August 12, 2008

Why a Mal?

I did not decide on this breed of dog without research. In fact, quite the opposite is true! I researched heavily, met Malinois in person, talked with Mal owners and joined Mal talk lists. I have been training dogs for the past 25 years and I felt I was ready for a high drive and versatile dog. I wanted a dog that can "do it all" and excell. The Mal fit this to a T.

Like all Belgian Shepherds, the Malinois is a medium-sized, hard-working, square-proportioned dog in the sheepdog family. The Malinois is recognized by its short brownish yellow coat and its black muzzle and "mask" and ears that stick straight up.

Coat and color
Due to their history as a working dog (i.e. being bred for function over form) Malinois can vary greatly in appearance. The acceptable colors of pure-bred Malinois are a base color of grey to fawn to mahogany with a black mask and ears, and with some degree of black tipping on the hairs, giving an overlay appearance. The color tends to be lighter with less black agouti or overlay on the dog's underside, breeching, and inside the legs.

The other varieties of Belgian Shepherd are distinguished by their coat and color: the Tervuren is the same color as the Malinois with long hair, the Laekenois is the same color, only it may lack the black mask & ears, and has wirehair, the Groenendael (registered as Belgian Sheepdog by the American Kennel Club) has long hair and is solid black. There are (occasionally and historically) solid black, black-and-tan (as in a Doberman), or other colored short-haired Belgian Shepherds, but these are not technically Malinois.

A Malinois puppy
If a dog represented as a Malinios is brindle (clear stripes of different colored hair) it is probably a Dutch Shepherd Dog or a mixed breed, although the possibility exists that it is a "throwback" to a common continental shepherd ancestor.

Male Malinois are about 24-26 in. (61-66 cm), while females are about 22-24 in. (56-61 cm) at the whithers. Female Malinois are said to average 55-65 lbs.), while males are heavier at 65-75 lbs). Malinois can range from stocky to slender, but are always squarely built.

Working Dog
In Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries, as well as in the United States, the Malinois is bred primarily as a working dog for personal protection, detection, police work, search and rescue, and sport work (Belgian Ring, Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring.) The United States Secret Service exclusively uses the breed. The dog is also used extensively by Unit Oketz of the Isreal Defense Forces. Oketz favors the more slight build of the Malinois to the German Shepherd and Rottweiler, which were employed formerly.

The lifespan of the Belgian Malinois is 10-14 years, and there are a number of health problems and disorders that are associated with the breed. This includes cataracts, epilepsy, thyroid problems, PRA, Hip Displasia, and pannus but testing of the parents and grandparents can help rule it out and reduces the chances.