Belgian Malinois are a herding breed that have seen the popularity soar over the past decade.
Traditionally a peerless herder, Belgian Malinois are often found working as police dogs or military dogs in the 21st century thanks to their intelligence and athletic ability.
However, Belgian Malinois aren’t your ordinary family pet. The breed want to have a sense of purpose rather than laze around the home.
They’re a beautiful breed but Belgian Malinois owners will have to embrace a lifestyle that fits their dog.
In a bid to learn more about Belgian Malinois, we spoke to Kathryn about her Malinois Millie and the breed as a whole.
Millie the Malinois Questions and Answers
1) How did your first hear about the Belgian Malinois breed?
I actually heard about the breed from a friend who purchased one. I had honestly never even heard of the breed before then.
2) What attracted you to the breed as opposed to more common breeds?
I liked the smaller size (compared to a German Shepherd), and their protective nature. They also generally have less hip problems then the more common German Shepherd. Considering I am home by myself a lot, I appreciated the protection aspect. I have always had little dogs, and while cute, my 3 lb. Yorkie is going to be of absolutely no help in an intruder situation.
3) How did you end up with Millie?
Upon my friend’s recommendation, I began looking for places that sold fully trained dogs. Considering I had never had a larger dog, I didn’t feel comfortable training a working dog by myself. Also, I looked for places that had information on the parents, health history, etc. Some places I found imported their dogs from overseas, and just finished the training here. While every person is different, I wanted to be able to physically see the parents, and their temperament, if possible.
4) What is Millie’s personality like?
Millie has a great personality! While “great” is subjective, I mean in the sense that she is not too high strung or aggressive. She adapts to whatever environment we are in, calm when necessary and active if I am active. Every Malinois is not the same though, and I can’t stress enough about learning the personalities of the parents, and what the breeders goal is in breeding. While this isn’t a complete indicator of how the puppy will be, it’s better than nothing. If the breeder is just all about breeding for looks or profit, not personality, you may end up with a really good looking maniac…. probably not what you want at the end of the day. The fast increasing popularity of the dog’s breed can also lead to more breeders just trying to get out quantity over quality. I have also heard multiple people tell me that I got lucky with how calm Millie is, but I really researched my options and did not impulse buy!
5) Are Belgian Malinois good family pets?
Yes and no, depending on the dog, what your expectations are, and how well the dog was trained. Some Malinois are VERY high strung and do best in a purely working environment, such as police and military. Not every dog in the breed is the same, but in general they are active, energetic dogs. If your goal is to have a lay around the house lap dog, DO NOT get a Malinois. This is in no way fair to the dog, and their boredom, frustration, and lack of mental stimulation can lead to a very hard to handle dog. If someone has to work all day, and doesn’t plan on being active at night, then hiring a dog walker or doggy daycare might be something to seriously consider if you do not have a large property where the dog can run. These dogs do best with a firm established dominant lead handler in the house, and absolutely should have strong obedience training. All in all, a Belgian Malinois is absolutely not a dog you just get on a whim without fully researching first, and making sure it is a right fit for your family’s lifestyle.
6) Are Belgian Malinois smart?
Belgian Malinois are EXTREMELY smart. They are smart enough to find loopholes in commands and training. For example, Millie has perfected the army crawl. She will lay down on command, but I have caught her a few times seemingly to miss place herself only when my back is turned. It is so sneaky to the point that I started second guessing if I was losing my mind or was she slightly in a different spot then where I left her. Then one time i caught her out of the corner of my eye. She never “got up” from her place, she just slowly inched herself forward when I was turned, and then would stay completely still as I looked back at her. She figured out that she wasn’t really breaking the command to lay down, as long as her belly didn’t leave the ground. Once caught and corrected, (by having to add in this your place command) she now knows I am watching her for that, so she doesn’t push it now. Likewise, she knows she isn’t supposed to take bones from my other dog. So when my little dog has a bone, she will bark and run to the door. This is only to get my little dog to drop his bone and go running towards the door, just to quickly swing back around and go grab the bone. Millie literally fakes him out to drop the bone, and that way she can get it, because she didn’t technically “take it” from him. While they are smart enough to figure out loopholes, they are also smart enough to learn quickly and even read situations and people (such as breaking a stay in your place command if the dog senses an intruder or trouble). You have to just take the good with the bad on their intelligence level.
