Compare The Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Which Dog Is Right For You?

Did you know that there is a dog that looks very similar to a German Shepherd that you might never have realized? I know I didn’t! Both the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd are dogs that are commonly used by police, and they even look similar!

When you compare the Malinois vs German Shepherd more closely, however, you’ll see that there are some important differences between the two breeds that you should recognize before you make any decisions about which breed is right for you and your family.


Let’s take some time together to compare their major characteristics and personality so that you can get a better idea of what these two breeds are truly like.

1. Overview: What Makes Each Dog Unique

Before we get into the details of the breed differences, check out this video that introduces both breeds in a quick overview:

As you can see, these dogs look somewhat similar, but they actually have some major differences in appearance, personality, origins, and performance. Still, they have many similarities as well. These similarities make people think of them both as elite working force dogs.

2. How Similar Are These Breeds’ Physical Characteristics?

Compare The Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Characteristics

Both of these dogs have a similar life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. German Shepherds are both taller and heavier than the Malinois. The GSD can grow to be up to 95 pounds while most Malinois max out around 65 pounds.

This is because the Malinois is leaner and they have a thinner coat than the German Shepherd. The Malinois is also shorter than the German Shepherd.

They do have similar muzzle and overall body shapes, however, so if you see them separately rather than standing next to each other, you could get confused about which dog that it is.

3. Do These Dogs Have Different Origins?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Different Origins

While these dogs were created in different regions of Europe, they were bred and standardized for very similar reasons!

Both breeds were bred to guide and guard sheep. While they have evolved to be used in a wide variety of working roles over time, their original purpose was herding, and that is why they are both referred to as herding class dogs.

Both dogs were bred to have strong physiques and a high level of intelligence to help them focus on their task and complete their job.

Due to the popularity of German Shepherds, it is likely that this breed has more genetic weaknesses than the Malinois. Still, it’s hard to tell if that will truly have strong, negative effects on your dog’s health.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Popular

There is no doubt that the German shepherd is the more popular dog. According to the American Kennel Club, the German Shepherd is the second most popular breed of purebred dog while the Malinois ranks in at #51.

Why this difference in popularity?

It is likely due to both availability and exposure. Many people have never heard of the Malinois, while the German Shepherd is one of the most popular police and family dogs. This difference in exposure has likely led to the large difference in the popularity of the two breeds.

Still, you shouldn’t choose one breed over the other simply because it is more popular.

5. What Type Of Roles Do These Breeds Take?

While both of these breeds are great working dogs, there are some major differences in the variety of utility that these dogs are used for.


Because the Malinois is more of a straight-line breed with less variety than a German Shepherd, they are more of a straight forward, working dog. While they can be family pets, they will always be looking for a job to do!

Training them from an early age and giving them regular mental stimulation is necessary in order to keep them from becoming an overachiever that creates messy and unnecessary jobs around your house.

These dogs are actually very great at learning any task, however, and I truly believe that if they were used more often in agility competitions, disability help, and more, people would learn how well they can work in nearly any environment.

German Shepherd
German Shepherd

The German Shepherd that we know today was not standardized until the beginning of the 20th century. Before that time, there were many different shepherd dogs from Germany that were used for work. Each region had variations, and that has led to a lot of variety in how German Shepherds are used today.

You may find a German Shepherd working as a police dog, and you may also see a seeing-eye German Shepherd. While German Shepherds have been adapted to be used in many such roles, the Malinois has not.

6. Which Dog Is Used As A Police Or Military Dog?

belgian malinois vs german shepherd Police

While most people think of GSD as the main police dog that is out there, police and military trainers are just as willing to train a smart, agile Malinois as a German Shepherd!

Malinois are very fast and agile, and they are similar to the GSD in that they can learn to recognize dangerous situations and alert officers to potential problems. Both dogs are very adaptable and can be used for guarding, detecting dangerous substances, tracking, search and rescue, and other retrieving tasks.

While the GSD has been the more popular of these two breeds in elite police circles for the last few decades, the Malinois is becoming a trendy choice for those looking for another breed.

7. Which Dog Is Better For Families?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Families

There is no cut and dry answer here! Both dogs can be great for families if the dog has the right personality.

Both the GSD and the Malinois can be a great family dog. They are loyal, intelligent, and protective. They have a lot of energy to play with kids, and they can be easily trained to make sure that they are gentle and respectful of the space that children need.

That all being said, the Malinois tends to be a more energetic dog than a German Shepherd, so they will need more exercise, more direction, and more space to play in. Both dogs would do best in a house with a yard, but German Shepherds can adapt to apartment living if necessary.

Both dogs can be a handful if they are not trained, so remember that with an intelligent dog like these breeds, they need to be trained and provided ample mental stimulation to ensure that they will be a well-behaved dog that doesn’t wreck your house!

8. Do These Dogs Have Similar Health Issues?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Health Issues

Since these dogs have a similar origin story and similar looks, many people think they will probably have the same bill of health, but that’s not totally true!


The diet required for both dogs is very similar. They each need a dog food with a high-quality source of protein that will give them energy, and this protein should be support by a healthy, highly digestible source of carbohydrates.

SEE ALSO : How To Choose The Best Food For German Shepherd Breed

Health Issues

Both dogs can develop canine hip dysplasia. The German Shepherd is much more likely to be affected by this condition, but it has happened on rare occasions to Malinois breed dogs as well. This condition is more common in GSD because of their shape and breeding history.

Regular physical activity is a must for both dogs to keep them healthy.

9. Do Both Dogs Shed?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd Dogs Shed

There is a big difference in how much these two dog breeds shed!

The German Shepherd has a double coat and goes through bouts of seasonal molting during which they shed… a lot! While they do not shed year round, it can still be very exhausting to deal with.

Malinois, on the other hand, do not have a double coat and are not prone to shedding. No time-consuming process is needed to manage their hair, making them a good choice for those who don’t want a long grooming routine to become part of their life.

10. Which Dog Is More Expensive?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd More Expensive

While some people think that the Malinois might be more expensive because it is not as common, that is not the case! Because this dog has larger litters than a German Shepherd and is not as popular, you can get a great Malinois at a lower price than a German Shepherd.

A Malinois puppy may run around $600 while a German Shepherd can be upwards of $1,000, depending on its pedigree!

11. Which Dog Is Better?

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

The answer is simple: Whichever one you like better!

The research that I’ve done about these two types of dogs doesn’t cover everything that you should know about these breeds, but I do hope that it gives you an idea of what these dogs are like and how they differ from each other.

Do you prefer one brand over the other? Or do you think they’re both great, like me? Let me know in the comments. Then, share this article with other dog lovers so they can learn about these great breeds as well!

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