Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – Who Will Be Your Next Housemate?

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Having to choose a canine companion is never harder when it comes to Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd. Read on, to see what’s similar and what’s different between these hardy dog breeds, and from which you may finally decide who shall be your future soul-buddy.

Most sheepdog lovers usually find it particularly challenging if they have to pick a dog between Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd. Since these breeds have so much alike, from the appearances to the temperaments in general.

Still, there’re distinct differences. Otherwise, they weren’t classified as two separate dog breed. Let’s check them out!

What Kind of Dog Are They?

Though both come from the sheepdog family, their respective homelands aren’t the same. As the names suggest, the GSD came from Germany, while the Belgian Malinois is of Belgian origin.

They’re recognized by the AKC and are known for being hardworking, loyal, courageous, versatile, smart, etc.

Belgian Malinois

The dog breed was originally bred to herd livestock, so their strong body possesses great stamina. The Belgian Malinoises today, who live in any part of the world sans the countryside, aren’t tasked with such duty anymore. Instead, they’re employed in military, police department, protection services, and as good companions for the household.

Though taking on new missions, their bright traits as working dogs are still intact, and that help them excel in other works as well. For instance, the Belgian Malinois can actively be seen in performance events. Basically, a Belgian Malinois can do anything a German Shepherd can. Also, Belgian Malinois is considered in the list of dogs with the best sense of smell.

The most distinct difference of this breed in comparison with the GSD – aside from their outer look, is their high “prey drive,” which we’ll be looking into after a moment.

German Shepherd

Clearly originally bred to herd sheep, the GSD is classified as a working dog. This breed has become famous for its faithfulness and gallant nature after WWII. Thanks to which their popularity speedily rocketed, results in more and more people found them ideal to add to their families. That’s basically how the countryside dogs became war dogs became pet dogs in big cities.

Also, because of their intelligence and agility as working dogs, today the GSD are widely employed in the K-9 department, military, events, and shows, in addition to other services.

Prominent Traits of Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd


See, both breeds have many things in common that even their lifespans are almost equal. Specifically, the average lifespan of a Malinois is 12-14 years, whereas that of a GSD is 9-13 years. If the dog has a careful care, he/she could live for over 14 years.

Outer Appearance

These two breeds are often mistaken for one another because of their looks. In fact, almost everyone who isn’t dog expert gets confused whenever they look at these dogs.

You see, both the GSD and the Belgian Malinois have sturdy bodies, chocolate eyes, strong jaws, pointed ears, black faces and black noses.

So, with non-experts, maybe the easiest way to tell these two breeds apart is that the Belgian Malinois looks leaner, less furry, and perhaps less colorful than the German Shepherd, as the latter has the trademark black saddle.

Body Measurements

Both dogs are labeled large size dogs. And though their heights are quite similar (22-26 inches tall for both males and females of both breeds), the Belgian Malinois is visibly smaller and lighter than their Germany cousin. Here’re the specific figures:

Belgian Malinois

Though smaller in size, Malinoises are more aggressive than their Germany cousins. And maybe because of their lithe body, the Malinois is more energetic and a faster dog.

Also, this’s a true working dog breed with a still-strong prey drive. This means the urge to chase and attack any moving object (out of fear/defense/nerves) is strong. Even during play time, a Belgian Malinois exhibits stalking behaviors towards its playmates.

This’s why certain people say that the Malinois is wilder, and so not a suitable house pet.

Belgian Malinois


When grown up, male dogs usually taller than the female ones. As for the weight, the differences are more visible:

Male Belgian Malinois: 55-66 pounds

Female Belgian Malinois: 49-55 pounds

German Shepherd

In adulthood, male GSDs are slightly taller and heavier than their female counterparts. When GSDs stop growing, their weights are measured as below:

Male GSD: 66-88 pounds

Female GSD: 49-73 pounds


As both breeds were destined to be herding dogs in European countries that have harsh climates, their coats must be thick and double-layer. The under layers of these breeds’ coats are the same (i.e., short, dense), so are the nature of the outer layers – which are coarse and water-resistant.

Also, with such special coat, these breeds are decidedly the shedders. In fact, they shed twice every year and more intense during shedding seasons. But luckily for Malinois owners, because even though this breed sheds, due to the short-haired coat, they aren’t shed profusely as the GSD.

Colors and Patterns

Belgian Malinois

As stated, Belgium Malinoises look smaller, leaner than the GSD because they aren’t as furry. Meaning, the former‘s hair is straight and shorter.

Though there’re also mahogany and black colors, this athletic dog is often seen in the typical fawn color, with white markings on their tiptoes or chest.


German Shepherd

Meanwhile, the GSD’s hair is of medium length. Sometimes, you may see a GSD with wavy or wiry hair.

The GSD is most popular with their black-tan or black-red coat. Though rarer shades can be added are pure-white, sable, pure-black, liver and blue variations. The common patterns are the trademark “saddle” or the overall “blanket.”

There are cases in which the GSD has recessive white gene, making their coat totally white. These dogs are called White German Shepherd.


The two breeds share valuable traits every owner and working department favors.

