Differences Between a German Shepherd Protection Dog and a Belgian Malinois?

By February 26, 2016Dog Breeds

People are right to wonder if there’s any difference between a trained German Shepherd and a trained Belgian Malinois protection dog. The dogs do look very much alike! But there are differences. We train and sell both breeds and know them very well.

The German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is a powerfully built dog with a famously triangular, slightly elongated body. It has powerful thighs and strong, straight forelegs. The bushy tail hangs down when the dog is relaxed. The ears are triangular, with wide bases. The German Shepherd originated in Karlsruhe, Germany in the 1800s and was first exhibited at a show in Hanover in 1882.

The first true German shepherd dog was a male called Horand von Grafrath, who was owned by ex-cavalry officer Max von Stephanitz.

A very intelligent dog, the German Shepherd is a responsive and enthusiastic worker. It marries these traits with fierce loyalty, great bravery and an abundance of energy, which makes it an excellent protection dog.

Male German Shepherds are from 24 to 26 inches high at the shoulder, while females are a bit smaller. The dog weighs between 75 and 95 pounds. Because of its intelligence and great stores of energy, the dog must be taken on vigorous walks every day and get plenty of exercise.

It craves training and needs a sense of purpose. One story has it that live volunteers had to be placed in the rubble of Twin Towers after 9/11 for the German Shepherd rescue dogs to find. There were so few survivors that the dogs were becoming discouraged!

The German shepherd lives about 13 years, which is a long life for a large dog and has a litter of between 6 and 10 puppies.

The Malinois

Like the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois was bred to herd stock and is the only Belgian shepherd with a short coat. It is also one of the oldest breeds of Belgian shepherds and originated in near Malines, Belgium. Its origins date back to the 13th century, yet though it took till 1959 for the American Kennel Club to recognize the breed.

Its head resembles the German Shepherd’s, and breeders prefer black shading on the triangular ears and long, tapering muzzle. It has a ruff of hair on the neck, and its thighs are fringed with somewhat longer hair.

The Malinois is a lighter dog than the German Shepherd, though it is around the same height and has a deep chest. It has a double, water-resistant coat that can range from fawn-colored to solid black. Like the German Shepherd, it also makes an excellent protection dog but has a reputation for being a bit less biddable and requiring a gentle, firm and consistent hand.


When fully trained as a police dog, the Malinois’ bravery is unparalleled. The police dog killed during the 2015 Paris attacks was a Malinois named Diesel. He was accorded full honors at his funeral.

In some cases, the Malinois exhibits herding behavior and may even try to nip at people’s heels to get them to move along, as it would a cow or a sheep. It is important that the Malinois be trained out of this type of behavior.

The Malinois lives as long or a bit longer than the German Shepherd, and the litter size is comparable. Its short coat is easy to care for, but bathing should only be done if it’s unavoidable, because bathing strips off the coat’s natural waterproofing oils.

Both the German Shepherd guard dog and the Malinois guard dog are excellent for family protection, though the Malinois may need a bit more training.

Their protection training is a great start for these dogs, but they can excel at house training and police-style training.

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