The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.
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The Belgian Malinois is a well balanced, square dog, elegant in appearance with an exceedingly proud carriage of the head and neck. The dog is strong, agile, well muscled, alert, and full of life. He stands squarely on all fours and viewed from the side, the topline, forelegs, and hind legs closely approximate a square. The whole conformation gives the impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness. The male is usually somewhat more impressive and grand than his female counterpart, which has a distinctly feminine look.
The head is clean-cut and strong without heaviness; overall size is in proportion to the body. The expression should indicate alertness, attention and readiness for activity, and the gaze is intelligent and questioning. The eyes are brown, preferably dark brown, medium size, slightly almond shaped, not protruding. Eye rims are black. The ears approach the shape of an equilateral triangle and are stiff, erect, and in proportion to the head in size. The outer corner of the ear should not come below the center of the eye. Ears hanging as on a hound, or semi-prick ears are disqualifications.
The neck is round and of sufficient length to permit the proud carriage of the head. It should taper from the body to the head. The topline is generally level. The withers are slightly higher and slope into the back which must be level, straight and firm from withers to hip joint. The croup is medium long, sloping gradually. The body should give the impression of power without bulkiness. The chest is not broad but is deep with the lowest point reaching the elbow. The underline forms a smooth ascendant curve from the lowest point of the chest to the abdomen. The abdomen is moderately developed, neither tucked up nor paunchy. The loin section, viewed from above, is relatively short, broad and strong, and blends smoothly into the back. The tail is strong at the base, the bone reaching to the hock. In action it is raised with a curve, which is strongest towards the tip, without forming a hook. A cropped or stumped tail is a disqualification.
The forequarters are muscular without excessive bulkiness. The shoulder is long and oblique, laid flat against the body, forming a sharp angle with the upper arm. The legs are straight, strong, and parallel to each other. The bone is oval rather than round. Length and substance are well in proportion to the size of the dog. The pastern is of medium length, strong, and very slightly sloped. Dewclaws may be removed. The feet are round (cat footed) and well padded with the toes curved close together. The nails are strong and black except that they may be white to match white toe tips.
The coat should be comparatively short, straight, hard enough to be weather resistant, with dense undercoat. It should be very short on the head, ears, and lower legs. The hair is somewhat longer around the neck where it forms a collarette, and on the tail and backs of the thighs. The coat should conform to the body without standing out or hanging down.
Angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the forequarters; the angle at the hock is relatively sharp, although the Belgian Malinois should not have extreme angulation. The upper and lower thigh bones should approximately parallel the shoulder blade and upper arm respectively. The legs are in proportion to the size of the dog; oval bone rather than round. Legs are parallel to each other. The thighs should be well muscled. Dewclaws, if any, should be removed. Metatarsi are of medium length, strong, and slightly sloped. The hind feet may be slightly elongated, with toes curved close together and well padded. Nails are strong and black except that they may be white to match white toe tips.
About the Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois are squarely built, proud, and alert herders standing 22 to 26 inches. Strong and well-muscled, but more elegant than bulky, there’s an honest, no-frills look about them, as befit dogs built to work hard for their feed. A breed hallmark is the proud carriage of the head. Coat colors range from a rich fawn to mahogany. The black ears and mask accentuate bright, questioning eyes the color of dark Belgian chocolate.
If you have ever seen a Mal perform an obedience routine, you know firsthand what a smart and eager breed this is. Problems set in, though, when this people-oriented dog is underemployed and neglected. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with their adored owner, is key to Mal happiness.
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The short, waterproof coat of the Malinois is quite easy to take care of. Occasional brushing with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove will keep the dog looking his best, and promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat as well. Malinois do shed twice a year; during these periods, a daily once-over with a slicker brush will help to remove the loose hair. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running.
Highly intelligent, athletic, and muscular, and exceedingly devoted, the Malinois need to be actively engaged with his owner, both mentally and physically. This is not a dog who can be left in the backyard, and daily walks are not enough, either. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with his owner, is paramount to the breed’s happiness. To deprive a Malinois of activity and human companionship is to deprive him of his very reasons for being. Malinois make great running, hiking, and biking companions, and they excel at agility, tracking, herding, obedience, and Schutzhund (protection) competitions.
Like most herding breeds, Malinois have a high prey drive and are strongly interested in moving objects. This trait can lead to chasing children, vehicles, or other animals and so should be directed into acceptable activities through training. Early socialization and obedience training are musts.
The Malinois is generally a healthy breed, and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia and certain eye problems. As with all breeds, the ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed frequently.
Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
The Belgian Malinois (MAL-in-wah), first bred around the city of Malines in the northwestern region of Belgium, are one of four closely related breeds of Belgian herding dogs. In some countries, the Malinois is classified together with the Tervuren, Laekenois, and Belgian Shepherd (aka Groenendael) as a single breed collectively known as the Belgian Sheepdog. In America, the Malinois has been registered as a separate breed since 1959. He bears a passing resemblance to the German Shepherd Dog but has a different head, and is leggier and finer boned, than his better-known German counterpart.
Mals have long been acknowledged as a peerless livestock herder in their native land. They were first bred by serious dog people who were primarily concerned with producing dogs of sterling working character and who spurned passing fads and fancies of pet owners. This emphasis on performance made the Mal the go-to dog for Belgian sheepherders and cattlemen.
It was in 1911 that Mals were first brought to America. They flourished here until the outbreak of World War II put an end to the importation of European breeding stock. The breed languished in the postwar years until the early 1960s, when the Mal’s admirers began the process of replenishing its American population.
Mals are still prized as herders of all kinds of stock, but their versatility and high work-drive have opened careers in many other occupations and activities. They are highly sought after as police and military K-9s. They have served with such distinction that the Fayetteville, North Carolina, memorial to military dogs features a life-size bronze of a Belgian Malinois.