The Belgian Malinois – and why you shouldn’t get one.

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This delightful creature you see on your screen is Luna. I’m sure a few of you have seen her on our Facebook and one half of you either thought:

“Oh what a lovely/unusual looking German Shepherd/German Shepherd cross,”

and the other half:

“Oh my God look at that Malinois, I need her in my life.”

Luna, as you may have guessed, is an eight month old Belgian Malinois. The Malinois very recently came to public attention in this country thanks to Hollywood movies, a higher and much needed recognition of the work of canine units in the forces and the sad fact that they seem to have quite quickly become a kind of status symbol, both in dog training/dog ownership circles and in circles frequented by people who see a dog as a weapon or a defensive strategy.

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Almost four years ago we got our first Malinois through the gates. He had been wrongly classed as a German Shepherd cross but we were hardly going to turn him away. Benson arrived to us from Dublin and he was lovely, but Bensons teeth were so worn down we thought he’d had his teeth filed by some awful human. However, we soon came to realise that his teeth were like that because he just had to chew on everything. 

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The lovely Benson

When Benson was left alone in his run for anything more than twenty seconds, he wrecked it. He got so bored with his life when he wasn’t with everyone else and when he wasn’t involved in everything going on that Ray actually had to cable-tie his water bowl to the side of the pen to actually keep him from destroying the bowl. Benson had decided that he would rather dehydrate himself to death than not be completely involved in everything that was going on…. all of the time.

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Since Benson, the Malinois’ train has just sped up and kept on coming. The odd request for help with the breed here and there has turned into a near constant stream. If you’ve ever brought up the Belgian Malinois in conversation with us, I’m sure our response is well embedded in your memory. For those of you who have not had that conversation with us, it usually goes something like:

“Do Not Get A Malinois And Expect It To Be A Good Pet.”

with the lesser titles: 

“Walking Five Miles A Day Does Not Constitute Work” 

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And

“A Belgian Malinois Is A Full Time Job”

While many Malinois may share the lovely dark masks and the pointy ears of a German Shepherd, they are as alike to the GSD as a Giant Schnauzer is to a Labrador. The Malinois is actually more akin to a working Collie, but where a collie will nip, a Malinois will bite, and they will hold that bite. This is a breed of dog that thinks fast, moves fast and expects you to keep up with it, not the other way around, and God help you if you don’t.

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The habitat that the Malinois is presently bred for. Note how none of these photographs show a dog on a sofa waiting for their owner to come back from work.

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Although they do appear to sit and wait on-top of tanks.

The Malinois as a breed, in this country at least, has not had the time that the German Shepherd has had to be conditioned to life as a pet. Forces here use very specific lines of German Shepherds for work, utilising designated breeders and importers. It’s why the dogs at the police dog display in Crufts look so much different from those paraded around the show ring.

Outside of the dog show world (in which they are sadly becoming much more popular as a breed), the Malinois is still being bred primarily for their work ethic and not their house manners and no real “pet” line exists.

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Layka. While serving in Afghanistan, U.S Military Combat Dog Layka was shot four times by the enemy at point blank range. Despite her injuries she still attacked and subdued the shooter, saving her handler and other members of her team.

Luna is a prime example of how badly things can go wrong when people believe that they can take an A-Star working breed and attempt to make a pet out of them. The standard two walks a day and basic obedience is by no means anywhere near what these dogs require on a daily basis.

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Luna will have her own page in the Welfare section very soon and if you’re looking at her thinking “I really want one of those,” please, please, please have a read of her page when it goes up. Luna has serious behavioural problems, most of them brought on, not by cruelty or neglect, but by a misunderstanding of just how much stimulation a working breed actually requires. We hope to get her case file up in a few days so watch this space.