Belgian Malinois

A complete breed guide for Belgian Malinois Dogs

Last Updated 5 APRIL 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Lacey Kelly BVSc (hons)

Renowned for their strength, loyalty and agility, the Belgian Malinois is often found on the front line of the police force and military units all over the world. They are often favoured over German Shepherds for military operations as their leaner body condition makes them better skydivers. Despite their loyalty and devotion to their family unit, this high-energy breed is not for the faint-hearted and is far better suited to an experienced owner with lots of time to commit to training and exercise.

1. Belgian Malinois Facts
2. History
3. Personality
4. Best Toys for Belgian Malinois
5. Best Food for Belgian Malinois
6. Health Concerns
7. Related Breeds

Belgian Malinois Facts

Breed size: Place of origin: Intelligence:
Large Belgium Extremely Intelligent
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Herding High 18-34kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
10-14 years High 56-66cm at shoulder
Drool factor: Ease of training: Coat type:
Low Highly trainable but can be challenging Short
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Colours:
Moderate Moderate Fawn with black tips. Black mask, ears and extremities

How big do Belgian Malinois get?

The average adult weight of a Belgian Malinois is from 18-34kg. Their height ranges from 56-66cm at the shoulder. Males tend to be a little taller and heavier than females. The best way to estimate your dog's expected adult weight is to have a look at their mother and father.

How much does a Belgian Malinois cost?

Belgian Malinois pups in Australia may cost anywhere from $2000-4000. As with any breed, it is cheaper to adopt an adult dog from a rescue.

Do Belgian Malinois shed?

Yes, Belgian Malinois do shed all year round, with two periods of intense shedding. Belgian Malinois have a dense undercoat coat that sheds heavily in Spring and Autumn.Weekly grooming with a deshedding tool, such as a Furminator is necessary, increasing to daily when required.

Are Belgian Malinois good pets?

Belgian Malinois are incredibly intelligent, loyal dogs that are a working breed first and foremost. They are very social dogs who love to be with their family pack and as such require lots of social interaction. Provided you can give them the intense level of exercise, mental stimulation and interaction they need, Belgian Malinois can make good pets!

Belgian Malinois can tend to be aloof with strangers and have a strong protective instinct making them excellent guard dogs.

Early and ongoing training and socialisation are imperative for these intelligent dogs and would be most suited to an experienced owner.

How much exercise do Belgian Malinois need?

Belgian Malinois are an extremely active and outgoing breed that benefit from at least 90 minutes of high-energy exercise every day. They can make a great companion to owners who like daily runs, hikes and bike rides. Remember Malinois dogs need to exercise their brain, not just their body. These smart cookies will be looking for interaction and intellectual challenges throughout their day so be sure to provide lots of interactive puzzle toys.

How long do Belgian Malinois live?

The Belgian Shepherd lifespan is 10-14 years on average. As with any breed, they will live much longer if you take good care of them, never let them become overweight, and keep their joints in good health.

How do I choose a Belgian Malinois breeder?

It is important to choose a puppy from a reputable breeder who actively aims to improve the health of the breed by selectively breeding healthy traits and good temperaments. This dog is going to be in your life for the next decade at least so you want to put time into researching a reputable breeder. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises, seeing their dogs, and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions. Good breeders socialise their animals, house them humanely and allow you to inspect their premises. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Do Belgian Malinois bark much?

Belgian Malinois make excellent guard dogs and will bark at strangers as well as just about anything else. Training them to not bark excessively can prove to be a difficult task.

Belgian Malinois History

The Belgian Malinois is one of the four varieties of Belgian Sheepdog.The Malinois was first bred in the Belgian city of Malines for herding purposes. A role that soon developed into a long history of use in the military forces, serving in both World Wars.

The Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael and the Laekenois are considered varieties of the single breed collectively named the Belgian Sheepdog except for in the U.S where the American Kennel Club recognised them as four distinct breeds in the early 1900s. With their black mask and fawn colouring the Malinois is often mistaken for the German Shepherd but Malinois are more slender and finer-boned than the well-known German Shepherd.

With excellent herding and protective instincts it is no surprise that today this breed is commonly used in search and rescue, law enforcement, and protective services.

Belgian Malinois Personality

The Belgian Malinois is a working dog first and foremost and despite being very family oriented and loyal they can exhibit an array of temperaments and levels of aggression. This breed is best suited to an experienced owner and a home without small animals or children.

Belgian Malinois are extremely intelligent with strong herding and protective instincts but they will need extensive socialisation and ongoing training from an early age. These smarties need not only lots of physical exercise, but lots of mental exercise and stimulation too. Simply leaving them to run around your yard is not sufficient exercise, and can lead to boredom, compulsive personality disorders, and destructive behaviour. Keep their busy mind stimulated with interactive toys such as Kong, WestPaw, and automated ball throwers.

Best Toys and Accessories for Belgian Malinois

Malinois are extremely intelligent, high-energy dogs with a strong jaw so opt for larger sized toys. They are excellent problem solvers and do well when their minds are kept busy. For more tips, take a look at Boredom Busters for Dogs and Heavy Duty Toys for Power Chewers.

