Note to the American Public: Belgian Malinois, Look Don’t Touch

I know what you are thinking. Since a Belgian Malinois was used by Navy Seal Team Six on the raid of the Bin Laden compound, it would make a perfect family pet.  Just park it in the living room  next to your Apache Helicopter!

The work of the Belgian Malinois in Bin Laden’s assassination placed a spotlight on the breed  likely to spike the breed’s popularity.  Think of it as the 101 Dalmatians effect.  Think of Creulla De Ville in Fauve Charbonné (the top-secret Malinois coat color).

Balzac working on former Department of Defense trainer Andrew Ramsey.

The fact is Malinois do not make good pets, as they are strictly working and sporting dogs.  If you are NOT already involved with dog sport, you should not get a Malinois.  (I said that ten years ago, click to watch, and I’ll say it again-  Malinois do not make good pets)

Who should get a Malinois?:

  1. Do you dream day and night of improving your performance as a dog trainer?
  2. Do you have reflexes like a Chimpanzee? Can you take a punch without feeling the need to retaliate?
  3. Are you calm in the face of embarrassment, danger,and even  chaos? Can you remain calm around a very hyper dog?
  4. Do you want  a dog that can’t and won’t be a couch potato? A DOG JUST FOR TRAINING?
  5. Do you have at least 2-hours per day to devote to training and exercise?
  6. Do you have access to a Ringsport or Schutzhund club where you can find a mentor?
  7. Are you versed in  positive and negative training modalities?
  8. Are you willing to put canine performance before your own physical and psychological comfort?

If you answer these questions with a round clear YES, you have what it takes to become a Malinois Handler.

Balzac showcasing the full driving grip of the Belgian Malinois

Sandra Mannion and Havoc du Metcalf earn blue ribbons in Rally

Hard Dogs, Soft Arts:  If you think a Malinois is perfect for Agility, Rally, Obedience, or Herding, think again. Be smart and get a Border Collie.  Border Collies are  ideal dogs for sports not requiring bite work.  Malinois are designed for Hard Arts like: French Ring, Belgian Ring, Mondioring, Schutzhund and KNPV. Sure, they also excel in non-bitework competitions. But drive-building, grip-development, and stimulus-control techniques make the Malinois Temperment complete.

Malinois temperament:  When we speak about Malinois temperament, we mean a temperament for work.  The Malinois is highly trainable, totally driven. and immensely responsive to outside factors, unlike a breed with a phlegmatic temperament such as the Labrador or Pit Bull, for example.   

If you are not a relaxed, happy person who loves physical activity, and has a willingness to take a challenge head on, life will not go well for your Malinois puppy.  No doubt it will devolve into a simpering-anti-social-fear-biting-paranoid-walking-liability and not the k9  super hero it was meant to be!

Leon Destailleur, Founder of French Ring Sport.

Tempered Steel:  When a blacksmith makes a sword he  heats raw ore until it’s red hot, and then shapes it into form.   The sword remains soft and pliable, useless for its purpose, until the Smith tempers the blade by successive heatings and coolings. Thus causing a molecular alignment that hardens the edge. By this process, too, the Malinois trainer tempers a Malinois in the forge of Ring.

One of my prize possessions: My old dogs score book with an autograph from Leon Destailleur, Founder of French Ring Sport. It reads, "For Francis my new American Friend"

Every Malinois starts off soft. Eventually, as he matures, if the dog is not tempered through work, he will either end up out of control or fearful.  The trainer taps into the pups drives, heating the steel, and gradually exposing the pup to stressors.  Eventually, as he matures, The trainer brings the pup from the euphoric prey drive state to a state of control and focus, metaphorically tempering the steel.  This plunging from hot to cold, lends the Malinois its solid temperament.

After years of daily training, your Malinois can show the same  temperament as a Lab or German Shepherd, yet have the sharpness to work.  This is how a dog with the bidability of a Border Collie becomes able to perform in stressful environments such as found in Middle East war zones.  It is the trainer’s job to insure good temperament. This happens through work, mostly bite work and character development that are part of the Ringsport foundation.  No surprise to students of the breed– since Malinois and Ringsport evolved together.

If you are interested in dog sports, start with your own dog, and work up to a Malinois.  Even in my household where Malinois are part of our lifestyle, we have them for training and not as pets. Our other dogs are pets.