Faithful: The dog breeds are incredibly smart and devoted. This is expressed via their eager-to-please nature. They don’t usually attack unless there’re threats or that the handler orders them to. At which point they don’t hesitate to even sacrifice themselves for their owners.

Loving: They are quite approachable with their loved ones. And because they’re capable of being protective and gentle towards other beings, especially children, these dogs make a reliable “nanny and cop” figure.

Calm: This trait is most favored by the military and police department. Accompanies it is the obedient trait. All of them promote the GSD and Belgian Malinois as “mental stability and utility.”

Alert: GSDs and Belgian Malinoises may look aloof. However, they are by no means shy animals. They’re reserved and don’t make friends easily, yes. But once they do, the dog will remain loyal to you and be protective of you until the end. It’s due to this protective nature that makes them excellent guard dogs.

That said, there’re some distinct differences in these breeds’ dispositions.

Belgian Malinois

By contrast, the GSD is generally less aggressive – kind of tamer. And their attacking speed is slower compared to their Belgian cousins.

It’s worth noticing that the Malinois is more independent than the GSD. This means the latter is more prone to separation anxiety if they’re left alone for a long time.

Habits and Training

Belgian Malinois

Prey drive: So, some positive training and reinforcement are to curb this trait in a Malinois. Because he’s motivated by moving objects (e.g., vehicles, animals, children, etc.), the dog needs to get used to those said moving objects from puppyhood. Socialize your Malinois pup to these objects as well as other beings outside your family. This will help reduce the pup’s possessive and territorial instincts latter on.

Wanderlust: The stronger the prey-drive instinct, the more often your Malinoises will wander away. So it’s best to train him thoroughly. And don’t forget to reinforce your fences, too!

Stubborn: Sometimes, when the mood strikes, a Malinois can be as stubborn as a bull! But all things considered, this breed’s nature is calm and trainable. So, instead of using harsh methods, Malinois owners should be patient and persistent. As long as you don’t intimidate them, he’ll cooperate.

German Shepherd

Stubborn: This seems to be the shared trait of smart dogs. Just as well, because of the nature of their careers – herding flocks and restraining bad guys and all, how can any GSD get his job done if he yields to the targets? However, this trait is a hindrance to the training sessions too. Owners should be firm and patient towards their GSD pup. Once you can prove that you’re the boss, the intelligent buddy will obey. You can check these 4 things to consider when getting a GSD for more information.

Mouthing: Usually, destructive behaviors like chewing or licking happen when the GSDs are bored and have too much excess energy. The best thing to do to reduce this’s to give him plenty of exercises and chew toys.

And unlike the Malinois, the GSD is more vocal and won’t hesitate to express their mind. They can bark incessantly out of boredom too.

General Care for Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd?


The German Shepherd is medium energy dog while the Belgian Malinois is high energy dog. In other words, you’ll have to be even more active if you’re a Malinois owner.

Outdoor activities and creative games are good for them. You can take your pet sheepdog out for long walks every day, or let him join you in jogging, hiking, bicycling, and even swimming. Basically, any exercise with high intensity is welcome. They love it, and it keeps them fit and burns off their excessive energy, results in the reduction of behavioral issues like chewing, barking, crashing, etc.



Belgian Malinois

Due to their short-haired coat, this breed is relatively easy to groom. After all, Malinoises are moderate shedders, so you just need to groom him once a week and double the frequency during shedding seasons, which are spring and fall.


German Shepherd

Decidedly one of the shredding machines, the GSD needs grooming as often as possible. Preferably, brushing 2-3 times a week during normal days and daily brushing is needed during shedding periods.

Bathing and Trimming

It’s good to know that both dogs are generally clean and odorless, regardless of their shedding states. So, only give your sheepdog monthly bath or whenever he gets dirty. Otherwise, the natural oil helping the skin and fur healthy will be washed away with too frequent bathing.

These dogs have deep-set ears, so make sure to check and clean these appendages thoroughly. Claws should regularly be trimmed to keep them in safe length, while teeth also should be brushed 2-3 times a week to ensure the best dental health.


Among other health issues, hip and elbow dysplasia are two most common syndromes shared between these two breeds of sheepdogs. Alongside which, cataracts are also what the AKC strongly recommends genetic testing.

Belgian Malinois

It’s noteworthy that the Malinois is generally a healthier dog breed in comparison with the German Shepherd.

The Belgian Malinois is also susceptible to allergies, dermatitis, epilepsy, anesthesia sensitivity, and hypothyroidism.

German Shepherd

Basically, the prominent health problems German Shepherds are prone to include: Allergies, intervertebral disc disease, panosteitis skin issues, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, degenerative, myopathy.


So, Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd? Have you decided who will be your new companion yet? If you have, then congratulations! No doubt you two will have a vigorous, happy life together.

Otherwise, it’s okay too, if you’re still in a dilemma as to whether to pick a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois. Just take your time. After all, this might as well be one of the toughest choices out there, for even the working dog handlers at K-9 department often find it hard to decide which one to become police dogs. So, no rush, no pressure here!

In the end, whichever you choose, it’s certain that you can’t go wrong with either one. For these two breeds are equally smart, affectionate, and will make a treasured friend for you and your family.

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