Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd – What’s The Difference?

With so many breeds out there, it’s often easy to get confused.

Especially since plenty of them have the same lineage and similar appearance. Belgian shepherds are one of those breeds known to confuse less experienced dog enthusiasts.

They are European herding dogs with similar origins as other iconic sheepdogs on the continent, such as German or Dutch Shepherds.

The first efforts to classify and standardize different Belgian shepherd varieties only started in the late 19th century.

Over time, four different varieties were specified: the Groenendael, Malinois, Laekenois, and Tervuren.

Eventually, two of those types stood out as the most popular: Groenendael and Malinois.

However, in the US, the name Belgian Shepherd is practically synonymous with Groenendael.

So, that’s the dog most people refer to when talking about Belgian Shepherd.

Below, I’ll compare the most popular varieties, Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd, and see how different those two actually are.

AttributesBelgian MalinoisBelgian Shepherd
Good For First Time OwnersNoWith Limitations
Good Guard DogYesYes
Apartment FriendlyPossible With Enough ExerciseWith Enough Exercise
Good Family DogWith TrainingYes
SheddingModerate To HighModerate To High
Barking And HowlingModerate To HighModerate To High
Height22-26 inches (56-66 cm)22-26 inches (56-66 cm)
Average Life Expectancy12-14 Years13-14 Years


Belgian Malinois – Dog Breed Information

Belgian Malinois is an extremely intelligent, active, and highly trainable breed.

Despite their sheep herding origin, today they are mostly used as watchdogs, or in police and military service.


The Malinois features a medium-sized, muscular body, similar to a German Shepherd with whom it’s often confused.

They’re very athletic, agile, and have almost unlimited stamina.

Belgian Malinois’ body is covered with a double coat, protecting them from weather elements.

A thick undercoat is beneath the short and coarse topcoat.

The most common color is fawn, usually with black hair tips. Other possible colors include red and brown.

They feature a characteristic black muzzle, similar to their German counterparts, and naturally upright triangular ears.

The eyes are almond-shaped and brown.

Adult males are 24-26 inches (61-66 cm) high and weigh 65-80 pounds (29-36 kg).

Fully grown females can be 22-24 inches (56-60 cm) and 60-70 pounds (27-32 kg) in weight.


The Belgian Malinois is probably the most used work dog now, mostly thanks to its intelligence, high energy, and trainability.

They can be trained to perform a variety of different and complicated tasks and are always up for a challenge.

However, this also means that, as an owner, you’ll have to be constantly engaged and active.

Otherwise, the Malinois may easily get bored, frustrated, and express unwanted behavior.

So prepare yourself for a lot of exercise, games, and running.

Properly socialized Malinoises love spending time with the family and are particularly patient and kind around the kids.

Especially if they’re raised with them.

When it comes to strangers, they’re usually quite reserved and distrustful.

It’s one of the reasons why they’re so often used for guarding duties.

Belgian Shepherd – Dog Breed Information

Belgian Shepherd or Groenendael’s history goes back to the late 1900s when it was developed by Nicolas Rose.

The name comes from the original developer’s château, Groenendael.

Initially bred for herding purposes, Belgian Shepherds made the name for themselves with their bravery in military service during World War I.


Belgian Shepherd is a relatively large dog, with a squarely-proportioned and muscular body.

Despite being a very strong and athletic breed, they still have a certain elegance to them.

The Groenendael’s body is covered in an abundant and long, water-resistant double coat.

The coat is particularly long and feathery around the neck, tail, legs, and under the body.

The coat is black with occasional traces of white on the muzzle, chest, or paws.

The head is more flattened than rounded with a somewhat pointed muzzle.

The ears are triangular and erect, while the eyes are almond-shaped and commonly brown. The tail is strong at the base and feathery.

Male Belgian Shepherds grow up to 23-26 inches (60-66 cm) and weigh around 55-67 pounds (25-30 kg).

Females reach 22-25 inches (56-61 cm) in height and 50-67 pounds (23-30) in weight.


Belgian Shepherd is a very intelligent, determined, and active dog.

They are also rather social and love to be in the company of people. If properly socialized and trained from a young age, they are great around kids.

However, if you miss out on the early training, they can become too shy and sensitive.

This breed is very obedient and enjoys a challenge, making them very trainable. Still, to gain any authority over them, you must be confident and express authority.

Belgium Shepherds are adapt to various kinds of work but mostly excel as guard dogs. They are extremely alert and protective of their family and territory.

When properly trained, they can be great family dogs but bear in mind that they are very demanding and need a constant challenge.

If left alone for a longer period, they may start expressing separation anxiety.

Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd – What’s the Difference?

Belgian MalinoisBelgian Shepherd (Groenendael)

Although they’re often considered to be just the two varieties of the same breed, comparing Belgian Malinois vs Belgian Shepherd reveals some notable differences.

The most obvious one is in appearance, especially the coat length and color.

Malinois features a short, usually fawn, coat, while Belgian Shepherds are known for their long, black coats.

The size is pretty similar, with the slight advantage on the Malinois’ side.

If you plan to get them as family dogs, the Belgian Shepherd is probably the better choice.

They’re a bit calmer and don’t have the insane amount of energy as their cousins.

Plus, they’re a bit more child-friendly. This also makes them a better option for inexperienced owners.

However, when it comes to work or protection, Malinois hardly has a match in the dog world.

They will easily handle almost any task you put in front of them.

Other Varieties of the Belgian Shepherd

Besides these two, the Belgian Shepherd family has two more, less known varieties.


Belgian Shepherd, variation Laekenois by Canarian (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Laekenois is probably the rarest variety of the Belgian Shepherd.

It’s a rough-haired, medium-sized dog. They’re very possessive and protective of their family and mostly used as guard dogs.


The Tervuren is long-haired, similar to Groenendael but with a commonly fawn or gray color.

Due to their good health and robust build, they’re often used to reinforce the bloodlines of other types, including Groenendael.

They’re very bright and delightful dogs who enjoy handling any task you may give them.


I hope that this article clears up the Belgium Shepherd confusion a bit.

After all, no matter what you call them, both dogs described here are a real treat for the right owners.

Of course, as always, the emphasis is on the word “right”.

Due to their strong will and high level of intelligence and energy, both of those breeds can easily get out of hand if not cared for properly.

Belgium Shepherd or Groenendael will certainly require a bit less work and engagement, but with Malinois, all that extra activity will be more than worthy.

Before deciding on a dog, make sure to properly and honestly assess your lifestyle, living situation, and available time.

Authored By

Madeline Wright

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