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— March 31, 2015 —
The Working Malinois, A Cautionary Tail…
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

A few years go, the dog breed “Belgian Malinois” was thrust into the public eye. Most people had never heard of the breed, but the famous raid on the Bin Laden compound made the breed famous overnight.

Fast forward a few years to today. There is a movie coming out about Max, a Malinois that survives a bomb blast that kills his military handler. From watching the trailer, it looks like Max comes back to the US and goes to live with his deceased handler’s family and does a bunch of heroic stuff like rescue the father in the movie.

I have only seen the trailer for the movie, so I know very little about the movie, but already I am a bit worried about what is going to happen. Just like “101 Dalmatians” did a great disservice to Dalmatians and “Lady and The Tramp” hurt Cocker Spaniels, this movie will do a great disservice to the Belgian Malinois. Any time a breed becomes very popular quickly, there are those who rush to produce as many copies of the breed as possible with little thought given to breeding healthy animals with a correct temperament. Add the naturally “sharp” nature of the Malinois to this mix and it will be a recipe for disaster.

It seems this movie portrays all of the good parts of living with a Malinois, but probably doesn’t adequately express the training needs and psychological requirements that come with owning a working breed dog. These same talents that make them such great working dogs are the same traits that make them pretty difficult to live with in “pet homes.” Unfortunately, we are starting to see sale ads for Malinois and they are showing up in shelters already. This is not a breed that can be just a “pet.”

This Bay Area Dog Trainer article, from 2011 explains the mind of the working Malinois very well. The article discussed a Malinois and Ring Sport specifically, but you could easily substitute Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds or any other working breed when discussing the working dog’s need to work.

A well bred Malinois, or any well-bred, working breed dog for that matter needs the psychological development that comes with working. Working, in this case refers to protection work or a protection-sport program. Describing those programs is an article unto itself, but basically, it allows the dogs to do what they were bred to do. Here are a couple of videos of Anja, one of our club dogs. She will be competing in PSA (Protection Sport Association) this year.

Here is a video of the same dog in a family setting.

A dog from working lines will generally have the drive to protect his home and pack, but if those drives are not developed, they tend to stagnate into weak nerves and create a fearful, insecure dog. Exactly what you see in the first video, the high-drive work, which encompasses obedience and aggression work is what the Bay Area Dog Trainer article is referring to when he discusses the “forge” of working sports. This same dog, without the intensive training might not have grown up to be as stable, strong and confident as she is today.

So, if you want to truly get into the hobby of working a dog, then by all means, get involved. Get a great dog and train him to the best of your ability. Get professional help where you need it, but whatever you do. Don’t get a Malinois as a pet.

Photos and videos by Karrie O’Donnell

Public Service Announcement: Two weeks ago, we wrote about the city wide “kennel cough” outbreak. We’re following up to post new information that we have learned. Rather than a true “kennel cough” (Bordetella Bronchiseptica) situation, this year seems to be a particularly virulent strain of Canine Influenza. While we use the term “kennel cough” that is not technically correct. Kennel cough usually refers to a bacterial pathogen. Our vet is leaning towards this being a viral influenza outbreak. With early, aggressive treatment, we have had good outcomes on the cases we have seen. There is a vaccine for Canine Influenza and we will be researching it to determine if it should be one of our required vaccines.


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