Belgian Malinois VS German Shepherd (Differences & Similarities)

They often say a dog is a man’s best friend, and it’s easy to understand why this is so. The benefits of owning a dog runs much deeper than just the feeling of having a companion to keep you company, or a watchdog to keep you safe.

But with more than 340 breeds of dogs in the world, which one should you choose? Well, if you prefer larger dogs, two great selections are German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois dogs.

The question of which of the two breeds to choose is really not based on which one is better per se – ultimately it is deciding which dog will work best for your needs and that of your family.

To figure this out, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with both types. Get to know their temperament, behavior, adaptability and other important characteristics.

It is also important to compare the two; do they have any similarities and what about their differences? These will all play an integral role in your final decision so pay keen attention as we delve a little deeper into this comparison.

Belgian Malinois

If you prefer a high energy dog then the Belgian Malinois a great choice to consider.

Originating from Belgium and dating back to the 1800s, this breed was often used for herding and livestock. This might be why they regularly display herding behavior—constantly circling and chasing.

They belong to the Belgian sheepdog family and can grow to a height of 26 inches tall with a maximum weight of 65 pounds.

Distinguishable Traits

The Belgian Malinois (as noted by Animal Planet) requires consistent exercise and mental stimulation and they are recognized for their alertness, seriousness and intelligence.

Speed and agility are two other distinguishable features.

Other admirable traits of this breed are their protectiveness, which might explain why they are often used in the security and police forces and in military service.

The Malinois is also playful and energetic (which makes it suitable for kids); it can be unfriendly to strangers at times, though.

As for train-ability, it can be easily trained and responds well to commands.

Physical Appearance

This animal has somewhat of a square body profile.

They have a short, flat coat which is often brown, red or a deep fawn color.

The tips of their hairs are black and they have naturally upright ears which are also black.

Maintenance and Life Expectancy

The Belgian Malinois doesn’t require much grooming, however you should expect shedding during certain seasons.

This type of dog functions better in cooler climates but can easily adapt to warmer temperatures.

They do not respond well to anger or physical force, instead calmness and consistency are the perfect ways to care for this type of dog.

They have a life expectancy of 10-12 years, which is considered shorter than average compared to other dogs of similar size and breed.

German Shepherd

This is said to be one of the most popular dogs in the world, and at a glance people might actually confuse the less popular Belgian Malinois for the German Shepherd.

The two are somewhat similar in appearance, albeit to the untrained eye.

In reality, though, this particular breed originates from Germany and was initially used for herding and guarding. (In Ireland and Britain it is known as the Alsatian.)

Its average weight is between 75-95 pounds and it can grow up to 26 inches tall.  

Distinguishable Traits

Petmd describes the German Shepherd as versatile, intelligent and protective.

They are known for their devotion to their owners and can be quite friendly to other pets in the household.

They are great watchdogs for the home and are often used as agility dogs and service dogs because they are easily trainable and extremely loyal.

They are also frequently utilized in the military and police force due to their acute sense of smell, and their ability to avoid distractions.  

Maintenance and Life Expectancy

This dog needs quite a bit of attention as it does not bode well alone, especially for extended periods.

When left alone they tend to become bored and anxious, and prone to worry. They’ll display this by digging, chewing and barking.

German Shepherds also require daily physical activity and mental stimulation. Keep in mind that they like to chew on things, so this can easily become a major headache for you if you don’t provide them with the necessary physical activity and mental stimulation they need on a daily basis.

This dog is also known for shedding throughout the year, so constant grooming will be required.

The life expectancy of the German Shepherd dog is 10-14 years.

Physical Appearance

Equipped with a double coat, this animal is ideal for harsh temperatures such as rain and snow.

Its undercoat is thick and its top coat consists of wavy or straight hairs in black and red, black and creme, or black and tan.

You might also see them in other colors such as blue, black, sable, white or liver (these are rare however).

They tend to have large pointy ears, almond shaped eyes and black noses.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

So now the important question; which breed is best for you? Is it the popular German Shepherd or its equally endearing counterpart the Belgian Malinois?

Both are great picks but issues such as grooming and training needs, cost of care, health issues, temperament etc. will ultimately be the deciding factor.

So let’s take a look at some similarities and differences of these two breeds, and come to a conclusion about the battle between the Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd dogs.


Size: The first difference is size, while both are categorized as large breeds; the German Shepherd is bigger than the Belgian Malinois. The difference is not very significant but if space (or lack thereof) is an issue in your home then size will certainly be a deciding factor.

Health Issues: Although minor issues such as canine hip displaysia and epilepsy do occur from time to time, Belgian Malinois dogs aren’t prone to any major health issues.

However, the same can’t be said for the German Shepherd dogs which have genetic inclinations towards several health issues, the major ones being elbow displaysia, canine hip displaysia, as well as minor conditions such as cataracts, skin allergies, pyotraumatic dermatitis and malignant neoplasms.

Aggressiveness: Belgian Malinois dogs are known to be more aggressive than German Shepherds.

Food Consumption: The larger the dog the more food they’ll consume; since the German Shepherd is larger it typically requires 3-4 cups of food each day, while the smaller breed only needs 2-3.

Shedding & Grooming: You can expect shedding from the Belgian Malinois mainly during the fall and spring, but the German Shepherd sheds constantly throughout the year, so it has to be groomed more often.

Activity: The Belgian Malinois is faster and more active than the German Shepherd.

Adaptability: The Belgian Malinois adapts easier to different environments than German Shepherds.

Life Expectancy: The German Shepherd has a longer life expectancy than the Belgian Malinois.


Despite their differences, these two breeds share some similarities as well.

Origin: They originate from the same general region in Europe; the German Shepherd from Germany and the Belgian Malinois from Belgium.

Categorization: Both dogs are categorized as large breeds and they both require lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Intelligent: They are both highly intelligent breeds that make for great watch dogs and service dogs. However the German Shephered is the more intelligent of the two as noted by psychologist and dog intelligence expert, Dr Stanly Coren who lists this type of dog among the top 3 in the intellectual department.

Loyalty & Affection: Both breeds are loyal, obedient and protective.

Family Dogs: They both make great family pets.

Obesity: They both have a low propensity for weight gain.

Wrapping Up The Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Battle

If you’re looking for a dog to bring home, then these are two remarkable options to consider.

Both have their pros and cons; the Belgian Malinois can be shy around strangers but if they are taught to socialize during the early stages of their life, this won’t be a problem.

They also require lots of exercise and physical activity to remain happy.

On the bright side, they are easily trainable, don’t require much grooming and are quite intelligent.

If you live on a farm or have tons of yard space, a Belgian Molinois would be the perfect addition for you.

As for German Shepherds, they shed heavily and are prone to certain health conditions. However, they are among the top 3 list of smartest dogs and make for great family pets—especially since they are hypoallergenic, and will do well with allergy sufferers.  

Only you can decide which attributes are more important to you.

Think about your needs, living conditions, environment and overall lifestyle during this decision making process.  

Also consider the financial implications of each breed as it relates to food, health, grooming etc. When you consider all these factors it will be much easier to make the right decision.

Have you made your mind up yet; which of the two breeds would you pick and why?

If you enjoyed this article you might like to read this one about the differences between an Akita and a Shiba Inu


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