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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Beachy

Sassy and Brilliant - Belgian Malinois

Finding Your Soul Dog! The Belgian Malinois may not be it!

So, you decided you want a dog. There are questions to contemplate to be sure you find the right dog to meet your needs, and theirs!

  • Why do I want a dog?

  • What do I want from a dog?

  • What characteristics intrigue me? And which ones DRIVE ME CRAZY!?

  • What does the commitment look like? (Daily exercise, training, grooming, and cleaning after)

  • Am I ready for the cost?

  • Can I deal with the mess and destruction a dog is capable of?

  • Am I ready to pick up elephant-sized poop?

These questions may seem basic! The fact is, often we get wrapped up in the emotion of seeing a cute puppy, and we ignore these tedious things. UNTIL! We are faced with the reality of some characteristics that might just drive you crazy!


The purpose of this blog is not to deter you from welcoming a pup to your family. The purpose is to help get minds in the game and whet the appetite for knowledge so you can set the scene for success! As I discuss breeds, I am not labeling dogs in this blog. My goal is to share typical characteristics they have, and the needs centered around those traits.


Let’s take a stroll to the movies! A fantastic action-packed award-quality movie is released! The movie transports you into the plot, and the star is an amazing dog. Despite scenes of destruction and unruliness, the dog loses those poor behaviors in a matter of a few short scenes. By the end of the movie, this dog is the most well-behaved hero we have ever seen. Forward to the next day, and guess what? Everyone wants that dog! So folks run out and find the next Belgian Malinois, Dalmatian, or Dogue De Bordeaux; completely unaware of the breed, their typical characteristics, and what that breed needs to be happy and well-balanced! People become romanticized by the fictional character and dodge all logic!


Does this sound familiar? Yes, because it happens with each new release! Dogs are not a fad, they are valuable souls! Reaching the level of training that dogs have in movies takes years of dedicated attention to training. A Pet Healthy Network article cited studies conducted around this topic show this phenomenon to affect staring breeds for as long as 10 years following the Hollywood release! There have been movies released in the last few years that showcase the agility and the beautiful Belgian Malinois, and what do we see all over the internet? Cool videos on all the cool tricks these dogs can do such as walking in unison between the legs of their owner, running strenuous obstacle courses, or jumping to unfathomable heights. Now everyone wants a Belgian Malinois or similar breed. The fact of the matter, not everyone is ready or aware of what this breed needs. The result? Many Belgian Malinois are in shelters, rescue centers, or tragically euthanized. If adoptable - enough? Labeled with statements like these: “doesn’t do well with children,” “must be the only pet,” or “can’t be in a home with cats.”


Naturally, first up in this blog series, is the Belgian Malinois! These beautiful and intelligent dogs are very energetic and highly trainable herders. Herders naturally try to create order, control the movement in their environment, and if not kept busy, in a fast-paced training environment, they will get frustrated and bored. Not channeling their energy properly results in them seeking mischief; it can be dangerous if they try to start herding small children or cars. These amazing dogs are very loyal to their handler/family! This makes socialization early in life a must!


According to breed standards and what you’ll find on the net, Malinois have a high need for mental stimulation, they train well because they are so intelligent and aim to please, and they are protective. Looking at some of their other traits that fall in the medium category are playfulness, affection with family, good with kids, shedding, and a little closer to low is how good they are with other dogs. How much does nature versus nurture play? Well, some tendencies like high energy are not going to fade because their human is a couch potato! However, how well socialized, or not socialized will certainly impact how well a Malinois will be with other people, specifically children, and other dogs!


Let's talk about Porsche to give you a real-life picture of the Belgian Malinois.

  • Porsche is VERY ENERGETIC! I can take my girl on a 7-mile run and she is ready for more!

  • Remember they want to control the movement in the environment, so any runner coming toward us can spin her into a fit to go herd that individual. Imagine the moment of fear those runners feel! They see aggression; Porsche sees the situation as if she is trying to maintain control. We have worked on this and she is better, however, we have more work to do.

  • Once runners have passed by, or we are behind them, Porsche does fine. After all, they are running in the direction she would herd them, right?

  • Porsche is not aggressive. While not advised, an individual approached her and went to give her a loving pat on the head. Porsche read them the “riot act” but did not bite. She reacted to the intrusion of her space and what she interpreted as a threat.

  • Porsche is always on alert. Only when she his home and lazing around with us or sleeping, does she let her guard down.

  • She experiences hyper-arousal around people sometimes despite socialization. Porsche cannot interact with children currently.

  • Porsche took about 6 months to train following her second fear stage, so she would be safe enough to bring around people. When I say safe enough to bring around people, what I mean is on a 4ft leash, and people respecting her 6ft-10ft bubble.

  • During that second fear stage, she decided she wanted to herd vehicles. This may sound comical at first, however, would have turned tragic quickly. Porsche wanted to herd vehicles on a highway with 70 mph - 80 mph traffic.

