In recent years, the Belgian Malinois has increased in popularity around the world. Not only has the Malinois become popularized for its working qualities, but even pet dog owners have developed a fondness for the Mal. Consequently, as breeders of varying quality and credibility have recognised the demand for the breed, the number of available Malinois puppies in circulation has increased. Sadly, quantity rarely equals quality.
It is important to remember that not every Malinois puppy is created equal. There are nuances to consider when you are selecting a puppy, and if you are choosing a Malinois puppy for a specific working purpose, you must consider the characteristics and traits that contribute to successful outcomes.
In this article, we’re going to break down what you should consider during your journey towards your next Malinois puppy.
Why do you want a Malinois?
Before owning any dog breed, you should give consideration to whether they will be suitable for your lifestyle, home and family (if you plan to keep them as a pet), or whether they are suitable for the job you want them to do (if you intend to use them for working purposes).
If you plan to utilise a Malinois as a working dog, there are several factors to consider.
- What is the nature of the job your Malinois will be trained to perform?
- Where will they be deployed?
- Which characteristics will be important to their work?
- How will the puppy be raised before being handed to you?
As someone who has been around the Belgian Malinois for decades, I know the characteristics of the breed inside out. At a more granular level, I know every single detail about my own dogs. Whether it is health, temperament, behavior, drive or energy – I’m acutely aware of what makes each dog tick. This is vital, because all of those genetic traits build the qualities within the next litter of puppies. This deep knowledge and experience also allows me to quickly identify which puppies within a litter may be best suited for specific jobs.
Genetics play a huge role in the differing temperaments and drives of dogs. Even puppies within the same litter can display differing traits. A knowledgeable breeder will be able to test and assess the strengths of each puppy within a litter, ensuring you are matched with a puppy which has the fundamental attributes to meet your goals.
Understanding your overall goals is essential before deciding to pick your Malinois puppy, and building a good relationship with a credible breeder is the best way to set yourself up for success. They will help to provide you with a Malinois puppy which has the likelihood of maturing into the dog you need for a given task.
Why appearance shares little correlation with quality
In the age of social media, it’s easy to be sucked in by the ‘cool’ videos you might see whilst browsing through your News Feed, with Malinois performing an assortment of athletic tricks and unbelievable feats. In addition, some breeders have a tendency to focus purely on aesthetics, sharing photos and talking up the beauty of their ‘perfect’ dogs.
When choosing a Malinois puppy which will go on to do a working job, appearance should be one of the last elements you should focus on. After all, how your Malinois looks will have little bearing on whether it is actually suitable for the job. Think about it this way – as a K9 handler, is it more important for your dog to look ‘good’, or for it to be a trainable, biddable dog who will be successful in operational environments?
Instead of what’s on the outside, you should be looking to find a breeder who knows the inner workings of the puppies they breed.
Any reputable breeder should be able to tell you about the puppy’s parents, and the parents of the parents. They should be able to give you a full history of the health, wellbeing, temperament and behavior of the litter’s lineage. They should be able to tell you about the testing the puppies will undergo, and a socialization plan to encourage stability in a variety of settings. They should be able to understand what you want out of your Malinois puppy, and explain their process for matching puppies to handlers.
Now, breeders should be able to provide you with all of that information – but it doesn’t mean they will. As someone who has raised and placed working line Malinois which are deployed across North America for police departments, it is alarming when I see a breeder talking about ‘great working line prospects’ whilst simultaneously focusing solely on the appearance of their dogs. Successful K9 handlers always prioritize workability over appearance – and my philosophy is that breeders should do the same.
The pitfalls of choosing the wrong puppy
If you are experienced with working dogs, you may already be aware of the dangers of choosing the wrong puppy. It is more than just a mere inconvenience that the dog ‘isn’t what you thought it would be’. For example, an ineffective K9 for a law enforcement team can result in the following:
- Wasted time – Either spending extra time bringing the dog up to the required standard due to lack of trainability, or even worse, if the dog has to be washed because it isn’t possible to bring them up to the required level.
- Wasted money – In an era where law enforcement budgets are being stretched to their limits, departments cannot afford to spend money on a tool that isn’t providing value for money.
- Reduced team morale – When a K9 isn’t up to the job, it can lead to frustration and lower morale for handlers, supervisors and other members of the department.
- Operational inefficiency – Perhaps most importantly, if a dog cannot be relied upon to perform its given task effectively, there is a risk that criminal activity may not be stopped.
Selecting the wrong puppy can be a costly mistake for all of the reasons above. Choosing a Malinois puppy based primarily on appearance is likely to increase the possibility of poor decision-making. At the very least, decisions made without understanding the fundamentals of temperament and drive will not be based on science – because how a dog looks has little influence on how that dog works.
Choosing a Malinois puppy is a big decision, particularly if you are choosing it for working purposes. Often with limited budgets, limited time and limited resources at their disposal, K9 handlers and supervisors within law enforcement understand the importance of good decision-making – and in this instance, a decision that will have a large influence on the success of their work for years to come.
Given that it is such a big decision, it makes sense to take the time to do your research. Working with a knowledgeable, experienced breeder you can trust is essential. I always invite anyone interested in our Soldat d’Elite puppies to contact me directly, so I can truly understand what they’re looking for from their Malinois puppy. This approach ensures that as the puppies are raised, I can make good choices for them, subsequently leading to better outcomes – and those choices are driven by behavior and temperament, and never by appearance.