The Belgian Malinois, also known as the Chien de Berger Belge, the Mechelaar, the Mechelse Herder, the Mechelen and the Pastor Belga Malinois, is one of four distinct types of Belgian sheepherding dogs. This breed is sometimes mistaken for a German Shepherd due to its superficial resemblance to that breed, but the Malinois has a lighter and leaner build and longer legs in proportion to its body. The Malinois is smart, self-confident, sensitive and stable. The breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1911, as a member of the Miscellaneous Class.
The Belgian Malinois dates back to the 1800s. It originated in the area around the city of Malines, Belgium, which is where it got its name. One of the first short-coated Belgian shepherds was born in 1891 and later was registered with the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert. Since then, this short-haired, fawn dog with a black mask and erect ears has been selectively bred for its working character and is perhaps the most popular of all Belgian sheepdogs in its native country. The first two Malinois – named Belgian Blackie and Belgian Mouche - were registered with the American Kennel Club in 1911 as members of the Miscellaneous Class, even though the breed enjoyed individual AKC Stud Book registration. At that time, there simply were not enough Malinois to provide competition for conformation championships in this country. In 1965, once its numbers had risen, the Belgian Malinois was moved into the American Kennel Club's Working Group. When the Herding Group was formed in 1973, the Belgian Malinois was reclassified as a member of that Group, where it remains today.
Many fine representatives of this breed were imported into the United States from Belgium between 1911 and the start of the Second World War. The breed did not particularly thrive in this country after World War II, but it did regain some of its popularity in the 1960s and continues to grow slowly but steadily in numbers to this day. The Belgian Malinois has one of the lowest annual registration rates of all recognized AKC breeds. The American Belgian Malinois Club was founded in 1978 and became the parent club for the breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1993. While the Malinois originally was bred as a sheep-herding dog, its intelligence, trainability and tenacity has led these dogs to serve more often as police and military dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, service dogs and guard dogs. They also are active and competitive in conformation, obedience, herding, sledding, Schutzhund, agility, therapy and tracking.
The average life span of the Belgian Malinois Dog Breed is 10 to 14 years. This is slightly higher than the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years). Like many other large dogs, they have a predisposition to developing the following health disorders
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
The Belgian Malinois is a member of the Belgian Sheepdog family. Like other Belgians, the Malinois is a sturdy, alert, loyal companion, and can thrive as a farm dog or a family dog. As with all Belgian Sheepdog breeds, Malinois were bred to herd and protect livestock, so they must have constant activity, whether playing with children, going on long walks, or chasing a frisbee. Ever vigilant, they make excellent watchdogs, and can be trained to do a variety of tasks.
Malinois need a lot of vigorous activity in order to remain happy and healthy and should not be kept in an apartment. If they don't get enough activity, Malinois can quickly become destructive.
Farms or houses with big, fenced-in yards are the most ideal settings for this breed. Active and able participants in outdoor activities, Malinois will want to be included in all family activities, whether doing farm chores, chasing a frisbee in the yard, or taking long walks in the park. They love to spend time outdoors, among their family and engaged in interesting and fun activities.
Though sometimes willful and stubborn, Belgians are highly trainable and thrive on advanced obedience, trick and agility training. They can read small movements and even changes in facial expression, and are famous for being so "in tune" with their trainers that they can literally stay one step ahead of the person giving commands.
Though they learn quickly, Belgians are not for the first-time dog owner. They are highly intelligent and manipulative, and can easily walk all over someone who lacks consistency or wears their heart on their sleeve. Positive reinforcement is the best method to train a Belgian Malinois, as discipline can lead to avoidance behavior and stubbornness.
Malinois are herders and this instinct can lead them to chase and nip. Bikes, cars, kids, or other animals can set them off and running. If this breed doesn't have enough interesting activities to do, he can take to herding children and nipping at their heels.
This herding instinct also makes Malinois, like all Belgian Sheepdogs, protective of their home and family. They can be wary of strangers so it is important that they be socialized as early as possible to learn the difference between a welcome guest and an unwelcome guest, or aggression can develop.
Chewing, barking and separation anxiety can sometimes develop in this breed, but that can be attributed to lack of exercise and boredom. Adopting a Belgian Malinois means adopting an active lifestyle.
The Belgian Malinois is a well balanced, square dog, elegant in appearance with an exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. The dog is strong, agile, well muscled, alert, and full of life. He stands squarely on all fours and viewed from the side, the topline, forelegs, and hind legs closely approximate a square. The whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. The male is usually somewhat more impressive and grand than his female counterpart, which has a distinctly feminine look.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Males are 24 to 26 inches in height; females are 22 to 24 inches; measurement to be taken at the withers. Males under 23 inches or over 27 inches and females under 21 inches or over 25 inches are to be disqualified. The length, measured from the point of the breastbone to the point of the rump, should equal the height, but bitches may be slightly longer. A square dog is preferred. Bone structure is moderately heavy in proportion to height so that the dog is well balanced throughout and neither spindly or leggy nor cumbersome and bulky.
