Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd: An In-Depth Comparison

Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd: An In-Depth Comparison

Belgian Malinois vs. German Shepherd if this is the choice you’re deciding on, this article will be of particular help. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are both of the shepherd dog lineages, and unless you know both breeds very well, you might likely confuse the two. The Belgian Malinois does have strikingly similar features, and most people seem to think both dogs are German Shepherds, with one having a shorter coat( Belgian Malinois).

Both dogs are similar and have similar characteristics. Yet, there are some fundamental differences between the two breeds, and if you’re thinking of getting one or the other, the differences might be significant to you.

German Shepherds are exceptionally well-known dogs and are second in terms of popularity, right behind the Labrador. Notwithstanding their popularity, the GSD is not an easy dog to own and train. For any novice or inexperienced owners, they are not a good choice. If anything, the Belgian Malinois is even more complex, and first-time owners are strongly advised not to take on a dog with such a challenging nature.

Adopting either of these two dog breeds presents a considerable challenge. For the next fourteen to sixteen years, owners will have their work cut out, providing these dogs the training, socialization, mental stimulation, and exercise essential for breeds such as these.

So, let’s discuss the Belgian Malinois vs. German Shepherd in more detail, so you can see what makes them similar and, at the same time, very different dogs.

Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd

1. Quick Overview

Belgian Malinois


  • Intelligent, alert, obedient, protective, confident, aloof, watchdog, affectionate, and loyal

Life Expectancy:

  • 14 to 16 years
Belgian Malinois appearance

Size & Weight:

  • Weight: 60 to 80 pounds (males), 40 to 60 pounds (females)
  • Height: 24 to 26 inches (males), 22 to 24 inches (females)


  • Exceptionally high energy levels


  • Good
Belgian Malinois health

German Shepherd


  • Intelligent, alert, obedient, protective, confident, Courageous, watchdog, Curious, affectionate, and loyal

Life Expectancy:

  • 12 to 14 years
German Shepherd

Size & Weight:

  • Weight: 65 to 90 pounds (males), 50 to 70 pounds (females)
  • Height: 24 to 26 inches (males), 22 to 24 inches (females)


  • High energy levels


  • Average
German Shepherd health

2. Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd Breed History

Both breeds share a similar history with shepherd lineage. Both owners and breeders valued both dogs for their working capabilities.

Belgian Malinois History

There are four related Belgian herding dogs, including the Belgian Malinois. Most countries place the Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael and Laekenois as just one breed. However, in the United States, the Malinois is classified as its own breed.

Belgian Malinois history

The Belgian shepherd dog standard was written in 1892 with three varieties; long-coated, short-coated, and rough-coated. During the early 1900s, the Malinois and Groenendael appeared in the United States. By the 1950s Belgian herding dogs (Malinois, Tervuren and the Groenendael) were shown as one breed. But in 1959, the AKC separated the dogs into three distinct breeds, and that’s where they stand today. Although everywhere else in the world, they are classified as one-breed Belgian Shepherd dogs.

The Malinois did well in America until World War Two, which saw the end of importing dogs into the United States, and it wasn’t until the 1960s before interest began to grow again. The police and military quickly recognized their high intelligence and working abilities, and the dogs have since served with distinction.

German Shepherd History

During the mid-1800s, there were serious attempts to create herding dogs with specific prerequisite skills such as intelligence, strength, speed, and endurance. In Germany, during this time, dog breeding programs were entertained only on a local level; while this produced dogs with the necessary skills, they all had completely different appearances.

In 1891 breeders created a society to attempt to standardize German herding dogs. Within three years, the members abandoned the organization because of severe differences in what members believed was necessary. One ex-member, Max von Stephanitz, decided to go it alone in breeding working dogs.

In 1899 von Stephanitz purchased a dog he believed possessed the necessary attributes. The dog became known as Horand von Grafrath, and the dog became the first German Shepherd dog. Horand became the dog at the center of the German Shepherd dog breeding programs, and all subsequent GSDs are descendants.

German Shepherd history

Fifty-four German Shepherd dogs registered with the UK Kennel Club in 1919, and within seven years, that number grew to over 8000 dogs. In America, the popularity of the GSD grew dramatically after a GSD was the grand Victor in AKC dog shows in 1937 and 1938. However, the breed suffered a setback worldwide during and after the Second World War because of the dog’s name.

