Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Which Is The Best Family Dog?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

The Belgian Malinois is a handsome dog that not all families are familiar with. The breeding, looks and purpose of this dog mean we end up comparing stats on Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd certainly ranks and the most popular of the two, at #2 in the American Kennel Club ratings of popularity compared to #51 for the Malinois.

However, this could simply be because we are all so much more familiar with GSDs as pets. If we knew more about the Malinois, would it be more popular?

This guide on the differences between the Malinois and German Shepherd will look at some of the crucial topics that owners need to consider before choosing either breed.

First we will look at what the Belgian Malionis is in terms of breed characteristics. What separates it from the GSD and the German Malinois?

Then we will look at its potential as both a working dog and a family pet.

This means looking at its temperament, intelligence, healthcare and grooming needs. These factors, as well as the potential price tag of a Malinois puppy, will then be considered in a final verdict.

What is the Belgian Malinois?

The Malinois is a version of the Belgian Shepherd dog – making it part of the pastoral group – with certain physical characteristics.

belgian malinois characteristicsSource

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]There are four varieties of the Belgian Shephard Dog with the same build and purpose but different colors. The Groenendael has a long, black coat, the Tervueren has a long red, fawn or grey coat with a black mask, the Malinois is the same color with a short coat and the Laekenois is a wiry red or fawn. [/thrive_text_block]

What are main differences between the German Shepherd vs Belgian Malinois in terms of breed characteristics?

These dogs can look quite similar in some ways, but they are very different breeds.

The Malinois can grow to around 2ft at the shoulder, although it may be shorter. They are about the same size, grow at the same rate and have similar life expectancies of 10-14 years.

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=””]The key difference is in muscle build, shape and coat. GSDs tend to get heavier with a weight between 75-95 pounds rather than 60-65. They are not as compact and lean as the Malinois and coat tends to be thicker. [/thrive_text_block]

What is a German Malinois?

This is a cross breed between the two where breeders attempted to get the best of both worlds. This means ultimately breeding a dog that is active, powerful and sharp like a Malinois, but also as calm, strong and loyal as a GSD. The best results mean a strong, athletic body that is a little more compact than a German Shepherd’s. The coat remains double layered and is perhaps a little shorter.

How fast is a Belgian Malinois and are they more beneficial in military and police service?

The Belgian Malinois is a sharp, fast dog. It has to be in order to deal with all those sheep in pastoral settings. This speed and agility means that they are as well suited to some military and police tasks and GSDs. There is a lot to consider when looking at the Malinois Vs German Shepherd as working dogs.

Both the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd are celebrated as watchdogs. This is seen in both a professional and residential capacity. They are not the most vocal dogs, but they will bark at any signs of danger. The police and military are just as happy to train a willing, responsive Malinois as a GSD.

Having said this, this breed is actually seen as one of the all-round dogs that can put its paw to anything.

The Malinois is a preferred candidate for agility competition and competitive obedience events, as well as guarding, herding, narcotics detection, search and rescue and other general tracking and retrieving tasks. The Malinois also has better adaptability. This means that it can respond well and alter itself to its environment, making it much more versatile. They like to work and fit into any new role well.

belgian malinois puppyBelgian Malinois Puppy

Adopting a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois as a family pet.

It is not all about their breeding as working or pastoral dogs. This is a large part of their genetic make-up and still plays a big part in their breeding today.

However, there are plenty of families that are interested in the potential of these attractive dogs. Can they make great pets too?

[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] Many dog owners will tell you that both the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd are very good with kids. They will enjoy playing with them as pack members and will loyally protect them. The major consideration for families is space rather than the personality of the dog. A Malinois needs a large house and large garden where they can play and exercise. Apartment living will not suit their personality and would simply be unkind to them.[/thrive_text_block]

What is the Belgian Malinois temperament like? Are they safe to have in the home?

One of the reasons that dog lover regard this pup so highly as a family dog is that its has a pretty good temperament when it comes to its family members and children. The concerns of aggression and the protective nature of the GSD lead some prospective owners to question the Belgian Malinois vs German shepherd temperament.

The Malinois is generally seen as a friendly and affectionate dog around people. Attitudes to strangers can vary depending on training, as an instinct of protection may kick in, but this can be avoided.

[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=””]The potential problem with the family make-up is that they may not necessarily be so good with other dogs. There is also a warning that they may not be quite so tolerant towards cats as GSDs can be. [/thrive_text_block]

In addition to this, they are a bit more energetic and playful than GSDs, hence the need for all that space. This can make them seem like a handful, but good training will sort out any potential behavioral issues and ensure that playtime is always fun.

On the subject of training, how difficult is it to train these dogs?

There are many reasons why these dogs – and GSDs – have been bred so extensively for high pressure jobs in the police, search and rescue, military operations and agricultures. One is their physical nature. Another important factor is their intelligence and performance in training.

