Country of Origin: There are four closely related breeds of Belgian Shepherd collectively referred to as ‘Chien de Berger Belge’, which were classified as independent breeds in 1891. All are herding and guard dogs, and are primarily distinguished by their appearances: the Malinois has short hair, the Laekenois (not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club) has wiry hair, the Groenendael (also known simply as the ‘Belgian Shepherd’) has long, black hair, and the Tervuren has long hair of any other color. The Malinois derives its name from the Belgian city of Mechelen, where it was developed. It is the most popular variety in Belgium, and has become the world’s most popular police dog, including use by the Israeli Defense Forces. It is increasing in popularity as a pet in America, but is most commonly used for sports and service.
Size: The Belgian Malinois has a shoulder height of 58-64 cm (23-25 in) and weighs 18-34 kg (40-75 lbs). It has a flat skull, almond shaped eyes, a moderate stop (point at which the muzzle meets the forehead) and triangular, erect ears. Belgian Shepherds have a flat back, curved tail, and small, round ‘cat feet’. They are muscular and lithe with square-proportioned bodies.
Coat: The Belgian Malinois has a short brown, grey or fawn coat with possible black-tipped hairs. It has a black mask and ears and a lighter underside. The Belgian Malinois should not be brindle (alternating stripes of color). Belgian Malinois shed heavily once or twice a year.
Character: The Belgian Malinois is energetic, lively and eager to work. It is bred for intelligence and awareness of its surroundings. Belgian Malinois require frequent face time and playtime with their master. They tend to bond very strongly with one person. Belgian Malinois can develop phobias of certain objects or locations as puppies, but usually grow out of it by adulthood.
Temperament: The Belgian Malinois should be socialized as a puppy if it is to live with other dogs or pets. It is shy around strangers, but gets along well with children. It has high socialization and activity requirements, making it less than ideal for those unwilling or unable to invest significant time.
Care: Belgian Malinois require brushing and combing twice weekly, more often when shedding. Excessive brushing or combing can damage the undercoat. Belgian Malinois have a long life span of 11-13 years. They have similar health problems as other breeds, but are particularly susceptible to epileptic seizures.
Training: The Belgian Malinois should be trained gently, but with determination. Belgian Malinois are highly adverse to harsh treatment; hitting or yelling at them will only have negative effects. Best results are achieved through awards-based training methods. Belgian Malinois require mental stimulation, so training should not be overly repetitive. Obedience and sport-specific training (such as tracking or dog agility) will reap great benefits and allow the Belgian Malinois to realize its full potential.
Activity: The Belgian Malinois needs a sufficient amount of outdoor exercise every day, including a long jog or walk and active playtime in the yard. Belgian Malinois thrive on mental stimulation, and will enjoy a complex game or sports training session even more than a simple round of catch.
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