So, if the dog recruited for the raid on the Bin Laden complex sparked your imagination, before you go out and get one, be aware of the commitment it takes to live with and train a Belgian Malinois.

Two Paths Diverge

If you need a dog for your secret-mission or life-journey or coming-of-age,  I recommend a pit bull from a shelter. Teach and learn from him as best you can. Use this dog as your guide.  Ask him if you are seeking emotional comfort or the honesty of the hunt.  Both inclinations express your love for dogs.  But  check your priorities.  The type of dog you get will decide your path for the next decade.

Emotional Comfort and psychic protection: 

Nothing is more comforting to the lone hominid than the company of a dog.  A furry shoulder to cry on, a best friend that sees you at your worst without passing judgment.  This is one of the pure joys of having a dog.  This is the path most dog lovers travel.  There is a dog waiting out there to share this vision with you.  He is loving, protective and stable.  He is in a shelter BUT he is not a Malinois.

Not deterred.  Keep reading.

Honesty of the Hunt:

Some of us feel a need to go deeper into the human-canine relationship.  We want to become a wolf pack or run with a pride of lions.  We want to see the honesty of instinctual behavior.  We want to control it, and be controlled by it.  Our path is similar to that of the Hunter and Farmer who provide their own meal even if it means discomfort.

Malinois are steely workers eager to please if you can meet their needs, they do not make a good shoulder to cry on until you have tempered them through years of work. The motivation of the Malinois handler differs from that of the pet dog lover.  The Malinois Handler derives his joy from witnessing an animal engaged in the hunt, an animal at the peak of his health and power.  We do not wish to see a subservient animal weakened by human domination.  Ringsport and Malinois allow us to take part in the predators epic journey, not as spectators, not from behind a lens but as an equal partner.

For many of us who live in urban areas, being a hunter or a farmer is unrealistic and not pertinent to our existence.  The bullet holes in the street sign in front of my house speak of a different world. Unfortunately, it is a world where protection from one another is more in the zeitgeist than pursuing your own game or rounding up sheep.

People who seek to work with this predatory energy now have a modern option. Thanks to a handful of visionary trainers on the border of war-torn Belgium, the art of Ringsport has risen from the ashes of the agricultural economy.  The unemployed shepherd found work guarding his human flock, and a new type of working dog discipline was founded.

This happened 100 years ago.  Since then the knowledge of how to work a Malinois has been passed from master to apprentice. The knowledge was not passed in writing, on video, not even verbally.  It was passed through participation.  The breed, the techniques, the selection process, the genetics, the sport is passed down by doing.  The dog and the sport are inseparable. This is why if you wish to learn the secrets of the Malinois, you will not learn them at Lackland Airforce Base, or at the AKC dog show.  Instead you must subject yourself to humiliation of the trial field, you must show your hard work and dedication before the secrets are revealed.

Ringsport Judges at the Championships of France

If you choose to take the Ringsport/ Mainois path you will not get much help on your journey. Your family and friends will not understand the hours of dedication it will take.

In Belgium and France almost every town has a Ringsport club.  In America where the Ringsport/Malinois scene is still in its infancy, you must be self motivated, and autodidactic.  When around experienced trainers, keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.  Prove yourself by doing, not by talking.  Learn as much as you can from the internet, but remember the Ringsport path is for the experiential trainer, not the book-worm.  You must live it to learn it.

If this resonates with you, then I hope this article will lead you in the right direction. I hope you will find a working dog and make a connection that transcends the saccharine world of pet dogs.  If you are like me, you will find out how sweet it is to roam from field to field learning to master your  training skills and face your fears. One of my mentors Jean Jauques Jarardo told me that “Ringsport is a kind of therapy, the macho man gains humility, and the Wallflower gains confidence”  I would add that some people become egomaniacs too.  The Ring has different effects on different people.

I hope that those still reading will become what I call “Ringsport Citizens”.   We are people who use the knowledge gained from working Malinois in Ringsport to make the world a better place.  We do this by helping people overcome their issues with dog aggression and behavior problems, and by training dogs that help serve humanity. Perhaps one of the most important things we do is take part in a system that maintains a population of dogs who are not deformed by the show ring and remain useful in an ever changing world.

If you are still dead set on getting a Malinois, here are some links to organizations that promote Ringsports in the US (the first three)  The NVBK is a Belgian organization widely considered to have the best working bloodlines.  By following these links and by attending events sponsored by the various clubs, you can begin your journey.  Good luck!

