The Belgian Malinois (pronounced “mal – in- wah”) is best known today for their work as military, police, and protection K-9s. However, one fact most Malinois fans don’t know is that these dogs were originally bred to herd livestock!
The Belgian Malinois is so good at guarding and protection that many parents want these dogs to help guard and protect their families.
However, because a working protection and herding dog like the Belgian Malinois is going to have some very strong innate instincts and drives, these dogs need special training to learn to be a productive, positive member of a family and community.
In this article, learn about the two sides of the Belgian Malinois dog – fierce and cuddly!
Are Belgian Malinois Cuddly?
Belgian Malinois dogs are not characterized as “cuddly” by people who know the breed well. In fact, the American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the Malinois breed as hardworking, smart, and confident.
But a well-trained and well-socialized Belgian Malinois is also a dog that has a deep, lifelong bond with “their” people. This is a dog that can also be cuddly, but it can take some training to see that side of these dogs come out to play.
See a Belgian Malinois and His Tiny Human Bestie
In this precious owner-made YouTube video, you can watch a very well-trained and well-socialized Belgian Malinois going about his day-to-day with his toddler’s best friend.
But at the start of the video, you will notice that the toddler’s dad has been very deliberate about training the dog and the child to bond, using treats with both as a high-value reward for positive interactions.
As with any dog breed, but especially with a large, powerful dog like a Belgian Malinois, this type of training is absolutely a requirement if you have young children and want to add a Malinois dog to your family.
Watch a Child Training a Belgian Malinois K-9
In this YouTube video, you can watch three generations of Belgian Malinois K-9 dog trainers working with a new K-9 recruit.
This grandfather, son, and grandson team is working with an eight-month-old female Malinois who is described as being “a handful, like most Malinois.”
The lead trainer explains that it is good for every person who will be around the Belgian Malinois to learn to be comfortable around dogs and it is equally good for the Malinois to develop a strong relationship with each family member.
This gives you the ideal foundation for adding a Belgian Malinois to your family.
And here, it is also worth pointing out that you may want or need to work with a professional K-9 trainer to make sure your new life together gets off to the best possible start.
Meet the Belgian Malinois Dog Breed
The American Belgian Malinois Club (ABMC) explains that the Belgian Malinois was only formally registered as a purebred dog breed outside of their native country of Belgium in the 19th century.
The Malinois actually has three close canine relatives – all Belgian sheepdogs that differ primarily in the appearance of the coat.
The Belgian Malinois coat is short and neat. The dog who wears it takes its breed name from the region in Belgium called Malines.
And in fact, the Belgian Malinois is so commonly confused with the much better-known German Shepherd dog breed that even the very first Malinois to live in America was originally registered as German Shepherd dogs!
Today, the Belgian Malinois is primarily employed as a working dog in the sector of public (military, police) and private (security, protection) work.
Can a Belgian Malinois Be a Good Family Dog?
As the American Belgian Malinois Club (ABMC) carefully highlights in their special webpage titled “Malinois and Children,” the Malinois dog breed is a breed of many strong instincts and drives.
The ABMC specifically cites the following traits that are closely associated with the Belgian Malinois dog breed:
- Prey drive (chase drive).
- High energy.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these traits now.
Prey drive (chase drive)
A prey drive is essentially an instinct to chase fast-moving objects. Squirrels, lizards, vehicles, children, other animals – all can be irresistible to a dog with a strong prey drive that has not to be trained to control it.
Dogs with high prey drive tend to be working dogs that are skilled at hunting, retrieving, protecting, herding, and guarding.
These traits explain why the Malinois dog breed is so in demand in military and civilian roles as a protection dog.
The Malinois dog breed is intensely protective, which means that anything these dogs regard as “their charges” will be closely watched and guarded.
A protective instinct can mean that your dog will never be able to acclimate well to strangers approaching and trying to pet or play with your dog.
As Checkerboard K9 training explains, it will be up to you to understand that your Malinois, with their strong instinct to protect you, will always perceive this as a threat and will likely try to respond accordingly.
The Belgian Malinois comes from a long line of herding and livestock guarding dogs. Territorial behavior just comes with the territory, since these dogs were tasked with keeping a large herd of prey animals safe from sometimes fearsome predators.
And because herding and livestock guarding work often require a dog to think and act independently of people to keep the livestock safe, your Malinois may struggle to truly learn to relax when you have friends or guests to the house.
Early and ongoing socialization and training will help minimize any issues you have.
The Belgian Malinois is an instinctively loyal and people-centric dog breed. For a dog breed that works nearly exclusively in guarding and protection work today, their bond with “their” people can be intense.
This means your Belgian Malinois is predisposed to get jealous if you give your attention to other dogs, other animals or other people.
To make sure your Malinois doesn’t bond more closely with one family member over the others, make sure everyone participates equally in dog training and in daily care tasks like walks and feeding.
The Belgian Malinois is an incredibly active and high energy dog breed. The more exercise and playtime these dogs get, the less trouble you will have with the destructive tendencies that can arise from boredom.
Here, it is worth mentioning that the Malinois is not a dog you can leave “home alone” for hours at a time on a regular basis – at least not if you want to return home and find your furnishings still intact.
Are Belgian Malinois Affectionate and Loving Dogs?
Because many people choose a Belgian Malinois dog because they want a canine that will protect them and deter potential threats, it can surprise new Malinois owners to discover these dogs can be quite affectionate!
As Pure Malinois breeders explain, a well-trained and well-socialized Malinois will always be reserved with strangers but affectionate and closely bonded to “their” people.
These dogs can be surprisingly cuddly with their human family and they have a reputation as dogs that want to be wherever their humans are at all times.
This is also in keeping with the long history the Belgian Malinois has of serving as a K-9 protector and guardian of animals and humans. A dog that wants to be where you are is a dog that is acting on those innate protective instincts.
Training a Belgian Malinois Dog to Be a Good Family Protection Dog
The Belgian Malinois dog is not considered to be a first-time dog owner’s ideal choice for a canine companion.
These dogs have strong instincts, strong drives, and strong personalities. They are high energy and have a need for lots of daily activity and exercise.
The Malinois needs very early and ongoing socialization and training all throughout their lives in order to adjust well to life as a companion canine in a family and community.
It is worth working with a professional K-9 dog trainer if this will be your first Malinois or your first dog, ever. You will get to learn dog training from a professional and your dog will get the training they need right from day one.
Luckily, the Belgian Malinois is very people-centric and incredibly smart and hard-working, so training will be an enjoyable activity the two of you can do together every day.
Consistent, positive training methods will deliver the best results. You don’t ever want to try to use punishment or negative training methods with a dog that is as intelligent and powerful as the Malinois (or with any dog, for that matter).
By giving your dog the training and socialization the Malinois breed needs, you will get the extra benefit of enjoying your dog’s cuddly softer side, too.