The Belgian Malinois is a sheepdog that is sometimes mistaken for a German Shepherd. It is, however, more elegant and lighter-boned. Alert, with lots of energy, the Belgian Malinois is popular as both a police and military working dog.
The Belgian Malinois is of moderate weight, with a square-proportioned and powerful body. It has an impressively effortless, easy, and smooth gait that enables it to remain tireless throughout the day. The breed also possesses oval-shaped bones and an intelligent expression. Its undercoat, meanwhile, is short, stiff, and straight, which is one of the breed's most distinct characteristic.
The basic coloring of a Belgian Malinois is a rich fawn to mahogany, with black tips on the hairs, as well as black ears and mask.
The Belgian Malinois breed has a protective instinct that makes it superb for guarding the home. The active, intelligent, and sometimes dominating Belgian Malinois is always alert and aware of its surrounding. It may show signs of aggression towards other animals and dogs at times, and prefers to stay aware from strangers.
Although it can survive outdoors under various weather conditions, it prefers to remain indoors with access to fields or wide open spaces. Its favorite activities include herding, playing, and jogging, all of which are excellent sources of exercise for the breed. The Belgian Malinois' coat must be combed occasionally and more during periods of shedding.
Although the Belgian Malinois, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, is not prone to any major health issues, it does suffer occasionally from elbow dysplasia, pannus, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hemangiosarcoma, and cataract. To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend regular tests on the dog's eyes, hips, and elbows.
Belgian Malinois dogs are more popular as police dogs than as house or show animals. In fact, demand for the breed as a police dog has surpassed the German Shepherd. Historically, all the Belgian sheepherding breeds, that were known as Chiens de Berger Belge collectively, were used as watchdogs as well as herders. With the popularity of dog shows in the 19th century, it was not very clear whether Belgium had any nationally distinguishable breed or not.
During a study in 1891, Professor Reul discovered some native dogs that differed in color and coat from the Chiens de Berger Belge and named them as Belgian Shepherds. It was in the area of Malines that the short-haired variety was bred and that they came to be identified as the Belgian Malinois, named after the locale.
Although the Belgian Malinois were very popular in Belgium, they found it more difficult in the United States. They were able to earn some popularity only between 1911 and World War II. With the end of the Second World War, the number of registrations dropped again. It was only after the separation of this breed in 1959 that their registrations again started to grow. However, the Belgian Malinois has yet to be able to acquire the same popularity as the other Belgian breeds.