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Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois

What are some differences of the Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois? This article explores their similarities, differences and which breed might be the right fit for you.

Belgian Malinois laying on the ground.
Belgian Malinois. Photo credit: YayImages.

Origins of the Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois

These two breeds are quite similar and often confused but have different histories.

Dutch Shepherd

The Dutch Shepherd was bred as an all purpose farm dog. Originating around the 18th century in the Netherlands, they were bred to help shepherds and farmers primarily herd livestock. 

The Dutch Shepherd’s versatility, endurance and intelligence was quickly recognized by the military and law enforcement communities early on. In 1914, the breed standard was changed to permit only brindle coats to distinguish it from other similar breeds.  

During WWII dog breeding in the Netherlands dwindled and the Dutch Shepherd breed came close to extinction due to this as well as starvation and death of the dogs in combat. 

The breed was eventually revived and has recently gained traction due to its popularized use by law enforcement and military canine units. Dutch Shepherds have been recorded by the American Kennel Club in their foundation stock services since April of 2012.

Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois (MAL-in-wah) (also sometimes referred to as the Belgian Shepherd but different from the long haired Belgian malinois) was bred as a herding dog in the northwestern region of Belgium circa 18th century near the city of Malines from which the name originates. The Belgian Malinois’ were bred primarily as livestock herders. 

Around 1911, Belgian Malinois’ began to arrive in America where they were quickly recognized for their high performance and work drive. During WWII, importation of European breeding stock waned and the breed declined until later being recognized by the AKC in 1959.

After this time the breed began to once again flourish in America. The popularity of the breed has skyrocketed in recent years due to its high profile use in the military and law enforcement.

The national best selling book “No Ordinary Dog” brings to light the distinguished extraordinary use of the Belgian Malinois as Military Working Dogs.

Close up of Dutch Shepherd's face.
Dutch Shepherd. Photo credit: Pexels.

What are the physical differences?

These breeds are very similar in appearance but there is one defining characteristic that sets them apart.

The Dutch Shepherd has an average height of approximately 24 inches and weight of 60 pounds. They are a muscular and powerful medium sized breed. Their tails are typically not cropped and their muzzle and skull are usually proportionate with their ears set high. 

The Belgian Malinois has an average height of approximately 24 inches and weight of 60 pounds as well.  They are a muscular, confident and agile medium sized breed that stands squarely and stiffly on all fours.

Their tails are typically not cropped and their muzzle and skull are usually proportionate with ears set high and erect. Their coat is usually short and straight with areas such as the neck, tail and backs of the thighs being somewhat longer.

The coat is where these two dog breeds differ.

Dutch Shepherds can have either a short-hair coat, long-hair coat or rough-hair coat. The color of their coats is typically a black or brown brindle.

The coat of the Belgian Malinois is typically one of five different colors with the muzzle, ears and eye rims almost always black. These dogs can exhibit a mahogany, red, red sable, fawn or, fawn sable colored coat.

While the Belgian Malinois can also display a black, brindle, cream, cream sable, gray sable, and liver coat, these colors would not be acceptable for the breed standard according to the AKC.

Neither the Belgian Malinois nor Dutch Shepherds are hypoallergenic dogs. Both have a longer coat and seasons of high shedding.

Dutch Shepherd engaging in bite work.
Dutch Shepard Photo credit: YayImages.

Temperament of Dutch Shepherds vs. Belgian Malinois

There are some temperaments that both breeds share but one should note that temperament can vary extremely from dog to dog based on genetics and environmental upbringing.

This has been personally experienced owning two Belgian Malinois’ with polar opposite dispositions.

Both breeds are highly energetic and extremely trainable. While both are great traits to have, the breeds also require high amounts of mental stimulation as working dogs and can find it difficult to just relax around the house all day.

The one constant observed in both Malinois’ is their energy levels and the need to stay occupied with a task. These are not dogs that you would want to leave alone in your backyard for extended periods of time as they will find creative and expensive ways to occupy themselves.

Both breeds are highly intelligent and very loyal. As part of the herding breeds both the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois have high prey drive which makes them very interested in sudden moving objects. 

When in prey drive the Belgian Malinois seems to lack self-preservation more so than the Dutch Shepherd. This is an important thing to take note of as an owner as you need to stay alert to where you throw that ball.

Prey drive can pose an issue at home. Without proper training, both breeds could chase children, cars, and other animals. For this reason, careful consideration should be given if choosing one of these breeds for protection dog purposes.

Fawn colored Belgian Malinois with blue collar sitting on grass.
Belgian Malinois. Photo credit: Pexels.

How much exercise is recommended for the Dutch Shepherd vs. the Belgian Malinois?

Both breeds are highly energetic and it is recommended that they receive 60-90 minutes of exercise a day.

Both not only enjoy, but necessitate mental and physical exercise. A game of throwing a ball into high grass and allowing them to hunt for it is ideal. 

After retrieving the ball, you can throw it again and allow them to chase it a few times before playing hide and seek with the ball once more.

Which breed is preferred by law enforcement?

There are many reasons why police departments have been selecting Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds over the German Shepherd for both narcotic detection and bomb sniffing. Both breeds are highly energetic, agile and extremely trainable compared to their counterpart, the German Shepherd.  

They also handle environmental stressors well. Both breeds excel with protection and bite work and have few genetic health issues. A look at the New York State Canine Unit Gallery reveals more or less an even mix and it does not appear either breed is preferred over the other at this time.

Belgian Malinois sitting with ears alert.
Belgian Malinois. Photo credit: Pexels.

How different are the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois?

Both Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois have many similar traits and possess remarkable qualities that make them exceptional working dogs and companions.

The main thing to consider between these two dog breeds is your lifestyle. As high energy working dogs, both breeds will require a consistent daily routine of exercise and mental stimulation.