KONG Toy Wobbler

The KONG Wobbler sits upright until nudged by a paw or nose, dispensing tasty rewards as it wobbles, spins and rolls. The unpredictable movement stimulates natural instincts, keeping even the most experienced dogs challenged.

AFP Interactive Hyperfetch
Maxi Ball

Save your arm and keep your Malinois occupied with this toy that shoots balls across the room for you. With three adjustable modes this interactive toy is perfect for energetic dogs.

KONG Extreme Black

Designed for tough chewers, this KONG offers enrichment and helps to satisfy the instinctual need of dogs to chew. Made from an ultra-durable, all-natural rubber formula, the KONG Extreme is perfect for your Belgian Malinois.

The Curious Chewer Box

Let us 'chews' for you with the Curious Chewer Box - a collection of extra-durable toys and tasty treats to keep even the toughest of chewers satisfied.

Belgian Malinois Diet and Nutrition

Belgian Malinois Puppies

When bringing a Malinois pup into your home, it is important to have a few things in order.

  • Food: Malinois puppies should eat a premium quality puppy food such as Hills, Royal Canin or Advance until they are fully grown. For those puppies with an expected adult weight of <25kg this would be around 12months of age and for those with an expected adult weight of over 25kg this would be 15-18months of age.
  • Behaviour: Malinois puppies are very cute but they do like to chew and destroy things, just like any puppy! Puppy proofing your house is essential. Remove any easy-to-reach toxins or electrical cords, and provide plenty of toys! For more information on puppy behaviour, take a look at our Puppy Training Guide
  • Worming: Malinois puppies need to be wormed fortnightly from the age of 2-12 weeks, and then once per month after this. In Australia, Tibetan Spaniel puppies also require heartworm protection. You may wish to get a heartworm injection yearly at your vet, or you can simply give a monthly treatment such as Nexgard Spectra, Simparica Trio or Credelio Plus.

What To Feed A Malinois Puppy:

Malinois puppies need to eat a premium diet that is nutritionally formulated to meet AAFCO Guidelines until they are fully grown.

Raw diets for Malinois? Raw diets are not suitable or safe for Malinois puppies due to the risk of bacterial contamination, which can lead to food poisoning and upset their sensitive tummies. Plus, an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Read more about Raw Diets: The Risks and Benefits.

When should you transition a Malinois from puppy to adult food?This depends on what size Malinois you have. For Malinois with an expected adult weight of 10-25kg this will be at 12 months of age and 15-18 months for those with an expected adult weight of over 25kg.

Our top recommendations for Malinois Puppies

The following diets are suitable for Malinois puppies that fall into the medium breed category (adult weight between 10-25kg). The best way to tell how big your puppy will grow is to take a look at their parents - in general, puppies will be approximately the average weight of their parents.

Royal Canin
Medium Puppy

This premium dry food is tailor made to support your pup's healthy development, with nutrients to support bone and joint health.

Eukanuba Puppy
Medium Breed

A complete and balanced puppy food with a formula that is easily digested and contains precisely balanced levels of protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals to promote healthy growth and development.

Taste of the Wild
High Prairie Bison Venison Puppy

Containing highly digestible protein in the form of pasture-fed and pasture-raise bison and venison, this diet is highly palatable, with a smaller kibble size to suit puppy mouths

Black Hawk
Medium Breed Puppy

This Australian made natural diet is specially formulated for medium breed puppies. It is made with Australian grass-fed lamb and has added omega-3 fatty acids for brain development.

The following diets are suitable for Malinois puppies that fall into the large breed category (adult weight over 25kg). The best way to tell how big your puppy will grow is to take a look at their parents - in general, puppies will be approximately the average weight of their parents.

Royal Canin
Maxi Puppy

Royal Canin Maxi Puppy has an optimal energy content to support your large breed puppy through their long growth period, as well as balanced levels of calcium and phosphorus to promote healthy bone and joint development.

Pro Plan Puppy
Large Breed

A premium diet fortified with colostrum for enhanced immunity and protection from common intestinal upsets, as well as a combination of key nutrients to support healthy joints.

Hills Science Diet
Puppy Large Breed

This premium diet has optimal levels of calcium, phosphorus, and energy for controlled bone growth for large and giant breed puppies.

Advance Puppy
Large Breed

A specialised blend tailored to improve your puppy's health and wellbeing by promoting strong joints and a healthy immune system.

Best Food for Adult Belgian Malinois

Although there are no specific feeding requirements for a Belgian Malinois, their diet needs to be age-appropriate and meet all of their daily nutritional and energy demands. Most food from premium brands including Hills Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Advance are suitable. These scientifically-formulated diets also contain balanced levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for health and wellbeing.

Given the Malinois' high-energy levels and exercise requirements it may be advisable to feed a high performance/working dog diet.

Eukanuba Premium Performance
Exercise Adult Dog

With optimal levels of protein for sustained performance, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support and antioxidants to protect against free radicals. This complete and balanced diet is an excellent formulation for more active dogs.

Healthy Everyday Pets
Adult Athlete

This natural, Australian-made diet has been formulated to keep active and working dogs full of energy all day long.

