Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: What Are The Differences?

Written by Katelynn Sobus
Published: July 12, 2022
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The Belgian Malinois and Belgian Shepherd are as similar as their names suggest! However, there are some differences to note before committing to one breed or the other.

Other things to note about these breeds include that they’re incredibly high-energy, love to be around family, and can present a few training challenges. We don’t recommend either breed for inexperienced dog owners.

Let’s dive into the details to learn even more about these fantastic pups!

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Comparing Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd

The coat is a major difference between both the Belgian Malinois and Belgian Shepherd.


Belgian MalinoisBelgian Shepherd
Size22-26 inches, 45-75 pounds22-26 inches, 40-80 pounds
CoatShort coat in fawn, mahogany, red, red sable, or fawn sableMedium-length coat in black or black and white
Lifespan14-16 years12-14 years

Key Differences Between a Belgian Malinois and Belgian Shepherd

The key difference between a Belgian Malinois and a Belgian Shepherd is coat length and color. Other notable differences are size and lifespan.

Let’s look into these breeds below to learn more!

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: Size

Belgian Shepherd puppy posing outside on the grass.
Belgian Shepherds are about 5 pounds lighter, weighing 40-80 pounds when full-grown.

©Eve Photography/

The Belgian Shepherd and Malinois stand at the same height of 22-26 inches. However, they vary a little bit in weight. The Belgian Shepherd is a bit larger at 40-80 pounds. Belgian Malinois dogs weigh between 45-75 pounds.

This makes them medium-large in size, which is great for herding and guarding. While bigger guard dogs are more imposing, they also cost more to feed and vet. This is why we think these dogs offer a great middle-ground!

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: Coat

The easiest way to tell these breeds apart is to look at their fur length. Belgian Shepherds are medium-haired, while Malinoises are short-haired.

They also vary in coat color. The Belgian Malinois breed standard allows the following:

  • Fawn
  • Mahogany
  • Red
  • Red Sable
  • Fawn Sable

According to the American Kennel Club, Belgian Shepherds can be either black or black and white.

When it comes to grooming, both breeds should be brushed weekly. During the shedding season which is twice yearly, brush them every day. The Belgian Shepherd will likely take longer to groom due to their coat, and it’s more important to stay on top of grooming to avoid mats in the fur.

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: Lifespan

Belgian Malinois with orange collar and tongue out
Belgian Malinois dogs have a longer lifespan of 14-16 years.


On average, Belgian Shepherds live 12-14 years, while Belgian Malinois dogs live an incredible 14-16 years!

An individual dog’s lifespan can be increased via genetics, health, and care. Feed your dog quality dog food, exercise them daily, and bring them to the veterinarian regularly. This will all help to lengthen their lifespan!

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: Temperament

These dogs are incredibly similar in temperament. Originally bred as herders, they also have strong guarding instincts.

They are smart, energetic, and high-maintenance. We don’t recommend either breed for inexperienced dog owners. It also takes a lot of time and dedication for these dogs to thrive. They need human companionship throughout their days and don’t do well when left alone for long periods. It’s best if you live in a family where you work or go to school at different hours, and someone is typically home with the dog.

They’ll love to follow you around and participate in what you’re doing. It’s important to train them to be alone for short periods as puppies so that they know they’re safe and can handle alone time with confidence. But don’t expect too much from them, either—they shouldn’t be left outside on their own for hours on end or kept home while you work long hours.

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: Exercise

Both breeds have high exercise requirements and can be a challenge to train.


Neither dog will be satisfied with a daily walk, not even a long one! They require higher-impact activities like running, playing fetch in the yard, or going for a bike ride.

They can grow bored easily due to their intelligence and require a range of activities that stimulate their brains as well as their bodies. They’ll love learning new tricks during training, participating in enrichment activities, and eating kibble from puzzle toys.

Of course, these pups should also be taught how to relax. Remember that dogs need plenty of sleep to stay healthy. There is such a thing as too much exercise!

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd: Training

These breeds are somewhat contradictory: they’re both easy and difficult to train. They’re easy to train because they’re very intelligent and eager to please! However, they do have independent streaks.

They also have a lot of instinctive behaviors that must be worked through. A couple of examples are their prey drive and herding abilities. A high prey drive can make a dog likely to escape confinement. They’re also unlikely to learn reliable recall so, although this should be worked on, you shouldn’t count on it.

Never allow them off-leash in an unenclosed space, and be sure to dog-proof your yard so they can’t jump the fence or dig under to chase a squirrel down the street. They might end up chasing children and smaller pets if not properly trained, which can have disastrous results. Your pup doesn’t have to mean to cause harm because they’re large enough to knock a small child or pet off their feet!

They also might try herding pets or people. This can seem cute, but can also lead to unwanted behaviors like ankle-biting.

Properly training a dog with guarding instincts is also a challenge. You must be ready to teach your dog when to let down their guard so that they aren’t unfriendly toward strangers in public or guests in your home.

As with any large dog, Belgian Shepherds and Belgian Malinois dogs benefit from early socialization. This will help them to feel confident with new people, places, sounds, and experiences. It’s also valuable to teach your pup how to be handled. This includes for grooming purposes (lifting the feet and spreading the toes, combing fur, brushing teeth) and for veterinary check-ups (touching the body, pressing on the stomach, lifting the ears).

These experiences can be incredibly stressful for a dog but they don’t need to be! If your dog is used to you touching their ears, for instance, your vet will have a much easier time looking inside when they have an ear infection—and your dog will think nothing of it!

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Belgian Shepherd in park
Black Belgian Shepherd Groenendael playing outside in the park.
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About the Author

I'm an animal writer of four years with a primary focus on educational pet content. I want our furry, feathery, and scaley friends to receive the best care possible! In my free time, I'm usually outdoors gardening or spending time with my nine rescue pets.

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