NARA        USMRA          ARF        NVBK

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69 thoughts on “Note to the American Public: Belgian Malinois, Look Don’t Touch

  1. Yeah great post Francis!! You should submit it to appropriate magazines (like the Atlantic?) and newspapers. Felt like a classy/intellectual magazine read. Also, would make a great booklet on Malinois!

    You helped confirm that I am not cut out to be a Ringsport participant, but hopefully I can still be a citizen, or an interested observer, or just a fan.

  2. Very well stated. I think this is a thorough and clear explanation that could prevent some unsuitable human-dog pairings that are bound to happen. You should definitely spread this information far and wide. Nice job.

  3. Or people could get a show-bred Malinois and tell themselves that they own the real thing.

    After all, that’s what has made the American-bred GSD what it is today.

  4. Agree -outstanding, comprehensive article on this outstanding animal -and I would LOVE to see it more widely published as well…

  5. Another excellent article Francis !

    I greatly agree the pleasure and satisfaction in working relationship.

    I’d like to add my own testimonial about Malinois peting.
    My Wife and I are owning 3 malinois, and my 5y.o female which is ring level 3 is a perfect family pet. It took me 2 years to get her energy managed enough to get into the house, and one more year to enlarge the love relationship she got with we to the all family.
    But this pet success is made of this particular individual dog personality, my training knowledge and also the time I spent every day with her.

    I’m pretty sure we won’t succeed in ‘peting’ Emrys, the 2y.o male of my wife. He is speedy blood, fast minded but also narow minded. It is just for a few months Stephanie was able to share working pleasure with this dog. And this is one more aspect you should point Francis : Working with a Malinois can be tuff, drives you nights crazy about thinking and thinking again how to do things.
    To get great result you’ll have to work hard !

    Owning a Malinois have only one reason : WORKING !!
    You have to get your pleasure in working with dogs, all other is just bonus that can’t be guarantee.

    Cheers from France :-)
    -yann

  6. Excellent article! I love the breed, but my own development as a trainer is not yet up to where I’d need to be with a malinois, and my training experience is with working dogs for non-protection sports. Maybe in 5 years or so I’ll be ready.

    I do wish the average American dog owner would admit that what they want is a family pet, not a high-drive, high-intelligence performance athlete that takes years of commitment to train into a team. And even when it comes to the family pet, most dog owners aren’t interested in making the commitment to their labs or goldens, which is why so many are given to rescue or shelters. What this means is that the perfect dog for many of these people is a cat.

  7. Fantastic article. Mals absolutely need a job for their entire life. My almost two year old mal, Grom needed enormous amounts of socialization and work to become what he is today. I spent additional hours EVERY DAY taking him to public places and teaching people how to properly greet a puppy and having them feed Grom treats. This was in addition to group obedience class I would go to up to twice a week, and to search and rescue training one to three times a week, one session taking a whole day. He is ready to take his final test to become an operational Search and Rescue dog.
    Without all of the hard work, his training has BECOME my life. He would unlikely be a happy or stable guy and is not allowed free of the house unless I am home.
    http://houndandthefound.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/crate-break/
    These are working dogs, great ones, but you must have a second job (his training). Thanks for the info.

  8. Excellent article, hopefully this can get around before the shelters become fully of Mals.

  9. I like the thrust of the article: don’t own a Malinois if what you want is just a pet. If it keeps even one status seeking jerk from acquiring one of these fine dogs then I applaud the effort. My only complaint is that it takes too much of an all or nothing position. Speaking from experience I concur that the breed is not for the casual dog owner or the sedentary but to exclude all non- “working” ownership smacks of elitism. The Malinois have proven to be fantastic companions for those with an active and dog- integrated life style.That they can be trained to incredible levels of working effectiveness is well established. That they have to be is simply not true. I live with three BSDs: two Mals and a Groenendael. All were rescues and all needed extensive rehabilitation and socialization. They are intense to be sure but they function extremely well as regular hiking companions and members of the family. So they’re not SAR trained but they do provide a level of security and awareness which we rely upon, especially when we do deep woods/trailess excursions. They are so much more than pets yet they do not in any way seem to be suffering from lack of “real work.”

    • LOL, obviously you are talking about a show line of malinois not a line bred for ring work.

