1. Where do you live? What is your occupation? How many years in dogs?
  2. Do you have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs?
  3. What first interested you in the Belgian Malinois?
  4. How is the breed different from its Belgian cousins? The German Shepherd? The Dutch Shepherd?
  5. Why does the FCI classify the Malinois as one of four varieties of the Belgian Shepherd?
  6. Is the breed a good partner for Performance Events? Herding? Schutzhund?
  7. What about the Malinois’ role as a detection, police, and search & rescue dog?
  8. Is the breed suitable only for the experienced owner?
  9. Has the Malinois’ appearance in films and television helped or harmed the breed?
  10. Despite the breed’s serious reputation, does the Malinois have a silly side?
  11. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

Linda Friedow

I live in North Central Iowa. I am a library director. I have “always” had dogs—Terriers and Spaniels as a child. My first show dog (an Afghan Hound ) in 1974, my first Belgian in 1979, my first Malinois in 1989.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Sharing a life with family and dogs is a lifestyle. I enjoy showing, training and playing with them. I am an avid reader, love to travel, and time with my grandchildren is always time well spent.

What first interested me in the Belgian Malinois? My husband and I first had Belgian Tervuren (he met them while traveling in Europe). Our first Malinois was a young rescue that came into my husband’s veterinary practice right before Christmas—he found his forever home with us. When we lost him due to serious health conditions, we missed having a Malinois even though we still
had Tervuren.

How is the breed different from its Belgian cousins? While all Belgians are intelligent, inquisitive, active and attentive—Malinois are just a bit “more” of it all. They are incredibly smart, impressively athletic, yet a cuddly clown when they choose to be. Compared to a German Shepherd, they are smaller, lighter, more agile and faster, and wicked smart.

Why does the FCI classify the Malinois as one of four varieties of the Belgian Shepherd? Science shows us that the Belgian “breeds” are one breed, so the FCI has this correct. The division of Belgians into four separate breeds in the US has more to do with people, personalities and a desire to win than what is best for the dogs. While inter-variety breeding is rare, the ability to register puppies as the breed they are (based on coat/color) could enhance the small gene pool and offer additional choices to breeders.

Is the breed a good partner for performance events, herding or Schutzhund? What is so outstanding about the breed is its devotion to its owners and the strong desire to work together. Belgian Malinois can truly excel in any venue. They can be found in the top ranking of all performance venues. Their only limit is their owner’s time and ability.

What about the Malinois’ role as a detection, police, and search and rescue dog? The same work ethic translates to the roles of police, military, and security. While some of the dogs may not look like my Malinois—due to breeding for characteristics outside of the breed standard—I will always greatly respect the work these dogs do and the incredible bond they share with their handlers.

Is the breed suitable only for the experienced owner? I do believe that the breed is best with an experienced owner. Too many individuals see the dogs in their professional working role and assume that just happens. Belgian Malinois deserve a home that understands them for the incredible dogs they are. They deserve a home that will devote the time to training and companionship. Obviously all homes cannot be experienced, which is where a good breeder or mentor is so important. If all homes understood their needs we would see a huge reduction in the work ABMR (American Belgian Malinois Rescue) does.

Has the Malinois’ appearance in films and television helped or harmed the breed? I would like to say it has helped, but only so far as in recognition that these are not German Shepherds. Movie and TV roles use highly trained dogs, but the general public doesn’t see that. Popularity has never been a friend to breeds.

Despite the breed’s serious reputation, does the Malinois have a silly side? I mentioned they can be a cuddly clown. Belgian Malinois have a great sense of humor. Mine have all been a part of our family—with children, grandchildren, friends. They love to play games with the kids—frisbee, hide-and-seek, ball, swimming—but they also enjoy being read to and belly rubs.

Lisa Knock

I live in Fairfax Station, Virginia. I am a senior manager for the Navy. I grew up in dogs, showing and training my family’s dogs since I was seven. Needless to say I have many decades in the sport of dogs.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Besides my husband, I enjoy outdoor adventures, cooking, entertaining for my friends and family, and gardening.

What first interested me in the Belgian Malinois? We had many breeds of dogs when I was growing up. My mother was smitten with the intelligent look and elegance of the Malinois and its versatility and work ethic; and our first Malinois, CH Diadem Gemma de Charleroi, sealed our love affair with the breed!

How is the breed different from its Belgian cousins, German Shepherd, and Dutch Shepherd? It is smaller in size and weight than the GSD and more agile. Unlike the other two breeds, the Malinois is a square dog. Malinois shed twice a year (a lot) versus all the time as does the GSD and tend to be more a constant companion (think “canine Velcro”) to their person. They are impervious to pain and have an all-consuming work ethic.

Why does the FCI classify the Malinois as one of four varieties of the Belgian Shepherd? In Europe there is the Belgian Shepherd breed with four varieties identified by coat type. Otherwise they are considered the same breed in type, form and function.

Is the breed a good partner for performance events, herding, and schutzhund? They are excellent for performance. A more suitable question: Is the owner a good fit for the breed for these activities?

What about the Malinois’ role as a detection, police, and search & rescue dog? The breed has more than proven and validated its effectiveness as evidenced by their use by the US Marine Corps, Airforce, various security forces, border patrol, municipalities, > police forces and airport security. It searched for victims after 911, found Bin Laden, and is used extensively as a detection and search and rescue dog.

Is the breed suitable only for the experienced owner? In general, yes! While they are very smart and learn quickly, they are also very manipulative if they think you are not a credible pack leader. There is a learning curve in living with and training a dog—and Malinois are smart, fun and energetic—an experienced handler will be able to enjoy all these traits. A Malinois can be too much dog for an inexperienced handler. The responsible owner needs to make a commitment to participating in many activities with them.