The head is clean-cut and strong without heaviness; overall size is in proportion to the body. The expression should indicate alertness, attention and readiness for activity, and the gaze is intelligent and questioning. The eyes are brown, preferably dark brown, medium size, slightly almond shaped, not protruding. Eye rims are black. The ears approach the shape of an equilateral triangle and are stiff, erect, and in proportion to the head in size. The outer corner of the ear should not come below the center of the eye. Ears hanging as on a hound, or semi-prick ears are disqualifications. The top of the skull is flattened rather than rounded with the width approximately the same as the length but no wider. The stop is moderate. The muzzle is moderately pointed, avoiding any tendency to snipiness, and approximately equal in length to the topskull. The planes of the muzzle and topskull are parallel. The jaws are strong and powerful. The nose is black without discolored areas. The lips are tight and black with no pink showing on the outside. The Belgian Malinois has a full complement of strong, white teeth, that are evenly set and meet in a scissors or level bite. Overshot and undershot bites are a fault. An undershot bite in which two or more of the upper incisors lose contact with two or more of the lower incisors is a disqualification. One or more missing teeth is a serious fault.
Neck, Topline, Body
The neck is round and of sufficient length to permit the proud carriage of the head. It should taper from the body to the head. The topline is generally level. The withers are slightly higher and slope into the back which must be level, straight and firm from withers to hip joint. The croup is medium long, sloping gradually. Thebody should give the impression of power without bulkiness. The chest is not broad but is deep with the lowest point reaching the elbow. The underline forms a smooth ascendant curve from the lowest point of the chest to the abdomen. The abdomen is moderately developed, neither tucked up nor paunchy. The loin section, viewed from above, is relatively short, broad and strong, and blends smoothly into the back. The tail is strong at the base, the bone reaching to the hock. In action it is raised with a curve, which is strongest towards the tip, without forming a hook. A cropped or stumped tail is a disqualification.
The forequarters are muscular without excessive bulkiness. The shoulder is long and oblique, laid flat against the body, forming a sharp angle with the upper arm. The legs are straight, strong, and parallel to each other. The bone is oval rather than round. Length and substance are well in proportion to the size of the dog. The pastern is of medium length, strong, and very slightly sloped. Dewclaws may be removed. The feet are round (cat footed) and well padded with the toes curved close together. The nails are strong and black except that they may be white to match white toe tips.
Angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the forequarters; the angle at the hock is relatively sharp, although the Belgian Malinois should not have extreme angulation. The upper and lower thigh bones should approximately parallel the shoulder blade and upper arm respectively. The legs are in proportion to the size of the dog; oval bone rather than round. Legs are parallel to each other. The thighs should be well muscled. Dewclaws, if any, should be removed. Metatarsi are of medium length, strong, and slightly sloped. The hind feet may be slightly elongated, with toes curved close together and well padded. Nails are strong and black except that they may be white to match white toe tips.
The coat should be comparatively short, straight, hard enough to be weather resistant, with dense undercoat. It should be very short on the head, ears, and lower legs. The hair is somewhat longer around the neck where it forms a collarette, and on the tail and backs of the thighs. The coat should conform to the body without standing out or hanging down.
The basic coloring is a rich fawn to mahogany, with black tips on the hairs giving an overlay appearance. The mask and ears are black. The underparts of the body, tail and breeches are lighter fawn, but washed-out fawn color on the body is a fault. Color should be considered a finishing point, not to take precedence over structure or temperament. The tips of the toes may be white, and a small white spot on the breastbone/prosternum is permitted, not to extend to the neck. White markings, except as noted, are faulted.
The movement is smooth, free and easy, seemingly never tiring, exhibiting facility of movement rather than a hard driving action. The Belgian Malinois single tracks at a fast gait, the legs, both front and rear, converging toward the center line of gravity, while the topline remains firm and level, parallel to the line of motion with no crabbing. The breed shows a marked tendency to move in a circle rather than a straight line.
Correct temperament is essential to the working character of the Belgian Malinois. The breed is confident, exhibiting neither shyness nor aggressiveness in new situations. The dog may be reserved with strangers but is affectionate with his own people. He is naturally protective of his owner's person and property without being overly aggressive. The Belgian Malinois possesses a strong desire to work and is quick and responsive to commands from his owner. Faulty temperament is strongly penalized.
The degree to which a dog is penalized should depend upon the extent to which the dog deviates from the standard and the extent to which the particular fault would actually affect the working ability of the dog.
Males under 23 inches or over 27 inches and females under 21 inches or over 25 inches. Ears hanging as on a hound, or semi-prick ears. An undershot bite in which two or more of the upper incisors lose contact with two or more of the lower incisors. A cropped or stumped tail.
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Sources: American Kennel Club