The Breed History
This is one of four subtypes of the Belgian Shepherd dog, this one being primarily developed around the city of Malines (Mechelar), Belgium and is considered to be the original Belgian shepherd type (records date to the 1200s). The other types, divided based on their coat type are Tervuren, Groenendael, and Laekenois. Their common ancestor is the Belgian Sheepdog. The Malinois are the shorthaired black and fawn variety that resemble German Shepherds in general type. Though these coat types share a common breed standard outside the USA, the types are split into separate breeds in America and the AKC, with minor distinguishing characteristics.
Breeding for Function
The very high intelligence and trainability of these dogs are a hallmark of the breed. Obedience, herding, tracking, and Schutzhund round out their talents. Historically, herding was their primary purpose. The breed is recognized for utility in police work and agility, flyball and obedience. They are also popular today as a companion dog.
Height at Withers: female 22-24" (56-61 cm), male 24-26" (61-66 cm).
Weight: 62-75 lb (28-34 kg).
Coat: The coat is similar to the smooth-coated Dutch Shepherd. The weather resistant coat is short and hairs are hard in texture, and fawn hairs are tipped black; undercoat is dense and short, the color is a standard distribution of black and tan (tan ranging from fawn to mahogany). Black ears, mask, muzzle, and points on feet and tail are preferred.
Longevity: 12-14 years.
Points of Conformation: High head carriage, chiseled face, alert expression, and a muscular conformation characterize the Malinois. Slightly almond shaped eyes are brown, with black palpebral rims, are medium sized and moderately deep set. Ears are triangular, pricked and the tips pointed. Skull is flattened, and stop is moderate. The muzzle is pointed but not snippy, nose and lips black, neck medium in thickness and length and well muscled. The topline is level, though a mild slope down to the rear is accepted, especially through the croup. The thorax is deep, abdomen is moderately tucked up, and the tail reaches the tarsus and is carried below horizontal in a curve. Limbs are straight with an oval cross section; dewclaws may be removed in front, and on the hind limbs are usually removed. Foreleg feet are compact and possess strong black nails, though a white nail may accompany a white toe marking. Rear feet may be a bit more elongated. The gait is long, ground covering and smooth. In the breed standard, reference is made to the fact that the breed likes to circle rather than move in a straight line. This is likely a characteristic that derives from their herding behavior.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Highly trainable, intelligent, confident though aloof with strangers, protective without undue aggression, and a high activity level. They are reported to be less likely to bite than Tervuren or Groenendael dogs. This type of dog needs an experienced owner because it is a sensitive dog by nature. Early focused socialization and obedience training is important. Needs human companionship and should be supervised with small children due to high activity and large size. They may try to herd humans by nipping at the heels.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 10.1% affected.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 5.5% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Belgian Malinois have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 8.4% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Cataracts: A nonprogressive, triangular opacity in the posterior cortex is most common in the breed, although anterior, nuclear, and capsular cataracts also occur. Identified in 3.42% of Belgian Malinois CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Belgian Malinois with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.04% of Belgian Malinois CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Heat Stroke: In an Israeli study, Belgian Malinois had the highest risk (Odds Ratio of 24x) of developing heat stroke versus other breeds. Thrombocytopenia, disseminated intravascular coagulation and acute renal failure usually resulted in death in affected dogs.
Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus): Corneal disease that can cause vision problems due to pigmentation. Treatment with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication. Identified in 0.15% of Belgian Malinois CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Belgian Malinois with pannus.
Retinal Degeneration: A unilateral or bilateral retinal disease which can be progressive. When bilateral, the ophthalmoscopic lesions are sometimes asymmetrical, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Fundus examination shows initially single or multiple focal retinal lesions that appear active (local infiltrative inflammation or granulation) or inactive. The lesions can progress resulting in widespread retinal atrophy. Unknown mode of inheritance, however, males predominate. CERF recommends that affected dogs should not be bred.
Lumbosacral Transitional Vertebrae/Lumbosacral Stenosis: Belgian Malinois have been documented with lumbosacral transitional vertebrae and lumbosacral stenosis. These can be incidental, or cause pain, intermittent rear leg lameness, muscle atrophy, ataxia, and increasingly severe neurologic impairment.
Epilepsy, Exertional Myositis, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, Prognathism, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Polycystic Kidney Disease: Glomerulocystic kidney disease was identified in a juvenile Belgian Malinois dog with acute renal failure.
Osteosarcoma: An 8-year-old male Belgian Malinois showed progressive caudal paresis of 2 to 3 weeks' duration. Radiography revealed a mottled appearance to the body of L4 and misshapen intervertebral foramen at L4-L5. Computed tomography revealed a soft tissue mass adjacent to or involving the spinal cord and L4, with complete destruction of a portion of the floor of the vertebral foramen. Necropsy examination revealed osteosarcoma, with lesions in L3 to L7, the sacrum, and the lungs.
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests are available for presence of black-and-tan and sable coat colors from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, and CERF eye examination. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend thyroid profile including autoantibodies, patella evaluation and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Belgian Shepherd Dog, Malinois, Belgian Sheepdog, Chien de Berger Belge
- Registries: AKC, UKC [as Belgian Shepherd dog, Malinois coat (along with Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois coats)], CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain) as Belgian Shepherd dog, Malinois coat (along with Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois coats), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club) as Belgian Shepherd dog, Malinois coat (along with Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois coats), NKC (National Kennel Club) as Belgian Shepherd dog, Malinois coat (along with Tervuren, Groenendael, Laekenois coats).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 79 (901 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Belgian Malinois Club of America: malinoisclub.com
Belgian Shepherd Dog Club of Canada: bsdcc.org
Belgian Shepherd Dog Association of Great Britain: bsdaofgb.co.uk
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