Known for its intelligence and trainability, the Belgian Malinois is a hardworking and enthusiastic dog. What makes this breed so incredible as a working dog, however, also makes it a poor choice for the average family.
Often called “fur missiles” by soldiers and law enforcement personnel, these powerful pups are not your typical family pet. From their instinct to herd to their incredible energy level, find out why the Malinois may not be the pet for you!
They Are Instinctive Herders
It is no surprise that the Malinois is prone to herding behavior considering its shepherd dog ancestry - but most households today do not have a flock of sheep or need a shepherd. The Malinois is not easily deterred, though, and this herding behavior can become problematic - particularly in homes with small children/small pets, the frail/elderly, or anyone who may lose balance or fall.
Nipping at the heels and circling people to draw them into a tight group (both highly desirable skills in a field of sheep) are two reasons why this pup can be hard to manage in a family atmosphere. Unfortunately, even with early training, regular socialization, and a firm but fair leader, the mal can still struggle to rein in their instinctive herding habit.
They Get Bored Very Easily
The Malinois intelligence and go-getter personality make them a law enforcement and military favorite. Without a demanding job or regular activities to keep them stimulated, however, this breed is guaranteed to become bored in the family home - and this is a recipe for disaster.
A bored Belgian Malinois will not hesitate to entertain themselves at the expense of anything that stands in their way – your new sofa and your kids' new toys included. When a bored Mal is not chewing on household items or racing around, they might bark for attention, become severely depressed, or even self-mutilate. Simply put, this dog is not content to sit at home while its owner works all day.
They Have an Extraordinary Prey Drive
The Malinois (like the Border Collie, amongst other breeds) has a sharp eye for movement and doesn’t need much instigation to take chase. While this extraordinary prey drive is ideal for farm life, military work, and police work, it can be a total nightmare in the family home – particularly if that family has small pets too.
While prey drive varies by individual dog, the Malinois falls on the high end of the spectrum. The Mal is quick to dart after anything that remotely resembles prey – including the family guinea pig or bunny rabbit. Generally, anything smaller than the Malinois has the potential of becoming “prey.”
Unfortunately, even with a good outlet for their high energy level, such as sports designated for dogs, and extraordinary prey drive, the Belgian Malinois still struggles to overcome instinct and is best in a home without small animals.
They Have an Astronomical Energy Level
Unlike some breeds, a couple of walks a day and a game of fetch in the backyard is not enough to wear the Belgian Malinois out. The Mal is a dog that will give the Energizer Bunny a run for its money.
With no “off” switch to dial them down, the Mal must have a regular and appropriate outlet for their astronomical energy level. Popular activities to keep the Malinois’ energy at a manageable level include agility, search, and rescue work, competitive obedience training, running, and Schutzhund.
All in all, a Mal owner can expect to devote three hours a day to rigorous exercise (rain or shine) to keep their pup happy and healthy. Less frequent or half-hearted exercise efforts will undoubtedly lead to this dog feeling frustrated, gaining weight, becoming restless, and exhibiting destructive behaviors.
They Can Be Hard-Headed
The Belgian Malinois is an incredibly intelligent dog that responds well to training - but only under the guidance of an experienced owner. The Mal is not a dog for first-time dog owners or owners lacking experience with intense hardheaded working breeds.
This athletic dog will not hesitate to turn the tables and take the upper hand if they sense a lack of leadership in its owner. Even without proper guidance from a firm but fair trainer, family life with a Malinois will quickly become a nightmare.
A Mal without the proper leadership can become aggressive, domineering, stubborn, and fail to follow commands – making family life miserable for you and your dog.