Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd What’s the Difference

Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are famous for their strength, loyalty, and intelligence. While they make look very similar, they’re two separate breeds and have numerous differences.

These differences are important to consider when you’re trying to choose which breed of dog to adopt. 

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In this article, we’ll help you make the right choice by outlining the main difference between Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds. Some of these differences include their health, lifespan, intelligence, and more. 

By reading this article, you’ll get a better understanding of the difference between a Belgian Malinois and a German Shepherd dog. So, let’s get started!

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Side-by-side Comparison


Belgian MalinoisGerman Shepherd
Size22-26” tall22-26” tall
Weight40-80 pounds50-90 pounds
TrainabilityVery trainableVery trainable
IntelligenceHighly intelligentExceptionally intelligent
Friendliness with strangersReserved with strangersAloof with strangers
Friendliness with other dogsGenerally okay with other dogs, may be aggressive if not socialized young.Generally okay with other dogs.
EnergyVery high. A few walks per day is not enough. These dogs love hiking, running, and more. They need an owner who can exercise with them for several hours per week. High energy. A German Shepherd needs lots of stimulation, both physical and mental, to prevent bad behavior. 
Lifespan12-14 years9-13 years

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd History

We’ll give a quick overview of these dogs’ histories in order to better understand them and their differences.

Belgian Malinois History

The Belgian Malinois, as its name implies, comes from Malines, Belgium. They were bred as working dogs, and are a member of four types of Belgian herding dogs. They were officially recognized as a separate breed in 1959 in the United States.

Thanks to their history as working dogs, they have tons of stamina and love being put to work. Today, they’re still used in police work and protection.

German Shepherd History

The German Shepherd was originally bred in Germany as a sheep-herding dog. Max von Stephanitz, a German Cavalry officer, is credited with developing the German Shepherd by breeding traditional herding dogs in the late 19th century. 

Nowadays, German Shepherds are world-famous for their intelligence and work abilities, with talents ranging from police work and search-and-rescue to disability assistance. 

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Temperament

Being informed about a dog breed’s temperament is important. You need to make sure the dog’s energy levels, loyalty, and other traits line up with your expectations.

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Let’s take a look at both of these breeds and their general dispositions. 

Belgian Malinois Temperament

The Malinois is known for its great work ethic and protectiveness. They’re very loving with their family and will protect them at all costs, but this also means they can be wary of strangers at first. 

Belgian Malinois make great watchdogs thanks to their protective instincts. However, it’s important to train and socialize these dogs from a young age, since aggression cannot be tolerated in a dog of this size. 

German Shepherd Temperament

German Shepherds are very affectionate, even more so than the Belgian Malinois. Granted, this affection doesn’t happen immediately; German Shepherds tend to be aloof at first when they meet people. 

They’re also extremely brave and will protect their families at all costs. This makes them excellent watchdogs, but you’ll need to keep an eye out for unfriendly behavior. 

Their high intelligence makes them great for a variety of jobs, and they love having a job to do. However, you shouldn’t leave a German Shepherd alone for an extended period of time. This dog breed doesn’t do well without mental stimulation and being alone.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Grooming

It’s important to know how much hair you’ll need to be vacuuming up every day. Let’s go over the basics of grooming Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd dogs. 

Belgian Malinois Grooming

The Belgian Malinois has a short and waterproof coat of fur that tends to be easy to care for, and usually feels a bit coarse. This is because they were bred to work outside in many rough weather conditions. Give your Malinois a thorough brushing once per week. 

Malinois shed twice a year, during the change of season in the spring and fall. You’ll want to brush your Malinois more often in these periods, close to daily, in order to get rid of the loose fur.

German Shepherd Grooming

German Shepherd dogs have a double coat, with a soft undercoat and more coarse outer layer. Still, they tend to be easy to groom, only needing to be brushed two or three times per week.

German Shepherds undergo shedding periods twice a year, where you’ll need to brush them more often to keep the spread of their fur under control. 

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Training

Curious about how easy it is to train one of these dogs? Which one is easier to train? Let’s take a look. 

Belgian Malinois Training

Belgian Malinois have a high prey instinct, since they’re a herding breed. This means they’ll be attracted to small moving objects and animals, which can cause them to run heedlessly after animals, kids, or even cars. 

While the Malinois is a smart and loyal dog, they’re best for experienced dog owners, as their high energy can make them difficult to train. They’re more sensitive than German Shepherds, so train them gently; not with harsh punishment, but with positive reinforcement.

German Shepherd Training

With German Shepherds, you’ll want to train them from a young age. Enrolling your German Shepherd in puppy training school is almost essential. Take advantage of their intelligence by training them young. 

German Shepherds can be great companions and hard-working dogs, but you need to train them so they become well-behaved, obedient adults. Be consistent and use rewards to teach him or her.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Lifespan

Belgian Malinois Lifespan

On average, a Malinois will live 12-14 years. 

German Shepherd Lifespan

A German Shepherd has an expected lifespan of 9-13 years, less than a Belgian Malinois. 

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Health

No dog owner wants to have to worry about their best friend’s health. Some breeds are more prone to health problems than others; that’s why it’s important to know what to expect in terms of vet visits. 

Belgian Malinois Health

The Malinois is a healthy breed in general. However, all dog breeds are at risk for certain conditions. 

With a Belgian Malinois, you’ll want to have the dog screened for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and eye problems. If you’re adopting a Malinois puppy from a breeder, ask if the breeding stock has been screened for these conditions.

German Shepherd Health

German Shepherds are healthy and robust dogs. They are, however, prone to conditions like hip dysplasia, myelopathy, and elbow dysplasia. Again, screening is important.

Also, some German Shepherds will experience bloat, which is swelling of their belly. Read up on bloat in dogs to make sure you understand what to do if it happens to your German Shepherd dog. 

Conclusion: Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

Overall, while the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd dog breeds may look similar, they do have differences that are important to note. 

Both dogs are bred for herding and make great workers, as well as companions. They’re also both highly intelligent and need plenty of exercise.

However, the German Shepherd dog has a slightly shorter lifespan and more known health concerns than a Belgian Malinois. 

On the other hand, a Belgian Malinois will need more gentle reinforcement and training than a German Shepherd. 

If you’re looking for a healthy German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois, make sure not to buy one from a pet store or a puppy mill. Instead, opt to adopt one from a responsible breeder.

We hope this article has helped you learn a bit more about Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds

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