Are Belgian Malinois Aggressive?[Biting and Other Problem Behaviors]


Belgian Malinois snarling while aggressively defending his toy

Owning an aggressive dog can bring great terror to a family and household. It’s no wonder then that someone considering a Belgian Malinois would wonder if they are aggressive. Of course, it’s also possible that you might already have a Malinois and experiencing aggression problems. Whether you are someone thinking of purchasing a Malinois or already an owner of one, this article should have something positive that you can get out of it.

So, are Belgian Malinois aggressive? Belgian Malinois can be considered one of the more aggressive breeds. Though with careful training and socialization it is possible for them to become loyal family members. Very smart and physically capable they are often trained as working dogs, often engaging in police or military work, where they excel. If untrained this breed can develop bad behaviors such as biting, destruction of property, and many other negative neurotic behaviors.

Now I want you to understand that there has never been a dog that has been born bad and aggressive. While some breeds, such as the Belgian Malinois, tend towards aggression more easily, this is usually because humans have bred and raised them to be so. So it is important to understand that this breed is not for the faint of heart, but if your dedicated enough to them then they can make a canine friend like no other breed.

The development of aggressive behaviors in a dog can come from three different factors. These are their breeding, training, and socialization. In the case of Belgian Malinois, their breeding due to police and military work strongly affects them to aggression. This makes it important that if you’re getting one of these dogs to seek out a breeder who specializes in pet Malinois and not the working kind. Most breeders will have bred their dogs for work and families should avoid these breeders if they’re seeking a canine companion.

14 Best Places To Find Belgian Malinois Puppies

While you have some control over how your dog has been bred, the truth is it is limited. The department of training and socialization is where you can have the most influence. With Belgian Malinois they must be trained and socialized otherwise they can develop aggression and other problem behaviors.

I would recommend that you try to introduce a new Belgian puppy to at least 50 different kinds of people in their first month with you. This isn’t a hardcore rule but trying to achieve it will do wonders for your dog’s tolerance levels later on. When it comes to training this must be a lifelong endeavor with this breed. You should if possible seek out the help of a professional trainer if you can.

We will now be going into more details about what kinds of aggression problems a Belgian Malinois can have and what you can do about it. Individual behaviors such as biting, chasing, and growling will all be covered in detail. Please continue to read on as we try to talk about all facets of aggression with the wonderful Belgian Malinois.

Standard Temperament of a Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois make amazing working dogs. With a powerful physique, the courage of a lion, and a sense of duty equal to well-trained soldiers. There is no question why these dogs make up the majority of canine membership of the world’s best militaries and police departments.

Highly intelligent there are few tasks that can dumbfound a Malinois. From obedience competitions to agility trials these dogs dominate. Many of them have served as bomb-sniffing dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan. With many military and civilian honors spread among members of the breed.

Possessing such an impressive working record may overwhelm a standard civilian owner. While these dogs require lots of care, training, and time with their handlers. They can with the right necessities being met become loyal family dogs.

In civilian life, one should expect their Belgian Malinois to have a strong sense of obedience and duty to all aspects of their family. They will be very protective of there loved ones, which can easily turn into aggressive behaviours towards strangers without careful training and socialization. They must have an outlet for their high intensity. Making them best for owners that intend to be very active with them, an experienced dog family with an intention to participate in agility competions and schutzhund would be best.

The key traits that you can expect from a Belgian Malinois are the following:

  • High intelligence.
  • High energy and strong endurance.
  • Very protective of family and their territory.
  • Eagerness to please.
  • Strong focus with great potential for obedience training.
  • Aggressive behaviors in Belgian Malinois with poor training and socialization.

Are Belgian Malinois Considered an Aggressive Breed?

Highly energetic and intelligent herding dogs, the instincts of a Belgian Malinois are perfect for guard dog and working duties. They can be prone to aggression towards strange people and dogs if not socialized enough. Due to many of them being bred to be police and military dogs. Many Belgian Malinois will have strong aggressive tendencies that could lead one to consider them one of the more aggressive breeds in the canine world.

Many German and Belgian sheepherding breeds can have aggressive tendencies. It’s not the dog’s fault but that of us people. When a breed like the Belgian Malinois has been bred for two hundred years to do some of humanities most dangerous jobs, its only natural that they can sometimes be aggressive. Especially when you put their courage and intensity into a nice sedentary home without any outlet for that energy.

