Want to Own a Malinois? What you Need to Know!
By Luzelle Cockburn
OK, so I’ve done the, “are you sure you want a Malinois” blog post. But really if you want a Malinois, you’ve probably already read that (if not, read it here) and still want one. 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 determined (read: 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 so you know what you’re getting into when you decide to live with a Malinois. Kinda, the stuff I wish I knew before I got Delta. So you can be better prepared than I was. At least.
Every Dog Is Different
Malinois, probably more so than most other dog breeds, are very diverse in their personalities. The lines are vastly different and even individuals in a litter can range quite a bit. It is helpful to know what you’re getting into, so most definitely 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.
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 more sensible, so do be aware of that. Malinois, um… not so much.
There are a number of different lines in NZ, and some that are highly driven and territorial, others that are point-and-shoot type of dogs (they’ll still be a challenge, but you won’t necessarily have to be as onto it every second of the day) and then there are dominant dogs. Malinois are generally more resilient than most breeds and won’t usually crumble under pressure. 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.
” 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..”
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 mixing some of the good traits with the not so good traits can make for some interesting combinations.
Learning styles can also differ, as I learned with my first Malinois. The best way that she learned was by watching what my German Shepherd was doing and she would copy her. Great. That made training easy once I finally realised. But they’re not all like that. Delta didn’t seem to ‘get’ some of the standard ways of training, which at first confused me. However, it took observation, trying different things and skill to figure her out. It would have been easy to write her off, say she’s no good and get another dog, but she was not the problem. It was my inexperience. So it’s always a good idea to get to know the dogs that you are dealing with and go from there.
For more information on this topic, check out our blog post: What’s Your Dog’s Why?
Skills You Will Need to Live with a Malinois
Your Malinois requires you to be a leader. Now you can read our blog post on leadership here. But leadership is one of the single most important skills you need to possess 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. Really, a Malinois should not be your first dog. You need to understand how to use clickers (or a verbal marker), free shaping, luring, natural and artificial engagement, prong collars, check collars and electric collars. You need to understand how to use everything. 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. Malinois are generally born with enough drive and gusto to work. Choosing the most difficult puppy in the litter, might come back and bite you on the bum (literally). So Know what you want, and know what you need.
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) and 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 (Delta). There are plenty of Malinois perfectly suited to work and all the aptitude necessary and possess switches to also be fabulous pet dogs and they’ll still provide you with plenty of challenges (like my current pup, Raven – stable, confident, happy, biddable, driven, easy to live with).
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. You might want a dog that is going to develop your skills, but do you have a mentor who can help you deal with the curve balls such a Malinois will likely throw at you and 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 make them look good, or is your dog going to make you look like an amateur? The best and strongest dogs will most likely make you look like an amateur in the process of showing up your incompetence.
First up, decide what you want in a dog, it’s important to be realistic – no one needs a Delta 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 what sort of pup you’d like. An experienced Malinois breeder is the best person to select the right pup for you. And will not let you end up with a Delta as your first Malinois.
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? By taking on aggressive, reactive and nervous dogs and turning them into fabulous take-anywhere pets. Foster dogs or volunteer at a rescue. You’ll likely have to deal with these elements in your Malinois anyway or know what to do to prevent these problems from arising. So getting your experience in first is a good thing.
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