Breed Spotlight: Belgian Malinois
The smart, confident, and versatile Belgian Malinois is a world-class worker who forges an unbreakable bond with his human partner. To deny a Mal activity and the pleasure of your company is to deprive him of his very reasons for being. Belgian Malinois are squarely built, proud, and alert herders standing 22 to 26 inches.
Strong and well-muscled, but more elegant than bulky, there's an honest, no-frills look about them, as befit dogs built to work hard for their feed. A breed hallmark is the proud carriage of the head. Coat colors range from a rich fawn to mahogany. The black ears and mask accentuate bright, questioning eyes the color of dark Belgian chocolate. If you have ever seen a Mal perform an obedience routine, you know firsthand what a smart and eager breed this is. Problems set in, though, when this people-oriented dog is underemployed and neglected. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with their adored owner, is key to a Mal's happiness.
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, promotes new hair growth, and distributes skin oils throughout the coat as well. Malinois 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.
The Belgian Malinois should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian's supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog's age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog's calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog's weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Highly intelligent, athletic, muscular, and exceedingly devoted, the Malinois needs to be actively engaged with his owner, both mentally and physically. This is not a dog that can be left in the backyard, and daily walks are not enough, either. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with his owner, is paramount to the breed's happiness. To deprive a Malinois of activity and human companionship is to deprive him of his very reasons for being. Malinois make great running, hiking, and biking companions, and they excel at agility, tracking, herding, obedience, and Schutzhund (protection) competitions.