However, this can be overcome with training, socialization, and lots of exercise. But it will require a very dedicated owner, which let’s be honest most people simply won’t have the time to properly care for these amazing animals. If you get a Belgian Malinois be aware that it could be considered to practically be a part-time job in itself. While there is no doubt that these dogs’ loyalty and duty are unmatched, you must make sure that you have a duty towards them equal in measure.

Are Belgian Malinois Protective?

Belgian Malinois are instinctively protective. They will be constantly vigilant against any danger that might try to knock on their family’s door. They need consistent socialization and steady training. Otherwise, you could find your Malinois protective instincts being used as aggressive behaviors against neighbors and other animals in the area.

Their intelligence, fantastical physical ability, and devotion to their family can make Belgian Malinois one of the best protection dogs in the world. You can expect them to perform well in all the normal protection and watchdog duties that you would expect. If a stranger shuffles towards your house in the middle of the night don’t be surprised when your Belgian Malinois wakes the whole house up with ferocious aggressive barking.

In fact, due to their incredible intelligence and protection abilities, Navy Seals use Belgian Malinois almost exclusively. Additionally, several years ago the police department of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia decided to switch their police dogs from German Shepherds to Belgian Malinois. One of the reasons that the police chief gave for the switch was that “Belgian Malinois protect their handlers better in crisis situations, are more robust, and act more aggressively when needed”. You can read the whole article in the TelegraphOpens in a new tab..

While all of these things might be the kind of stuff that you would expect from a noble breed such as this one. The truth is that because of their high intelligence Belgian Malinois can protect their family from things you might not expect. Here is a beautiful storyOpens in a new tab. of a Malinois attacking wasps because one of their family members was allergic to them.

Why Might a Malinois Be Aggressive?

By aggression, we are referring to your Belgian Malinois biting or attacking you, other people, other dogs, and even friendly animals. This can also refer to a dog acting in an aggressive manner such as growling, snarling, or chasing things. Any aggression displayed by dogs will almost always have some reason that set the canine off.

Some of the reasons that might cause a Malinois to display aggression are territorial, protection, fear, and prey instinct. We will go into more details about each of them soon. But it’s important for an owner to understand the reasons for their dog’s behavior. No dog becomes aggressive for no reason and this is equally true of Belgian Malinois.

If you don’t know the things that are upsetting your dog then it becomes impossible to be able to calm them down and solve the problem. So figuring out the reason why becomes an all-important first step.

  • Territorial aggression: With their strong protection instincts it’s easy to see a Belgian Malinois becoming aggressive over yard and home. But this can also be expanded to include their food and toys. If your Malinois gets very defensive whenever they think someone is reaching for their food or a toy, then they are displaying this kind of aggression.
  • Protection aggression: An untrained Belgian Malinois can have a strong tendency to display this form of aggression. While being protective over their family is desireable, its possibly even the reason why you got this breed. However if this protective instinct is taken to an extreme then it turns into aggression, which can be very dangerous.
  • Fear aggression: All dogs get scared sometimes even a brave breed like the Malinois. While fear is a normal response to strange or new things, if your Belgian Malinois hasn’t been properly socialized then this fear could turn into dangerous aggressive actions. An example of this would be if your dog isn’t used to people wear hats, as a result they consider hats to be scary, so therefore they snarl and growl at people wearing them.
  • Predatory instinct: This is when a dogs natural hunting instincts manifest as a result of someone or something acting like prey. It could be something like a running child or even the natural reactions of someone whos afraid of dogs, such things could cause an untrained malinois to aggressive chase the person. This is why careful training of this breed is so important.
  • Sometimes a dogs aggression can become redirected towards their owner: This is something important that any Malinois owner needs to be aware of. Your Belgian Malinois could be acting aggressively towards another dog for example. You try to intervene to calm things down but suddenly your dog bites you. Sometimes when a dog’s aggression can’t be acted upon towards its true target then proximity can result in the dog attacking an innocent bystander such as yourself.

Signs of Impending Aggression From Your Belgian Malinois

People often like to say that a dog attacked for absolutely no reason and that it came completely out of left field. This however is almost never the case. Belgian Malinois tell us when they’re upset, the problem is that we often don’t listen properly. Because they can’t speak human they can only tell us there’s a problem through subtle body language cues. It’s important that a Malinois owner learn these cues as thoroughly as possible.

