German Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois — Which Breed Is Right For You?
Looking for a hard working, loyal, smart, and agile dog to add to your pack? You can’t go wrong with a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois — but which is truly best suited for you?
Regarding working dogs, two breeds come to mind fast: the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois — they're often even confused for one another! While these two great breeds share many similar personality traits and characteristics, key differences may make one better suited for your lifestyle.
If you need help determining which pup is perfect for your pack, we're here to help. Let's get into it!
If you're looking for a larger breed, you can't go wrong with a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois! In terms of height, the two breeds are stacked evenly for both males and females.
According to AKC, here are the stats:
Belgian Malinois: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
German Shepherd: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
Their weight is where things start to differ — though not too drastically. Still, if you want a breed that you'll be able to lift easily (say, if you're hiking, or they need assistance getting in/out of a car, etc.), it's helpful to know the weight expectancies of both breeds for males and females.
As is true to form, females weigh a bit lighter than males, with Belgian Malinois females still weighing in lighter between the two breeds. Belgian Malinois females range from 40-60 pounds, while female German Shepherds range from 50-70 pounds. Males? For the Belgian Malinois, males range from 60 to 80 pounds, and German Shepherds range from 65 to 90.
If being able to lift your pup — for any reason — is of great importance to you or is relevant to your lifestyle and the activities you'll be doing with your furry friend, the "lighter" breed would have to be the Belgian Malinois.
With big ears, dark noses, long tails, and a strong, athletic physique, these two breeds bear many similarities in their appearance! They are rather often confused with one another. When you know what physical characteristics to look for, you can tell them apart more easily.
Breaking it down by key characteristics, here are the main differences between the two breeds as described by Yahoo:
Belgian Malinois — Lean
German Shepherd — Muscular
Belgian Malinois — More solid-colored coat
German Shepherd — Often bi-colored coat
Belgian Malinois — Triangular
German Shepherd — Pointy tips
Belgian Malinois — Angled
German Shepherd — Poofy
Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are known for their smarts — these breeds are eager to please their owners and ready and willing to show off their athleticism. Their intelligence and obedience are hard to beat.
Looking for love?
While neither could necessarily be described as a "lap dog" based on size alone — one breed is certainly more cuddly.
Regarding doling out love and affection, the German Shepherd is the more lovey-dovey of the two breeds and happy to have a cuddle and be a very oversized lap dog!
That's not to say that Belgian Malinois aren't loving — they're just a little more reserved. This breed tends to lean more towards doling out their love to one key person in the pack that they're especially bonded to, whereas a German Shepherd gives their devotion to the whole family.
Good with kids?
So, in this case, a German Shepherd may be your preferred option if you're looking for more of a family pet. German Shepherds are also known to be good with children, whereas Belgian Malinois ranks less suitable for homes with children. Still, this can vary from dog to dog, so regardless of which breed you choose, watch their interactions closely for everyone's safety.
Any bad behavior?
- - May be territorial
- - Needs to be socialized with dogs early on to avoid reactivity/aggression
- - Can get destructive when bored or left alone for long periods
- - High prey drive (this could be positive or negative depending on your lifestyle/home environment!)
- - Very playful in their youth (can be positive or negative, depending on your lifestyle!)
- - May be territorial / overly protective of family members
- - Needs to be socialized from a young age to avoid aggression/wariness of strangers
- - Vocal (if bored, they may bark excessively)
- - Can be hyperactive/rambunctious if they don't get enough exercise/playtime
Size & weight:
The Belgian Malinois — both males and females are lower in weight than German Shepherds. Height-wise, their averages are nearly the same.
A German Shepherd's "standard" coat of tan and black is more two-toned than that of the predominantly tan Belgian Malinois — German Shepherds have more black in their coats.
Both breeds shed, though the German Shepherd may shed more.
German Shepherds are the more loving and affectionate breed of the two.?
Belgian Malinois tend to bond more closely with one specific person vs. an entire family, while German Shepherds tend to become very bonded with their family. If you've got kids in the house or you're looking for a family pet, in this instance, a German Shepherd may be the better option.