Has the Malinois’ appearance in films and television helped or harmed the breed? A little bit of both. Awareness of the breed is good. However, some folks like the idea of having a dog like the one they may see on TV and in the media, but don’t understand the responsibility of owning a Malinois and all of the training that goes into making the dog a joy to live with. Also, a Malinois is a very high energy dog. They want and need a job to do, mental stimulation and lots of exercise. Greater recognition and popularity of the breed has resulted in more litters being bred. Unfortunately, this means more Malinois end up in rescue and “casual” breeding increases the risk of congenital issues increasing as has occurred in other popular breeds over time.

Despite the breed’s serious reputation, does the Malinois have a silly side? Absolutely! My step-children used to dress my Malinois up, paint their nails and ride them around the house—the Malinois loved this and would play right into it. They also have a wonderfully wicked smile, will bring you every toy in the house, or hide every toy in the house depending on the day. They love to play games, do tricks, anything that demands your full attention! And in quiet moments they love to cuddle.

Is there anything else I’d like to share about the breed? They have enriched my family’s and my life! They have facilitated many deep and lasting friendships. Spending time with my Malinois is better than any movie!

Ann Mackay

Ann MacKay has owned Belgian Malinois for over 30 years, and breeds under the prefix “Avonlea.” Belgian Malinois owned and/or bred by Ann have been awarded National BISS eight times, and Avonlea Malinois have earned AKC championships in conformation, herding, agility, obedience, and tracking. They’ve been Herding Group winners and RBIS. They’ve also competed successfully in France. She has been an officer and active member of the American Belgian Malinois Club, as well as local all-breed and specialty clubs, and was a grateful recipient of the Outstanding Sportsmanship medal from the American Belgian Malinois Club. She has served as Show Chair, Chief Ring Steward, Trophy Chair, as well as bar-setter, mat-roller and the myriad of other jobs performed by any dedicated club member.

I was born and raised in Michigan, and I presently live in Minnesota. I had a career in IT and Sales and Marketing at Ford Motor Company, now retired. I’ve been showing Belgian Malinois for 33 years and have titled my dogs in conformation, agility, herding, tracking, obedience, and rally.

Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Aside from dog training, I love reading, travel and music. I especially enjoy reading history and I am probably at my best geekiest self when those things merge. For example, seeing “Hamilton” in London after Crufts. Recently, I have been studying some of the earlier breeders of Belgian Shepherd Dogs in Belgium and France. It is interesting to learn more about their lives, the challenges they faced, how they worked through them, and what became of their lines. Yes, it is history, but it is inspirational to me.

What first interested me in the Belgian Malinois? I grew up with a Bouvier, and she was a fabulous dog that lived a long, healthy life. I thought hard about what I loved about her, and what I would like different. While in college, I studied the breed standards in the Herding Group, and landed on the Belgian Shepherd Dog, simply from reading the standards. I loved what I read of their intelligence, athleticism and devotion. I knew I wanted the less glamorous and more business-looking Malinois, with its no-fuss coat. It would be a few years before I was in a situation to own one. But I had the good fortune to live in Michigan, which has a legacy of experienced owners and breeders in all flavors of Belgians. Luckily, I found a breeder willing to take a chance on me.

How is the breed different from its Belgian cousins, German Shepherd and the Dutch Shepherd? The differences between most Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael and Laekenois (aside from the obvious coat) can be attributed to the way different breeders’ lines develop over time. There really are more similarities than differences between the varieties. The German Shepherd is longer in body, usually heavier-boned. While the Dutch Shepherd and the Belgian Shepherd standards describe somewhat different dogs, they do share common origins, so unsurprisingly, there are similarities.

Why does the FCI classify the Malinois as one of four varieties of the Belgian Shepherd? The country of origin has always considered the Belgians to be one breed with varieties. Malinois (even pedigrees with many generations of Malinois) can produce Tervuren. Malinois can produce Laekenois coat, as well. These dogs were useful in expanding the gene pool of all varieties following the World Wars. There have been many published articles demonstrating how the Belgians were eventually classified as separate breeds in the USA. In the end, history, genetics, and the whelping box tell us the true story about our breed.

Is the breed a good partner for performance events, herding, and Schutzhund? The breed is an excellent partner for just about any kind of event you can imagine. You set yourself up for success if you find a breeder active in the sport that interests you.

What about the Malinois’ role as a detection, police, and search and rescue dog? The Belgian Malinois has a long history of brilliance in these areas. While its origins are that of a herder and farm dog, the decline of the agricultural lifestyle meant that new occupations were necessary for survival. Some breeds, like the Belgian Mastiff, went extinct. However, those interested in training police dogs found exemplary partners in the Belgian Shepherd Dog.

Is the breed suitable only for the experienced owner? All of us purchased our first Belgian Malinois from someone! Some individual dogs or lines may be more suited to an experienced owner. It is best to develop a relationship with a breeder and discuss interest, experience and expectations, and take their advice on choosing the best dog for you.

Has the Malinois’ appearance in films and television helped or harmed the breed? We have seen an uptick in breed inquiries and rescue following film and television appearances. Our very dedicated National Breed Rescue organization is frequently at capacity and looking for suitable foster homes.

Does the Malinois have a silly side? The Belgian Malinois, with its upright, ears forward, no-muss, no-fuss look, does appear all-business. It is often serious about its work. They do need physical and mental exercise and, ideally, it includes their person. But they are also our beloved pets, and often silly, too. Sometimes the silly side comes out as a clever solution to something you are working on, or to a “problem” you didn’t know you had, or a creative interpretation of something you accidentally taught them. Sometimes it is simply an extraordinarily close cuddle, with more-than-expected intensity. They are always watching, evaluating, anticipating, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make us laugh!

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