Here are a few common signs that a dog will use to try to tell you that their feeling aggressive towards something. This list is by no means exhaustive but it should give you a good grasp of the basics. If you see your Belgian Malinois showing any of these aggressive signs quickly remove them from the situation as rapidly as possible.

  • If the fur along their back starts to raise.
  • Watch out if you see their tail getting extra poofy.
  • When their body does extremely rigid.
  • Rigid body combined with a thousand yard star usually direct at their intended target.
  • Baring their teeth.
  • Growling or snarling.

Not all dangerous behaviors are a result of dominance and protection. Some are derived from fear. Here are a few signs that your Belgian Malinois might be scared of something, which considering their brave nature could mean that a fear-driven aggressive action is imminent.

  • If you see the whites of their eyes.
  • When their eyes almost seem to be rolling up into their head.
  • Any cowering with their tailed tucked beneath their body.

Methods to Calm an Aggressive Belgian Malinois

If you find yourself with a pet Belgian Malinois that increasingly is engaging in aggressive behavior don’t overreact. There are a few steps that you can try to help them to calm down. Of course, in some cases, you may need to seek the help of a professional dog trainer, which you shouldn’t hesitate to do if you feel overwhelmed. These are just a few helpful tips to improve your Belgians relationship with you.

  1. Stay calm

Belgian Malinois are very sensitive dogs, especially to the feelings of their owners. While I’m not sure if it’s true that dogs can smell emotions I know that based upon experience if there is any dog that can do that it would be a Belgian Malinois. So this means if you display fear or anxiety then it’s going to trigger your dog. Since they see that your upset they quickly want to find the source of it and attack it.

After all your the dog’s leader, when a leader gets worried then it’s going to bother their subordinates. For this reason, its important to check your own emotions to make sure that your Belgian Malinois aggressive behavior isn’t actually being caused by your own feelings.

2. Talk to your dogs vet.

Pain can very easily cause anyone to be upset. I’m sure you’ve probably experienced something in your life that brought you a lot of physical pain. You probably were not at all in a good mood. While dogs are different from people in many ways this is one way that we are all the same. A dog in pain is very likely to behave aggressively.

So if it feels like your Belgian is acting more aggressive than usually all of a sudden, then strongly consider that it could be a medical problem. Take your dog to a vet just for a simple check-up. It could even save your dog’s life if it’s something very serious.

3. Nueter or spay your dog.

An unneutered or spayed Belgian Malinois will be far more aggressive and dominant. They will have a host of behavioral problems that won’t be found in a dog that has been fixed. However, this will vary based upon each dog’s unique personality. Don’t expect fixing your dog to solve all your canine problems but in many cases, it can help.

Generally, if you don’t intend on breeding your dog then you should probably spay or neuter them. Not only can it help with behavioral problems but it’s also often healthier for them, making them less likely to develop certain cancers and other illnesses.

4. Belgian Malinois need lots of exercise and mental stimulation.

With a dog as high energy as a Belgian, it becomes absolutely essential that you ensure they have plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. While having a super-intelligent dog can be fun it also has a downside. That is you must keep them both physically and mentally active. These are not dogs for couch potatoes. You need to be walking, if not running, your Belgian Malinois every day otherwise they will engage in aggressive behaviors.

Their like a hyperactive child, if you keep them cooped up all day they will go crazy and lash out. Even if your Belgian Malinois doesn’t become aggressive towards others, they could engage in other problem behaviors as a result of boredom. Such as chasing and biting their own tail, or even tearing up inanimate objects in the house. Belgian Malinois boredom equals destruction.

5. Be consistent with their training.

When you own a Belgian Malinois then training is not just something that you do when they’re a puppy. It must become a lifelong endeavor. Be consistent with your commands and make sure that you don’t wiggle on your boundaries. While you should only use positive training methods with this breed you must still be firm while also being kind.

Don’t just focus on training them on what not to do, but also teach them fun things. You have one of the most intelligent dogs in the world make sure to put it to good use. Teach them how to fetch, which they will be marvelous at, and maybe even set up an obstacle course in your back yard for them to run through. Are Belgian Malinois aggressive? Well, I promise you they will be if they go untrained or even poorly trained.

Why Do Belgian Malinois Bite?

Biting and other aggressive behaviors leading up to it can be very dangerous both for people and the dog. They can not only lead to serious injury for a human but they could lead to something terrible like the dog being destroyed. This risk can be even higher for a working dog like a Belgian Malinois due to their historical breeding and training for combative canine services, such as in the military or police forces.