It is difficult to debate Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd intelligence. Owners of both breeds will tell you that their pup is the smartest, sharpest dog you will ever see.

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]Both dogs are comparable and perform well in training situations. This high intelligence means that they are quick to learn new commands and respond with minimal need for repetition. Treat them well and reward their effort with some mental activities and you will see your dog develop into a smart, obedient animal. Just be aware that the Malinois does like attention. This could backfire on owners that don’t put in the right amount of effort. [/thrive_text_block]

Massive Change - 300 x 250

Are there many similarities between German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois dogs when it comes to healthcare?

The biggest concern for healthcare in these dogs is dysplasia. Hip and elbow dysplasia are pretty common in GSDs due to their shape and breeding. Even otherwise healthy dogs are prone to the condition and it can have in impact on their quality of life in later years.

This is not the same for the Belgian Malinois. In fact, there are few health issues to be concerned with here. Canine Hip Dsyplasia can occur, but it is a minor risk. The same can be said for epilepsy and the chance of skin allergies.

[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””] This means that these dogs are generally considered to be much healthier, more robust dogs than the GSD. However, this doesn’t mean that you should take healthcare for granted. Treat these dogs well to keep them fit, strong and healthy.[/thrive_text_block]

Both of these tough, active breeds will require daily, strenuous exercise in order to keep them in shape.

The risk of obesity in the Malinois is low, so there is no need for an overly strict diet, but physical activity is essential. These dogs will need to be very active to maintain their fitness and this means good walks and plenty of games in the park to burn off that energy. This is why that personality can be a pro and a con. The active playful nature is great for families that want to run around a park and play fetch, but it can be tiring.

What about the grooming regime? Do Belgian Malinois shed?

Belgian Malinois shedding is a concern for anyone that has had German Shepherds in the past.

The thick double coat and seasonal moult of the German Shepherd is one of the downsides of the breed. They pretty manageable most of the year but there are times when the fur will get everywhere. This is an important consideration for anyone trying to choose between the GSD and the Belgian Malinois.

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=””]If you want a dog that is completely low maintenance all year round, the Malinois is the best bet. This breed doesn’t shed in the same manner as the GSD.
There will be dead hair lost on occasion, but it is nothing to messy. These dogs require grooming a couple of times a week to keep the coats healthy and looking at their best, but there are no specialist methods or time consuming processes. [/thrive_text_block]

Getting a healthy, well-bred Malinois from a good breeder.

As you can see, there are lots of good reasons to opt for a Belgian Malinois rather than the more common GSD. This isn’t meant to say that the GSD is unappealing, but there are important consideration about healthcare, grooming and temperament that need to be considered.

At the same time, these healthcare and grooming issues mean higher costs. This leads us to important factor of the Belgian Malinois cost. How much will it set you back to buy one of these pure bred pups?

[thrive_text_block color=”red” headline=””]The Belgian Malinois price tag is actually lower than some may expect for a lesser-known breed. It is said to be an average of $600 for a Malinois and $1,150 for a GSD.
Perhaps breeders are cashing in on the demand for the German Shepherd. This will depend on blood lines, breeders and availability of puppies. On that notes, a healthy Malionis bitch will have 6-10 puppies in a litter, which is more than a GSD. [/thrive_text_block]

Alternatively, there is the chance of adoption. There are countless dogs that are taken into care and put up for adoption that need a loving home.

GSDs and Belgian Malinois deserve a home where they can be a part of a loving family and it is highly rewarding to save a dog in need. You can’t be so sure of bloodlines this way, and these older dogs may have some bad habits. However, they are still great family dogs and their intelligence means that they can learn fast. You may even find yourself with one of those German Malinois cross breeds with a beautiful face and a temperament to match.

The Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: which is better?

There are lots of similarities between the two in terms of their looks and build and any differences in muzzle shape, coat color and other physical factors come down to what owners find to be attractive.

There are pros to the German Shepherd in terms of its personality and its role as a guard dog. It is fiercely loyal and much gentler around other animals, while the Malinois is more playful and active. It is also a more well-known breed that families can relate to, which is surely why it is the second most popular.

On the other hand, there are lots of reason to opt for the Malinois. It is much more low maintenance, with the exception of all those walks and playtime, and shares the intelligence and good nature of the GSD. This low maintenance is seen in the lack of grooming, shedding and minimal health risks. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference when picking a side in the debate of Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd. Once you have decided, be sure to find a responsible breeder or consider adopting an older dog in need.


Passionate lover of dogs and proud owner of a friendly, mischievous and energetic golden retriever named Beethoven! I’m incredibly excited to share my experiences on how best to care for your beloved pet. The more we know, the happier we and our canine friends will be!

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