Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – What Are The Differences Between These Two Beautiful Dogs?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

The Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd are medium-large sheepdog breeds, commonly known as herding dogs. Originating in the 18th century, they were bred for their versatility and temperament.

These lovely canines are both loyal, smart, alert, and strong. But then how can you differentiate when it comes to a Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd? Read on to explore what really sets them apart from each other and find out which of the two would suit your family more.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd History

The Belgian Malinois was bred in Flanders, Belgium. A small group of Malinois was very important in the development of this dog breed. The German Shepherd, however, was bred in Germany in 1899 by Max von Stephanitz. They were used as messengers, guard dogs, and supply carriers.

The German Shepherd was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1908 and later recognized by the British Kennel Club. They are the second most common registered breed in the US, and fourth in the UK.

However, for the American Kennel Club, the white German Shepherd dog has a different breed standard. The AKC recognized Belgian Malinois as a breed in 1959.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – Variations

German Shepherds commonly come in yellow-brown and red and black. Most of them have a black mask and large black patches on the muzzle, and some are also pure black or white.

Pure-white German shepherds are very rare, but not eligible for dog shows. While being the only dog breed with four variations, the Belgian Malinois comes in Tervuren, Laeken, Groenendael, and Malines. Their elegant colors are mahogany, fawn, red, white, cream, brindle, gray and black. The blue shade is rare in Malinois and not recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – Appearance

Both the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois look similar at first glance (as does the Bohemian Shepherd).

Both dog breeds have teeth that are set in scissors or level bites with triangular ears tilted to one side. Their coat is usually a silky fawn color with a black mask and ear tips. 

However, the German Shepherd puppy has a large-sized body with a long, square-cut muzzle and a domed forehead. Their eyes are brown, and their ears are long and parallel. Belgian Malinois puppies have a smaller frame, and thicker coat and their ears stick out straight from the crown of their head.

They have a square body with a deep chest, level top line, and sloping withers. Their head is proportionate to the body with a flat skull and black muzzle.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Size

The average German Shepherd adult male is around 22 to 26 inches tall and weighs 65 to 90 pounds. The female German Shepherd can reach 21 to 24 inches in height and can weigh between 48 to 70 pounds. Their standard length-to-height ratio is 10:8. 

The Belgian Malinois reaches its full size in around 10 to 11 months. However, some growth can be expected until 18 months of age. Adult male Belgian Malinois are 55 to 70 pounds with a height of 21 to 25 inches while females are 20 to 23 inches tall with a weight of 45 to 55 pounds.

So, you can definitely say that Belgian Malinois are dogs that look like German Shepherds, but there are a couple of important differences.

Belgian Malinois And German Shepherd Temperament

Both the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are alert, intelligent, and bold. They love to defend their families and herds. These dog breeds respond well to positive reinforcement and affirmative obedience training.

Although the German Shepherd is a sturdy dog breed that can be easily handled, their temperament can be problematic if they aren’t properly socialized. 

It’s good for the Belgian Malinois to be socialized at an early age and exposed to different people and animals. But due to their smaller size and higher energy, they need more time outside with stimulating activity.

German Shepherd Dog
German Shepherd

Belgian Malinois Or German Shepherd – Who is Harder to Train?

A Belgian Malinois is an ideal choice for a pup to be trained with minimal effort. Because they are so devoted to their dog owners, socializing them from an early age is important. This will help prevent separation anxiety and curtails aggression toward strangers. 

Although German Shepherds are often considered harder to train, they are very smart and tend to excel at their jobs. Training them early can help you avoid behavioral issues later on. It will also keep them occupied throughout the day.

Belgian Malinois Or German Shepherd – Who Needs More Grooming?

Grooming these dog breeds may be overwhelming for a newbie. But with patience and practice, these herding breeds will become accustomed to the process.

The coat of a Belgian Malinois is shorter compared to the German Shepherd coat. However, both need to be brushed a couple of times a week. Regular bathing and trimming their nails help keep both dog breeds in shape. 

Belgian Malinois And German Shepherd Health And Life Span 

The German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois typically live up to 10 years.

However, it is possible to find older dogs in both breeds that have lived to be well into their teens. With proper exercise, a nutritious diet, adequate care, and an active lifestyle, they will stay with you longer than expected. These two dog breeds also do well when it comes to overall health. 

Although Belgian Malinois dogs are less prone to genetic disorders, both breeds can fall prey to degenerative myelopathy, which affects the spinal cord. This can be fatal if left untreated.

The German Shepherd can also develop dwarfism, a genetic disorder that affects up to a quarter of the breeding population. The good news is you can get your German Shepherd tested for dwarfism after consulting with a veterinarian or a reputable breeder.

German Shepherd in Grass
German Shepherd

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – Favorite Games

As with other dogs, games are a great way to provide continuous activity for these energetic canines. It lifts their mood and significantly improves animal behavior.

Both of these family dog breeds enjoy spending time with their owners, but Belgian Malinois have a more active lifestyle.

They love simple games like fetch as well as complex ones like using their teeth to pick up the pieces of Tic-Tac-Toe or pick up treats to put on squares. They will be equally happy with tug-of-war or hide-and-seek. You could get them a fun puzzle toy to keep them happy.