      • LOL, really? You’ve just escalated from elitism to weenie waggling. My ten year old female was not “show confirmational” and was brain damaged from an abusive trainer who was training her for “work”. Broken ear cartilage, cut off tongue and epilepsy were the result of her training. My two year old had most of her front teeth kicked out by the skumbag trainer who was trying to toughen her up; and came to me as a walking skeleton. While ring sport work clearly is both impressive and dynamic it is not the only arena that these dogs can function in. They do back country hiking with me: 10-12 miles of rough, untrailed terrain is common. They get to run up(and down and sideways) real cliffs and boulder strewn areas. They are working for me as guides and early warning guards, not just performing in some artificial show doing tricks. They don’t simper, fear bite or act antisocial. They always work off lead, are never tied or even crated. I didn’t get to raise them from pups; someone else had that privilege and screwed it up. It’s a testament to the breed that they could recover and become fine, nonprofessional, working dogs. Training for sports is fine but not every star athlete needs to become a competitive professional one or a special forces soldier. And for the record “show bred” Mals do not typically wind up in rescue. Responsible breeders see to that. The dogs in rescue are usually described as high drive, former working dogs who are NOT suitable as pets and need a human who is ready to make a huge commitment of time and energy.

        So if my rant only inspires more LMAO and ROTF then let’s let it drop. If you can at least partly agree that there may be more than only one way to appreciate these fine animals then good. Then we both support the main thrust of the article: that Malinios are not for the ordinary pet owner and shouldn’t be coveted as a status symbol.

    • Heh Thomas,

      I really enjoyed the article and I find your response balanced and interesting. The author is doing a service to the breed to deter casual owners – but I think you offer another view that also exposes the fact that abuse exists in many forms.

      • The blog article unfortunately reads more as an advertisement to people looking for the next big, tough, bad-a**, macho dog primed and ready to be the next Dobie, Rottweiler, Pit Bull fad. Malinois Rescue is already overwhelmed with dogs from people trying to make big bucks selling to law enforcement, watch for an uptick after this recent burst of publicity.

        The elitism of sport people regarding Malinois and their only true purpose in life is ring, anything else and obviously you must be talking about one of those worthless “conformation” malinois, is amazing (probably only matched by those conformation only people looking down their noses at the appearance of sport dogs).

        The Malionis and the rest of the Belgian Shepherds were assembled by Prof. Reul and developed as jack of all trades SHEPHERDS that were versatile enough to be used for other purposes. The jacked-up, out of control Malinois without an off-switch is just as incorrect as a technically pretty dog with no drive whatsoever.

    • Hey Thomas,

      I am a fellow “pet” owner with a “working line” Mal…..one of the few. The situation works for me very much in the same way it works for you. This is my second Mal who is presently 2 1/2 (the first one I lost tragically when she was 6 1/2 – also a working line). Having her as my companion is a major “lifestyle” choice. I work from home, have no children and lead a very active lifestyle that the dog is a part of. Every morning we hike (strenuous) 2-3 hours, off leash….and on the weekends longer. People stop me on the trail all of the time to comment how obedient and well behaved she is. She travels with me during my days and then usually an 1/2 an hour to an hour of vigourous playtime around 5 pm. She is happy and sweet dog but unless you have this kind of time and lifestyle (as it seems we both do) you will probably end up with some serious issues!

    • Hi
      I work at a dog rescue and we currently have an 11 month old malinois bitch in our care. Would it be possible to talk with you about her and to ask for any further insight you have in to this breed.

      Regards
      Emma

    • A really good article on Mals, and I hope that around the world people think twice on getting a dog without any experience, like myself.
      Me and my wife own a two and a half years female Mal. and we live in Lisbon, Portugal.

      Before reading Thomas comment, I really was thinking on the big mistake we have done, but I do share the opinion and feeling of Thomas “They are intense to be sure but they function extremely well as regular hiking companions and members of the family.”

      Thank you for the article, and for all the comments, they were really helpful for me!

      Best regards
      Nuno

  10. THANK YOU, THANK YOU for writing this! I just smiled the entire time reading it. SO MUCH of it rang true to me! It concerns me when a breed takes the public spotlight. We’ve seen what this has done to other breeds, and I pray we can prevent the Malinois from going down this road. Some say it is already heading that way… but I hope not.

  11. This is my worst fear as we do Belgian Malinois rescue. 2 Years ago we rescued a total of 5 mals in the Pacific Northwest. The year after we rescued 5 in the first month…..it’s already getting worse and all the news surrounding them now scares me!

