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The Belgian Shepherd Dog (Malinois) ( ) is a breed of dog, sometimes classified as a variety of the Belgian Shepherd Dog rather than as a separate breed. The Malinois is recognized in the United Statesmarker under the name Belgian Malinois. Its name is the French word for Mechlinian, which is in Dutch either 'Mechelse' (from Mechelenmarker) or 'Mechelaar' (one from Mechelenmarker).


Like all Belgian Shepherds, the Malinois is a medium-sized and square-proportioned dog in the sheepdog family. The Malinois is recognized by its short brownish yellow coat and its black ears that stick straight up, cheeks, and muzzle. It resembles a smaller German Shepherd.

Coat and color

Due to its history as a working dog, (i.e. being bred for function over form) the Malinois can vary greatly in appearance. The acceptable colors of pure-bred Malinois are a base color fawn to mahogany with a black mask and black ears with some degree of black tipping on the hairs, giving an overlay appearance. The color tends to be lighter with less black agouti or overlay on the dog's underside, breeching, and inner leg. There used to be dogs with grey and black shorthairs but they no longer meet the breed standards.

The other varieties of Belgian Shepherd are distinguished by their coats & colors: the Tervuren is the same color as the Malinois but grey is also possible with long hair, the Laekenois is the same color, only it may lack the black mask & ears, and has wirehair, the Groenendael (registered as Belgian Sheepdog by the American Kennel Club) has long hair and is solid black. There are (occasionally and historically) solid black, black-and-tan (as with Dobermans and German Shepherd Dogs), or other colored short-haired Belgian Shepherds, but these are not technically Malinois.

If a dog represented as a Malinois is brindle (clear stripes of different colored hair) it is probably a Dutch Shepherd Dog or a mixed breed, although the possibility exists that it is a "throwback" to a common continental shepherd ancestor.


Malinois dogs are about 24-26 in. (61-66 cm), while bitches are about 22-24 in. (56-61 cm) at the withers. Bitches are said to average 25-30 kg (55-65 lb), while sires are heavier at 29-34 kg (65-75 lb). They are squarely built.

Working dog

A Malinois being trained for protection work.
In Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries, as well as in the United States, Canada and Australia, the Malinois is bred primarily as a working dog for personal protection, detection, police work, search and rescue, and sport work (Belgian Ring, Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring). The United States Secret Service & Royal Australian Air Force uses the breed exclusively.

The dog is also used extensively by Unit Oketz of the Israel Defense Forces. Oketz favors the slighter build of the Malinois to the German Shepherd and Rottweiler, which were employed formerly.


Well-raised and trained Malinois are usually active, friendly, protective and hard-working. Some may be excessively exuberant or playful, especially when young. These are large, strong dogs that require consistent obedience training, and Malinois enjoy being challenged with new tasks.


The average lifespan of the Belgian Malinois is 10-12 years, and there are a number of health problems and disorders that are associated with the breed, though the breed's health is generally considered better than that of the German Shepherd Dog. Notable health problems prevalent to the Malinois includes cataracts, epilepsy, thyroid problems, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hip dysplasia, and pannus, although these problems have been minimized through selective breeding.


Books about the Breed

  • Belgian Malinois (Comprehensive Owner's Guide) (Comprehensive Owner's Guide Kennel Club), written by Robert Pollet, published by Kennel Club Books; Limited edition (November 30, 2005), 160 pages, ISBN 1593786506
  • The Malinois (Paperback), written by Jan Kaldenbach, published by Detselig Enterprises; 1st edition (June 15, 1997), 94 pages, ISBN 1550591517
  • Belgian Malinois Champions, 1996-2002, written by Jan Linzy, published by Camino E E & Book Co. (October 2003), 121 pages, ISBN 1558931260

See also

External links

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