Updated: Sep 15
The Belgian Malinois is one of my favorite breeds for its high energy, intelligence and enthusiasm to train. My Malinois, Arih, has been my faithful companion for years and the dog I most commonly work with in my training videos. In fact, the Malinois has taken the spotlight recently in pop culture, and many owners are eager to rush out and get one of these high energy, loyal dogs as their own.
And is this a good idea? Absolutely not.
People around the world were introduced to the Malinois in recent years. It began with the publicity caused by Seal Team 6’s raid on terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden’s compound in 2011 which utilized a military trained Belgian Malinois. Next, the Hollywood movie Max brought glamorous attention to the breed. Finally, John Wick 3 starring Keanu Reeves featured the Malinois as a powerful and loyal companion (which is true). As a result, people around the world were racing to breeders to find a Malinois of their own to bring into the family.
Unfortunately, for most owners and their families, this became a regretful situation. To highlight why, consider the top 10 dogs for families by the American Kennel Club (https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/best-family-dogs/), which includes Labrador breeds, Pugs, Beagles, Bulldogs and others—no Malinois. In fact, the Malinois isn’t even in the top 50 family breeds.
There are several reasons why the Malinois falls short as a family pet:
The Malinois is an extremely high energy, intelligent dog. This is why they are so crucial for law enforcement or military purposes: when you give them a job to do, they’ll perform it to max capacity. While this is great for critical jobs, ask yourself how happy your Malinois will be confined to a house with occasional walks or games of Frisbee?
All that unspent energy is likely to overwhelm the owners. It may start to feel like a full-time job keeping the Malinois happy and finding new ways to spend the dog’s energy.
The Malinois loves rough play, so an owner’s temperament must match a dog with such strong warrior instincts. A family may grow uncomfortable with a dog so prone to behavior like rough play biting and wrestling, especially with children around.
A high energy dog confined to a house or even a fenced yard may grow frustrated without a lot of attention and jobs to perform. This could cause many types of misbehavior, including all varieties of biting, ripping and tearing of things.
Training is crucial for a Malinois, and keeping an untrained Malinois could be a recipe for disaster.
Sadly, because a dog gets highlighted by the media and popular culture, people rush to buy that breed without thinking the decision through. This has been a common problem for many breeds from Dalmatians spurred by Disney’s 101 Dalmations to wolf-like huskies glamorized by popular YouTube channels highlighting their cuteness (as well as shows like Game of Thrones featuring the trademark dire wolves). These are all examples of a dog turning into a fashion or “pet craze” (in the same way people rushed to buy miniature crabs and piglets in the early 2000s) which prompts people to make sudden decisions. And in all these examples, the reality of owning such a dog may not match the fantasy.
Shows that feature particular dog breeds should include disclaimers in the credits to make careful decisions before investing in such a dog as a new family pet. In all these examples, such dogs may not be suited for every owner or family, and this is especially true for the Malinois.
As a result of these poor decisions, owners will eventually get rid of the dog. While a lucky Malinois may be fostered as part of a police, military or private security or service dog training program—others may go unwanted, end up in a shelter, and eventually get put down. This is why making the wrong choice of breed for your family could be a deadly decision.
To prevent such mistakes, it’s important to stay educated about breeds and to understand what you’re looking for. In some situations, a Malinois could be a good idea. For example, if the owner has a large yard and is enthusiastic about dog training, has a lot of time to invest, and the owner’s spouse / family members are on the same page, then it might work. But in most other situations, a reliable family-friendly Labrador would be a better option.
In summary, don’t make hasty decisions because a dog breed is trending in pop culture or seen in a Hollywood movie. Reality rarely matches what we see on TV, and taking in a new canine family member requires thoughtful care behind the decision rather than an impulse purchase because a dog looked fun, cute or exciting on a YouTube video, movie, or TV show.
Author: Nate Schoemer
Editor: Cyrus Kirkpatrick