Belgian Malinois Care, Size, Lifespan & Temperament

The Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized herding dog originating from Belgium. These dogs are also known as Belgian Mechelars or simply mals, and represent a sub-group of Belgian Shepherds.

Other varieties of Belgian Shepherds are named after various Belgian villages including Groenendael, Laekenois, and Tervuren.

Belgian Malinois are hard-working, loyal, and smart dogs that are adored by dog lovers. These dogs are elegant, athletic, and love an active lifestyle.

Belgian Malinois dogs typically cost between $2,500 and $3,500.

Belgian Malinois Characteristics & Overview

Belgian Malinois traits and characteristics

Common names:Belgian Malinois, Belgian Mechelar, mal
Breed group:Herding dog
Height:22–26 inches
Weight:40–80 pounds
Colors:Mahogany, red light brown, black
Coat:Smooth short coat
Life expectancy:10–12 years
Temperament:Energetic, obedient, loyal, friendly
Shedding:Moderate shedders
Barking tendency:Moderate, quite vocal

Origin & Purpose

The Belgian Malinois breed originated in Belgium as one of the varieties of the Belgian Shepherd. The dog was first bred in the late 19th century along with the other three variations of the Belgian Shepherd (the Groenendael, Laekenois, and Tervuren).

Belgian Shepherds were bred specifically for herding work and to help Belgian farmers manage their livestock.

The breed was first brought to the United States in the early 1900s and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1959.


Belgian Malinois live between 10 and 12 years, on average.

This dog is not prone to major health issues. A balanced diet and plenty of exercise help the Belgian Malinois live longer.

Belgian Malinois Pronunciation

The Malinois in the name should be pronounced in French, like “Mal-in-wa”.

Belgian Malinois Appearance

Belgian Malinois appearance

The Belgian Malinois is a hardy, medium-sized dog that has an athletic and muscular body. The dog can be easily recognized by its pointed black ears.

The breed is elegant, with an effortless, light gait that displays the dog’s graceful motion as it walks or runs.

Belgian Malinois are very similar in appearance to the German shepherd. However, there are subtle differences between the two breeds.

Height and Weight

Belgian Malinois are considered medium-sized dogs. The breed’s height ranges between 22 and 26 inches and its weight ranges from 40 to 80 pounds, depending on the sex of the dog.

Female Belgian Malinois tend to be smaller, reaching up to 24 inches in height at the shoulder and up to 60 pounds in weight. Males are larger, reaching up to 26 inches in height and 80 pounds in weight.

These dogs reach their adult size at 16 months. A three-month-old puppy will be between 11 and 13 inches tall. A six-month-old puppy will be between 15 and 18 inches tall, and a one-year-old dog will grow up to 22 inches.


The Belgian Malinois typically has fawn, mahogany, and red colors in its coat. This breed tends to have a darker face and ears with characteristic black tips.

Rarer colors of the Belgian Malinois include gray, cream, and black.


Belgian Malinois have a double coat with short, thick hair and a dense undercoat. This coat is suitable for the breed’s native damp and cold Belgian climate.

The smooth coat is very short on the dog’s head and ears and grows longer on the rest of the body. Their coat makes Belgian Malinois resistant to various weather conditions.

Because of its double coat, the Belgian Malinois is likely to shed twice a year. However, the shedding level remains moderate year-round and does not require much grooming effort.

Personality and Temperament

Belgian Malinois temperament and personality

Belgian Malinois are loyal, obedient, and kind dogs that will always be by their owner’s side. These dogs are highly intelligent, physically active, and very protective of their owners.

The breed is easy to train because of its intelligence and eagerness to please.

The Belgian Malinois is friendly with strangers, however, its protectiveness can sometimes grow into aggression when the dogs feel something threatens their owner.

These dogs can be quite loud and energetic, which makes them a bad choice for someone living in a small apartment where the dogs can disturb neighbors.

This breed thrives in the open countryside. The dogs can’t live outside in a kennel because they need a lot of attention from their families.


Belgian Malinois are known to bark a lot, compared to other dogs. This breed uses its bark to communicate with its owners. Some of the main reasons these dogs bark include boredom, lack of mental and physical stimulation, and sensing a threat to their owner.

However, Belgian Malinois can be trained to bark less by a dog trainer. Start training the dog while it’s still a puppy or as soon as possible.

Belgian Malinois Care

Belgian Malinois care

The Belgian Malinois is not a breed for beginner dog owners, as it needs lots of attention and regular physical activity. However, the breed doesn’t need extensive grooming or a varied diet, and the dog isn’t prone to many chronic diseases.

Overall, these dogs need moderate care from their owners.

Food Needs

Belgian Malinois are medium-sized, athletic dogs that need to eat a lot of protein and healthy fats to stay in shape and energized. The diet for Belgian Malinois should consist of at least 25%–30% protein and at least 10% fat.

