Question: Where do Belgian Malinois come from?
Answer: The Belgian Malinois, part of the family of the Belgian Shepherd breed, is commonly a herding dog, like the rest of its kind. A herding dog may be defined as a kind of pastoral dog that has been trained in herding instincts, and are known for their train-ability and obedience to the sound of a whistle or commands being given to them from human sources. These animals have been bred in such a way, so that they possess both their herding instincts, as well as keep their predatory nature under a low key. This breed initially originated in Belgium, and thus gets its name from the self-same source, the Belgian city of Malines. The other Belgium Shepherd dogs include sheepdogs such as the Dutch Shepherd dog, German Shepherds, Briard and the like.
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The Malinois is only one of the varieties of the Belgian Shepherd, which was also consequently the first type to be established. The other three breeds are commonly known as the Groenendaels, Laekenois and the Tervurens. It should be noted that all four varieties are labelled as ‘Chien de Berger Belge’. In America, the Malinois is more popularly referred to as the Belgian Malinois, and are of especial use as K-9 police dogs, and also in patrolling and law enforcement, due to their size and dexterity in attacking enemies. They are also used in the field of narcotics and bomb detection, rescue operations and similar arenas. They also ably and amply assist in such actions as sled and cart pulling, and help navigate the blind and disabled people. An exemplar of the species would have to be ‘Karo’, the war dog, which was used by the American Navy in the operation that was the dog designed to kill Osama bin Laden. These dogs also actively participate in the conflicts that arise in Iraq and Afghanistan and are also trained by the Royal Australian Air Force to help them with their missions and war-time activities.
Though these dogs are similar in appearance with their Belgian counterparts in the form of the German Shepherd, they differ from them slightly. But both breeds are known for their exceptional guarding skills, “confidence, intelligence, loyalty and alertness”.
Appearance of the Belgian Malinois
In appearance, these dogs are elegant, squarely-shaped and are medium in size, having a fairly deep chest cavity. The size of the head is in keeping with the proportion of the rest of the body.
“The whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.”
They have pointed muzzles, a black nose and a pair of lips which are also of the same color, scissor like teeth, “medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes” that are brown in color; erect, triangular ears, and a strong tail. Their feet are feline in shape and the dewclaws need to be removed if they are desired to be reared as pets. Their double-coat is waterproof akin to most European breeds, and is hard, straight and short, conforming to the rest of the body. The color of the coat may range from red to fawn or mahogany with black markings, and these shades are thus less liable to heat strokes. Their bodies are usually a lighter shade of fawn on the underside of their tails and back. The hair on the animal’s body is longer around the neck and forms a sort of “collaret”. The mature male weighs 65-75lb and is about 24-26 inches in height, while the bitches weigh 55-65lb, and are 22-24 inches in height. Their gait is “smooth, free and easy, seemingly never tiring”, and they exhibit great agility in their movements, always nimble and swift. They are habituated to moving in circles rather than in linear paths.
The working Dog.
The breed is known as a working dog and is hence used to leading an active life outdoors, in comparison to a cramped existence in an apartment. They have the prowess and finesse to take part in such sports as Belgian, French and Mondio Rings, as well as schutzhund. These dogs prefer staying indoors with their family than as mere guard dogs in the front yard, although this provides them with more free space and mobility. When they are trained as puppies, it would do well if they are accustomed to socializing right from the start. Some of them might still have lingering instincts of herding in them, and to avoid such threats as nipping of the heels, it is advisable that these dogs familiarize themselves with the people they live with. They are at ease in pleasant and cool climates, but are also well suited to adapt themselves to a change in their surroundings. They require loads of exercise to keep them vigilant and healthy and need to be taken on long walks. Their life expectancy is about 12-14 years, and on an average they litter about 6 to 10 puppies.
The Belgian Malinois is a very sharp-witted and disciplined dog. “They are determined and observant with strong protective and territorial instincts.” The owner of this breed of dogs should strike an optimum balance between being overtly strict and giving in too easily. They need not be easy-going in their authority, but rules must be administered and adhered to by the dog. If the owner or master is unduly authoritative, the dog might begin to rebel or become unresponsive and non-cooperative. They are “watchful, alert and loyal” to the very end, forming lasting relationship bonds. These dogs are very friendly with children if they are socialized the right way. They are also known to be full of energy, vivacity, coupled with a powerful and receptive mental faculty, and love to be challenged with new tasks, as they are greatly fond of rewards for their services. (Either meat or dog biscuits from children when they play with them.) “The way the owner handles the dog can produce wide differences in temperament and aggressiveness.” These dogs are in essence, the alpha male.
Health and grooming.
Malinois can be faced with such health issues and problems such as cataracts, epilepsy (in puppies more commonly), thyroid disease, hip and elbow dysplasia, reproductive or musculoskeletal disorders and others, though they can be controlled through the process of selective breeding. The food most recommended for these breeds are beef, as well as low-fibre and foods rich in protein like chicken or fish. If they are only extensively fed with high-calorie meals, it might lead to the development of skin allergies and dermatological concerns. Care should be taken in grooming these dogs, and they are far easier to manage when compared to other breeds. All they require is brushing of the body hair regularly, baths that are not too frequently given in lieu of their waterproofed coat, and it should be remembered that this breed sheds heavily about twice a year.
Tip for buying a Belgian Malinois.
When buying a Belgian Malinois, buyers should check for deformities which may be present in the dogs in the form of drooping or semi-pricked ears, irregular teeth structure and positioning, a stumped tail, or dogs that are lesser than 23 inches in height, or taller than 27 inches in the case of the male dogs, and lesser than 21 inches or higher than 25 inches in bitches.
To sort of recapitulate their credentials, these dogs are mainly working and herding breeds, accustomed to the occupation of police dogs, but can also be bought as pets and domesticated with love, care and affection, along with a sense of equipoise in terms of discipline and authority. They make a lovely addition to the family and are very affectionate and loyal to their master. These dogs are easy to maintain, provided dog owners remember to give their pets plenty of physical and mental stimulation. They adore games and sports and would instantly become a hit with young children at home.
Belgian Malinois rescue: