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Working Wednesday Breed Focus: The Belgian Shepherd Dog (Malinois)

This Wednesday we are looking at the Belgian Malinois, which is in the Pastoral Group for the UK Kennel Club. The breed was originally used as a herding dog, working cattle, sheep, reindeer and other cloven footed animals. Today, the Malinois is widely used as a service dog by the Police and Armed Forces.

Belgian Malinois - agility

The Belgian Malinois are extremely active & intelligent dogs, needing lots of stimulation and activity to keep their brain busy. They should be getting over 2 hours of exercise per day.

Malinois Fun Facts

  • They are used in the US Secret Service to guard the White House

  • They have puppy like energy until the age of 3, sometimes 5

  • They enjoy being challenged, due to their high drive for rewards

  • They served in WW1 as messengers & pulling ambulance carts

  • They have a short, yet thick and weatherproof coat, which is slightly longer on the body than the legs and head

Belgian Malinois working in the Armed Forces

The Belgian Malinois is often mistaken for a German Shepherd due to their similar characteristics. Compared to a German Shepherd, Malinois tend to be slightly smaller, with shorter coats that are often red, black and fawn.

These dogs are predominantly known for their work as service dogs for the Police and Armed Forces, however they do work in plenty of other ways such as:

  • Agility

  • Assistance dogs for the disabled

  • Herding sheep and cattle

  • Flyball

  • Protection dogs

In the Forces, Malinois are multi-purpose dogs and can be used for drug detection, bomb detection, search & rescue, and for tracking human scent.

Before these dogs enter into the world of work for the Police and Armed Forces, they are often brought up in their handler's home to learn socialisation skills and basic commands, until it is ready to begin serious training.

Once a handler feels that their dog is ready to work, they will compete in a trial that imitates real-life situations as closely as it can, amongst other working dogs and handlers that are also trying to join the forces. These tests do not only look at the dog's skills but also how well the handler works the dog. The working trials are often broken down into three main sections which are Nosework, Agility, and control (which includes heelwork, sendaway, retrieve a dumbbell, down stay, steadiness to gunshot, and speak).

Find out more about Working Trials here.

Showing off a powerful jump

Belgian Malinois Origin

Near the end of 1891 a Belgian veterinarian by the name of Adolphe Reul, gathered more than one hundred Belgian Shepherds and their owners. He had decided to establish a breed standard for the Belgian breed. When the dogs were brought together he found them to be un-unified in type. He advised the owners to breed their dogs only to other dogs of the same coat type regardless of their colour. Most of the breeders agreed and a standard was drawn up. The following May, the first speciality show took place and the Belgian Shepherd started its long track to uniformity.

Most of the dogs were bred to have black legs,chest and mask, with the rest of the body being a fawn colour. In the UK Kennel Club, there is now 12 colours of Malinois which you can register a dog in, including fawn, grey, and red.

If you want to watch a film which shows the loyalty and outstanding working ability of the Belgian Malinois the we would recommend the film 'Max' - by Boaz Yakin.

"Tugging at the heartstrings, this movie has enough innocence to get you misty-eyed"

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