Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: The Top 6 Differences Explained

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: July 15, 2021


The Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd have been confused for far too long. Despite their history as herding dogs and their similar coloring, so many physical and behavioral differences separate the pups. Finding the right one as a pet or even a working dog can be a task in and of itself but understanding what you’re in for can make a big difference.

Do you know how to tell the two breeds apart? Which one has more triangular ears? Which one is a better family dog? Let’s find out!

Comparing Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd

Check out some of the ways that the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd differ. While both dogs are intelligent and active, they have several differences in their appearance that make them easier to separate.

Belgian MalinoisGerman Shepherd
Lifespan12-14 years10-13 years
Ear shapeTriangularPointy tips
Coat coloringSolid and consistentBi-colored
TailAngledPoufy

The 6 Key Differences Between Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd

While the German Shepherd has earned a lot of notoriety as being the top dog for police, both breeds exhibit many exceptional qualities. They look fairly similar in appearance, which is part of the reason that they are confused so often. However, their health issues and personality make them rather distinct from one another. Let’s address some of the common differences between these two breeds.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Coat Coloring

At first glance, the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd seem fairly similar, but their coloring is the biggest clue on which one is which. While the Belgian Malinois is more blond or fawn in their coloring, they have a black mask with black ears.

The German Shepherd, however, has much darker coloring throughout its body, mixing the black and dark blonde fur together. Sometimes, this breed has three or more colors in its coat.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: A Little Muscle Goes a Long Way!

The size difference between these two breeds is primarily attributed to their muscle mass. The Belgian Malinois stands tall with a lean figure. Their muscles seem to be meant more for speed, running at up to 30 mph with their compact size.

Belgian Malinois males often weigh less at 60-80 lbs., while the German Shepherd typically weighs up to 90 lbs. Much of their bulkier size has to do with their impressive muscle mass that the Belgian Malinois simply doesn’t have.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Man’s Best Friend? Not Always!

The main reason that so many people seem to love dogs is for the idea that they can become “man’s best friend,” and the German Shepherd is a perfect example. These dogs have a loyal and soft nature, even though their build is quite massive. They tend to be gentle and affectionate, which sometimes makes them bond so deeply with their owners that separation anxiety quickly settles in.

The Belgian Malinois is much different, thriving on its independent nature. In fact, there are some people who find this breed to be almost unfriendly as they mostly mind their own business. For individuals that may have to travel away from home often, separation anxiety is practically non-existent with this pup. In fact, the hardest part of being away with the wanderlust of the Belgian Malinois – he may just try to go on his own journey around the neighborhood instead!

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Watch Out for Those Teeth!

Though the German shepherd tends to love on their family more, they are also rather rough players. Their playtime can get a little aggressive, and they are known to be prone to nipping, biting, and herding while playing.

Even with their independent side, the Belgian Malinois may be better for some kids because they don’t really use their mouths much during play. The chances of being bitten are much smaller.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Entering into Battle

Historically, the high energy and ability to take commands made the German Shepherd an excellent companion during combat. They are rather easy to train to attack other people, which may be why the police forces in many states have them on staff. They were previously used during the Second World War as messengers, guard dogs, and rescue dogs, and they still have a place in the military today.

With his independent streak, the Belgian Malinois hasn’t really been used in combat at all, though their aggression has led police to consider them as a working dogs.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: A Matter of Good Health

When it comes to the cost of veterinary care, each breed’s susceptibility to different health conditions is important. The Belgian Malinois seems to be the healthier of the two breeds, primarily prone to dysplasia in the joints and eye issues, though they can also suffer from allergies.

The German Shepherd, on the other hand, has many health issues to worry about. Along with the health conditions that can plague the Belgian Malinois, this breed can also succumb to problems like chronic diarrhea, blindness, cancer, lupus, diabetes, and other problems. Though the German Shepherd is more likely to be a favorite amongst dog lovers, the cost to keep them healthy is high.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is a Belgian Malinois better than a German shepherd?

It depends on the type of dog you want. While the Belgian Malinois can be more independent, the German Shepherd is more likely to deal with issues like separation anxiety if their owner is gone long. Consider your lifestyle to determine which one is right for them.

Are Belgian Malinois smarter than German shepherds?

Both breeds are incredibly intelligent. However, the stubbornness and high energy of the Belgian Malinois can make them a little harder to train.

Are Belgian Malinois like German shepherds?

The two herding dogs are strikingly similar in their appearance, though their personalities are quite different. The Malinois is often mistaken for a German shepherd in appearance alone.

What’s the difference between a Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd?

While the German shepherd’s coat is a medium length, the Belgian Malinois has shorter and thicker fur. German shepherds have more health issues, while the Belgian Malinois is more likely to go running after prey. The two dogs are much different species.