Belgian Malinois

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Belgian Malinois (pronounced Mal-in-wah), named for the Belgian city of Malines, is one of the four varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dog. In most parts of the world, the four varieties (Groenendael: longhaired black; Malinois: shorthaired fawn with black mask and black overlay; Tervuren: longhaired, in shades of fawn through gray with black mask and black overlay; and Laekenois: rough-haired fawn) are considered to be a single breed. However, since 1959, the AKC has recognized the Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog), Malinois, and Tervuren as separate breeds. The Laekenois is a member of the AKC Miscellaneous Class. The first Malinois was registered with the AKC in 1912. The Belgian Malinois gained full recognition as a separate AKC breed in 1965. Although it is still quite rare in America, the Malinois variety is very popular in Belgium. This versatile and highly intelligent dog excels at many activities, including tracking, agility, obedience, protection, Schutzhund, narcotics and bomb-detection work, search and rescue, herding, and pulling sleds or carts. Although the Belgian Malinois is not for everyone, this high-energy dog makes an excellent family companion if properly socialized and trained.


The standard for the Belgian Malinois frequently uses the word “square” to describe this breed, as the dog’s body is about as long as it is tall. The elegant Malinois is a muscular dog, but not heavy. He’s solid, but very agile, with a proud carriage. The topline is level with a slight slope at the withers. The chest is neither broad nor narrow, but is deep, reaching to the elbow. The front legs are very straight and parallel to each other, with round cat-feet. Dewclaws may be removed from the front legs and should be removed from the back legs. The long tail reaches at least to the hock. The shorthaired coat is fawn to red to mahogany with black tips, mask, and ears and a thick undercoat. Some white is allowed on the chest and feet. The hair around the neck is a bit longer and forms a collar. The small, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes have an alert and questioning expression. The alert erect ears should be equilateral triangles. They should be in good proportion to the dog’s head. The muzzle tapers, but is not excessively pointy. The skull is flat and parallel to the plane of the muzzle. The nose is black and the lips should be tight. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite.

Key Facts

  • Height: 24 to 26 in. (male); 22 to 24 in. (female)
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: 60 to 75 lbs. (male); 40 to 55 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Difficult to find
  • Talents: Tracking, retrieving, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, military work, search and rescue, sledding, carting, agility, competitive obedience, Schutzhund, and performing tricks


The short coat sheds twice a year with some additional shedding year round. Like many herding breeds, young puppies can be somewhat nippy. Needs to be handled by an experienced owner who can train with consistency and skill. If improperly socialized or trained, might be aggressive with other dogs (especially true of males). The Malinois prefers to live inside with his family. Though the rate of hip dysplasia in this breed is very low, buy from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance as a precaution. Eye problems are also uncommon in this breed, but parents should still have current CERF or OFA eye certifications. For a pet, it may be best to avoid puppies from primarily working lines as working lines tend to be more active and have sharper personalities, and are more difficult for less experienced handlers.


Very smart and responsive—a super obedience dog. Confident, proud, serious, and alert. A devoted, affectionate, one-family dog that is reserved with strangers. Possessive of his family. Animals displaying excessive aggression or fearfulness should be avoided. Does best if given ample time, attention, training, and companionship. Quite active—tends to move in circles (herding behavior). Instinctively protective, so he should be trained and socialized very well from an early age. Breeders should socialize puppies right from birth. Sensitive; harsh training methods don’t work well with this breed. Can be quite good with children. Needs to be part of the family, not a kennel dog. If ignored, the Malinois will find ways to entertain himself, often at the owner’s expense. The Belgian Malinois has a lot of energy and needs a job to do. Working lines can have particularly high drive.


  • Children: Best with older, considerate children
  • Friendliness: Moderately protective
  • Trainability: Very easy to train
  • Independence: Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance: Moderate
  • Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness: Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Average barker
  • Indoors: Moderately active indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Short coat
  • Shedding: Constant shedder
  • Docking/Cropping: None
  • Exercise: Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space: Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Belgian Malinois Breed Standard

Belgian Malinois Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois Gifts