All dogs bite given the right conditions but the risk of a Belgian Malinois biting is higher than with other breeds. Historically these dogs were trained to bite and engage in aggressive behaviors for the sake of police and military forces. The bite of a Belgian Malinois can be so strong and aggressive that they have sometimes been dubbed maligators, due to the tendency to hang on when they bite. Of course, this behavior is usually trained by their handlers.

But it’s still a good thing for any prospective civilian owner of a Malinois to be aware of. These dogs due to the breeding of their ancestors will be much more likely to bite and also to bite harder. It’s important as their owner to know what kinds of activities might lead to biting.

  • They’re afraid of something and so, therefore, bite out of fear.
  • You tried to take their food or a toy away.
  • They feel that something is threatening their family.

Your Belgian Malinois might have way to much energy because you’re not giving them enough exercise. It may seem too simple to be true. But many bad dog behaviors that a Belgian Malinois might display can often be solved simply by upping their activity level.

How to Train a Belgian Malinois to Not Bite

You should ideally make sure that you train your Belgian Malinois not to bite when their still a puppy. This is when their minds are the most moldable plus they are much easier to reprimand and handle as puppies. Basically, it’s best to teach them when they’re young.

There are many different ways that you can teach your Belgian Malinois, not to bite. Now you must understand that young Belgians can be quite mouthy simply as a part of their natural personality. So ultimately when they’re a puppy they will do things such as put their mouth on your hand and other such behaviors. The goal is really to teach them not to bite down hard.

Here are a few basic methods for you to consider for teaching your Malinois puppy to not bite.

  • Verbally reprimand them and direct them to one of their favorite toys to chew.
  • If the biting and aggression gets really bad from your Belgian Malinois puppy then a timeout can work perfectly. But keep in mind that this time out should be very short like only 5 minutes.
  • Depending upon the unique personality of your puppy a water spray bottle may work beautifully. Just give them a little spritz when they start to get too bitey.
  • Use only positive forms of training with your dog. Don’t use any aggressive negative training methods with your Belgian Malinois. They won’t respond well to it.
  • Play with your dog regularly and ensure they have enough exercise. Just a daily long walk can do wonders for any dog’s temperament.

Common Belgian Malinois Behavior Problems

Besides aggression and biting there are many other problem behaviors that your Belgian Malinois can develop. All of this can easily be solved when their puppies with careful training. Though the truth is with this breed professional help will be needed for the common owner. You should strongly consider hiring a professional trainer for this breed, which I will talk more about how to do that a little further down in the article.

Here are a few common behaviors that your Belgian Malinois can develop if not trained and socialized properly.

  • A Belgian Malinois can develop aggressive fear-biting: This can happen when your dog hasn’t been socialized enough. This could be something like your dog getting scared because the lawnmower is cutting grass. Or simply when you take away your dog’s food bowl when they’re done with it.
  • Violent tail biting: When you have a working dog like a malinois that just does not have a job to do. This leads to boredom and anxiety which can manifest in many terrible ways. One way this can come out is through obsessively chasing their own tail and biting it. Without gentle correction, it can get as bad as spilling blood.
  • Your dog might be impossible to tame while walking them: The Belgian Malinois might pull on the leash so hard that it makes it incredibly hard to walk them. This can be a very unfortunate problem as it could lead you to rarely walking them. That would be a true tragedy as daily walks are essentials for this breed’s sanity.
  • Not considering you the alpha of the pack and as a result not listening to you: Belgian Malinois can be very headstrong dogs, they have to be for the kind of work that they have done historically. But because of this an easily cowed owner could easily be ruled over by these dogs. It’s essential that you establish yourself as at the top of the hierarchy of this breed.

If the Aggression Feels Out of Hand Get Professional Help Before Something Bad Happens.

If your feeling overwhelmed by your Belgian Malinois aggression issues, while being beyond your ability to handle them, please seek professional help.

Having an aggressive Belgian Malinois can be very dangerous, potentially leading to violence towards yourself or others. It can also lead to a lot of pain for your beloved canine as at an extreme enough level it may require your dog to be put to sleep. Nobody wants that to happen to such beautiful animals as these, who are often also a beloved pet. Please do not feel any shame for getting professional help as it actually is a very responsible thing for you to do.

Here is an amazing online resource that you can use to find the right dog trainer in your local area. The Association of Professional Dog trainersOpens in a new tab..

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