  12. I have to agree with this article! Mals do not make good pets, they are breed to be working animals. Though as an owner of a Mal I have to add that they need a LOT more than 2 hours of training/excercise per day. My boy needs at least 4-6+ hours of physical and mental excerise every day to be happy.

  13. It is true that a Malinois is NOT the dog for someone who wants a pet they won’t train and don’t control. It’s like owning a gun. If you aren’t willing to be RESPONSIBLE for it, DO NOT GET ONE. On the other hand, it is NOT true that a Malinois is not a “good pet”. They are loving, devoted pets FOR THOSE WHO WANT a dog they WORK WITH. No one should get ANY dog if they haven’t researched the type of dog that would suit their lifestyle and personality best. Dogs are not something that should be “impulse purchases”. (No. I don’t own a Malinois. I own one of the black longhair Belgians).

  14. I read the article in its entirety. I think that the article spent more time glorifying Ring Sport and those trainers than it needed to. By emphasizing the “toughness” of the dog – you will bring the attention that you seek to avoid.

    I have much greater sympathy for the Belgian Malinois Rescue Folks – they will doubtless have more rescues on their hands in the future.

    I would ask the author – for those Malinois that do not “measure up” to Ring Sport – what do you propose to do with them? Not every puppy in a given litter will have the drive that you portray in this article.

    There is also the possibility that you will get your beloved breed promoted to the “dangerous dogs” list – so near and dear to HSUS and PETA and various legislators.

    We have had Belgian Sheepdogs and a Tervuren – they were all very “sharp” and needed a job to do – and they were/are beloved pets as well.

    Although I disagree – I wish you well and hope that I am wrong and you are right – because it is the results that matter.

  15. Peggy, James, and Thomas above have made some excellent points. I have owned mals since 2003. I have two now, and a black dog (BSD) — all rescues. I also fostered another mal last fall who is now thriving in his forever home.

    The author’s original point — that media exposure can be problematic for a dog breed if people seek to get one out of pure status-seeking or “street cred” — is a real concern that I share. As someone involved in rescue I can say that this is already happening to malinois in some places with severely detrimental results for the dogs.

    But to go on to say: “If you are not a relaxed, happy person who loves physical activity, and has a willingness to take a challenge head on, life will not go well for your Malinois puppy. No doubt it will devolve into a simpering-anti-social-fear-biting-paranoid-walking-liability.” Reading between the lines a little here, it sure sounds like the author is saying that if an owner does not train his/her mal to compete in ringsports, the dog is doomed to a simpering fear biting etc… I can say after spending years with multiple mals that this is NOT true. None of my dogs are simpering. the idea is laughable. None of them are fear biting. Just like the author said: “After years of daily training, your Malinois can show the same temperament as a Lab or German Shepherd, yet have the sharpness to work. This is how a dog with the bidability of a Border Collie becomes able to perform in stressful environments such as found in Middle East war zones. It is the trainer’s job to insure good temperament.” I have put in years of time, commitment and clear-headed focus on understanding my dogs and meeting their needs. To assert that ringsports are the only way to do so is simply incorrect. It is one way, and it is clearly dynamic, effective, and exciting. But it is not the only way.

    While we do not have a substantive disagreement, since I do strongly agree that malinois are not for everyone, and that picking one up because it is chic to do so is a disaster in the making, I do resent the emphasis on ringsports as the only way to temper the steel.

    That said, I loved this section: “Some of us feel a need to go deeper into the human-canine relationship. We want to become a wolf pack or run with a pride of lions. We want to see the honesty of instinctual behavior. We want to control it, and be controlled by it. ” Damn straight, sir. That’s why I have mals. I have mals (and my sweet black dog) that someone else threw away like garbage, in both cases after abusing them horribly. These dogs are incredible, and if you equate power with beauty, then they are breathtakingly beautiful.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that indeed rescue organizations are not inundated! best wishes to all!

  16. Agreed that Mals are not for the timid and they always need something to do. I have (in my opinion) the finest dog on earth- she is a GSD/Mal crossbreed who was rescued after being tied to a fire escape and left to dehydrate and starve to death. Clara is a dog that does not forget anything, who is acutely aware of her surroundings, and will do anything for me. This relationship has taken a great deal of time and work.

    When Clara came to us as a nervous, thin and skittish two year old just out of foster care, the only one she trusted was Kayla, a Bavarian import GSD, who was our elderly, retired security dog. By following Kayla, Clara learned how to be a confident dog- and that it was OK to follow commands and to trust people.