An adult Belgian Malinois can be fed once or twice per day with 1–1.5 cups of food per feeding. Puppies, up to eight weeks old, will require between four and six feedings per day.

Belgian Malinois benefit from a high-quality raw diet, which is close to their original diet from 19th-century Belgium.

Grooming Needs

The Belgian Malinois has only moderate grooming needs due to its naturally short and smooth coat. This breed sheds moderately, twice a year.

The dogs require brushing once or twice per week and need nail clipping and teeth brushing at least every week.

Exercise Needs

Belgian Malinois are active and energetic dogs that need a lot of physical activity. Adult dogs need 60 to 80 minutes of exercise per day, which can be divided into three or four 20-minute exercise sessions.

Take the dog on a simple walk or add in a training or play session for variation.

A lack of daily exercise can harm the dog’s health and lead to obesity, agitation, and even aggression. Belgian Malinois enjoy life in the countryside where the dogs can play and run free outside.

Mental Needs

Belgian Malinois are intelligent dogs that need a lot of mental stimulation to prevent boredom and aggression.

The dogs enjoy a variety of toys, games, and new training exercises to stay mentally stimulated.

Common Health Concerns

Belgian Malinois are generally healthy dogs and are not prone to many chronic diseases. However, the breed can suffer from bloating which is common among dogs with wide chests.

During bloating, the dog will become restless and have an enlarged abdomen. The dog should be taken to the hospital for treatment if these symptoms appear.

Other common diseases include epilepsy, which is an inherited condition and can be treated with medication. Hip and elbow dysplasia may become an issue with age.

The best way to keep the Belgian Malinois healthy is to ensure a balanced diet and plenty of exercise to keep the dog in good physical shape.


The Belgian Malinois is a highly intelligent dog that is eager to please, making it highly trainable. These dogs learn especially quickly with positive reinforcement.

For the best results, start training the ​​Belgian Malinois as soon as it arrives at home as a puppy. Make sure to limit physical activity which may harm the dog’s hips as the puppy is developing.

The best training for the ​​Belgian Malinois includes instinct and basic obedience training. Socialization with other dogs will help the breed develop confidence and awareness.

Belgian Malinois Price

Belgian Malinois is an expensive breed. Puppies cost up to $3,500 when bought from a reputable breeder.

These dogs can be found for a cheaper price at adoption centers.

How Much is a Belgian Malinois?

The price for Belgian Malinois puppies typically ranges from $2,500 to $3,500 when the dogs are bought from reputable breeders. The most expensive dogs are likely to qualify for dog shows.

Belgian Malinois can also be adopted at a cheaper price of around $300 to $600, but it’s unlikely that the adopted dog will be a puppy. Getting an adult dog can be more challenging because the owner won’t know much about its history or upbringing.

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Belgian Malinois?

The initial supplies for a Belgian Malinois range between $90 and $150 for a bed, water and food bowls, a collar, brusher and nail clippers, and some toys.

The long-term costs for keeping a Belgian Malinois range between $200 and $700, with monthly costs of $45–$55 for food, $50 for grooming, and $30–$500 for healthcare. Healthcare costs depend on the dog’s health.

Is a Belgian Malinois Right for You?

Belgian Malinois are beautiful, loveable, and loyal dogs that will make their owners happy. The dogs are social, loving, and open to communication and games.

However, Belgian Malinois can be difficult dogs for some types of people. Carefully consider these dogs’ needs before deciding to take one home.

Who Should Get a Belgian Malinois?

Belgian Malinois are suitable for families with children, as these dogs are protective, playful, and will help keep younger kids safe. The dogs like to stay active and enjoy playing with children.

These dogs are well suited for living in a larger house with a backyard that gives them more opportunities for exercise. These athletic and energetic dogs are also great canine companions for people who like camping and hiking.

Who Should Not Get a Belgian Malinois?

Belgian Malinois are highly demanding dogs with a lot of exercise and specific diet needs. This breed may not be the best choice for people who live in the city or work long hours.

Staying at home alone for prolonged periods is bad for the dog’s mental health and could lead to aggression and destructive behaviors.

Belgian Malinois are also not well suited for older people who are not able to keep up with the dogs’ high exercise needs.

About Thomas Woods 224 Articles
Thomas has been a dog lover since he was 6 years old when his parents got him a rescue Labrador. Since then his love for dogs has lead him to study Animal Behavior & Welfare. He now keeps a six year old English Bullmastiff and educates pet parents through his online publication Perfect Dog Breeds.


