Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd
Dog Breeds

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: 8 Key Comparisons

Making the choice between a Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd can be a tough one. The Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd have often shown similar characteristics. Some people say they are variations of each other while others believe they are two independent breeds. You’d be forgiven to think they’re the same type of dog as the breeds have a similar color and build. They are, however, quite different.

Among the two, the German Shepherd is the most common. German shepherds are very popular as house pets and both are military dogs. Below is a peek on the difference and similarity of the two dogs.

German Shepherd Laying Down with Tongue Out

German Shepherd Overview

History and Origin

The German Shepherd is an intelligent and hardworking breed, originally bred for herding and protecting sheep. This required them to possess high intelligence, agility, and a strong sense of smell.

Modern Roles

Today, German Shepherds are commonly trained for military and police activities, often displaying heroism in extraordinary ways. Besides military training, they are also trained as guide dogs for individuals with disabilities. In the UK, German Shepherds have gained fame for their successful roles in films.

Physical Characteristics

  • Size: Large
  • Coat Colors: Black and tan, black and red, black and cream, black and silver, solid black, sable, bi-color
  • Hair: Double coat, can be medium-length or long
  • Head Shape: Broad and slightly domed with a strong, square muzzle
  • Shedding: Heavy shedding, particularly during spring and fall
  • Height: Males: 24-26 inches (60-65 cm), Females: 22-24 inches (55-60 cm)
  • Weight: Males: 65-90 pounds (30-40 kg), Females: 50-70 pounds (22-32 kg)

Life Expectancy

German Shepherds make great family companions with a life expectancy of 10-12 years.

Belgian Malinois Overview

Belgian Malinois Sitting Down

History and Origin

The Belgian Malinois, also known as Pastor Belga Malinois, was developed by breeders in Belgium in the 1800s for sheep herding. Today, very few people are familiar with this bold breed.

Modern Roles

Over time, the Belgian Malinois has been trained for various roles, including as protection dogs, friendly pets, and police or military service dogs. They are sensitive dogs that do not respond well to harsh training tactics.

Physical Characteristics

  • Size: Medium to large
  • Coat Colors: Fawn, mahogany, red, with black overlay; mask and ears are typically black
  • Hair: Short and straight with a dense undercoat
  • Head Shape: Well-chiseled and proportionate with a slightly elongated muzzle
  • Shedding: Moderate shedding year-round, with increased shedding during seasonal changes
  • Height: Males: 24-26 inches (60-66 cm), Females: 22-24 inches (56-61 cm)
  • Weight: Males: 60-80 pounds (27-36 kg), Females: 40-60 pounds (18-27 kg)

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a Belga Malinois is 10-12 years.

Training Needs for German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois Two German Shepherds playing together

German Shepherds Training

Early Training

Training a German Shepherd is most effective when started during puppyhood. Younger dogs are easier to train compared to older ones, and early training can prevent stubborn behaviors from becoming ingrained.

Intelligence and Motivation

German Shepherds are very intelligent, which can sometimes make them stubborn. To motivate them, trainers often use treats and rewards, making the dog eager to learn. This positive reinforcement boosts their motivation and helps in successful training.

Challenges for First Time Owners

For first-time dog owners, training a German Shepherd can be troublesome due to their intelligence and stubbornness. However, these dogs are often fond of their training sessions and are fast learners, typically successful in their activities after training.

Belgian Malinois Training

Ease of Training

In contrast to German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois are easier to train and less stubborn. They may not be as intelligent as German Shepherds but get deeply engrossed in activities, making them easier to control during training.

Curiosity and Learning

Belgian Malinois are curious animals that always want to learn new things. This trait makes them more receptive to training sessions.

Sensitivity and Energy

However, Belgian Malinois are very sensitive and energetic, which can overwhelm a dog owner who trains the dog alone. In such instances, it is advisable to seek expert assistance with training.

A Comparison…

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois have unique training needs and characteristics. German Shepherds require early and consistent training with positive reinforcement, while Belgian Malinois, being easier to train but highly energetic, may benefit from professional training to manage their sensitivity and energy levels effectively.

Feeding German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois

German Shepherds Feeding

Food Quantity

German Shepherds have a larger build, necessitating a diet proportional to their body size. Typically, dog owners divide 3-4 cups of high-quality dog food into two meals, which the dog consumes within 24 hours.