Hills Science Diet
Healthy Mobility Large Breed

Suitable for large Malinois, this diet is precisely balanced to maintain lean muscle mass and healthy joints and cartilage. It is formulated to improve your dog's mobility in as little as 30 days.

Medium Adult

This super premium, Australian made dry food is tailored to support medium breed adult dogs with Omega 3 for healthy skin, and added antioxidants for a strong immune system.

Malinois Health Problems

The Malinois is generally a healthy breed however they can be prone to a number of different conditions. It is important to find a responsible breeder who will screen for genetic health conditions.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal growth and development of the hips. A healthy hip joint operates as a smooth gliding 'ball and socket' joint. Hips that are dysplastic typically have a flattening of the 'socket', resulting in a shallow joint that the 'ball' cannot sit in securely. This leads to instability of the joint; causing pain, inflammation, and the development of osteoarthritis.

The condition is primarily genetic in origin with varying degrees of disease seen between dogs due to a combination of factors such as body weight, exercise, nutrition, and hormonal factors. Rapid growth due to incorrect diet can worsen the dysplasia of the hip joint in affected puppies making correct nutrition so vital at this important stage of growth and development.

To learn more, check out our article on Hip Dysplasia.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia affects the elbow joint and is common amongst large breed dogs. This heritable condition occurs due to differing rates of bone development in the elbow. It leads to signs of pain and lameness developing in one or both front limbs at around 4 to 10 months of age, with arthritis appearing and worsening with age.

As a heritable condition, all good Malinois breeders should use hip and elbow scoring to screen their breeding dogs and bitches to help prevent the condition being passed down to their pups. It's worth noting that while hip and elbow screening of the parents reduces the risk a puppy will have hip or elbow dysplasia, it doesn't remove the risk completely.

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV)

Bloat is a life-threatening condition whereby the stomach expands many times its normal size and in many cases twists and rotates, cutting off its own blood supply. The spleen is usually an innocent bystander that gets pulled into the rotation, also compromising its blood supply. While this condition typically affects deep chested dogs such as the German Shepherd and Great Dane, it can affect any breed and size, even Chihuahuas and Dachshunds.

How do you know if your dog has bloat? The main signs to look out for are sudden onset of abdominal distension, distress, anxiety, pain (such as panting, guarding the belly), drooling and multiple unproductive attempts to vomit. What should you do in this situation? Transport them to a veterinary hospital or emergency clinic immediately where urgent treatment and surgery is required. Do not attempt to give anything by mouth.

In breeds with a high risk of bloat, a preventative surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy can be performed at the same time as desexing. The surgery involves securing the stomach to the inside of the abdomen to prevent it rotating. For more information about bloat and preventative surgery, we recommend speaking with your regular veterinarian.

Eye Disease

Malinois pups can be born with the genetic predisposition to developing several eye conditions, some of which can cause blindness. Progressive Retinal Atrophy results when there is progressive degeneration of the photoreceptor cells of the eye that eventually leads to blindness. Although it is not painful it is also not curable and can start as early as 3 years of age. Another potential cause of blindness in the Malinois is cataracts. Cataracts occur when the lens becomes cloudy and gradually results in loss of vision. Cataracts are largely hereditary so it is important to find a reputable breeder when looking for your Malinois pup.

Best Supplement and Health Recommendations for Belgian Malinois Dogs

Given their propensity to develop orthopaedic conditions and GDV the following joint supplements and products are recommended to support the health of your Belgian Malinois.

4Cyte Canine Joint Support Supplement

A premium quality, vet recommended joint supplement containing green lipped mussel and epitalis to help support joint health and ease the symptoms of arthritis.

Afp Travel Dog Car Ramp

A non-slip ramp, ideal for helping your dog access the car without putting unnecessary strain on their joints.


Available as powder or tasty chews, Glyde contains glucosamine, chondroitin and green lipped mussel to support joint health and mobility.

Outward Hound Fun Feeder
Slow Feed Bowl

The fun feeder bowl slows down your dog's feeding pace by up to 10x that of a normal bowl. This is the perfect addition for dogs prone to GDV.

Related Breeds

The Belgian Malinois is part of the herding group, alongside The Groenendael, German Shepherd, Belgian Tervuren, and Border Collie.


Another of the four Belgian Shepherd varieties. This long-haired, all-black beauty was used during the war to find wounded soldiers and deliver messages along the frontline. They are very devoted companions and require a lot of affection and interaction with their family unit.

German Shepherd

Known for their acts of courage, confidence and loyalty, the German Shepherd is often on the front line of the police force and military units all over the world. These attributes mean they also make excellent household guardians and a devoted member of the family.

Belgian Tervuren

Tervs are one of the four distinct Belgian Shepherd varieties. This majestic working breed with its fawn coat and black mask is often mistaken for a long-haired German Shepherd

Border Collie

Border Collies are well known as the smartest dog breed in the world. They have a very high exercise requirement, are easily trainable and thrive when they have a job to do.

Further Reading

What is your dog breeds superpower?

Boredom Busters for Dogs

Training a Reactive Dog

Running with your dog