  1. My mailinois, Pele, is the best dog I’ve ever had. She was trained in obedience for the first year, then began protection training after. If someone is looking for more keen protective skills, they’ll want to start that training sooner, but it has molded her into the perfect family dog. Her high energy does require lots of activity, but she’s perfect for someone with an active lifestyle. She is loyal and loving and always on watch, which provides me with a sense of security. This article was perfect in description for those considering this breed, and in the RIGHT hands, they will be the perfect dog. Thanks!

  2. The above article is great and quite accurately describes a number of the characteristics of our dog.

    We have a malinois that we rescued from a local charity. We believe she had recently given birth to puppies and was discarded because she was no longer needed. Frail, under fed and under exercised, she took a few days to settle but started to thrive. She was around 4 when we took her in and had experienced some training, so was well behaved. She can be very aloof with people she doesn’t know. Often people want to say hello or stroke her when out on a walk but she’ll breeze straight past, unless they have a ball or stick.

    Our dog is amazing with children of all ages, although she does like to nip or play open mouthed with the older ones.

    We’ve found her to be incredible off-lead, but can pull quite a lot when on the lead and no amount of training seems to be stopping this. She thrives when she’s respected and given the opportunity to prove she can do things, work things out and play more interesting games.

  3. Your article was spot on thanks for that. My guy washed out as a patrol candidate when he was a lil pup, not enough drive I was told but without much effort his drive came on strong and I realized he was going to need a job besides being the best companion/partner I could ask for. Now we are both training for our county search and rescue K-9 unit. I try to let people know that this breed is not a pet breed, they can fill that position but it’s not an easy fit and great care should be taking when choosing a Mal as a pet. This is the best dog I have ever had and I have had some wonderful dogs over my life. A malinois may not be as smart as a border collie but the mals world view is much broader.

  4. My Mali (Tai) is absolutely superb. I have a GSD and a Standard Poodle in my pack and Tai fits in well. Although his exercise and mental stimulation is far greater than the others. He is a wonderful, cute, intelligent and amazing animal with a mind of his own and I love him. You must be prepared to work hard and commit to this breed.

  5. We rescued Heidi from animal
    Control when she was 2 it was indicated That she had puppies and was then was dropped off
    Very loving to our grandchildren
    Loyal to us
    Needs her daily walk
    Hunts rabbits And pulls the leash and is hard to walk

    We did a dna it showed pure
    German shepherd but we kept thinking she’s different
    Very high energy
    This article is her to a T
    We have her physical down I could use ideas with her mental exercises

  6. I adopted Abby at 8 weeks from a shelter. Here on Long Island we don’t see Mal’s. She came from Georgia and I was told she was a Shepherd mix. So many passersby identified her as a Belgian Malinois that I had a DNA test. Results indicated no Belgian Shepherd at all. She looks identical to a Mal. Can the results be wrong.

  7. My Mal is 5 1/2 months old. She requires a lot of exercise. She is getting professional training or I should say I am getting training. She is so sweet. Loves people, kids and other dogs. We go to off leash park every day and she plays with her pals very well. Love of our life. All my grandkids love her. She loves being outside and so the younger grands.

  8. Hello Mr Woods
    I request u to take a look at my puppy which I recently picked up.
    I need u to asses its temperament and my worry is its ears are still still not standing.

  9. Cairo is my second Malinois, so I was prepared. My first I rescued at 8 weeks and it took 3 months of constant socializing. She would run and hide under the bed, I would get her out by her biting and hanging onto my hand. At the time I lived on the Navajo reservation and I had a lot of time. Both of my Malinois could care less about interaction with other dogs. My first passed away 6 years ago and my heart was broken. Now I have Cairo, 5 months. He is extremely similar to my first, Shaush. (Bear in Navajo). He eats when we eat, like Shaush sits at the table. Very well mannered, Never needs a leash but when required he complies without issue. When out and dogs are aggressive he sits next to me and is indifferent. My honest advice is Malinois are not “pets”. They are a family member. They find it offensive to be treated differently. If you want the benefit of a Malinois raise them like your child. Explain the rules, keep to them, be loving and rewarding. Shaush would rock my son in his swing when he was an infant. She would try to give him his bottle when I was exhausted. I took her to work with me because Malinois cannot be alone or away from you. Neither of mine had professional training but I never needed to. Show them your expectations and love them, lots of love. If you put them outside, leave them alone you will both be miserable. Give them a spot inside at night they will stay there. You will never find a better protector.

  10. We got our dog as a puppy and was told that he was a Lab/Shepard mix but after reading your article we are questioning if he really is a Belgian Malinois Shepard (Black , white patch on breast bone , short hair , always shedding .

  11. hi

    I have reserved a mali puppy from a registered kennel and ready to pick next month. However the breeder told me that the puppy shows aggression in this 1 month old. Not suitable to release to me. Is this possible to see aggression at this early stage? or i suspect that they have overbooked the puppy and give away to others, even they will return me the deposit?

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