Dietary Considerations

German Shepherds should avoid food with high starch content, as starch is difficult for them to digest. Their digestive system is primarily designed to process protein.

Belgian Malinois Feeding

Food Quantity

Belgian Malinois, being medium-sized dogs, consume less food than German Shepherds. They require 2-3 cups of high-quality dog food daily.

Dietary Considerations

Like German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois should not be fed a diet high in starch. Instead, their diet should incorporate raw meat and vegetables to ensure optimal health and digestion.

A Comparison…

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois require diets tailored to their specific sizes and digestive capabilities. Avoiding high starch content and focusing on protein-rich foods like raw meat and vegetables will support their overall health and well-being.

Temperament of German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois

German Shepherd Temperament

Initial Impressions vs. Reality

Although German Shepherds may initially appear detached and shy, they are actually very active once they become familiar with their surroundings and people.

Intelligence and Loyalty

  • Intelligence: Known for their high intelligence, German Shepherds are selective when it comes to making friends.
  • Loyalty: They rarely form friendships, but when they do, they exhibit profound loyalty. This loyalty makes them approachable and dependable.

Protective Nature

German Shepherds are very protective, providing a sense of safety. This trait makes them perfect watchdogs.

Versatile Helpers

  • Guide Dogs: Trainers can transform German Shepherds into extremely helpful dogs, effectively guiding disabled persons, including visually impaired individuals.
  • Rescue Teams: German Shepherds are often part of various rescue teams.

Needs and Potential Issues

  • Separation Anxiety: Leaving a German Shepherd alone for long periods can lead to separation anxiety.
  • Exercise: They need a lot of exercise and activity; otherwise, they may resort to annoying behaviors like barking or chewing.

Belgian Malinois Temperament

Initial Impressions vs. Reality

Like German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois may seem shy and reserved at first, but they are not. They are also protective of their close companions and family.

Protective Nature

Belgian Malinois are equally great watchdogs and can be trained to protect. However, they do not respond well to intimidation.

Factors Influencing Temperament

  • Heredity: The character of a Malinois can be influenced by heredity.
  • Socialization and Training: Their socialization and training are best started when the dog is a puppy. Visiting the parents, especially the mother, can provide insights into a Malinois’ temperament.

A Comparison…

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are intelligent, loyal, and protective dogs. They make excellent watchdogs and can be trained to assist in various roles. Early socialization and proper training are crucial to developing their positive traits and ensuring they are well-adjusted companions.

Grooming of German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois

German Shepherd Grooming


  • German Shepherds are heavy shedders, earning them the nickname “German Shedders.”
  • They shed year-round with no specific shedding season.
  • To manage shedding, brush their coat at least three times a week.


  • Avoid frequent bathing to preserve the coat’s natural oils, which can be damaged by over-washing.
  • Bathe your German Shepherd only when necessary.

Nail and Teeth Care

  • Regularly cut their nails to maintain good paw health.
  • Although they are naturally clean and odorless, inspect them regularly for infections.
  • Brush their teeth every week to maintain oral hygiene.

Belgian Malinois Grooming


  • Belgian Malinois have shorter, straight fur, making them easier to groom.
  • They experience heavy shedding primarily during spring and fall.
  • Weekly brushing helps manage shedding and keeps their coat healthy.


  • Like German Shepherds, bathe Belgian Malinois only when necessary to prevent stripping the coat of its natural oils.

Nail and Teeth Care

  • Brush their teeth 2-3 times a week to prevent tartar accumulation and periodontal disease.

A Comparison…

While German Shepherds require more frequent brushing due to their heavy shedding, Belgian Malinois are easier to groom with weekly brushing. Both breeds should be bathed only as needed to maintain the natural oils in their coats. Regular nail trimming and consistent dental care are essential for both breeds to ensure their overall health and hygiene.

Health of German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois

German Shepherd Health

Common Health Issues

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: These are common orthopedic conditions.
  • Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: A condition affecting the digestive system.
  • Cardiomyopathy: A disease of the heart muscle.
  • Pyotraumatic Dermatitis: Also known as hot spots, are skin infections.
  • Panosteitis: Inflammation of the bones.
  • Gastric Dilation (Volvulus): Also known as bloat, a life-threatening condition.
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: A progressive disease of the spinal cord.

