Striking, lithe, agile and smart as a whip – that’s a belgian malinois in a nutshell. But how are they as family pets?
Are you considering bringing a new canine friend into your family and have Belgian Malinois at the top of your potential list? This breed, renowned for its intelligence, physic, and fiercely loyal disposition, seems to tick many boxes for a seemingly perfect pet. However, before you dive into this significant commitment, it’s important to gain a thorough understanding of the breed’s unique needs and requirements.
You may be looking admirably professional dog trainers on social media, or watching movies like Dog, and be wondering about how well a Mali might fit into your life. Though there are undeniable instances of Belgian Malinois thriving in family environments, the general consensus is that they are not the best choice for your furry family member. This article aims to provide a balanced perspective on why Belgian Malinois might not be the ideal fit for every family, particularly those with young kids, busy schedules, or less experience with high-energy working breeds.
From their energetic throughout-the-day activity needs to their strong instinctual drive, numerous aspects set the Belgian Malinois apart. Read on to decipher whether these fascinating dogs are indeed the best fit for your family lifestyle and to gain valuable insight into the essential factors you need to consider.
malinois have such phenomenal physical abilities and can truly achieve spectacular things!
About The Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is a highly energetic and intelligent breed, originally bred in Belgium for herding purposes and are one of the 4 belgian shepherd breeds. Renowned for their remarkable agility and work ethic, these dogs are often employed in various roles such as police work, search and rescue missions, and service or therapy roles. They have a sleek, muscular build, short coat, and black-masked fawn to mahogany color. With their alert and protective nature, Malinois are incredibly loyal, often forming strong bonds with their human companions.
However, their outstanding capabilities come with substantial needs for both physical and mental stimulation. Without sufficient training and exercise, they can turn anxious or destructive. While their intelligence and protectiveness make them excellent working dogs, these traits can make the Malinois a challenging breed for novice dog owners or those seeking a calm family pet. Nonetheless, for the right person or family, the Belgian Malinois can make an exceptional pet, providing companionship and an active lifestyle.
I do want to say, not all malinois are the same, but the vast majority are. Occasionally one will come along who is totally chilled or works perfectly – but that’s like saying it’s safe to play with fireworks because occasionally one doesn’t explode as it should. Most experts will agree that the Belgian Malinois isn’t really built to be a family pet.
there’s a reason they’re known as a “fur missile” they’re fast as well as smarter than most people…
9 Reasons The Belgian Malinois Isn’t A Great Choice For Families
The belgian malinois is a purpose built dog. They rarely make good pets, and here’s why.
1. High Energy Levels
Belgian Malinois are an extremely energetic breed. Known for their herding roots, they’ll be happiest with several hours of intense exercise each day. For busy families or those who prefer quieter, more relaxed activities, meeting this demand can prove to be a difficult task to juggle with the school run and running a home.
Physical activities such as dragging, tracking, and herding can keep them engaged. Families that can’t provide this level of physical activity may encounter behavioral issues.
2. Need for Constant Mental Stimulation
This breed is highly intelligent and requires regular mental stimulation. Without ample challenge, they can get bored and may resort to undesirable behaviors such as chewing or digging.
Providing interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and regular training sessions can aid mental stimulation. Families without the resources or time may find this quite overwhelming.
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3. Potential for Severe Behavioural Issues
I see a lot of Mali’s with severe behavior issues, the most common issues are things like obsessive behaviors, reactivity and separation anxiety.
Why is this? Because we’re taking a finely tuned, highly purpose-built dog and removing that purpose. So their build, genetics and mentality is so finely tuned that they can struggle to be in a more “mundane” environment.
Reactivity is one of those things that you never want in a dog, but with a larger dog that has a fearsome reputation, it’s definitely harder to deal with.
4. Not Ideal for Small Children
While properly trained and socialized Belgian Malinois can be great with children, their potent energy and occasional intensity might not mix well with toddlers or smaller kids. These active dogs may inadvertently knock over or unintentionally harm a small child during play because they can become entirely blinded by their activity with their intense focus.
5. Requirements for Space
Belgian Malinois are not well-suited to apartment living or homes with small yards or gardens. They are a larger breed and need plenty of room to run, play, and burn off their energy. Small homes without access to large outdoor spaces may make their high energy levels more difficult to manage, though regular access to off-leash spaces and a solid recall can help you overcome this limitation.
6. They Find It Hard To Switch Off
They’re a very high-drive dog. And high drive dogs often find it difficult to relax and need to be taught this skill because they will quickly push themselves to overtired or overstimulated because they don’t have the ability to self regulate.
This means if you forget to train this skill, or are struggling to train it, your malinois might just eat your house before you successfully train this skill.
They can be phenomenal hiking partners, and love the outdoors, just be ready to do that regularly.
7. Need for Regular Training
The breed’s intelligence and strong work ethic mean they need ongoing training. Unfortunately, many families don’t have the time to devote to a consistent, effective training schedule or lack the experience to do so, which could lead to behavioral problems.
8. Lifelong Commitment
Belgian Malinois live up to 14 years, presenting a fairly long-term commitment. Over the course of their lifetimes, they require consistent exercise, mental stimulation, and training. Families unable to make such a long-term commitment may find owning a Belgian Malinois challenging.