    Clara is not a “community dog” – she is definitely not the neighborhood Labrador all the kids play with. She is social with unfamiliar people, but only when I am with her and she is in her harness. I can handle her and my husband can to a degree. But at eight years old, she is so attuned to me that she will anticipate commands and will follow head nods and hand signals.

    Owning a Mal or any other protection breed is similar to owning firearms. You have to know the rules and respect the fact that a 65# Mal has the potential to be a lethal weapon if handled improperly. You have to take the time to build a rapport with the dog, to engage him/her psychologically, physically and emotionally. If you want a pet, go get a purse dog. If you want a low maintenance pet, get a cat. If you want a companion who becomes an extension of you over time, get a Mal- know that they see all, hear all and smell all, and when they’re young they want to destroy it all! Nothing worthwhile is easy.- but I wouldn’t trade my precious Clara for anything.

  17. I couldn’t have said it better myself. The Malinois IS NOT A PET! I love the breed but I’ve been involved in Schutzhund, Police K9 and Ring Sport for over 25 years AND I started my sporting career with a German Shepherd. PLEASE listen to this article. It is “right on”. DON’T make a mistake and let your new fascination, your new pride and joy go right to the animal shelter when you can’t handle it. IT IS NOT THE BREED FOR MOST!

  18. wonderful articles…fantastic, factual and to-th-point!!!! I am proud of my working JoeFarm malinois…what an incredible breed!!!!

  19. I agree, I have a 3 year old male malonois, He is great because we spend 24/7 together. He has never been alone. This dog gets a lot of attention and love. We are active and socialized . This dog can and will turn in a heart beat if approached the wrong way. I take great care and pride in this dog. I have a lot of respect for this beautiful animal..

  20. Sorry i see this article (if considered creditable by Main Stream Media) will only harm the breed. My K9 was not a viscous beast, she was trained.

    ( note Yes we need ‘Hard Dogs’) in certain situations but they most often are PTS or KIA .

    While i can see his intentions are to keep the “Disney Dalmatian” affect out, it is best not to further bring light. Thugs and Hood Rats if they see this will be going to do to our MAL’s what they have done to the American Staffordshire Terrier.

    This is the same HYPE given to Doberman s, Rottie’s and German Shepard’s back in the 70’s 80’s, that leed to all type of half truths and just plane lies.

    This type of article is only fuel for insurance legislation to have “Banned Breeds” , or added to the dangerous Dogs list. .
    Insurance companies already ask your dog type and if you are on the Dangerous list then well good luck .
    I have over 15 years with this breed over 30 plus with dogs in general. and I just see this a SOOOOOOO one sided and NOT a direct reflection of the breed. Herding and other work of this type has been around longer then Ring. And no matter WHAT he says that is what the dog was bread to do. Just like Dalmatians are to working horses ( still used by Amish on big plow teams)

  21. “The fact is Malinois do not make good pets”

    Really?

    don’t tell that to my Mal-companion of the last 10yrs…my faithful pet who comes from hard-core working lines and yet has been a a great pet.

    That is such broad generalization that just does not stand up to real life experience…by that logic any working breed would not make a good pet…

    In my 30+ yrs of Malinois experience in herding, Shutzhnd, Obediance, flyball etc, the literally hundreds of Mals I have seen and come to know have ALL been pets..and great pet-companions at that.

    These are highly intelligent, versatile dogs that can make great pets for the right owner who knows what he is getting into…

    I understand the author wanting to temper enthusiasm for the novice…but when he bases his article on a false premise he needs to be called out on it.

  22. We adopted a retired French Ring Belgian Malinios who was 9 yrs old when we got her. She had been used for breeding the last 2 years before we adopted her. She is a great dog, who is now almost 12 years old. HOWEVER, after seeing the drive & energy this dog has at her age, made us decide to NEVER get a BM puppy! We are German shepherd people, but I love the Belgian Malinios’s too. We thought adopting a retired dog was the best way to go, and I am glad we did. She will probably be are only BM, unless we adopt an older one again. Your article is RIGHT ON! I would HATE to see backyard breeders start breeding these dogs. I do German shepherd rescue, and once in awhile I will find a BM in a shelter. Luckily, I have some resources to get these dogs pulled by a BM Rescue, the last one pulled from a shelter is training to be a prision cell phone dog!! If backyard breeders start breeding these dogs, the shelters will be FULL of them, and what a tragedy that would be!

