Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds: 6 Big Differences Explained

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key point

  • Both Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds were originally bred for herding and have similar coloring patterns.
  • Malinois tend to weigh less than German Shepherds and are built for running and agility.
  • German Shepherds are prone to a number of health conditions, while Belgian Malinois tend to be the dog's health condition.

Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds have been confused for far too long. Despite their history as sheepdogs and their similar colors, so many physical and behavioral differences set the pups apart. Finding the right pet or even a working dog is a task in itself, but knowing your goals can make a big difference.

Although Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are similar in appearance, they are not actually related. Breed near the Belgian city of Malines, the Malinois is one of four herding breeds from that country, while the German Shepherd was originally bred in Germany in the late 1800's.

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Do you know how to tell the two breeds apart? Let's find out!

Comparing Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds

Check out some of the differences between Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds. While both dogs are intelligent and active, there are some differences in their appearance that make them easier to separate.

belgian malinois german shepherd
life 12-14 years old 10-13 years old
ear shape triangle Tip Tips
sweater coloring Solid and consistent two-color
Tail Angled Ponfi

6 Key Differences Between Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds

While German Shepherds have gained notoriety as the number one dog for police officers, both breeds exhibit many remarkable qualities. They look very similar in appearance, which is part of the reason they are often confused. However, their health issues and personalities set them apart from each other. Let's address some common differences between these two breeds.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds: Coat Coloring

At first glance, Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds may seem very similar, but their coloring is the biggest clue as to which one is which. Although Belgian Malinois are more blonde or fawn in color, their masks are black and their ears are black.

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However, German Shepherds are much darker in color throughout, mixing black with dark blond coats. Sometimes, this breed's coat comes in three or more colors.

german shepherd
The German Shepherd's coat is usually a mixture of dark brown and blond fur.

©Dora Zett/

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds: Small muscles go a long way!

The size difference between the two breeds is mostly due to their muscle mass. The Belgian Malinois is tall and slender. Their muscles seem better suited for speed, running at speeds of up to 30 mph for their compact size.

Belgian Malinois males are typically lighter at 60-80 lbs, while German Shepherds are often up to 90 lbs. Their large size is largely related to an impressive amount of muscle mass that the Belgian Malinois don't have.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds: Independence and Training

While both the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd love to work and work in a variety of fields, the German Shepherd is a more independent worker than the eager-to-please Belgian Malinois. While both dogs work and work hard with a wide variety of people and dogs, the German Shepherd is more stubborn in keeping during training than the Belgian Malinois.

Also, given the German Shepherd's high IQ, dogs of this breed prefer to learn a variety of new tasks, while the Belgian Malinois thrive on everyday activities. As long as someone is there to congratulate a Belgian Malinois on a job well done, they'll be happy; German Shepherds would rather do their own thing than do the same thing over and over again.

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds: Family Issues

It is valuable to compare the behavior of a German Shepherd to that of a Belgian Malinois in a family. German Shepherds are more patient and observant with their energetic nature when interacting with children, while Belgian Malinois tend to end up being intimidated by children. This may be because the Belgian Malinois show more emotional awareness and sensitivity to humans than the standoffish German Shepherd.

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However, with consistent training and supervision, both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois can make excellent companion and guard dogs. They are both very loyal and bond well, although the Belgian Malinois may need more time away from small children to decompress than the German Shepherd.

Belgian Malinois with orange collar and tongue out
Belgian Malinois are easy to train and are regarded as police and military dogs.


Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Working Dogs

Royal Large Breed Puppy
German Shepherds are very curious and will explore with their noses. They are very intelligent and very protective of their families.

© Happy Monkey/

Both the Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds are revered for their working dog abilities. Although they both started out as herding dogs, both collies have earned top marks for military, police, firefighting, and dog training positions. Belgian Malinois, however, are held in higher regard than German Shepherds, and this may stem from the Malinois' consistency and willingness to stick with one job for long periods of time.

That's not to say that German Shepherds aren't an ideal breed for military and police work — far from it! However, German Shepherds are more likely to get bored and stubborn than Belgian Malinois who live to please their owners or co-workers. In fact, Belgian Malinois are preferred over German Shepherds these days because of their responsiveness to commands and desire to excel!

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherds: Health Issues

Each breed's susceptibility to different health conditions is important when it comes to the cost of veterinary care. Belgian Malinois seem to be the healthier of the two breeds, mainly prone to joint dysplasia and eye problems, but they can also suffer from allergies. Their overall health makes them better candidates for police and military work than German Shepherds.

German Shepherds, on the other hand, have many health issues to worry about. In addition to the health conditions that can plague Belgian Malinois, the breed can suffer from chronic diarrhea, blindness, cancer, lupus, diabetes, and other problems. While German Shepherds are more likely to be dog lovers' favorites, keeping them healthy can be costly.

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Long-haired German Shepherd in veterinary office
German Shepherds are a breed prone to seizures.

© Andrey_Kuzmin/


What makes these dogs such great working dogs is their high energy. Unfortunately, high energy and high intelligence can turn into anxiety. Both Malinois and German Shepherds develop anxiety, but Malinois are more prone to anxiety. When these dogs lack structured programs or are not properly trained, they can become insecure, fearful, and possibly aggressive.

Summary: Belgian Malinois vs. German Shepherds

belgian malinois german shepherd
Blonde/fawn with black mask and ears Dark Brown, Gold, Black – Sable
60-80 lbs
90 pounds
eager to please the routine Be more stubborn and independent
triangular ears pointed ears
general health Prone to hip dysplasia, cancer, diabetes, etc.


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My name is Rebecca and I have been a professional freelancer for nearly ten years. I write SEO content and graphic design. When I'm not working, I'm obsessed with cats and pet mice.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are Belgian Malinois better than German Shepherds?

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

Are Belgian Malinois smarter than German Shepherds?

Both breeds are very intelligent. However, the stubbornness and high energy of the Belgian Malinois can make them more difficult to train.

Is a Belgian Malinois like a German Shepherd?

These two shepherd dogs are strikingly similar in appearance, but have very different personalities. Malinois are often mistaken for German Shepherds.

What's the Difference Between a Belgian Malinois and a German Shepherd?

The German Shepherd has a medium-length coat, while the Belgian Malinois has a shorter and thicker coat. German Shepherds have more health problems, while Belgian Malinois are more likely to chase prey. These two dogs are very different species.

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