For dog enthusiasts looking for a hardworking breed that requires plenty of exercise, interaction, and training with the reward of having an extremely intelligent canine partner in their daily life, look no further than the Belgian Malinois (also known as the Belgian Shepherd). This breed is not suitable for beginner pet parents, but for those up to the challenge of training and helping pups of this amazing breed reach their full potential, here’s what you’ll need to know.
Basic Characteristics of Belgian Shepherds
The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized dog that tops out at around 22 to 24 inches in height, with the males being slightly larger than the females of this breed. Female Belgian Shepherds will typically grow to be about 40 to 60 lbs. as adults, whereas male Belgian Shepherds will be a bit heavier, ranging from 55 to 75 lbs. when full-grown.
This breed has a short, straight double coat that lies flat against their bodies. Most pups of this breed have a general brown and black color combo that includes a range of light fawn coloring to a rich mahogany color, but they all have characteristic, black-tipped hairs that give them their recognizable appearance. Most Belgian Malinois will have black ears as well as a black mask, too.
The Belgian Malinois is considered a herding dog that’s built for the outdoors, and it has the coat and the energy levels to reflect that background well.
Grooming Your Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Shepherd may have a short coat, but it does still have some grooming requirements that potential pet parents will need to keep in mind. Being double-coated, members of this breed will typically shed about twice per year. However, regularly brushing your Malinois either daily or a few times per week will help cut down on the bigger shed seasons while also keeping their coat healthy and stimulating circulation and new hair growth, along with providing plenty of time for giving your canine pal some attention and bonding opportunities with you.
Due to their short coat, this breed doesn’t get overly dirty (excluding messy, fun outdoor adventures) and will only need a bath every couple of months on average. Belgian Malinois typically don’t require much trimming, but they do have slightly longer hair around their necks as well as on their tails and the back of their thighs, so these areas may require touchups at times if they get too scraggly, but this often isn’t necessary.
As with dogs of any breed, it’s important to keep your Malinois’s nails trimmed regularly, too. You should also be sure to clean their ears well and notify your veterinarian of any signs of potential infection when you’re checking up on your pup. Staying on top of your canine buddy’s dental health is also important, but if you’re unable to brush their teeth properly at home, a groomer or even your veterinarian will likely be able to help give them a dental checkup and get their teeth and gums in great shape for you.
This breed was bred perfectly to be hardworking career dogs, exceeding their original herding tasks to become ideal search and rescue dogs as well as serving as protective canines and drug and bomb detection dogs. Due to their high level of intelligence and drive to perform such complex jobs, it’s essential that the Belgian Malinois finds itself in a home or daily position of being able to engage in intensive training or actual jobs to remain properly physically and mentally stimulated.
In regard to their personalities, Belgian Shepherds are incredibly loyal and intelligent, and they love to work and train. They can be very sensitive and sweet dogs, but their serious and intense side requires an environment with plenty of training, stimulation, and structure to keep these canines well-behaved and thriving.
Socialization is also very important to ensure their intensity, as well as their proficiency as protective animals, don’t cause any problems with other people or animals when out and about. This breed does not do well as sedentary, family pets, and this is why they are often raised as working dogs so their needs are properly met.
Exercising Your Belgian Malinois
Exercise and mental stimulation are absolutely mandatory when it comes to caring for a Belgian Shepherd. Regularly engaging your Malinois in obedience training, as well as tracking and agility, is essential to keep your pup as stimulated as possible, content, and satisfied. As stated above, it’s best that pups of this breed have a job to perform.
With such high energy levels, the bare minimum amount of exercise for a Belgian Shepherd should be no less than 40 minutes at the very least per day. They make wonderful companions for those who like to hike, go running long distances, or even those who bike regularly. Regardless of the outdoor activity you choose, a Malinois is practically guaranteed to keep up with you no matter how hard you push.
Additionally, it’s also important to not forget to include the mental stimulation these shepherds need, so having daily training sessions in obedience—and preferably agility and tracking, too—is essential to meeting your pup’s mental stimulation needs and preventing boredom and destructive behaviors.
Belgian Shepherds are generally very active and healthy dogs, but they are still at risk for many common health concerns in canines, as well as quite a few issues that are genetic in the breed.
It’s important to stay on top of your Malinois’s regular vet checkups and ensure they receive the proper monthly preventative medications along with any annual vaccinations to prevent issues such as fleas, ticks, heartworms, and more. Additionally, they should be fed a breed-appropriate diet to avoid obesity and all of the risks that come along with the condition. Due to its body shape, the Belgian Malinois is also at risk of bloat (or GDV), which can rapidly be fatal.
When it comes to the genetics of this breed, Belgian Shepherds are most at risk of the following conditions:
- Eye Conditions (Cataracts, PPM, etc.)
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Hip Dysplasia
- Thyroid Issues
When bringing home a Belgian Malinois, you can determine your new companion’s risks for these conditions by adopting from a reputable breeder who is able to provide the medical background of the parents of the pups they’re breeding and provide all relevant information on how healthy their specific line of Belgian Malinois are. Additionally, some conditions can be tested for by your pup’s veterinarian so you know what to prepare for and if any changes to your Malinois’s diet or lifestyle will be necessary to maintain optimal health.
Bringing Your New Belgian Malinois Home
Adopting a dog or puppy is a big commitment, and when it comes to bringing home a Belgian Shepherd, it’s important to make sure you’re well-prepared.
Although they can adapt to smaller spaces if their exercise needs are met, it’s essential that you can provide them with the space and daily opportunities for energy exertion they need to avoid negative or destructive behaviors. You need to ensure that you can commit the time and energy required to fully meet their mental and physical needs on a daily basis and also provide them with ample opportunities for socialization.
Those who are highly active or are in a position to provide these pups with an actual job are ideal candidates for adopting a companion of this breed. Those who are looking for a calm family dog that can relax and simply spend time with them would do better looking into a different breed that would be a better match.
When adopting a Malinois from a reputable breeder, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $9,000 depending on the pup’s lineage show quality and any breeding rights you may be interested in obtaining. However, there are plenty of rescues with Belgian Shepherds in need of loving and proper homes that you can adopt from instead, such as the American Belgian Malinois Rescue and the Malinois Rescue League. You can also find more rescues for this breed based on state here.
Once you’ve got your Malinois home and settled in, there may come a time when your other obligations require the assistance of having someone drop in to check on your pup while you’re away, chauffeur your canine to an appointment while you’re stuck at work, or simply help board them during big life events or changes. When that time comes, we’ve got you covered here at Space Coast Pet Services. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns today!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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