  23. Excellent article. I have a 14 month old Mal that I got roped into taking from a dog training facility. He is a excellent dog and I was fortunate that when I got home I heeded suggestions and got into PSA based training group, we do not compete but it is a great way to train and quall all that energy!!

  24. Thank you for this great article. I wish I had it for all my prospective buyers from the past.

    I am glad someone stepped up to help raise awareness about the malinois. I have owned, trained, shown and bred malinois since 1986. I have had hard working malinois that were top ten show dogs. It was strange but they were true all around dogs. They also were sled dogs and one of my males won a malamute weight pull (with a weight of 1535 lbs.)

    I agree that this is not a breed for joe novice. It is why I have stopped breeding altogether. I see way too many dogs ending up in rescues. With my first dog they were rare and spectaular. I had all European bloodlines selected for work. Now there is a real division easily seen between show and working lines. Very sad to see this march down the same road that german shepherds have taken.

    I hope the next generations can be good guardians of this magnificent breed. But I worry about all the cross bred dogs, and foolish people. I found out about a litter that was being given away in front of a grocery store. A sad page for such a magnificent animal. All that care for the breed should do our best to protect the best, breed the best and make sure they end up in the right homes.

  25. Thanks for this – I’ve been fortunate enough to live near an active French Ring club, and have gone to their tests, so I’ve had a first hand view of the level of intensity that Malinois bring to that sport. I also have friends who have this breed. While at one point I thought of getting one of them, ultimately, I decided that the Belgian Tervuren offered as much drive as I liked, while still being a household pet.

  26. As a dog trainer and my sister is involved with Tervs, I can state, I wholeheartedly agree with this article. Every now and then I get someone who wants a Mal. I describe my sister’s Tervs (who work – they herd) and they say “Sounds Great!” I say “Times 100.” *silence*. I have known people with Mals in ringsports and have watched them.

  27. While I do agree that the Malinois is definitely not for everyone (look at the numbers in rescue), I have to say I am completely offended that you do not consider them pets. I have two malinois, ages 4 and 6, one of which is from strong working lines (father was KNPV import and police working dog), and she has immense drive and abilities. Both are members of our family who travel with us on family trips and vacations. My working line female is an affectionate and wonderful member of her family and holds titles in agility and is a canine good citizen. Yes, she requires that I work with her always, and would certainly not be a fit for just anyone, but she loves people and other dogs and would suffer greatly if not included as a family member.

    I am afraid you are fostering an opinion of this breed as a “bully” that should not be socialized to participate in normal dog activities. Also, not every working line malinois has the drive to participate in ring sports or act as a working dog. What happens to them? They end up euthanized, because breeders (many unscrupulous) are breeding for the overdrive reputation you have created here. Most of these dogs will not necessarily have the skills to work, yet they may be extremely active and not a good fit for just any home.

    Let’s be responsible about this breed! Yes, they can be very active, but they also can be a good pet for an active lifestyle (runners, etc.) and people who love dog sports. And let’s make sure to buy from breeders who want to preserve both the drive and the loyalty, love and devotion to humans this breed is known for!

  28. I was able to adopt a Mal who served in Iraq finding bombs. Till then I had never really heard of the breed. I did the research and knew what I was getting into but never expected the dog that I have grown to love. These are the “BatMen” of dogs mixing athletic ability and intelligence not seen in other breeds. All the comments make sense in extreme ways but I can say that my Mal loves to be loved and has nothing but love for his family. Its taken me years to gentle him and I still have to be careful around strangers but this is an amazing dog that is capable of unbelievable devotion, intelligence and energy. Its no wonder the SEALS use them exclusively. He will literally call you out to rough house, work or play. This is not a dog for everyone as the article states but for the individual and experienced trainer who wants a dog to train and work or play with (outdoor stuff for man and dog) this is as good as it gets……

  29. I just don’t want to see any BSM touted as THE dog to acquire. These are intelligent animals who require owners that are well versed in doggie mentality and behaviour. Please don’t consider any BSM unless you have the time, patience, money and also meet the aforementioned criteria. Should you fail on these levels then i think it would be only too fair to consider you for a “stupidity award”. The majority of the time why animals end up in shelters is not because they are unmanageable. It’s because the owners can’t be bothered educating themselves on how to fulfil their pets lives.