7) Do you think Belgian Malinois are unfairly stereotyped as “aggressive”?
Another grey area question, because a lot of that depends on the individual dog’s personality, training they have had, socialization with other people and dogs, and abilities of the handler. If they are encouraged to be aggressive, then of course you can get an aggressive dog. If the dog is very “mouthy” (liking to bite things), then they HAVE to be trained as to what is ok to bite and chew on, and what is not. They are smart, but not mind readers. Yes, it can be cute when a little Malinois puppy is trying to play bite things, but they get bigger, and their bites get stronger. You don’t want to be encouraging something as a puppy that can get out of hand as an adult. Belgian Malinois can be very protective of their family pack. Would I suggest a stranger quickly approach a Malinois and their owner, and go right for petting them? No, I absolutely would not without knowing the dog’s personality, training, etc. With that being said, I wouldn’t suggest anyone try to pet any dog of any breed they do not know without asking the owner. A Belgian Malinois should be socialized with new people and dogs if possible. If the dog has only known the immediate family, and nobody else their entire life, then they may be even less acceptable of new people touching them. This is a matter of training though, and not an innately aggressive behavioral problem. However, if someone were to try and attack or harm a member of your family when you had a Malinois, this breed is generally not going to cower and hide, it will die trying to save your life and protect you. So in terms of protection, this dog will aggressively try to save your life against a bad person.
8) Are there any misconceptions you’d like to debunk about Belgian Malinois?
Well I think the biggest one you mentioned is the aggression, and a lot of that has to do with training and socialization. The behavior can be encouraged, such as in police and military dogs, or discouraged in a family setting. Also, it seems like after Belgian Malinois have been in the news recently, their popularity has increased. I hear people tell me they want to get one just because they like that they are protective, and that is only one small aspect of the breed. Hopefully, you never have to even be in a situation where the protection aspect comes into play. The other 99.99% of the time that you have to make sure this breed is the right fit for you.
9) How much training is required for a Belgian Malinois?
Belgian Malinois should, in my opinion, be very well and consistently trained. This is a dog that absolutely should have a human in control. They need to know that you are the boss, and that their job is to do what their human wants them to do. Think of it as like a teenager. If you let the teenager make all the decisions, they may not be the best ones, but with structure and rules, they generally do better.
Also, this breed is a working dog, and all working dog breeds do better with structure. Positive reinforcement generally works better than negative, but sometimes e-collars and other things like that have to be used initially to break a behavior. If someone has an extreme problem with e-collar, prong collar, or other training methods as such, then they may have a much harder time breaking a habit quickly if the dog is being stubborn. Encourage the good behaviors, and the dog wants to perform those more for the praise/treat/toy whatever. If the dog thinks you aren’t serious about being in charge and having high expectations, then they may test you and see how far they can push things and get away with it, because they are very smart. This is why starting training young is so important.
All in all, I would say either hire a professional to train the Malinois (hands down the best choice if you have zero experience with working dog breed training) and just reinforce at home, or understand that it is going to be something that is going to take a lot of time and you have to be fully committed too. I would say it is imperative to price out professional training before you get the dog, even if you plan on doing it yourself, because you don’t want to be in a situation where you realize it is too much work and now you can’t afford professional training. It is just better to be safe than sorry.
10) Do Belgian Malinois require a lot of exercise?
In general, yes, they need something to burn off some of that energy. This is not a dog you keep all day in a crate, come home from work, and think the dog is going to just lay around calmly sleeping all the rest of the night day after day. Just like kids get mischievous and misbehave when they don’t burn off their energy, so can a Malinois. I personally find that doggy daycare, when needed, can be a great way for Millie to go be crazy with other dogs and burn off that extra energy. This is especially true for the winter time where I live, because I spend less time outdoors in the freezing cold. I also do not have a fenced yard because it isn’t allowed in my subdivision, and so I cannot just let her outside by herself. I make it work, but I also have to accept the extra cost of doggy daycare factored in to my budget.
11) What comments/questions do you get when you’re out with Millie?
First and foremost, I get A LOT of compliments on her being a very beautiful dog. Other then that, I get asked if she’s a puppy German Shepherd since she’s small. People make comments about how alert she is, because she watches and hears everything going around her at all times. You can literally see her mind working as you watch her assess every person, sound, and environment that she is in. I get asked if she a military or police dog.