  • Once the training clicked in Porsche’s mind, the generalization of cues are beginning.

  • Her prey drive is through the roof - even towards the cat that she grew up with!

  • Porsche is very loving and loyal. She frequently wakes me up in the middle of the night for me to give her an ear rub. She believes she is the boss; if I try to go back to sleep instead of rubbing her ears, she will nudge me until I give her a good, long scratch!

  • A very opportunistic girl! I once choked on my food. She wasn’t aware that I was having trouble and took the opportunity to sneak a grab from my plate!

  • Porsche needs vigorous mental stimulation, exercise daily, and play! She is quick to deliver a play bow to the other dogs, us, and will take on a game of fetch ANYTIME!!

  • Our girl does pretty well with other dogs. Being raised with an American Bully, she may have an identity crisis. We notice she is judgmental of pointed-eared dogs, and a natural with any Bully breed.

  • Remember the need for order and structure - Porsche must sit in the back right seat for car rides. If we try another spot in the car, she works to get back to the right side.

  • Porsche is a beautiful animal. Her markings are gorgeous and she walks with grace and confidence. She wears a vest that boldly states “Do Not Pet” and people continue to be intrigued by her and think they will be the one stranger Porsche magically accepts and wants attention from. THIS IS A FANTASY! People should, but don’t respect her space and the notice.

  • HIGHLY PROTECTIVE. PEOPLE WHOM PORSCHE IS NOT ACQUAINTED WITH AND COMFORTABLE WITH ARE ADVISED TO NOT APPROACH US.


Rewind to when we brought home, Porsche. Brian and I both work, commuting two hours daily. We understood the need for vigorous activity, play, and SOCIALIZATION! At the young age of 9 weeks, I took Porsche to a veterinary visit. She was trying to protect me from all the human, canine, and feline threats she detected. This is three weeks after we brought her home, and toted her around in a stroller; aiming for safe socialization, and keeping her off the ground until vaccinations were completed. She was in a fear stage at nine weeks old - 100%. We opted to place Porsche in daycare at 16 weeks after a complete vaccination cycle. A success, for a short period.



Unfortunately, the daycare took a “nose dive” in standards (A WHOLE OTHER BLOG). They kept Porsche, and Clifford in the kennels versus the interactive play and training we paid for and were promised. Bad timing! Porsche entering her second fear stage in adolescence experienced hyper-arousal. She began barking at passing vehicles during car rides, attempted chasing vehicles, prey drive kicked in wholeheartedly, and any passer-by on walks or runs meant I had to stop and use my whole body’s strength to hold her back. About this time, I was getting my training certification. Elaine Carlson, friend, Behaviorist, and owner of Bluegrass Pawsitive Dawg Training, helped us get Porsche back to enjoying life, and mentored me through my certification process. Elaine provided us with tools, and it was up to Brian and me to work with her daily to bring her back around!


Looking back at the breed descriptions and how Porsche is; things aren’t too far out! Nurture plays a role, but nature still exists and we need to pay attention to it before committing. ALSO! It is imperative you be ready to spend the money on training. Starting from the beginning, if you take a Puppy 101 class and progress to Canine Good Citizen, you will be at a good start. Ultimately, I say a Belgian Malinois is best suited to an active person, or family. If you don’t have kids and plan to have them later, I recommend starting with a different breed.


I’d like to loop back around for a moment to discuss all the cool videos out there. Those Belgian Malinois, or similar breeds, have gone through in-depth training. It is natural for dogs to want to stand between your legs. If you have a good bond, this is centering and comforting to a dog. The reason the Belgian Malinois is placed as a working dog primarily is because of their phenomenal ability to learn and their work ethic. This same positive trait can quickly turn foul if their intelligence is nurtured and engaged, or their energy is not exercised! Don’t mistake an intelligent dog as inherently knowing what the human wants in the way behavior is, and don’t expect them to naturally act like the well-trained dogs you see in movies and on social media platforms.


I am thankful every day for all of our pups. Porsche is an amazing dog, but the structure, discipline (humans, not her), and flexibility to meet her needs make her this amazing dog! When seeking this breed, we had friends and family question our ability to handle this breed. I say you cannot judge a breed, but you must look at what the needs are for that dog to thrive positively, and be flexible to learn where you lack knowledge or skill to meet their needs and give these beautiful creatures their BEST LIFE! It is also crucial to understand that these dogs are powerful. They would not be put to work with the police and military if weak. A situation could quickly become tragic, for a person hurt and traumatized, the dog forced to be euthanized, and devastated families. Do your research and prepare before bringing a dog into your family so that we don’t have many dogs in rescue situations and you share the best life with your dog!



Aloha, Barks, and Howls,

Melanie Beachy




Resources:

Hajeski, Nancy, Every Dog, Buffalo, Firefly Books, 2021

Animal Behavioral College, Dog Obedience Instructor Training Program Book One, Santa Clarita, 2020 Animal Behavioral College Inc.

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