Skip to Content

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – How to Make an Informed Choice

Wondering what the difference is between the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd? The truth is, both dogs are equally smart and have a similar appearance.

They look a lot like, which is why there is often confusion between the two. Generally speaking, German Shepherds tend to be less aggressive. The Belgian Malinois, however, are known for their speed. If the situation calls for it, the Malinois will attack and will attack quickly.

Wondering which breed is a better family dog? If you’re looking for loyalty, intelligence, and a dog to keep watch over your home, you’re in the right place.

Keep reading to learn the differences between these two dogs. Your choice will have a lot to do with your lifestyle and reasons for wanting a dog in the first place.

Does a German Shepherd Make a Good Family Dog?

Many families happily welcome a German Shepherd dog into their homes. They have less aggression than a Belgian Malinois and are perfect for an experienced owner. If you meet one at the dog park, you’ll notice how they remain somewhat aloof with strangers.

They’re usually quiet and tend to stick next to their owners. As puppies, they’ll want to play and run. With any puppy, however, you’ll want to make sure he doesn’t get distracted and run off.

If you have small children, you’ll want to make sure your puppy is trained not to jump. Socialization is also very important. It may be easier if your German Shepherd puppy and children grow up together.

A positive relationship between a child and the dog will foster a loyalty that can’t be beat. You will be in good company with a German Shepherd. This isn’t the dog that’s going to be goofy and entertaining. He will, however, remain loyal while quietly on guard to protect his pet parents.

Physical Requirements of the German Shepherd

All dogs have specific exercise needs depending on their energy levels. If you’re thinking of getting a German Shepherd, be prepared. This dog should get at least an hour of activity everyday.

A casual stroll might be enough for smaller dogs, but the German Shepherd needs exercise that includes intense activity, training, and mental stimulation.

Bring your dog to new places as much as possible. The new sights, sounds, and smells will help to keep him mentally stimulated. If you’re a runner, consider the German Shepherd the perfect running partner.

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are intelligent breeds and make amazing police dogs. Both breeds have also been used as military dogs in the United States and around the world.

Watchdog Abilities

The American Kennel Club lists the German Shepherd among the top five breeds of the best watchdogs. They can be shy with new people and don’t necessarily befriend everyone they meet.

In the dog’s mind, his “job” is to keep an eye on the family, not make friends. That doesn’t mean the dog can’t make connections with other people or animals. It just means that he knows his family comes first.

This breed may get a little over-protective at times. While it feels good to have someone watching your back at all times, things could get dicey. This is mostly true of any dog not properly trained to interact with other pets and people.

History of the German Shepherd

German Shepherds originated in Germany in the 1800’s. The hardworking and intelligent dog was designed as a herding breed. Technically, the German Shepherd b comes from farm and sheep herding breeds.

The German Shepherd was developed in the late 19th century by Captain Max von Stephanitz. His goal was to create the perfect dog breed based on his needs. After searching for a medium to large intelligent dog, the captain discovered a passion for the herding breeds.

He found and purchased one such dog at a dog show in 1899 and it became registered as the first German Shepherd. Today, the German Shepherd is one of America’s most popular breed.

They are often trained to be guide dogs for the blind. In addition, their strength and agility make them idea to work as military and police dogs.

Physical Appearance of the German Shepherd

German Shepherds are larger than the Belgian Malinois. In fact, an adult can weigh up to 70 pounds (females) and 90 pounds (males).

These dogs have regal and tall pointed ears. They have a slight downwards slope on their backs. Their coats are longer than that of the Malinois and comes in a variety of colors including red and black. German Shepherds have black ears and a black mask across the face.

The German Shepherd has a dense undercoat and a hard topcoat. The dense coat keeps them warm in the cold winter months.

Grooming Requirements of the German Shepherd

There’s no way around it…German Shepherds are heavy shedders. This breed has a longer coat than the Belgian Malinois.

Regular grooming will help remove loose hair. It will also help minimize overall shedding. That said, German Shepherds will continue to shed throughout the year. They have two big shedding cycles during the summer and fall.

Only bathe your German Shepherd if the dog is absolutely filthy and needs it. Too much bathing can strip the fur and make it appear dull.

What Kind of Brush Should I Use On My German Shepherd

The best types of brushes to use on German Shepherds include an undercoat brush and a slicker. These are recommended for long-haired breeds in particular.

Personality of the German Shepherd

German Shepherds make great family dogs and may be a better choice than the Belgian Malinois if you have very young children. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

People who are experienced with German Shepherds or other large breeds may be able to welcome this addition into any family setting.

A German Shepherd probably isn’t a good choice for a first time dog owner. They need a person or family who understands their needs. These shy and independent dogs are also very protective of family.

Their loyalty and independence make them excellent rescue dogs. You may have even seen some working as guide dogs for disabled persons.

