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The Belgian Malinois is a remarkable breed, standing alongside its fellow Belgian shepherd varieties: the Tervuren, the Groenendael, and the Laekenois. The Malinois gets its name from the city of Mechelen (Malines), where it was originally developed by breeders seeking a robust herding dog with a strong work ethic and protective instincts.

The Malinois made its way to the United States in the early 1900s and quickly proved its worth. By the 21st century, these dogs were commonly seen in roles requiring high intelligence and agility, such as police work, military service, drug detection, and other missions. They even serve the Secret Service, patrolling the White House grounds.

It’s no surprise that this world-class working dog has caught the eye of dog lovers and families across the country. If you’re considering a Belgian Malinois for your home or farm, you’re in good company.

However, before bringing this energetic and loyal companion into your life, it’s crucial to understand both the benefits and challenges that come with owning one. Scroll down to learn more!

Pros and Cons of Belgian Malinois

characteristics of belgian malinois

Belgian Malinois are known for being proud, intelligent, and hardworking dogs. These qualities make them amazing pets, but only if they are in the right home with an active and experienced owner.

Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of the Belgian Malinois, and see if this incredible breed is the perfect match for you.

Pros of a Belgian Malinois

Exceptionally Intelligent Dogs

Pros of a Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is an exceptionally smart dog. In a study of 13 different breeds, it was found to be the most intelligent. Scientists tested 1,000 dogs with seven cognitive and three behavioral tasks, and the Belgian Malinois scored 35 out of 39 points. It was especially good at understanding human gestures and navigating obstacles.

Belgian Malinois are incredibly intelligent dogs that can excel in any task they set their minds to. Their impressive range of roles in modern society highlights their high intelligence. In fact, they are so clever that they often find loopholes in commands given by their owners.

Versatile and Adaptable

Belgian Malinois are known for their versatility and adaptability. The Belgian Malinois’ herding skills soon proved useful in other fields, leading to recognition of its potential in police and military roles. During World War I and World War II, these dogs served as messengers, Red Cross helpers, and even pulled light machine gun carts.

should i get a belgian malinois

Their intelligence, trainability, and strong work ethic made them invaluable. They also excel in obedience, agility, tracking, herding, and protection dog sports.

Easily Trained

are belgian malinois smart

Belgian Malinois are very intelligent and highly trainable. Generally, they can learn new commands within 5 to 15 repetitions and follow the first command 85% of the time or more. The American Kennel Club recommends exposing your Malinois puppy to different people and dogs early on, so they become accepting of them as they grow. They also suggest ongoing training from a young age to manage their high energy and enthusiasm.

Training Tips for Belgian Malinois

This helps them use their energy productively. While they learn quickly, they are sensitive to corrections, so finding the right balance is important.

High Energy

Pros and Cons of Belgian Malinois

According to PetMD, Belgian Malinois are high-energy dogs that need a lot of mental and physical stimulation. Daily walks are not enough for this breed.

Typically, they need more than 40 minutes of exercise each day, making them great companions for running, hiking, and biking. If you enjoy staying fit and have an active lifestyle, a Belgian Malinois will effortlessly fit into your daily routine. They quickly adapt to a variety of activities and will thrive with regular exercise and engagement.

However, if they don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation, Belgian Malinois can develop destructive behaviors to entertain themselves.

Loyal and Protective

Belgian Malinois dogs have a natural instinct to protect their human companions. According to HillsPet, these dogs should be protective of their owner’s person and property without being overly aggressive. This makes them excellent protection dogs for families or property.

However, it’s important to ensure they are well-bred, well-socialized, and well-trained. A well-raised Malinois will calmly assess situations and respond appropriately. Your Belgian Malinois puppy will need plenty of socialization from a young age to develop these qualities.

Healthy and Resilient

Belgian Malinois are generally healthy breed dogs and less prone to common diseases like parvovirus and canine distemper. They typically live between 12 and 14 years, and with proper care, they can live even longer.

Genetic health problems are rare in this breed. With regular vet visits, teeth cleanings, and ear cleanings, your Belgian Malinois can enjoy a long and happy life.

Demand Commitment

Belgian Malinois are demanding dogs that need an experienced owner. Their temperament and aggressiveness can vary widely. They are very family-oriented and do not do well as kennel dogs. Because of their intelligence and high energy levels, Belgian Malinois are not suitable for novice dog owners. Inexperienced owners may struggle to meet their needs and manage their behavior.

