By Priyanka Tanwar*
The Belgian Malinois is a medium to large dog breed. Males reach an average height of 24-26 inches while females are relatively shorter at 22-24 inches. A fully grown male weighs from 60-80 pounds, while females are again much lighter and weigh between 40 to 60 pounds.
The Belgian Malinois is similar to the German Shepherd in appearance, though much lighter. The breed sports a short, flat and straight double coat ranging from a rich fawn to a dark mahogany in colour, with black tipped hairs. Their large, bright eyes are the colour of Belgian chocolate. As a general rule, their back and head are darker in colour.
They are elegant animals with a square built. They are strong and well-muscled, and have an honest look about them. Their distinctive feature is their proud stature and head posture with naturally upright ears.
Adaptability: The Belgian Malinois adapts exceptionally well to lifestyle changes. They adjust pretty nicely to all kinds of living environments.
Energy Level: Belgian Malinois dogs have an extreme energy level. They need owners who can spare time for regular exercise and training. They tend to exhibit destructive tendencies if not exercised properly.
Shedding Level: These canines sport a smooth coat that sheds twice a year – during spring and fall. Regular brushing aids in reducing the amount of hair shed.
Affection Level: These canines are extremely devoted and harbour a strong desire to please their owners. They are independent creatures who are known to form deep and unbreakable bonds with their human companions. They like to be included in all family activities.
Social Needs: Belgian Malinois dogs are extremely social and crave human and canine company. They do not do very well when left alone for long durations of time.
Child Friendly: Though the dogs are child friendly, they are inappropriate for families with small children as they require a lot of time for exercise and mental stimulation. The Belgian Malinois will try to train toddlers to behave in a certain manner as they would while herding sheep. They should be reprimanded even if seen indulging in playful nipping with young children. Likewise, children must be taught to be respectful of domesticated canines. Parental supervision is necessary for small children.
Pet Friendly: Belgian Malinois dogs show average friendliness towards other dogs they socialise with. They might be aggressive around new animals. In spite of that, they do quite well when raised with other pets from a young age.
Stranger Friendly: Belgian Malinois breed of dogs are reserved towards strangers until they gauge their intentions.
Intelligence: Belgian Malinois dogs are highly intelligent and rapid learners. They are capable of performing a wide variety of tasks such as agility, flyball and obedience; and are remarkably good at all kinds of canine sports.
Training: They are relatively easy to train because of their love for food rewards. Training and socialisation must start while they are small puppies. They love challenges and respond exceedingly well to commands. Nevertheless, they are extra sensitive to emotions and tone of voice and it is advised to focus on positive reinforcement techniques instead of harsh corrections during training.
Potential for Palyfulness: These dogs are extremely playful. They express their desire for play by barking excitedly or nipping you gently.
Barking Level: The Belgian Malinois has a moderate to high vocalisation level. They vary their intensity of barking according to their emotional state and may vocalise for a variety of reasons including boredom, fear, seeking attention, greeting, anxiety, protection and alarm.
Biting Potential: These dogs have a low chance of biting and do so only when provoked, or to protect their owners.
Drooling Tendency: The Belgian Malinois is known for its very low levels of drooling and may be a good choice for those who get disgusted by excessive slobbery.
Watchdog Ability: These canines make for excellent watch dogs as they possess a keen sense of observation and will alert their owners straight away in case they sense something wrong. They are also immensely protective and territorial.
Prey Drive: As they are raised to be pastoral dogs, they have a high prey drive and will try to chase anything in motion including vehicles, children and other animals.
Wanderlust: The Belgian Malinois has a strong innate desire to wander and explore the world. These impulses are strong enough to escape. It is safer to keep them indoors and walk them on a leash till they learn the way home from neighbouring areas.
TEMPERAMENT AND PERSONALITY
These canines are smart, loyal, hard-working and confident. They are quite territorial and highly obedient. They may exhibit typical behaviours like circling and chasing owing to their pastoral heritage.
The Belgian Malinois breed is great for personal protection due to its high alertness level. They are very courageous and protective, and won’t leave their owner’s side under any circumstances.
Belgian Malinois canines have relatively low grooming needs. Brushing hair once or twice a week will suffice but they may require more frequent combing during spring and fall, when shedding is at its peak. Bathe only when required, but at least once in two months. Invest in a premium dog shampoo as using soap can be detrimental to its natural weather-resistant coat. Clean the eyes and ears on a regular basis to avoid infections. Regular dental hygiene is also a must.
The breed is quite healthy. They are prone to suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). These diseases are primarily genetic and can be avoided by adoption through reliable means. They can also develop skin allergies and eye infections if basic hygiene is neglected.
Belgian Malinois dogs love the outdoors and are not suited for apartments. These dogs thrive with active and sporty people. It is essential that you have a secure private yard where they can run and frolic around. They require a number of long walks, runs or jogs every day to expend their excess energy.
The breed calls for high-quality, nutritionally-balanced dog food as recommended by an expert nutritionist or your veterinarian. Their diet needs to be predominantly meat-based. Puppies need extra protein to fuel their growth and muscle development. You need to keep count of the treats you are giving during obedience training as an excess can result in obesity.
People with asthma and allergies should not adopt this breed as they are known to trigger allergic responses. The Belgian Malinois can adjust to both hot and cold weather. They are extremely sensitive to anaesthesia and this information must be conveyed to the vet before allowing your pet for any kind of surgery.
Even though the breed is a difficult choice for a domestic environment, it is entirely possible to own a well-balanced, disciplined and flourishing Belgian Malinois if you faithfully cater to its peculiar needs and challenges.