish with the way society is headed and the threats involved with my job I hope also to be able to purchase a Mali from you I feel they are the perfect breed for what I do and also after witnessing. The way you train and imprint your pups you tick all the boxes for me. . Due to circumstances in currently unable to even consider another dog . But I am still fortunate to be able to own to outstanding examples of the GSD breed one of whom was a give away with papers . Because she barked when the owner played ball with her. Imagine that a dog that barked when excited.!!!

  12. It is a serious goal of mine to one day have one of your puppies!!!!!

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