Just don’t play the disappearing game with them, they get worried and anxious enough to forget that they can sniff to find you. 

German Shepherd vs Belgian MalinoisWho is More Intelligent?

The truth is that both of these breeds are highly intelligent and among the easiest to train. They can track puzzles, distinguish between objects of similar size and shapes, and learn new commands quickly.

Depending on the training and overall health of a German Shepherd, their IQ may vary, ranging anywhere from 85 to 102. 

The Belgian Malinois excels at obedience retention and will obey known commands with an 85% success rate. Belgian Malinois have higher adaptive intelligence than most other dogs. They share an IQ class with the Pom, Corgi, and Bernese Mountain dogs.

Belgian Malinois in nature
Belgian Malinois

Is The Belgian Malinois Faster Than The German Shepherd? 

While the two breeds are not directly comparable in terms of speed, the Malinois takes the lead in running. The German Shepherd can run as fast as 30 miles per hour. But it’s larger in size and has a sloping back.

Whereas the Belgian Malinois is slightly smaller and 10% lighter. With a much straighter back and streamlined appearance, Belgian Malinois can reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. 

Do German Shepherds Have The Strongest Bite?

While a German Shepherd dog has a powerful bite force of 238 PSI, it’s certainly not the strongest among all dog breeds. The Belgian Malinois is not too far behind.

Largely due to their smaller size, the Belgian Malinois bite force is 195 PSI.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd – Who Sheds More?

Both of these puppies are double-coated dog breeds, so they shed about twice a year. Their undercoats are much denser than the topcoats. This requires regular grooming, especially during the shedding season.

But because the Belgian pups have a shorter coat, they will shed less. Some Malinois varieties even lack double coats so they shed only once. 

However, German Shepherds can shed throughout the year or seasonally. But high-quality food and regular brushing prevent excessive shedding, especially for your German Shepherd.

This will also keep your furry friend clean and healthy. Generally, 5 minutes of brushing a day will be sufficient.

Can The Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd Swim?

Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are naturally strong swimmers. Swimming improves their cardiovascular, respiratory, and muscular systems. Water sports can prove beneficial if your pup suffers from joint pain or obesity.

If your pup does love water, you might want to get them a waterproof collar.

German Shepherd pup
German Shepherd

Belgian Malinois Or German Shepherd: Which One Is A Family Dog?

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are extremely active dogs. Compared to the German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois shed less, so they are less likely to cause allergies.

However, both breeds have a high energy level which can make them demanding. While most of them get along with children, it’s good to be cautious when they’re around toddlers or the elderly

These dog breeds are known for their devotion and gentle demeanor around children. Naturally, both breeds have strong protective instincts, and they need socialization before you can introduce them to other people.

These puppies are not aggressive and will not bite unless provoked. However, if not trained properly, they are still capable of harming other pets.

Belgian Malinois Vs German Shepherd – Which Is The Better Watchdog?

It’s a close tie between the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd. With their large stature and imposing bark, they’re both intimidating yet easy to train (the German Shepherd is even considered a scary dog breed). However, their size and temperament are different from each other. 

Since the Belgian Malinois has a smaller frame, they are more agile, faster, and flexible compared to German Shepherds. Ideal for catching criminals, this allows them to get into more spaces. They can also jump high and climb obstacles. This makes them an excellent watchdog for police and military work.

The German Shepherd is a bit less aggressive than the Belgian Malinois. German Shepherds are likely to develop medical conditions but most live up to 12 years. They can be trained to jump in the water and are renowned for their efficiency and tenacity. 

Belgian Malinois Vs German Shepherd – Things to Consider Before Adopting A Popular Dog Breed

The American Belgian Malinois Club recommends health screenings, including hip dysplasia, and eye and cancer screenings for adopting a Malinois pup.

Belgian Malinois may not be the best fit for families with smaller children. And some owners may find it difficult for a Belgian Malinois to get along with small pets like cats or birds.

They require a large house with a fence, intense play sessions, mental stimulation, at least an hour or two of exercise each day, and lots of exciting indestructible toys. This also makes them inappropriate for apartment living. 

There are more or less the same considerations when it comes to adopting a German Shepherd. It’s just that they are slightly little less active compared to Belgian Malinois. German Shepherds have high-energy needs and require mental stimulation because of their social behavior and excellent listening skills. 

They have large ears which aid in hearing, but that also means regular cleaning. If you’re planning on adopting a German Shepherd, remember that they will need daily brushing too.

Moans, groans, and barks are normal for Shepherds, which is important to consider if you’re the kind of person who enjoys peace and quiet.


The Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd are both active, social, and intelligent. They are well-known for their loyalty, herding abilities, and willingness to defend their home and family.

They share some similarities and are both great working dogs. While they can be great family pets, you may want to consider less energetic dogs if you have small children or you don’t live an active lifestyle.

Even though they may be great guard dogs, these wonderful breeds can both be great family pets too.

Which of these two dogs would you adopt? If neither of them are for you, you could always think about a mix such as the German Shepherd Pitbull mix!