These dogs require a significant time commitment, including regular exercise, training sessions, and mental stimulation. Without this, they may develop behavior problems.

Cons of a Belgian Malinois

do belgian malinois bark a lot

Prone to Herding

Belgian Malinois make excellent pets for the right homes, thriving on loving companionship. They have a high prey drive and are very interested in moving objects, which can lead to chasing cars, other animals, and even children. They instinctively display herding behaviors, such as chasing, circling, and nipping at people’s heels, often moving tirelessly for hours.

While they excel in working roles and competitive obedience, they are not suitable for homes with toddlers who run and scream. A Belgian Malinois might constantly try to herd the toddler, keeping them in one spot.

Predisposed to Separation Anxiety

separation anxiety in belgian malinois

Belgian Malinois are powerful and driven working dogs, but without a clear purpose, they can become a wreck. Anxiety is particularly common in high-energy dogs, those with a high mental capacity for learning, and herding breeds.

When these traits are combined with a lack of leadership and structure, it can lead to anxiety, nervousness, fear, and insecurity. According to Orvis, if Belgian Malinois are left alone for hours without anything to do, they will find ways to occupy themselves, often in ways you won’t like. They can tolerate being alone for an hour or two, but beyond that, they need scheduled exercise to burn off excess energy and avoid destructive behaviors.

Overly Protective Nature

Belgian Malinois are very protective and will react aggressively to anything they perceive as a threat to your safety. This can make them wary of strangers, especially if they were not well-socialized as puppies.

It’s common for these dogs to bark at house guests or delivery people when they come to the door. Taking your Malinois to social gatherings like dinner parties or public places such as bars or grocery stores can be challenging. To avoid these issues, it’s crucial to expose your dog to various people and social environments early on. This early socialization helps them become more comfortable and well-adjusted in different situations.

Not for Novices

Welcoming a Belgian Malinois into your home as a first-time dog owner requires much more preparation than for other breeds. These intelligent, athletic, high-energy, and hard-working dogs need careful planning to ensure they thrive.

Even experienced dog owners might consider hiring a trainer who has experience with Belgian Malinois. A knowledgeable trainer can ensure the dog is appropriately challenged, gets enough exercise, and has the structure needed to be successful in a home environment. This extra support can help manage their high energy and unique needs effectively.

Exercise Intensive

what are the pros and cons of a belgian malinois

Belgian Shepherds need regular opportunities to release their energy and engage their busy minds with interesting activities. Without this stimulation, bored Belgian Shepherds can end up destroying your house and yard.

These dogs were never meant to be just household pets. Their natural working behaviors, like chasing, nipping, and poking, are not suitable for a typical home environment. Suppressing these “hardwired” behaviors without providing alternative outlets for their high energy can be very challenging. It’s essential to find ways to channel their energy and instincts productively.

Mind of their Own

Belgian Shepherds are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a lot and excelling at high levels of competition. While some are quick learners and eager to please, others can be manipulative, willful, and dominant, often wanting to be the boss and making you prove your authority.

For the average household, most Belgian Shepherds can be “too much dog” to handle. It’s important to understand their needs and behavior and consider professional training resources, to help manage and train these dogs effectively.

Is a Belgian Malinois suitable for you?

malinois family dog

The Malinois thrives in active homes where they are included in regular, vigorous activities, along with free playtime in the yard. These dogs must have something to do to stay happy and healthy. Before deciding on a Malinois, honestly evaluate your capabilities and commitment to handling a high-energy, intelligent dog.

AKC points out that it’s also essential to find a responsible breeder who can guide you through the process. Be honest with the breeder about your lifestyle and experience, and keep asking questions until both you and the breeder are confident that a Malinois is the right fit for you.


Owning a Belgian Malinois comes with both rewards and challenges. These athletic dogs excel in various roles such as search and rescue operations, guard dogs, and service dog tasks. However, their high physical and mental needs require significant commitment from their owners. Proper obedience training is crucial to managing their energy and intelligence, ensuring they do not develop destructive behaviors.

Belgian Malinois can have a long and healthy life with the right care and environment. They often outperform other dogs in canine sports and competitions, showcasing their versatility. While they share some traits with German Shepherds, they are separate breeds with distinct characteristics. Potential owners should evaluate their ability to meet the demands of these dynamic and driven dogs to ensure a successful and fulfilling experience.

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