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Unveiling the Belgian Malinois: A Comprehensive Breed Profile and Guide

23/08/2023 - Breed Specific Advice

While the breed club for the Belgian Malinois was not established until the 19th-century, these dogs were seen working alongside shepherds in Belgium for centuries. The Malinois is actually just one iteration of the Belgian Shepherd, which comes in four varieties: the Malinois which has a short, fawn-coloured coat; the Tervuren, which has a long, fawn-coloured coat; the Groenendael, which has a long, black-coloured coat and the rarely-seen Laekenois, which has a rough, curly, fawn-coloured coat. Bred originally as herding dogs, the Belgian Shepherd has been more recently used in many modern roles, such as police dogs, detection dogs and in search and rescue. The breed also has a long history as a military dog, serving across both World Wars and still commonly found in a number of military roles to this day.
Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Height: 22-26 inches (56-66cm)
Weight: 44-66lbs (20-30kg)
Temperament: highly intelligent; sensitive; hard-working; strong guarding instinct; very active
Training Needs at Different Life Stages
During puppyhood, our focus should be on our pup’s socialisation and building their confidence. Socialisation is not just about exposing our dogs to lots of things, people and dogs thoughtlessly – it should be about ensuring they are not overwhelmed, have positive experiences of all these things and learn how to be calm, relaxed and confident around them.
Despite their reputation as tough guard dogs, Malinois are actually highly sensitive dogs and this can easily (and quickly) lead to issues – as a protective breed, insecurity can lead to high stress levels and an escalation of guarding behaviours. Helping to develop confidence and providing positive experiences around strangers and new things is, therefore, an incredibly important part of raising a Malinois puppy. Why not get stuck into our Dogversity course on Visitor Training to learn how to set your Malinois pup up for success and ensure those all-important first experiences are good ones!
Malinois are also well-known for their love of biting things! In fact, we’ve bred these dogs specifically for it and studies have found that the breed has a higher instance of a specific version of a gene allele, which causes the dog to be more likely to bite unpredictably, than other breeds. As a sensitive, highly-strung breed, Malinois are also often found to be more likely to exhibit signs of stress or frustration, which can lead to a higher likelihood of biting. For these reasons, it is absolutely vital that a new Malinois owner takes a proactive approach to training their new puppy right away, using science- and reward-based methods. Our Puppy’s First Steps course is a great way to get started until you can attend class, so you can provide your clever new puppy with the mental stimulation and guidance they will need to help them learn where to channel all that energy and drive! The course also covers ways to manage puppy biting without causing stress or frustration in your dog – to learn more about puppy biting, you can also check out our recent blog on this topic.
Group classes are a great place to start getting your puppy used to being around other dogs in a controlled environment and learning how to stay engaged and focused on you, as well as instilling a solid training foundation before they have a chance to learn any bad habits! Get your Malinois puppy booked in right away, as this dog demands the time and effort they deserve from their owners – structured, ongoing and progressive training will be hugely beneficial both for you and your dog if you are to live a happy, harmonious life together.
Adolescence can be a trying time, both for us and our dogs. Our dogs are still growing and their perceptions and feelings will change as their hormone levels rise. Often, training we thought we had perfected a while ago can start to deteriorate – a reliable recall can become, well, less reliable. This is completely normal, and the best thing we can do is acknowledge this and focus on revising the foundations we worked so hard on during puppyhood.
It can be disheartening to have to pop that longline back on our dogs after months of carefree off-lead walks, but life will become a lot harder if we allow our teenage dogs to practice running off after wildlife or up to every dog they see! You will get back to those idyllic walks soon; as long as you are patient, and remember this important step!
Now is a good time to consider a Masterclass, to brush up on those important life skills!
Malinois are incredibly active, intelligent dogs who can easily begin displaying problematic and unwanted behaviours if they do not get the mental stimulation they require! Our Scent Detectives course is perfect for this biddable, enthusiastic student! And, with the basics established in your Puppy Classes, you can start looking into attending our Fun Gun Dog classes – yes, even for your pet dogs! Malinois excel at a wide variety of activities and the higher level obedience covered in gun dog training is perfect for them – your pup will love learning things like formal retrieves, and you will love seeing what your dog can achieve when they’re in their element!
1 Year Old
This is when your troublesome teen will be reaching physical maturity and you can start to consider more physically demanding activities, such as agility. The solid training you have done over the past year will make it easy to transition into training more for fun than just for practicality – engaged dogs who can work with their human off lead are halfway to Crufts already!
You can also start refining some of the basic training you’ve been working on so far, as your dog starts to mature mentally, too. There is a reason why Malinois are so commonly found in high-pressure, demanding roles such as police and military service and even as assistance dogs. Our Advanced Classes are perfect for continuing their education and keeping them busy!
2+ Years Old
You’ve been a dedicated dog owner for the last 24 months, investing time and effort into their ongoing education and development – by now, you should be starting to see the result of all that hard work in the form of an engaged, well-rounded companion. Hopefully those vital foundations that we spent so much time focusing on are starting to feel less like work!
Your clever four-legged friend has dutifully learned everything you’ve imparted on them, and now it’s important that we don’t forget to reward them with continued mental enrichment. We showed them how much fun training could be and, while we may now have reached our own personal training aspirations, they deserve to continuing experiencing the joy of using their nose, brain and body to navigate the world and learn new things.
Activities such as Trick Training are great ways to keep making the most of our precious time with our four-legged friends. For those of you who got stuck into scent training and saw how much your pup loved it, you can look to continue learning together and see just how impressive their noses are with our advanced Scent Work Course.
OAP (7+ Years)
As our pups reach their golden years, their needs will change. It’s important we remember to adjust their physical activity to suit their health. This will be different for every dog and doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down – many dogs continue to be active until very late in their lives and it can in fact be beneficial to keep our dogs moving to stave off muscle degeneration and general loss of fitness and mobility. Pay attention to your dog’s behaviour, noting if they are less keen to head out on your longer walking route or seem a bit stiff the next day. Speak with your vet for advice if you are unsure what level of exercise is right for your dog.
Cognitive exercises like puzzle games and scent work are great ways to continue providing your dog with fun enrichment without being too physically demanding. 
For any help with training, book our puppy and dog classes here or book a 121 for more personalised advice. 

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