9. Not Beginner Friendly
When training a Belgian Malinois, we know that positive reinforcement is the only thing we need, and that dominance theory has been debunked – but mali’s are hair-trigger dogs, precision, skill and understanding of canine learning theory is quite important – because they can become quite frustrated when you don’t communicate to them clearly, which can lend to agitated barking!
Hopefully now you’re starting to see why they’re not easy dogs to be guardians for.
a malinois showing off some bitework! They’re fearsome competitors in the sports of IPO and it’s variants.
The Ideal Home For A Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois are not your typical laid-back household pets. As they’re originally bred for herding, this breed is full of zest, needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation, and craves meaningful work to accomplish. Thus, the perfect home for a Malinois is one where these particular needs can be met. Here’s a detailed breakdown:
Large Space: The Belgian Malinois is a highly active breed that requires space to run, play, and expend their energy. Homes with large, secure yards are beneficial, providing them a safe place to roam.
Active and Experienced Owners: Belgian Malinois thrive in a household where the family leads an active lifestyle. They appreciate companions who can join in their energy-burning activities. Experience with working breeds or intense training schedules is a big plus, as it’s important to know how to manage and direct their energy constructively.
Regular Physical and Mental Exercise: Homework such as agility training, obedience training, tracking, or even tasks like fetching the newspaper can keep them stimulated. A family committed to regular walks, runs, play sessions, and intelligent toys to challenge them mentally makes a perfect home.
Minimal Alone Time: Malinois bond deeply with their humans and can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. Homes where an individual is usually present would be best for this breed, and even then they should be taught how to be happy when home alone.
No Small Children or Pets: While they are generally good with children and other pets when properly socialized, because of their instinctual drive and high-energy levels, they might be better suited in a home without a small child or pets.
Training-focus Environment: A home where positive reinforcement training is a standard practice would be ideal for a Malinois. They are intelligent and learn quickly, but they also need clear, consistent guidelines about what’s acceptable behavior.
In summary, the perfect home for a Malinois is one that understands and caters actively to the breed’s unique set of needs, fostered by energetic, experienced, and understanding owners who can provide a stimulating, training-focused environment with lots of room to run and limited periods of alone time.
they’re seriously awesome dogs, but really do require early commitment as puppies.
Lower Drive Alternatives To The Malinois
As you’re reading this, and you’re possibly looking at the common problems and wondering if they’re still your preferred dog breed and if you feel like the life of your malinois (or other dog breed) may not be suitable for your life, then here’s a few alternatives you might consider in this very important step in bringing home a dog!
The German Shepherd – While still a working breed with decent energy levels, German Shepherds can be more relaxed compared to Belgian Malinois. They share a similar appearance but tend to be less intense.
Chinook Dog – While both breeds require mental and physical stimulation, the Chinook is usually calmer, making it slightly more manageable for new or inexperienced dog owners. Compared to the high-intensity needs of the Belgian Malinois, Chinooks, while still active and intelligent, are often less demanding. In essence, the Chinook’s family-friendly character and easier handling make it a compelling alternative.
Labrador Retriever – Honestly, I know what you’re thinking, why do you want a labrador if you wanted a malinois? Well, because a labrador is genuinely one of the easiest dogs for trainability and livability and it’s why they are seen as some of the best family dogs in the whole world. There’s a reason for that, and please don’t underestimate it’s significance!
Leonberger – The Leonberger presents a fantastic alternative to the Belgian Malinois, particularly for individuals or families seeking a less intense, but still active and intelligent dog breed. Unlike the high-energy Malinois, Leonbergers are known for their calm and gentle nature, which can make them easier to manage in a family setting. They are very affectionate, reliable, and great with children, making them ideal family pets. Not to mention that while they require their share of exercise and mental stimulation, their needs are generally less demanding compared to the Malinois, providing a balanced blend of activity and tranquility that many families or individuals appreciate.
Just remember, when you go looking for your new pet, you’ll want to ensure they’re well bred, and that you have the budget to work with a professional force free or positive reinforcement trainer to ensure future success and minimising the risks of health concerns.
I love leonbergers – yeah, they’re fluffier, but for a home with small children, they’re a much better option.
Opinion As A Pro Trainer
I’ve run a lot of “puppy breed picking” sessions or “Rescue Review” sessions, and, I’ve yet to find a single home where a Malinois is an ideal dog for them or their family.
Honestly, even for myself – I often consider how fun it would be to have a malinois because I (obviously) love training – and I still sit there and go “Yeah but I want to be able to relax”. And I honestly don’t believe that would be easy to achieve with a malinois, which means my lifestyle would have to change. And it’s why I’ll stick to a well-bred german shepherd in future (Love Indie as I do, I know a well-bred GSD would go further and be happier day to day).
The Malinois Is A Formula 1 Car.
Think of the Malinois as a pet as having a Formula 1 car and using it for the school run. You could make it work, but it needs a lot of extra work put in and it might be awkward and inappropriate for the job in most instances.
It’s why they’re such popular choices for dog trainers, they’re hugely biddable and they want to work which is great if you have the time, or that dog is your job – but for most of us, it’s not.
I hope at least for now, I’ve given you an insight into what it’s truly like to be like a good family pet or not, and how to give the best possible care of your pal – whichever one you go for!
And if you want help picking a belgian malinois, or another dog breed, book a Breed Matching Session!