  30. Great read, and I will recommend it to others. I am a handler/trainer in the military. I can personally vouch for the Malinois not being a pet. I do own a Malinois as a pet, but with that said I am also able to take him to work with me and work with him all day every day. By the time we get home all he wants to do is eat and sleep in that order. Now for the times I am unable to take him to work or I deploy for long periods of time… I will add with me socializing him to all types of people and environmental s has really helped. He still continues to drag the local kids thew the yard by there hoods, ate his way thew the wall for no apparent reason, and is not allowed in the bathroom while anyone is taking a bath or shower because of all the water bite work we do. And all this coming from a guy who has an entire kennel full of bite, bomb, and tracking canines. I work a GSD at work and would take a mal any day of the week. With GSD’s being as methodical as they are make it very easy to mess things up. Mal’s that I’ve worked seem to be more forgiving. Someone else committed earlier that a Mal was the Bat Man of canines, I would say that is true statement and would add it’s comparable to a GSD gone Scizomaniac and good luck to all the future owners, handlers, and trainers.

  31. I think Thomas is right too. My friend and I train together, she has a Mal and I have something else.

    I watch her train that dog and he’s just a great companion dog. He does not do bite work but she does wonders with him. She’s had him since puppyhood and he is a great ambassador to the breed.

    BUT they are not a dog for everyone.

  32. I completely disagree with this article…I have had a Belgian Mal for the past five years. I got her as a puppy at a shelter and have had zero problems with her. I took her to a basic puppy training class but that was it; I would hardly classify it as rigourous training. She does have a strong “prey drive” when it comes to cats, squirrels and mice, but I don’t mind that. She has never been aggressive towards a human.

    She’s the friendliest yet most obedient dog I’ve ever had. In fact, when she meets strangers, they’re often shocked at how affectionate she is given her large stature. I may never get a different breed of dog!

  33. I have a mal boxer mix. So not the real deal. But, I would say half a Mal is still a ton of dog. She is really sweet but needs a couple hours of exercise each day. She wants to play, or guard for hours. She will stalk a moth in the house until she kills it. Not an easy going family dog.

  34. I do find this article very good reading
    But I don’t totly agree with it , I’ve had Malinios got over 15 years . My guys are wonderful companions and get along great with all the other fur/ furless pets . I do agree that Malinios are not for just anyone .

  35. I totally agree with this article. Malinois are a very strong, high driven dog that NEEDS tons of work to do. I worked with them when I was a Law Enforcement Officer and learned about them before I purchased my first one. I am on my 2nd Malinois, and he is currently being trained to be my Service Dog. He knows when I am not right and calms me when I have PTSD attacks. He knows it’s “Work Time” when his harness goes on and is ALWAYS alert and ready to go. He can be a lap dog at times, but, it doesn’t last long! LOL! Incredibly obedient and very expressive. This breed is NOT a dog for just anyone. People who think Malinois are “cute, handsome, beautiful, etc..” should read all abut the breed standards and pro’s and con’s of this dog before ever getting one. For those who own them, they KNOW what the breed is capable of!! I absolutely LOVE my “Zorro” and can’t imagine life with out him.

  36. Have you given any kind of thought at all with converting your webpage into Chinese? I know a small number of translaters here that will might help you do it for free if you want to make contact with me.

  37. To all qualified trainers and handlers: with all the above cautions in mind, military dogs face danger of abandonment overseas when their handlers are transferred from the theater back to the US or other assignment.

    For example, this notice was posted February 2012:
    “G.R.A.C.E. Animal Rescue (El Segundo, CA) have been made aware that 10 Malinois ‘soldiers’ are going to be retired and left overseas. Their handlers are heartbroken over it. The cost to send them back is too great for the military to warrant the spending for “just a dog”… or ten.

    A bill has been passed to help correct this situation, but the military does not provide financial support for transporting dogs stateside. This article appeared in The Bark magazine, July 2012.
    http://www.thebark.com/content/reclassifying-military-canines

    For the cost of transport, a qualified trainer/handler may be able to acquire an ex-military dog fully purpose-trained for protection, search and detection work.

  38. Excellent Article! You should submit this to National Geographic, makers of “Alpha Dogs” that is now on TV every day. I have emailed them multipple times asking them to add a warning to the beginning and end of each episode… that these types of dogs can be dangerous in the wrong hands,,,not one response back! Thank you for this article… it is dead on correct! ;)

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