Belgian Malinois

Hardworking People Pleaser

This hardworking breed is often mistaken from a distance as a German shepherd. While the two breeds share some similarities — particularly the high demand by noted institutions such as the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Armed Forces and the Royal Australian Air Force — the Belgian Malinois is slightly smaller and while not as well known as the German shepherd, is gaining popularity around the world.

Not only is the breed making headlines with its military accomplishments, it also appears on mainstream TV, including the hit TV series Person of Interest, where a Belgian Malinois is featured as a regular cast member.

Belgian Malinois

Also known as the Belgian shepherd dog, the Belgian Malinois traces its roots back to 18th century Belgium, near the city of Malines, where it was raised to be a working dog.

During the First World War, the breed nearly became extinct on the battle fields as they participated as border patrollers, Red Cross service dogs and as messengers. As a result, the breeding process was altered to include different colors of the dogs (instead of the strict standards to breed the same coat with one another). A diverse variety of Belgian Malinois was born, leading to particular distinctions between the dogs.

Active, intelligent and friendly dogs, Belgian Malinois display a willingness to learn and bond well with the people they know, including children. They excel at agility trials, flyball and herding events.

The breed also responds very well at obedience, making it a top choice for military and police training. The Belgian Malinois is notably the Secret Service’s choice as canine protection, and the Navy SEALs had a Belgian Malinois named Cairo with them during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound during Operation Neptune Spear.  

It’s important to note that the Belgian Malinois has one of the highest energy levels of dog breeds. Routine stimulation is required to thwart destructive behavior, especially when the dog is young. Due to the breed’s high intelligence and eagerness to please, these dogs respond well to and benefit highly from routine training and activities.

The average Belgian Malinois weighs between 55 and 75 pounds and can have one of five varieties of coat colors, including fawn, fawn sable, mahogany, red and red sable.

Belgian Malinois

The breed has what is known as a black mask across its face and its ears are also black. The tips of the dog’s fur are also black, giving the fur coat a unique dimensional appearance.

There are a few different varieties of the Belgian shepherd breed that should not be mistaken with the Belgian Malinois; they are distinguished by their fur coats:

The Tervuren has the same coloring as a Belgian Malinois but has long hair.

The Laekenois is fawn colored and does not have the black mask or ears like the Belgian Malinois.

The Groenendael, also known as the Belgian sheepdog, is solid black and has long hair.

While these may be common medical conditions, your Belgian Malinois will not necessarily develop any of those listed below.   

Belgian Malinois
  • Cataracts is an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically.
  • Epilepsy is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent seizures. The symptoms vary in severity but the dog usually foams at the mouth and appears to be chewing on something. Then he will have violent muscle contractions, lose bladder or bowel control, and faint.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset condition which gradual degeneration of the retina leading to blindness.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the hip or elbow joints that cause arthritis. Dogs with this condition usually display an obvious limp — they may hold the leg out from the body while walking, or even attempt to carry the front leg completely, putting no weight on it at all. Signs may be noted as early as four months of age. Although considered a lifelong problem, some dogs can be helped with surgery which, in some cases, can eliminate the problem totally. 
  • Pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, is an immune-mediated condition affecting the cornea or clear part of the eye. Both eyes are usually affected but one may appear worse than the other. A non-painful, elevated pink mass appears on the cornea, most commonly on the lateral or outer side. As it progresses, the lesion will flatten and spread out, will become pigmented or dark in color, and scarring will spread over the cornea. In advanced cases, visual impairment may result due to the inability to see through the dark pigment covering the cornea. If the condition is not treated, the pet will become blind.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.