Sentinel: A Primer on the Belgian Malinois

Different types of dogs are known for their own unique features. Some are better suited as pets in the strict sense of the word because they are simply there as toy dogs who accompany you in the house. Meanwhile, there are others that are made for utility purposes, such as for hunting or for protection. The Belgian Malinois is one of those utility dogs.

Known as one of the most popular dogs for law enforcement and for those who want to keep their properties safe, the Belgian Malinois is a smart and obedient breed that has great territorial instincts and is very protective of its family. But this dog is more than just your typical canine protection. There are a lot of things you should know about this silent sentinel for you to fully appreciate how great of a breed it is. 

The breed is relatively new

That is right. The Belgian Malinois is a relatively new breed of dog that has not been around for over 200 years as compared to other breeds that have already been on this planet for centuries or even thousands of years already. It was only during the 1880s when the Belgian Malinois was first bred. This dog can trace its roots to the continental shepherd dogs (alongside the German, French, and Dutch shepherd dogs) that became popular in Europe during the 1800s. 

The Belgian Malinois was one of the few Belgian shepherd dogs bred during that time as there were other varieties of such shepherd dogs such as those from Groenendael and Laekenois. However, it was the Belgian Malinois that first appeared in the United States during the early 1900s, but it only became popular in America some time during the 1950s.

The dog was named after a Belgian town

During the late 1800s, when different European countries were developing their shepherd dog breeds, Belgium was also developing their own shepherd dogs. In 1891, the Belgian Shepherd Dog Club was established, and it oversaw all of the shepherd dogs that were bred in Belgium. Most of these dogs were named after different towns or villages because that was where they were bred. The Belgian Malinois was one of them.

The Belgian Malinois, along with the other shepherd dogs from villages such as Groenendael, Laekenois, and Tervuren, was merely one of the few classes of Belgian shepherd dogs at that time and was named after the town of Mechelar or Malines. But this dog was the breed that became the most popular among all of the Belgian shepherds because it was the first to be introduced to America.

Bred as working dogs

Like any kind of shepherd dog, the Belgian Malinois was specifically bred to be a working breed. That means that they are utility dogs that can basically do any task a dog is capable of. They are smart enough to understand basic commands when trained properly. These dogs are also naturally wired to herd sheep and other livestock and were mostly used as herding dogs, just like any other shepherd breed.

However, as years went by, the Belgian Malinois became an all-around dog that people have been using for a lot of different tasks such as hunting and for protection. They have strong territorial instincts that are not only good for protecting sheep but also for keeping your property safe from any person or animal trying to trespass. This is what makes them one of the most popular dogs for protecting private property.

Closely affiliated with law enforcement

While the Belgian Malinois may have been popularly used as a herding dog, this breed has now earned itself a reputation for being one of the best law enforcement dogs in the entire world. The breed’s strong detection capabilities, as well as its obedience and loyalty, make it a good choice for law enforcement. It is easy to command when trained properly and can sniff out things and people better than other breeds.

In fact, it was as early as 1908 when the New York City police were using the Belgian Malinois as police dogs. At that time, the breed was still relatively new in the United States but it has already earned itself a reputation for being one of the better dogs for law enforcement purposes. Today, it is regarded as one of the best breeds for different police departments all over the world.

They have also served in the military

Aside from the fact that the Belgian Malinois is well-known as a police dog, this breed is also a popular choice for the military thanks to how it can detect bombs and how it can see really well during the night. It was as early as the First World War when the Belgian Malinois served the military as messengers and assistants instead of fighters. 

Today, military men employ the Belgian Malinois because of its strong detection capabilities. It even served the elite Navy SEALS and was able to help the team that took down the infamous terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Military parachutists also use carry these dogs with them when they are skydiving because they are relatively light and are very brave and loyal dogs that are not afraid to jump together with their masters.

It is often mistaken for the German Shepherd

Out of all of the shepherd dogs that came out of Europe, the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd are arguably the two most popular ones. However, a lot of people often mix these two dogs up as the Belgian Malinois is usually mistaken to be a German Shepherd. While there are a lot of similarities between the two, such as their intelligence and their strong territorial instincts, there are also distinct differences between them.

The Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd are both mahogany-colored with black markings, and both have triangular ears and long snouts, but the latter is usually bigger than the former. Aside from the fact that the Belgian Malinois is the smaller of the two, it also is the more energetic breed as the German Shepherd is more likely to have lower energy levels.

Extremely Athletic breed

Due to its status as working dog, the Belgian Malinois is one of the most athletic and active dog breeds in the world and are very good at canine athletic competitions. When they are trained properly, they can excel in different dog sports and are very active and energetic breeds. On top of that, this breed is very obedient and is quite receptive to training. As such, it is often one of the better dogs at performing in different dog sports.

A sociable dog

Belgian Malinois are required to be socialized at a very young age because these are sociable dogs that have strong territorial instincts and are quite intelligent and obedient pets. For those who are looking to use them for utility purposes such as for sports, herding, or law enforcement, it is a must that you train and socialize them at an early age.

On top of that, because of how sociable this dog is, it is a good family pet that will try to socialize with its family. At times, it might even try to herd its family members by nipping at their heels. The Belgian Malinois sociable personality and strong herding instincts also make it a good guard dog for toddlers. They will not harm small children but are more likely to try to protect them and keep them in one area by herding them.

You should give them lots of exercises

As mentioned time and time again, the Belgian Malinois is an extremely energetic dog that requires constant activity and exercise. That is why you have to make sure that your Belgian Malinois gets its daily dose of physical activity, or else it will end up becoming a destructive pet that will try to keep itself busy by destroying anything in sight.

Because of how this breed requires tons of exercise, it is better to have one life in a house with a backyard so that you will be able to provide it with tons of physical activities. However, if you happen to live in an apartment, make sure that there is a dog-friendly park nearby so that you can actually give your Belgian Malinois the exercise it requires.

Eva Mendes Spoils her Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois are also good dogs for celebrities because of how strong their protective instincts are. Eva Mendes, an actress, known for movies such as Hitch and Ghost Rider, has a Belgian Malinois named Hugo. The reason why she went and got herself a Belgian Malinois is for protection purposes as these dogs are often used as guard dogs. 

Since 2011, Mendes has relied on her pet Belgian Malinois to keep herself safe from a stalker even though she already got a restraining order against him. But hey, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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Lovelia Horn

I’m a certified crazy dog mom, a physical therapist (for hoomans), writer, animal rescuer, and foster home provider. Together with my hubby Ryan, I’ve fostered and helped look for forever homes for over a hundred shelter dogs in the Southern Illinois area. I mostly work with Puppy Rescue 911, Inc., a certified animal rescue organization based out of Chester, IL (home of Popeye!)

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