The Belgian Malinois is a sturdy dog of square proportion with moderately heavy, but oval, bone. This breed is elegant, with very proud head carriage. The overall impression is of power without bulkiness. The gait is smooth and easy, seemingly effortless rather than hard driving. Such a gait gives the impression of tirelessness. The Malinois has a tendency to run in a wide circle rather than a straight line. The coat is fairly short, straight, and hard, with a dense undercoat. The expression is intelligent and questioning.
The Belgian sheepherding breeds, collectively known as Chiens de Berger Belge, shared their early history as general-purpose shepherds and guard dogs of Belgium. As working dogs, they were bred for ability rather than esthetics, and no careful records were kept. Thus, when dog shows became popular in the late 1800s, it was not clear if Belgium had any recognizable breeds with which they could tout their national pride.
In 1891, Professor Reul was asked to study the native dogs to see if they could be sorted into distinct breeds. He found a group of similar dogs that differed only in coat type and color, all of which were grouped as Belgian Shepherds. The short-haired variety was developed in the area around Malines, and so became known as the Belgian Malinois.
This breed remains the most popular of the Belgian shepherd breeds in its native land, but has had a rockier road in America. Between 1911 and World War II, the Malinois enjoyed a good deal of popularity in America. After the war, registrations plummeted, and it was rare to find a Malinois entered in competition. When the breeds were separated in 1959, Malinois registrations began to grow once again, but they still fell far behind the other Belgian breeds.
More recently, the Malinois is becoming popular because of its reputation as one of the preeminent police dogs in the world, surpassing even the German Shepherd in demand. Thus, even though these dogs may not be seen in many homes, they are making their presence known as keepers of the peace throughout the world.
Intense best describes the Belgian Malinois. This is a high-energy breed with a need for regular mental and physical stimulation. These dogs are alert, smart, and serious. They can be aloof with strangers and should be introduced to other dogs and animals carefully. Some can be domineering. When confined, they often run in sweeping circles in an effort to stay on the move. They are protective of their home and family.
The Malinois is a high-energy dog that needs a lot of exercise. Their needs cannot be met with a leisurely walk on leash. They instead need a good jog or a vigorous play session. They especially enjoy herding. Their coat needs weekly brushing, more when shedding.