Generally speaking, their personality will depend a lot on how much early socialization they get. When being trained, they react well to positive reinforcement.

How Healthy Are German Shepherds?

Responsible breeders will test for common health problems. These include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat, epilepsy, diabetes, cataracts, degenerative disk disease, and many other conditions.

Some of the conditions noted above are typical with many aging large-breed dogs. The list above does not mean your dog will get every disease. It just means that you will need to watch for certain health problems.

Maintain a healthy, vet-recommended diet and a regular exercise routine for optimal physical and mental health.

What Kind of Food Should My German Shepherd Puppy Eat?

A few of the top quality choices for large breed puppies include:

FROMM Heartland Gold Large Breed Puppy Formula

Fromm Heartland Gold is a grain-free red meat recipe for puppies of breeds with adult weights greater than 50 pounds. Naturally formulated with beef, pork, and lamb. Enhanced with probiotics to aid digestion.

Farmina Ancestral Grain Chicken and Pomegranate Puppy Medium & Maxi Kibble

Farmina Ancestral Grain Chicken and Pomegranate Puppy Medium & Maxi Kibble is formulated with chicken, spelt, oats, and pomegranate to meet the nutritional levels needed t o support the growth of large size dogs. This food is 90% animal protein with absolutely no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Giving your puppy the flavor and nutrients they deserve.

  • Low Glycemic Index
  • No artificial preservatives
  • Formulated to support puppy growth in large breed dogs (70lbs + )
  • Non-GMO
  • 26.4 lb bag

NutriSource Grain Free Large Breed Dry Recipe for Puppies

NutriSource Grain Free Large Breed Puppy delivers super premium nutrition in a holistically formulated, easy to digest food for balanced muscular and skeletal growth. This kibble is created specifically for bigger dogs, using a balanced amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates, and calories to supply large breed puppies with the nutrition to grow and develop correctly. 

  • Chicken and potato free
  • Low Glycemic formula
  • Larger sized kibble pieces 
  • Ideal for dogs who will mature at over 50lbs
  • Cooked with fresh, humanely raised turkey
  • Made in the USA

What is the Life Span of a German Shepherd?

The German Shepherd typically lives between 9 and 13 years. Variations in life expectancy will depend on the health of the litter, the dog’s living environment, and access to top quality nutrition and exercise.

German Shepherds make good family dogs.

Does a Belgian Malinois Make a Good Family Dog?

The Belgian Malinois is a rugged, active dog that isn’t suitable for families with small children. This working breed truly needs an experienced owner who can meet the demanding needs of this dog.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Families who have traditionally owned the Belgian Malinois and understand what it takes to raise one, may be comfortable with this dog around smaller children.

Never leave a dog unattended with a small child, no matter how much you know and trust the dog.

Generally speaking, the Belgian Malinois is not your average pet. These dogs need a job and they serve best as loyal companions in the police force or military. When you’re in a high-stress situation with the potential for violence, the Belgian Malinois is the dog you want by your side.

When the Malinois attacks, it happens very fast. This dog is not known to hesitate. He will do the job that you ask him to do. Fetching a ball isn’t exactly what this dog has in mind.

The Belgian Malinois is more aggressive than a German Shepherd. While you want a loyal dog, and possibly a watchdog, you don’t want to set yourself up for a situation where the dog bites another person.

The Belgian Malinois has a black face and black pointy ears.
The Belgian Malinois has a beautiful face and pointed ears.

Physical Requirements of the Belgian Malinois

The exercise requirements of the Belgian Malinois are similar to that of a German Shepherd. The Malinois, however, will expect more. This breed will demand your attention and will need training, mental stimulation, and a lot of activity.

A minimum of 90 minutes is required for the Belgian Malinois. However, this highly active dog will likely want a lot more than that! This breed can run for hours and may be prone to leave your side (or your yard) if bored.

This highly intelligent, athletic, and muscular dog really needs to be actively engaged with the owner. This can’t be stated enough. You can’t leave this guy in the backyard on his own. In order to keep this dog happy, the owner must be willing to put in the time.

If you’re into hiking, biking, running, the Malinois will love you. His keen mind and readiness for action will always keep you on your toes.

Belgian Malinois dogs are excellent at agility, tracking, herding, and obedience. Keep him actively engaged in these things and this dog will be your loyal best friend forever.

Bring your dog to new places as much as possible. The new sights, sounds, and smells will help to keep him mentally stimulated.

German Shepherds make good police dogs
Both breeds are highly trainable and often used in military service.

Watchdog Abilities

Like the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois make great watchdogs. It’s important to note, however, that while the German Shepherd may bark to notify you of an approaching stranger, the Malinois may show more aggression.

Remember, these are highly active, intelligent breeds. They will do whatever necessary to protect their pack leaders.