Prevention and Care

  • Ensure your breeder is reputable to reduce the risk of genetic diseases.
  • Regularly check and maintain the health of their eyes, hips, blood, and elbows.
  • Maintain good hygiene to prevent infections.

Belgian Malinois Health

Common Health Issues

  • Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: Similar to German Shepherds, these are common in Malinois.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A degenerative eye disorder.
  • Anesthetic Sensitivity: Higher sensitivity to anesthesia.

Prevention and Care

  • Regularly monitor their hips and overall health to catch any issues early.
  • Maintain regular vet checkups to ensure they remain healthy.

A Comparison…

German Shepherds are prone to a variety of health conditions, especially when adopted from irresponsible breeders. Ensuring a reputable breeder and regular health checks can mitigate these risks. Belgian Malinois, while generally healthier than German Shepherds, also require regular health monitoring to address common conditions like elbow and hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy. Both breeds benefit from proactive health care and regular veterinary visits.

Aggression of German Shepherds vs Belgian Malinois

German Shepherd Aggression

  • Temperament: German Shepherds are generally calmer and more peaceful compared to Belgian Malinois.
  • Aggression Level: They express less aggression and are known for their balanced demeanor.

Belgian Malinois Aggression

  • Temperament: Belgian Malinois tend to be more aggressive compared to German Shepherds.
  • Size and Activity Level: Despite their smaller size, Malinois are more active, faster, and more energetic.
  • Aggression Level: Their higher energy levels contribute to a more aggressive temperament.

A Comparison…

While German Shepherds are known for their calm and peaceful nature, Belgian Malinois exhibit higher levels of aggression due to their increased energy and activity levels. Understanding these differences is crucial for potential owners to ensure they choose the breed that best fits their lifestyle and handling capabilities.

Relationship with Children and Other Pets

German Shepherds

Adaptability with Kids and Pets:

  • With the right training, German Shepherds can be excellent companions for kids and families.
  • Introducing a German Shepherd puppy to a family is easier than bringing in an adult dog, as puppies adapt more quickly to their new environment.

Training and Patience:

  • Puppies require significant time, patience, and persistence for training.
  • As they grow, puppies tend to get used to the family and other pets, forming strong bonds.

Belgian Malinois

Friendliness with Kids:

  • Belgian Malinois are generally friendlier with kids compared to German Shepherds.
  • Like German Shepherds, they require a lot of time and attention when being raised alongside children and other pets.


  • Proper socialization is crucial for Malinois to develop a good relationship with kids.
  • Raising a Malinois puppy requires a clear schedule, making it challenging for individuals with full-time jobs.

A Comparison…

Training and Supervision:

  • Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois can be good with family and kids when well trained.
  • Despite training, dogs should not be left alone with children as their size may accidentally cause harm.

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois can form strong, positive relationships with children and other pets when properly trained and socialized. However, they require time, patience, and consistent supervision to ensure a safe and harmonious environment.

The Cost of a German Shepherd vs Belgian Malinois

A German Shepherd tends to be more expensive than a Belgian Malinois. A Malinois costs around $600. A German Shepherd costs double the price of the Malinois at $1000.

Final Thoughts

In short, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois share similarities but also have distinct characteristics. Originally bred for herding, both breeds have diversified into roles as watchdogs, protection dogs, military companions, and cherished family members.

When it comes to appearance, German Shepherds boast coats that shed consistently throughout the year, whereas Belgian Malinois have dense fur that sheds seasonally. Early training is crucial for both breeds to foster behavior and social skills. Once they form bonds with their families these dogs exhibit unwavering loyalty. They both may experience separation anxiety if left alone for prolonged periods.

Belgian Malinois tend to be healthier and less susceptible to illnesses than Shepherds. Grooming a Belgian Malinois is also less labor intensive than caring for a German Shepherd. Despite these distinctions regarding socialization, both breeds can get along well with children and other pets.

In essence, recognizing the requirements of each breed in terms of training, grooming practices, and healthcare will lead to rewarding companionship with these exceptional canine friends.