Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Proud. Strong. Elegant. The Belgian Malinois is a breed that’s easy to fall in love with at first glance. However, Malis are not a pup for the inexperienced dog owner. The breed is, in a word, intense. Highly protective, endlessly energetic, and in need of constant mental stimulation, these pups also want nothing more than to be with family.
So, if you think you’re ready for a Belgian Malinois, lace up your running shows, put on your thinking cap, and prepare yourself to be herded into the rewarding hard work, excitement, and love that is living with a Belgian Malinois.
Also Known As…
Malinois. Mali. “Basically, a Belgian Malinois is what you get when you give a German Shepherd the Captain America serum.”
These Belgian herding dogs were first bred near the city of Malines in northwestern Belgium in the late 1800’s, where they were valued like no other for their livestock herding abilities as well as being protectors of their families and farms.
The Belgian Malinois was first brought to America in 1911 where the breed rose in popularity until World War II cut the U.S. off from the European breeding stock. Today the breeds versatility and high work-drive has made it invaluable as a police and military K-9.
The average height for the Belgian Malinois is 22 – 24 inches for females and 24 – 26 inches for males.
The average weight for the Belgian Malinois is 40 – 60 pounds for females and 60 – 80 pounds for males.
Belgian Malinois only require so much attention and activity because of their remarkable qualities. They are smart, confident and highly versatile pups that need to be challenged daily. This energy no doubt transfers to the lucky humans who own Malis, with whom these dogs share an unbreakable bond.
Intelligence / Trainability
Early socialization and obedience training are a must in order to direct the high prey drive of this herding breed, as they will gravitate towards moving objects, be it prey, vehicles, or children. They excel at agility, tracking, herding, obedience and protection (Schutzhund) competitions. Malis are highly intelligent and also very sensitive. They can be very obedient, but do not respond well, or at all, to harsh or severe training methods.
Belgian Malinois are used as working dogs for tasks such as odor detection (explosives, accelerants, and narcotics), tracking police suspects, search and rescue missions, and human remains detection. They are even used by US Secret Service to guard the grounds of the White House.
While apartment life is not out of the question as long as these pups get plenty of vigorous physical and mental exercise daily. A leisurely stroll around the block won’t cut it. Malis need to run and be “employed” in some form of work, whether that be K9 training, agility, or a rousing game of fetch. But above all else, they want to be with their humans, so those with an active lifestyle and yard have some important boxes checked off.
Good For Families And Kids?
Malis can make wonderful family pets. The more active and inclusive the family, the better. These dogs will want to be part of the group and have more than enough energy to keep up with the pack. Both loving and protective, these dogs can be good with children, especially when raised with them.
Due to their herding instincts, Malis may have a tendency to nip at a child’s heals in order to get the child where they want them to be. Early obedience training is necessary to curb such behaviors. Older dogs who may not have had much exposure to children are most likely best in homes with children who are mature enough to properly interact with the dog.
The average life expectancy for the Belgian Malinois is 14 – 16 years.
Although the Belgian Malinois is generally a healthy breed, there are always certain health conditions and issues to be aware of a preemptively discuss with your veterinarian, including hip and/or elbow dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Belgian Malinois are also very sensitive to anesthesia due to their muscle to fat ratio, and have a higher than average rate of death when put under for procedures of any length.
These highly intelligent and athletic dogs not only require mental and physical engagement, but the companionship of their owners as well. Letting them run loose in the yard or even taking them on daily walks is not enough. They need to be working by your side to be happy and feel fulfilled. They make ideal running, hiking and biking companions.
With their natural tendency to be in motion and with family, Belgians will entertain themselves if necessary, and may resort to undesired behaviors if underemployed and/or neglected.
Friendly With… (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
The best way to ensure your Mali will get along with other pets and animals is to introduce and train them early. Without this socialization from the beginning, they can be reactive toward other dogs and cats.
Coat & Grooming
Belgians have a double coat consisting of a short, straight topcoat and a dense undercoat. Together they create a weather-resistant effect for these dogs that were bred to work outdoors in all different conditions. While they will shed profusely two times a year, Belgians are otherwise easy to groom. A weekly brushing and occasional bath when necessary should do the trick. You’ll also want to keep their nails regularly trimmed and give those teeth a good brushing two to three times weekly.
Toys Belgian Malinois Would Like Best
These energetic pups have strong jaws that need a challenge, making tough toys a necessity. For mental stimulation, treat-dispensing Super Chewer Toys make for a fun and rewarding playtime. And good old games of tug-of-war and fetch are always a hit.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Feeding your Belgian Malinois (or any dog) the freshest whole food diet you can afford (trying to eliminate fillers, grains, or inflammatory proteins such as chicken), can go a long way to decrease health issues and increase longevity.
Coconut oil can also help to prevent inflammation, and can help protect the nervous system, while locally-sourced, season-appropriate honey can help with allergies.
These delicious, vet-formulated chews are made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. They are designed to support immune health, provide relief from itchy allergic skin, and promote a healthy coat. ($19.99)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
These veterinarian-formulated supplements are made with all natural glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, all packed into a delicious soft chew. ($32.99.)
Belgian Malis, just like any dog, love to take a load off after a long day of…running for hours on end. That’s why they deserve their own bed, especially if they have joint issues.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for even the most active of dogs! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Belgian Malinois Of Your Dreams
- American Belgian Malinois Rescue is a foster program made up of a network volunteers across the US. Rescued Belgians come into the ABMR foster program through shelters, animal control, or owners who can no longer keep their Malinois for various reasons. ABMR Rescue is committed to then find new homes for Belgian Malinois being fostered.
- The Malinois Ranch Rescue is a nonprofit, nationwide rescue based in McKenzie, TN. Aside from rehabilitating and rehoming Belgians in need, this group provides specialized K9 training and placement in Search & Rescue, Law Enforcement, and Protection Modalities as appropriate. This sets them apart from other rescues that cannot accept dogs with formal bitework training.
- Saving Paws Rescue Arizona is a safe harbor for Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds. This all-volunteer, nonprofit based in Phoenix, AZ, is dedicated to providing veterinary care, evaluation and adoptive homes for dogs who are left in pounds to await uncertain fate, are owner surrenders, or are from abusive or negligent situations. What started out as a small group of volunteers using foster homes and boarding facilities has grown into a rescue saving more than 200 dogs every year.
- Adoptable Belgian Malis on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Belgian Malinois
Blake is still just a puppy, but he’s going to grow up to be a big and strong Mali!
This Mali’s got bite! Follow Lani as she trains and competes in her Protection Sports Association club in Jacksonville, FL. After a hard day’s work, this 1-year-old pup likes to cool down with a swim.
Follow this 6-year-old Belgian anywhere and everywhere! From K9 training to spa days and wine tastings, Fosco is working hard and playing hard in Bay Area, California.
Layla the Maligator lives by 3 simple tenets: Live. Love. Lay. This 1-year-old Canadian pup gets plenty of living done in her hometown of Toronto, both in the city and at the beach, with her loving humans to guide her.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Mali’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂
Featured image via Blake.Malionois/Instagram