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Belgian Malinois Pros & Cons: What to Know Before You Get One

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By Nicole Cosgrove

belgian malinois lying on the grass

The Belgian Malinois, or Maligator, is a sturdy, beautiful herding dog that traces its roots in the Malines area, a small region in Antwerp, Belgium. These burly, well-built canines rank 32nd on the AKC’s 2022 list of the top 100 most popular dog breeds in the country.1 Despite their brash appearance, these pups are quite affectionate and extremely protective of their families.

Unsurprisingly, this world-class work dog has piqued the attention of dog enthusiasts and families nationwide. You’re not alone if you think a Belgian Malinois might be the perfect fit for your home or farm.

However, it’s important to understand the upsides and downsides of this gentle beast before welcoming one into your home. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

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The 6 Pros of the Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is undoubtedly a fine specimen of the canine species, hence its popularity. Here are a few pros of this dog breed that makes it the perfect addition to your home.

1. Extremely Intelligent

The Belgian Malinois is an incredibly intelligent dog. A study testing the overall intelligence of various dog breeds saw the Belgian Malinois bag 35 out of 39 points, coming top for understanding human gestures and navigating V-point detours.

Their high intelligence explains why they’re excellent herding dogs. These dogs are also useful in police and military operations, including search and rescue.

red belgian malinois shepherd dog training in a green meadow with a red and white cone
Image Credit: Julia Malsagova, Shutterstock

2. They’re Easy to Train

Training a Belgian Malinois is a breeze, given their high intelligence and eagerness to please their owners. You can train your dog to do tricks and obey both verbal and gestural commands.

It’s best to start training your Malinois early on as a pup for the best results. You should also expose it to different people and environments to instill sociable behavior and dampen unnecessary aggression.


3. Active and Energetic Dogs

These dogs are very active and energetic and will likely keep you on your toes every day. They require tons of mental and physical stimulation to thrive and be healthy. This trait makes them an ideal companion for fitness enthusiasts and people with active lifestyles. Your dog will be happy to accompany you on runs, hiking trips, and even swimming sessions.

Belgian Malinois shepherd dog in training
Image Credit: Tanee, Shutterstock

4. They Are Protective

The Belgian Malinois is inherently protective of its owner and family. They make great protection dogs, protecting both the owners and their families. They’ll be quick to alert you in case any intruder approaches your home or property with loud barking. They might also attack the intruder if they get too close.

Despite being protective, well-bred and trained pups aren’t overly aggressive to threats. They’ll only bark and growl at the threatening individual. However, they might lunge at the intruder should they try to harm you. These dogs are intelligent enough to differentiate varying threat levels.


5. Minimal Grooming Needs

The short, dense coats of the Belgian Malinois require little maintenance compared to other breeds. This makes them a great choice for people with busy schedules who don’t have time to regularly wash and brush their dogs’ coats.

All you need to do is brush your pooch once or twice a week with a firm bristle brush. Doing so prevents the fur from tangling up, removes dead hairs, and keeps the coats smooth and clean. During their shedding period, which occurs twice a year, you must brush them daily to remove dead fur.

red sable with black mask belgian shepherd malinois dog lies outside dog at obedience competition
Image Credit: L Lisjatina, Shutterstock

6. Generally Healthy

This dog breed is mostly healthy and less prone to common diseases like parvovirus and canine distemper. Belgian Malinois live between 12 and 14 years and can live for much longer if you take good care of them. Genetic health problems are uncommon with this breed, and trips to the vet will be rare and mainly restricted to routine checkups.

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The 5 Cons of the Belgian Malinois

Despite the many benefits of owning a Belgian Malinois, it has its outsides. Here are a few downsides of the Maligator.

1. Require a Lot of Exercise

Maligators are active and energetic dogs that hardly sit still. While this might be a good thing for some people, it’s not for homebodies. These athletic dogs require regular walks and trips to the dog park to burn off the excess energy.

They’re likely to act up if you keep them locked inside the house for too long. These dogs get aggressive, jump, and destructive when you don’t give them an outlet for their energy. This is terrible for people who like to stay home and snuggle with their dogs.

sable with black mask working belgian malinois dog doing agility
Image Credit: Lisjatina, Shutterstock

2. Require Special Attention

The Belgian Malinois might not be an ideal pet for first-time pet owners. For starters, you can’t leave your Belgian Malinois in the kennel for too long or they might get restless. Without regular exercise and activity, it might wreck your house.


3. Might Be Aggressive Toward People

As mentioned, Belgian Malinois are very protective creatures and will lash out at anything that threatens your safety. This means they’re likely to act aggressively toward strangers, especially if they had a secluded childhood.

It’s not uncommon for these pups to bark at your house guest or food delivery people when they knock at your door. You’ll also have a hard time taking your Malinois to social gatherings like dinner parties or social places like the bar or grocery store. You can avoid this by exposing your dog to people and social environments earlier on.

belgian sheepdog malinois barking
Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock

4. They’re Creatures of Routine

One caveat of the Maligators’ intelligence is that they become quite structured and require a definite routine. Frequent disruptions and random, haphazard living don’t sit well with this canine. Instead, they prefer a well-laid-out day, with specific times for feeding, exercising, and rest.

They also love to be involved in activities and don’t like to play the role of a pet but rather an active member of the family.


5. Strong Willed and Stubborn

Belgian Malinois have a mind of their own and are sometimes strong-willed and stubborn and will blatantly ignore your commands. This stubbornness is most common when you leave them cooped up in their Kernels all day long.

This is a way to express their displeasure for leaving them alone without activity. If your pup doesn’t respond to commands or learn new tricks despite your persistent effort, it might need professional training.

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How to Care for Your Belgian Malinois

Taking good care of your Belgian Malinois is imperative for a healthy and happy dog. Here are a few tips to ensure your Maligator lives its best life.

Belgian-Shepherd-Malinois-with-famly_Diana_Badmaeva_shutterstock
Image By: Diana Badmaeva, Shutterstock

Provide a Loving Environment

These loyal and affectionate dogs deserve all the love and care you can give them. Surround your Malinois with friendly people who don’t threaten their peace or invade their space. Shower your pup with lots of praise and regular petting if they do act appropriately. And, of course, don’t hold back on the treats.

Ensure Enough Space for Play

Belgian Malinois are very energetic dogs that love to play. Without enough room for physical activity, your dog will grow restless. If you live in an apartment complex, arrange regular visits to the nearest dog park and let your dog run and play to its heart’s content.

Allow Time With Other Dogs

Make time for your dog to socialize with other dogs to stimulate and expand their minds. This is also important to train your dog to act appropriately when around other dogs. Take it to the dog park or dog training center once in a while to spend time with other canines.

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Final Thoughts

The Belgian Malinois is a great pet and work dog, but it’s not the best fit for everyone. If you’re a first-time dog owner with limited space, you’d best adopt another dog breed. The same goes for people with small living spaces and those who work more than seven hours a day.

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Featured Image Credit: nordantin, Shutterstock

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