OK, so I’ve done the, “are you sure you want a Malinois” blog post. Read it here if you haven’t read it yet! If you’ve done the research and you are sure you want a Malinois, then this is the blog for you. I don’t blame you. I was the same. People warned me. I wanted one anyway. I was prepared to do the work and I will never regret my decision.
So, if you’re pig headed like me, warnings aren’t going to put you off getting one of these amazing dogs. I may as well help you prepare for your wild ride. I want you to succeed, so I’ll help you know what you’re getting into. The stuff I wish I knew before I got my first Malinois. So you can be better prepared than I was. At least.
Every Dog Is Different
Malinois are very diverse in their personalities. The lines are all different depending on where they come from. Because of the sports in those areas, the dogs have been bred to succeed in those sports. So French dogs, bred for French Ring will be different from Dutch dogs bred for KNPV. And Dogs bred for Belgian Ring will be different to dog bred for the sport formerly known as Schutzhund.
Even individuals in a litter can range quite a bit. Especially where breeders are mixing dogs bred for different purposes. It is helpful to know what you’re getting into. Start by getting to know the parents about 6 months before the mating takes place.
Yes, it’s wise to get to know the parents well, before you decide to get a puppy. Travel if you must. But decide what you want before you get there and don’t allow the breeder to baffle you with dog manure. Some are great sales people. Hint: if the breeder is too busy telling you about their dogs, and not asking you many questions, run. You’ll definitely have to prove you can handle a Mal before you will get one from me. I want it to be a good match for you and my precious pups!
It’s a Gamble
You could strike it lucky and get a nice sensible dog. Or you could get one that would chase a ball off a two story building. Malinois are kinda like a box of chocolates. But you’ll have a better idea of what you’re gonna get if you know the parents well. If you do like a sensible dogs, German Shepherds are probably a better choice, so do be aware of that. Malinois, um… not so much.
There are a few different lines in NZ. Some that are highly driven and territorial. Others that are point-and-shoot type of dogs (fun and easy). And then there are dominant dogs. Malinois are generally more resilient than most breeds. And won’t usually crumble under pressure. Generally. There are some soft dogs who will crumble!
Oh yes, all Malinois love to bite – kinda the reason they’re called Maligators. You can’t escape that. That’s part of the breed. Don’t like it? Now’s the time to look into a different breed. There are plenty of challenging breeds that are less bitey than a Malinois. Hunting line Spaniels, Labradors and Pointers. Nothing wrong with getting something less bitey (they’ll still be challenging, trust me).
Know Your Malinois’ Why
Each dog will have different reasons for doing stuff. Malinois are highly intelligent! Most are very driven and can do some stupid things thus labelled the smartest dumbest dog you’ll ever meet.
Some have high food drive. Others high prey drive and some even have a passion for confrontation and need to be shown respect. Or your dog could have all three – like Delta did. If you’re getting a puppy get to know the parents well. Your puppy is most likely to have a mix of personality traits of their parents. And that mix can make for some interesting combinations.
Learning styles can also differ. This can be challenging when your Mal has a different learning style than your previous dogs. Especially when you’re trying to figure out why your dog doesn’t “get it”. My first Mal, Delta, had a different learning style from Kaz, my GSD. Once I figured out her learning style, we did well, but it was a struggle for at least the first 2 years I had her.
Skills You Will Need to Live with a Malinois
Your Malinois requires you to be a leader. We have some excellent resources on Leadership in our blog! Be sure to check it out! Good leadership is the single most important skill you need to have when getting a Malinois. Otherwise they will treat you like a doormat and walk all over you. They’re not evil. They just don’t see why rules should apply to them, in general.
You need to be a skilled trainer already. A Malinois should not be your first dog. You need to understand how to all the training tools so that you can select the best ones for your dog. That means you need to understand how to use clickers and markers. You need to be well versed in free shaping, luring, natural and artificial engagement. And be proficient in prong collars, check collars and electric collars. You need to understand how to use everything.
You might not need all the tools. In fact, the better you are, often the less tools you need. Not that you will need it, but incase you will need it to keep others safe from your Malinois. Or keep your Malinois safe from itself. There is a very high probability that your Malinois will be anti-social. You need to be a very flexible trainer.
Know What You Want, Know What You Need
I was recently contacted by a young girl looking to get her first Malinois. She kept telling me she knew what she wanted in a Malinois. But as I talked to her, it was clear that she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. She was very fickle. She seemed to want this perfect puppy (and perfect puppies don’t exist). She failed to realise her input in developing and training the puppy to become a great dog matters far more. And when I talked to her she kept changing her mind about what she thought she wanted. She was arrogant and ignorant when the breed requires humility from a first time owner.
It’s one thing to think you know what you want. But, the bigger question is: is it what you really need. You see, wanting a typical working Malinois is one thing. But life is so much easier when you have a Malinois that isn’t trying to stage a coup and rule the world. Your chances of lucking it with a nice dog is too small to bargain on getting one!
Do you like to go away on holiday? Do you like having a social life? Then, maybe the Malinois you want is not the Malinois you need. If you want a dog that is going to develop your skills, do you have a mentor? Are you humble enough to listen? You might want a Malinois that is a challenge, but do you need to be able to book your dog into kennels? You might want a dog that is the best, but do you have the skills to handle such a dog?
First up, decide what you want in a dog, it’s important to be realistic – no one needs a difficult dog in their life! Then set out to find the right dog. Visit a variety of breeders and meet their dogs. Ask them what they are breeding and why they are breeding specific combinations. Be honest with your breeder and explain what your goals are. And also about your experience. An experienced Malinois breeder is the best person to select the right pup for you. But, after that, the responsibility for how that puppy turns out is up to you!
If your assessment proves that you’re not in the right place or need some more experience. Then address those requirements first before getting yourself a Malinois. How can you gain experience? You can take on aggressive, reactive and nervous dogs. And train them to help them become fabulous pets. Foster dogs or volunteer at a rescue. You’ll likely have to deal with these elements in your Malinois anyway. So you may as well get the skills!
Learn how to train your dog. We’ve put together training that is Malinois tested and approved on The Dog Training Lab.com. Armed with that, you’ll be better equipped to succeed!