I also get asked a lot if is she ok to pet, because she looks so intimidating. It is also amazing the amount of people terrified of her or dogs in general. Some people get really on edge around her, and we have had people refuse to sit by us out of fear. When we are in public, she will stare people down and look them dead in the eyes reading them. It doesn’t bother me any, but it can make other people uneasy to have a dog sitting up perfectly straight and tall not taking their eyes of them. Anyone who looks at her can see that she is not scared of them whatsoever, and she is definitely judging them to see if they are a threat or not. It is something to keep in mind if you are bringing a Malinois in public, because as I have learned, some people are literally terrified phobic.
12) How have you found integrating Millie into your Instagram page?
Interestingly enough, I started integrating my dog into my Instagram just because she was so cute, and I wanted pictures with her. As more dog lovers started following my page, the idea was given to me (kind of as a joke), to do the Adventures of Milie and Kat theme. Well, as it turned out, people actually really liked it and my followers kept growing. It has gotten to the point, that when I post a picture of just myself, people ask where is the dog. So that was how I lost my page to the dog haha, but I am enjoying taking pictures with my furry best friend.
13) What tips and tricks would you offer to someone thinking of setting up an Instagram page for their dogs?
The best advice I can give is be creative and mix it up. If every photo is your dog sitting on the couch, the content is going to go stale. While you still could grow new followers as people stumble upon your page, you will also most likely lose older ones as they get bored with it. These up and downs can make continual growth in followers a challenge.
Find cool backgrounds in your surroundings, switch it up, and keep the content fresh. Also, if you get really serious about wanting to grow followers, then it’s not a bad idea to learn a little about photography and editing photos. I take a lot of my pictures with an iphone, but I have gotten better at editing. I am not a professional photographer or editor, or had any formal training, but I’ve just played with settings on photo editing apps, watched and read tutorials, etc. It is amazing how much of a difference it made in the amount of likes and followers, and just standing out in general. You can literally see my improvement in editing from the beginning photos on Millie’s page to the current ones as I was learning, and it kind of speaks for itself on why I suggest this.
Lastly, this is purely my opinion, but post less and better quality. It’s going to be hard to find a bunch of people who want their feed filled with 10 photos of your dog every day. I personally suggest posting no more than once per day, even once every few days is fine, but just focus on quality over quantity.
14) What are the pros and cons of having an Instagram page for your dog?
The pros are that it can be a fun hobby, and a way to connect with other dog owners from around the world. You end up making friends, and having other favorite dog pages (don’t tell Millie), and honestly, I see way less drama on dog pages than human pages.
As far as cons, there really hasn’t been many issues on my dog’s page, but the more followers you get, the more messages and comments you get. It can get time consuming when you are trying your best to like every comment, respond to every message, and just engage with your followers. Also, people have opinions, and they sure do like to share them, whether you want them or not. I try to avoid posting about anything that can be considered controversial, like training methods, because what one person says is best, someone else can say that’s a terrible way to do it, etc. Personally, I don’t want to get into debates on my posts.
Also, just be careful of scammers and solicitors. I have had companies contact me offering discounts to buy their products and act like they hand selected Millie to model their products, and while some may be legit, the majority are just sending the same message to every single account they can find hoping they just make a sale.
15) What other Belgian Malinois accounts would you recommend to our readers?
This question is fun because I do have some other favorite Malinois accounts. For just personal single dog pages I recommend @malinois_ranco @belgian_riggs @rileythemal. For pages that repost Malinois pictures from all over IG, I recommend @malinois_corner @malinoisworld @malinois.army and @malinois_lovers
Malinois Pros and Cons
• Great protection dogs
• VERY intelligent and trainable
• Hip problems are not as common as with a German Shepherd
• Smaller Size than a GS
• Very loyal
• Needs exercise, or can act out.
• May need professional training help if you are unfamiliar with the breed, and one should price that out before buying a puppy.
• Standoffish with new people. A well trained Malinois should not be aggressive towards new people, but can be a hesitant to show affection towards new people outside of their established family pack until they get comfortable.
• Requires structure and a firm handler that establishes dominance.