The Magnificent Belgian Malinois

One look at a Belgian Malinois and you know that they mean business. They’re cute, sure, but it’s abundantly clear that if they have to, they can back up that bark with a mean bite. There’s a reason that these magnificent canines are the breed chosen to guard the White House; read on to find out why.

Background Check
In 1891, the veterinarian Dr. Adolphe Reul brought together a group of Belgian shepherd dogs. His goal was to ascertain whether or not such a breed actually existed. After inspecting an impressive 117 dogs, he came to the conclusion that there was, in fact, a distinctive breed and he decided to subcategorize it into 4 varieties (Groenendael, Laekenois, Tervuren, and Malinois). Each variety was named its city of origin which resulted in the dog hailing from the city of Malines to be recognized as the Malinois. It wasn’t until 1959 that the American Kennel Club recognized the breed and classified it as a herding dog. According to the club, the Malinois possesses the admirable characteristics of being hardworking, confident, and smart- something that any Malinois owner will attest to.

(Breed) Standards to Uphold
Make no mistake about it, the Belgian Malinois is a beautiful dog. They’re often mistaken for German Shepherds, but if you take a closer look, you’ll notice how different the two breeds really are. One thing that sets them apart from their German counterparts is the Malinois’ size. While they are considered a large breed, they are smaller than German Shepherds. Usually, they range from 22 to 26 inches and don’t often weigh more than 80 lbs.

The Malinois’ coat is short and straight and requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best and to control shedding. Their colour ranges from a light fawn colour to a deep mahogany with a distinctive black mask on their face and ears.

Determined Disposition
It’s been said that whatever a Malinois does, he does at 100% capacity. In other words, the Belgian Malinois is no slacker. They are very fast learners and excel at physical activities that involve strength, agility, and tracking. They are fiercely loyal and are not afraid to show their family that they love them. Despite their somewhat serious appearance, they are wonderful with children. That being said, the Malinois is a natural born herder so he may be tempted to nip at his littlest charges’ heels to keep them in line.

Because the Malinois is so intelligent, they need families who can keep them on their toes. A bored Malinois can often be a naughty Malinois; if you’re looking for a breed who will happily stay at home and relax while you’re at work all day, this isn’t the dog for you. The Malinois thrives in families that can keep them engaged and exercised. They like to be given jobs and have their wide variety of skills utilized to their full potential. In other words, keep your Malinois busy! Take him on hikes and long, rambling walks in the country. Enroll him in agility courses or join a local owners group and see what kinds of things they do to keep their Mals engaged.

In the News
With a 270-degree field of vision, a speed that’s unmatched by humans, and a bite that comes down at an impressive 1,400 lbs per square inch, it’s no wonder that the Malinois is chosen as the breed of choice when it comes to getting big jobs done. It was a Belgian Malinois named Cairo who helped capture Osama Bin Laden which, when you think of the scope of that particular undertaking, is nothing to sniff at.

Thanks to their incredible ability to learn new skills and their intense personality, the Malinois is the breed chosen by the White House to serve as Secret Service agents. As if protecting the POTUS weren’t enough, Belgian Malinois are also employed by the U.S. Special Forces. Before heading to the front lines, they undergo an incredibly rigorous training programme that involves 200 steps from start to finish. During the process, they are exposed to countless stimuli and conditions to prepare them for life on duty. Just like human soliders, the dogs are outfitted in protective gear that helps them perform their job to the best of their ability. Think Kevlar vests, night-vision goggles, and equipment to help them during rappelling operations and parachute jumping.

©istockphoto/Drazen Lovric
©istockphoto/Drazen Lovric