Training from a young age is essential for both of these high-energy breeds. Thankfully, Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are very trainable dogs — their intelligence is incredible, they're hardworking, and they're equally devoted to pleasing their owners, especially regarding obedience.
One thing to be mindful of is the Belgian Malinois' very high prey drive — this should be considered during training, especially if you're hoping to have an off-leash-friendly dog. Working on commands and recall is essential!
Socializing should be an important part of training for both breeds as they are each susceptible to becoming wary of strangers, overly protective, territorial, and reactive towards dogs. Be sure to safely socialize these breeds from a young age to ward off any negative behavior traits.
Exercise and play
Both breeds are high energy and require regular exercise — both are susceptible to destructive behavior if bored (as are many breeds!).
Regarding basic play, German Shepherds tend to be the breed that prefers it of the two. Belgian Malinois enjoy play time to get their energy out and will likely do well with mentally stimulating games or activities like agility training.
Both breeds are said to enjoy the water, so swimming could be a great activity for them!
Both shedders, the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd, will require regular grooming — though the Malinois' coat is a bit less maintenance.
According to the AKC, "the short, waterproof coat of the Malinois is quite easy to take care of. Occasional brushing with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove will keep the dog looking his best, and promotes new hair growth and distributes skin oils throughout the coat as well.
Malinois do shed twice a year; during these periods, a daily once-over with a slicker brush will help to remove the loose hair. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can cause the dog pain as well as problems walking and running."
As for German Shepherds, the AKC notes, "The breed is easy to maintain, usually requiring just a quick brushing every few days or so to help remove loose hairs, but they do shed more profusely once or twice a year.
During these periods, more frequent brushing will help control the amount of hair that ends up around the house and on the furniture. The German Shepherd only needs an occasional bath. It is important to trim or grind his nails every month if they are not worn down naturally, as overly long nails can cause pain and structural issues."
As is common with bigger breeds, both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois have a risk of hip and elbow dysplasia that should be evaluated.
Another potential issue to be evaluated/screened for is degenerative myelopathy, which is more specific to German Shepherds. VCA Animal Hospitals explains this is "a disease affecting the spinal cord, resulting in slowly progressive hind limb weakness and paralysis."
Deep-chested dogs — as both breeds are — are also more susceptible to experiencing bloat (a severe condition). This means it's essential to be mindful of their diet and eating habits (i.e., they should not have excessive play/exercise directly after eating, consider opting for small meals throughout the day vs. big meals, etc.).
According to the AKC, Belgian Malinois may also be prone to eye problems, so be sure to monitor that regularly with our veterinarian!
No matter what breed, you should always ensure that your dog — from puppyhood into adulthood and their senior years — is eating healthy, high-quality, nutritious food to support a long healthy life.
As is true for many large dog breeds (especially these two, as they are athletic and muscular), high-quality proteins are of the utmost importance.
With their risk of bloat in mind, keeping meals small but frequent may be a better option, though it's always best to consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet.
Dogs susceptible to joint issues — like hip or elbow dysplasia — may benefit from specific foods, supplements, and treats designed with joint health in mind. Shameless Pets' Moo Lobsta jerky bites are a great option! These treats contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for hip and joint health support, sweet potato for digestion support, and lobster for delicious protein your pup will love.
As far as working dogs go, few breeds are more popular than the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois.
In general, though, it may be argued that German Shepherds are the more popular breed of the two because of their strengths as family dogs and protectors.
Among active people looking for a furry companion that can keep up with their lifestyle, these two breeds are popular choices — they love to run, hike, explore, and adventure! …In fact, it may be you trying to keep up with them!
…The bottom line
If you're looking for a fiercely loyal companion full of vigor, you cannot go wrong with either breed — both are known to bond with their human deeply and are full of energy. However, if you're looking for a family dog, the German Shepherd may be your best breed choice. If you're looking for a dog ready to work, with endless energy, and a devotion to you, specifically (not an entire family), the Belgian Malinois will not disappoint.
Whichever you choose to be right for you, adding one of these beloved breeds to your pack is sure to deliver a spark of liveliness, energy, and an extraordinary, unbreakable bond.