Belgian Malinois (mal-in-wah) are loving, energetic dogs. Because of their high levels of energy and focus, they are seen as ideal Military Working Dogs. The Malinois is a variety of Belgian Shepherd that has been used for many years in Europe as a police dog and military dog. The Malinois has also become the breed of choice in the world of the competition dog sports that involve bite work, such as IPO/Schutzhund and French and Belgian Ring. These sports evolved as tests for the breeding of dogs for the police and military. Consequently, Malinois genetics are very much geared towards hard, fast, highly intelligent dogs that bite. Malinois are also used successfully as detection and SAR dogs, due to their tireless, highly driven nature.
Popular TV series and movies, such as Max and Person of Interest, which showcases Malinois and the increasing visibility of the Malinois in popular culture have increased the demand for Malinois as pets. We at New Zealand Malinois Rescue are concerned that people are going to purchase Malinois without realising the extent of training and the commitment that Malinois actually require to be successful dogs. Unfortunately, the breed is becoming a victim of this popularity, as people see highly trained Malinois and think they want one. What they do not realise is that it takes many years of constant training by skilled trainers to get the dogs to behave as they have seen on TV. Not a Pet dog, the Malinois, unlike its Belgian Shepherd cousins the Tervuren and the Groenendael, has remained primarily a working dog.
Malinois are fast learners, very high energy and have an extremely high prey drive. They require more intense training and are therefore generally not fit to be family dogs, however, if they do receive the training they require, supervised and instructed by an experienced trainer, such as any of us here at New Zealand Malinois Rescue, they can learn to adapt to family life.
A bored or untrained Malinois can become very destructive, and can also turn to self-harm. There certainly are some “mild” malinois that have washed out as working dogs but even these are generally going to be more challenging to manage and train than a highly driven border collie. The traditional “temperament tests” penalise many of the traits that are the hallmark of this working breed (for example, most malinois will not give up a tug toy unless trained to do so) and therefore malinois who are abandoned may end up being euthanized because they do not fit into the mould of a dog that can be easily and safely rehomed.
If you would like to know more about the breed, this blog post was written by one of our volunteers.