However, since those days, the dog’s popularity has grown exponentially and is now the second most popular dog in America and has been since 2009. In the UK, the Kennel Club renamed the GSD to Alsation because of the German connection. And the dog officially remained with that name until 1977, when the name reverted to the German Shepherd Dog.

3. Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd Appearance

As we mentioned, there is a certain resemblance between these two dogs. However, if you put the two dogs together and study them, you will see a difference. Mals have a shorter coat, narrower and smaller head, and have longer, more finely-boned legs than the GSD. Mals are also slightly wider across the chest than a German Shepherd. I would say the Malinois has a somewhat broader muzzle and a squarer nose than the GSD.

Belgian Malinois size and look

There isn’t much difference in their height, but you can immediately tell the German Shepherd is the heavier and sturdier of the two dogs. German Shepherds have two coat varieties, short and long-coated; the Mal has just a short coat, shorter and not as thick as the German Shepherd’s coat. As far as the difference in coat maintenance is concerned, the German Shepherd takes a lot more care because they shed heavily all year round.

German Shepherd appearance

You’ll have to brush your German Shepherd almost daily if you don’t like hair on your clothes and all over the soft furnishings. You’ll probably have to invest in a pet vacuum to pick up the hairs from your carpeting. German Shepherds have a more comprehensive range of coat colors than the Malinois; typically, they are a fawn coloring but can also have sable or red.

4. Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd Temperament

Both the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd are very intelligent dogs; there aren’t many dogs that score higher than these two on canine intelligence tests. Both dogs are driven by their desire to work, so they enjoy learning new things, mainly agility, herding, and obedience trials. Both breeds are highly protective and have a strong bond with their humans.

Belgian Malinois temperament

Of the two dogs, the Malinois is the more challenging to train and socialize. If they aren’t given enough work and primarily mental tasks, they can suffer from anxiety and stress, leading to all manner of behavioral issues. They also possess a higher prey drive than German Shepherds, and they have a well-developed drive themselves. Both the German Shepherd and Malinois are high-energy dogs, but the Mal has the GSD beat for this as well; a Mal will need a lot more exercise.

It can be challenging to find a GSD breeder that produces dogs that are perfect for families. The working lines tend to be very intense dogs, perfect for competition or working as service dogs. Sometimes, you can find a breeder with pups from this line that doesn’t quite have that amount of intensity. A puppy like this would be okay, so long as you put them into obedience and training very early.

German Shepherd temperament

The Malinois is exceptionally challenging to bring into a family environment. These dogs crave mental and physical exercise and can quickly become bored and frustrated when these needs aren’t being met sufficiently. The Malinois is not for a novice owner that isn’t prepared to give this dog the time and energy he needs. Belgian Malinois are wary of any stranger, and this can manifest in aggressive tendencies if the owner isn’t careful. These dogs need early socialization, and it really must be ongoing to prevent any fear of aggression.

While German Shepherds aren’t as challenging as the Malinois, I don’t believe the dog is suitable for first-time owners. They don’t require the same amount of time commitment or exercise as the Malinois, but they aren’t easy dogs to control.

Final Thoughts – Belgian Malinois Vs. German Shepherd

With the right owner, both these dogs can make wonderful family pets. When I say family, I don’t mean families with young kids; older kids that understand how to be around dogs are okay, providing the dogs are very well socialized and trained. Young children will be too easily dominated by dogs of this size and intelligence levels. The right owner, in my opinion, is someone experienced dealing with significant, independent thinking and highly intelligent dogs. Neither the German Shepherd nor the Belgian Malinois is a dog for the faint-hearted.

The Belgian Malinois is the most challenging of the two breeds. He undoubtedly needs an experienced owner who has the time and energy to deal with a dog as complex as this one. Bringing a dog home like the Malinois means you have to adjust your lifestyle to suit this dog; they aren’t going to fit into the wrong lifestyle, the dog cannot change who they are. Too many of these dogs finish in shelters or homes because their owners didn’t appreciate how much time and work they need.