History of the Belgian Malinois

In the late 1800s, Adolphe Reul, a Belgian veterinarian, gathered over 100 hundred Belgian Shepherds along with their owners. His desire was to create a breed standard rather than the wide variations that were found at that time.

In the early 1900’s the breed was recognized by the Societie Royal St. Hubert as one breed with four different varieties. The four breeds of Belgian Shepherds were named for the area where they were developed. They include:

  • The Chateau de Laeken
  • The Groenendael
  • The Chateau de Groenendael
  • and the Malinois which acquires its name in the city of Malines.

Today, the Belgian Malinois is highly recognized as a working dog. His superior strength, speed of attack, intelligence, and loyalty have garnered the breed a career in the military as well as police work.

In 1959, the Belgian Malinois received full AKC recognition as its own breed.

Physical Appearance of the Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois are squarely built and stand anywhere from 22 to 26 inches tall. These dogs are very strong and well-muscled. Surprisingly, they are a little smaller than a German Shepherd.

Coat colors range from rich fawn to mahogany. They have black ears and a black face. Their eyes are bright, alert, and the color of dark chocolate.

Grooming Requirements of the Belgian Malinois

This dog is quite easy to groom because of his short, smooth waterproof coat. Occasional brushing with a medium-bristle brush works best. Brushing helps promote new hair growth while distributing skin oils through the coat.

This breed sheds twice a year and will require more frequent grooming during these times. The nails should be kept trim

Avoid over-bathing the Belgian Malinois as this can strip the fur and make it appear dull. Too much bathing can also affect the health of the dog’s skin.

Personality of the Belgian Malinois

A Belgian Malinois may not be the best choice for a first time dog owner. If you have a busy family that spends a lot of time travelling to meetings, sports practice, or socializing outside of the home, this dog is going to be bored and unhappy.

You do not want a bored or anxious Belgian Malinois. Unfortunately, when that happens, they become more prone to roaming. This dog has a high prey drive which can be directed at chasing children, vehicles, or other pets.

Consistent, proper training using positive reinforcement is a must. Ideally, training should start when the dog is still a puppy.

The Belgian Malinois is a hardworking dog that works best with an experienced owner. At the end of the day, he can be the “regular” dog you’ve always wanted. Your relationship with this dog will be strong and loving. However, you must be willing and able to commit full-time responsibility for this breed.

How Healthy Are Belgian Malinois Dogs?

This dog is overall healthy. All breeds tend to have specific health conditions to look for. this breed is no exception.

A responsible breeder will screen the breeding stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Certain eye problems can also be a problem.

Always check your dog’s ears regularly for signs of infection. Redness, a foul smell, itching, and continuously pawing at the ear are all signs of infection.

Maintaining your dog’s oral health and hygiene is also important in keeping your dog healthy and happy for years to come.

Life Span of the Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois will live anywhere from 10 to 14 years. Of course, there are always exceptions where some dogs live longer than expected.

So Which One Is It Going To Be?

If you’ve ever watched shows like America’s Top Dog you will get a good understanding of how smart, fast, agile, and loyal both breeds truly are. Watch each dog gaze up at their owner waiting for that first command and you may think…I want that.

Take note that most of the owners of these breeds (particularly the Belgian Malinois) are highly trained service people. The dogs are primarily service dogs for the police forces. But, they are also family members at the end of the day.

The key differences between the two dogs are that the German Shepherd is a little less likely to jump straight to aggression. The Belgian Malinois just wants to get the job done. Unfortunately, that could get you – the dog owner – into some trouble.

The Belgian Malinois makes a great police dog.
Feel free to use this infographic for your own needs.

Things to Remember

Whichever dog you choose, it’s important to realize just how much work he/she is going to be. In addition to the regular every-day responsibilities of long walks, regular weekly grooming, feeding a high-quality diet, and regular veterinary checkups, you are also going to need to pick up the pace.

These are high energy dogs that require intensive training. Without it, the dog will realize you’re not in charge. You don’t want that. Start behavior training at a young age. You’ll need your dog to come when called, listen and respond to your commands, and understand how to interact with other dogs and people.

Summing It UP

At the end of the day, dogs make the world a better place. However, it’s the interaction between man and dog that makes it all happen. There’s nothing better than having a powerful, loyal dog at your side.

Either of these amazing dog breeds will change your life. The question is, are you up for it?

I want to thank you for reading this post. Please take a second to share and be sure to come back for more informative articles and posts that you can use. Recommend us to friends and family for your dog’s health needs.

Thank you for reading this post!

I want to take a moment to thank you for reading this post. I hope you found it useful and informative. If so, could you take a second to spread doggy love through social media?

You'll find the buttons at the top of this post and at the bottom of the post. might have noticed a little heart at the bottom left of your screen? Give it a click if you want to bookmark this page for future reference.