Belgian Shepherd Dog (Malinois)

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The Belgian Shepherd Dog, also known as the Belgian Malinois in the United States, is a shepherd breed that originates from Malines (Mechelen), Belgium.


The Belgian Shepherd Dog is tan or fawn in color with black tipping. Heavy black tipping is primarily found on the face, neck and shoulder areas of the dog. The fawn colored fur is tipped in black while the underbelly and quarters may have be a lighter color of fawn. Males normally weigh between 60 to 80 pounds while females weigh between 40 to 60 pounds. Males stand 24 to 26 inches at the shoulder while females stand 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder.[1]


The "Club due Chien de Berger Belge" (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) was formed on September 29, 1891, in Belgium. The goal of the club was to determine the types of native shepherd dogs found in Belgium. Club members reached a consensus concerning type of native dog, the differences of hair color, texture, length and colors of anatomically identical dogs. [2]

The Malinois, Groenendael (Belgian Sheepdog in the US); Tervuren and the Laekenois all are different types or varieties of the Belgian Shepherd. The Laekenois is not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The genetics and temperament are similar for all four types of Belgian Shepherd. Of note Belgian Malinois imported from the Netherlands for military or police work may have mixed genetics and may not possess all the Malinois characteristics.[3]

The Belgian Shepherd Dog, including the Malinois, were bred to work sheep. The dog's characteristics include endurance, the ability to move quickly and a tendency to be in motion. The Belgian Shepherd Dog was bred to tend and guard sheep. [4]

American Kennel Club standard

The Belgian Shepherd is placed in the Herding Group of the American Kennel Club (AKC). The following information is used to evaluate the Belgian Shepherd when shown:

General Appearance

Elegant, well balanced, square dog that stands squarely on all fours. The dog should give the appearance of depth and solidity without bulkiness. Males will look impressive and grand while females will have a more delicate feminine look.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Males range between 24 to 26 inches while females are 22 to 24 inches in height. The measurement is to be taken at the withers. Males under 23 inches or over 27 inches are disqualified. Females under 21 inches or over 25 inches are to be disqualified. A square dog is preferred. The dog should look balanced throughout.

(CC) Image: D. Williams
Belgian Shepherd (Malinois)


Clean-cut, strong with out looking heavy, proportional to the body. The dog should look alert, have a look of readiness, look intelligent and questioning. The eyes should be dark brown, medium size and slightly almond in shape. The eyes should not protrude. Eye rims are black. The ears should aim for an equilateral triangle in shape, erect and be proportional to the body. The top of the skull should be flattened with the width approximately the same as the length but no wider. The stop is moderate. The muzzle should be pointed but not snippy. The planes of the muzzle and top skull are parallel. The jaws should look powerful. The lips are black with no pink showing on the outside. The teeth should be even.

Neck, Topline, Body

The neck should permit the proud carriage of the head while tapering from the body to the head. The topline is normally level. The abdomen is moderately developed neither tucked up or paunchy. The tail is strong at the base and when in action it is raised with a curve. Forequarters Muscular without excessive bulkiness. The shoulder is long and oblique. The legs are straight and parallel to the body. The bone is oval rather than round. Again, the area should be proportional to the body. The feet are round (cat footed) and well padded. The nails are black except that they may be white to match white toe tips


The Belgian Malinois should not have extreme angulation. The legs should be proportional to the dog. The hind feet may be slightly elongated.


Comparatively short hair that is straight and hard enough to be weather resistant with a dense undercoat. Short hair should be found on the head, ears and lower legs. The hair is somewhat longer around the neck where it forms a collarette, and on the tail; plus the backs of the thighs.


Fawn to mahogany with black tips on the hairs giving an overlay appearance. The mask and ears are black. Color should be considered a finishing point and not take precedence over structure or temperament. The tips of the toes may be white and small white spot on the breastbone is permitted as long as it does not extend to the neck.


Smooth, free and easy. The Belgian Malinois has fast gait and has a marked tendency to move in a circle rather than a straight line.


The dog should show confidence and neither be shy or overly aggressive in new situations. The dog should be naturally protective of its owner while being reserved around strangers. The dog should be affectionate with its own people. The dog should be willing to work and respond from commands by their owner. Temperament is strongly considered and will be penalized if the dog's characteristics do not meet breed standard.


Deviation in standard should be to the extent the dog deviates from standard, and to the extent it affects the working ability of the dog. Disqualifications Dos that do not meet size, ears that hang or semi-prick ears will disqualify a dog. Undershot bite, a crossed tail, or stumped tail will disqualify a dog from competition.

The AKC breed standard was approved July 10, 1990.

Note: The following information was adapted from the AKC Malinois breed standard found at the AKC website. [5]

Canadian Kennel Club Standard

The Canadian Kennel Club Standard (CKC) is similar to the AKC standard. The CKC standard states the Malinois should have a short, straight, dense undercoat except in the neck area. A collarette forms around the neck. The tail and back of the thighs may have long hair. The coat should be fawn to mahogany with a black overlay. There should be a black mask and black ears. A white patch on the chest is allowed as well as on the tips of the toes. [6]

United Kennel Club Standard


  • Male: 23 to 26 1/2 inches
  • Female: 21 to 24 1/2 inches


Charcoal other than black with a dark mask. A small to moderate white patch is permitted on the chest and the toe tips may be white. White or gray frosting on the muzzle is permitted. The body color should be fawn and sable with a gamut of colors through beige to gray with charcoaling. The coat is double pigmented and the tip of each hair is blackened. Mature males should have pronounced darkening on the shoulders, back and rib section. The underbelly and coulottes should be cream gray or light beige. Allowances should be made for female and young males. The tail tip is usually darkened. The face should have a black mask. The preferred mask is well pronounced stretching to cover the upper and lower lips. The ears are mostly dark.


Lack of charcoaling when the dog is mature. Excessive charcoaling which may look like a black saddle or black in patches. A minimal mask is considered a fault.

Faults: Lack of charcoaling at maturity. Excessive charcoaling tending to a black saddle, black in patches. [7]

(CC) Image: Ralf Lotys (Sicherlich)
Malinois at work.

Military and police work

Malinois are favored for military and police work due to their size and intelligence. United States Navy SEAL team members use Malinois as part of their undercover military operations. In particular, Cairo, was used to alert navy SEALs during their nighttime raid at the Osama bin Laden compound. [8] [9]


  1. American Belgian Malinois Club. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  2. United Kennel Club Belgian Shepherd Dog. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  3. About the Belgian Malinois PDF File. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  4. United Kennel Club Belgian Shepherd Dog. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  5. AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: Belgian Malinois. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  6. Canadian Kennel Club Standard. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  7. United Kennel Club Belgian Shepherd Dog. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  8. How 'Super Dogs' aid Navy SEALS. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.
  9. Obama thanks special forces for daring bin Laden raid. Retrieved on 2011-08-09.