German Shepherd vs Belgian Malinois: Unveiling the Best Dog Breed

Well, howdy, folks! If you’re a “dog lover” who’s nuts about our four-legged companions, you’re in the right place.

Today, we’re exploring the wonderful world of two beloved breeds: the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. These “top dogs” have a lot in common, but they’re not identical twins, no siree! 

So, if you’re stuck in the “doghouse” of decision-making, wondering which of these breeds would be the best fit for you, we’ve got your back. 

We’re about to “dig up” the facts, compare the pros and cons, and offer some nifty tips to help you make an informed choice. So buckle up, “paws,” whatever you’re doing, and let’s embark on this journey of discovery together!

german shepherd vs belgian malinois

Our Pick

Right out of the gate, we’ve got to tell you that choosing between these two breeds ain’t no walk in the park. They’re both “top dogs,” each in their own unique way. But hang tight with us, and we’ll soon reveal our pick and the reasons behind it.

About German Shepherd

German Shepherds, or “GSDs,” as we like to call them, are a common sight in many U.S. households, and for a darn good reason. These pups are loyal to a fault, packing a sense of duty and a love for their families into their furry bodies. Qualities that are hard to top.

Characteristics of a German Shepherd

  • Physical Appearance

German Shepherds are big, robust, and downright “good-looking,” standing tall with an air of confidence that screams, “I’ve got this under control.” We’re chatting about dogs tipping the scales between 50 and 90 pounds and standing 22 to 26 inches tall.

And let’s not forget their unique double coat, sporting shades from black and tan to sable, giving them a look as distinct as a cowboy at a rodeo.

  • Temperament

When we’re talking about personality, GSDs are the “cat’s meow.” They’re super smart, confident, and brave as a bull. But don’t forget; they need a good dose of socialization from their puppy days to keep them from becoming too protective or “skittish.”

  • Trainability

We bet you’ve seen German Shepherds in various roles like police work, search and rescue, and even acting in Hollywood! That’s because these dogs are “quick on the uptake” and highly trainable.

Pros and Cons of Owning a German Shepherd


  • Loyal and protective: They’ll always “have your back.”
  • Intelligent and easy to train: They’re “no airheads.”


  • Prone to certain health problems like hip dysplasia
  • Require constant mental and physical stimulation: These dogs can’t just “sit around all day.”

german shepherd vs belgian malinois

About Belgian Malinois

Now let’s talk about Belgian Malinois, or “Mals.” These are not your ordinary family pets. They’re “go-getters,” originally bred for herding but now more recognized for their roles in law enforcement and the military.

Characteristics of a Belgian Malinois

  • Physical Appearance

Mals are similar in size to GSDs but slightly lighter. They’re built “lean and mean” with a weather-resistant double coat, usually in shades of fawn to mahogany, with a black mask and ears.

  • Temperament

The Belgian Malinois is known for its high-energy, “go-getter” attitude. These dogs love having a job to do, and they’re not content to “just chill.”

  • Trainability

Mals are “top-notch” when it comes to trainability. These dogs are smart, focused, and ready to work. But beware; they require experienced handlers due to their intense drive and energy levels.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Belgian Malinois


  • Excellent working dogs: They’re “hot stuff” in the working world.
  • Highly trainable: They’ll pick up commands “in a jiffy.”


  • Not ideal for first-time dog owners: They can be a “handful.”
  • Require an active lifestyle: These dogs need to “burn off steam.”

Similarities Between German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois

It’s always interesting to observe where two things intersect, and that’s no different for our furry friends, the German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Let’s dive into their shared characteristics and figure out why these breeds often get mistaken for one another.

  • Both Breeds are “Smarty Pups”

One of the remarkable similarities between German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois is their intelligence. Both breeds rank impressively high on the intelligence scale. Whether it’s learning new commands, understanding complex tasks, or just showing off their ability to pick up on human emotions, these breeds are “brains on paws.”

This high intelligence makes them superbly trainable, but remember, with great brains come great responsibilities. Both breeds require consistent mental stimulation to avoid becoming bored or even destructive.

The “Working Class” Canines

The second major similarity is their work ethic. German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are what we’d call “working class” dogs, through and through.

These breeds were developed with specific jobs in mind—herding and protecting livestock, for the most part— and they’ve retained their work-oriented nature over generations.

Today, we see them in various roles, such as police, search and rescue, and military dogs. Their intense drive to work and please their handlers makes them “real go-getters.”

An Active Lifestyle? Count Them in!

Alrighty then, if you’re the kind of person who loves to get up and go, hitting the trails and soaking up nature, both the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are ready to join the “hoedown.”

These pups are like little energizer bunnies, filled to the brim with vim and vigor. They need plenty of exercise to keep them happy and fit as a fiddle.

So, if you’re into hiking, jogging, or tossing a ball in the park, either of these breeds could be your ideal “workout wingman.”

german shepherd vs belgian malinois

Differences Between German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois

While German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois share quite a few traits, they’re far from being “two peas in a pod.” Let’s take a moment to appreciate the distinctive characteristics that set them apart.

Energy Levels: “Cool Customer” vs “Live Wire”

First off, while both of these breeds are about as active as a pair of squirrels at a nut festival, there’s a noticeable difference in their energy levels. German Shepherds, even with their get-up-and-go attitude, typically have a more balanced energy flow. They’re like a steady river—not too wild, not too calm, but just right.

Sure, they can rev up the intensity, but they also know when to “cool their jets.” Belgian Malinois, however, are always raring to go and full of energy almost all the time. They’re like a “live wire,” forever on the lookout for a task to tackle or a game to get their paws into.

Ideal Handlers: Novice vs Experienced

Another thing that sets them apart is the kind of dog owner they take a shine to. German Shepherds, with their even-tempered nature, are often more flexible.  They can get along just fine with novice owners, provided they’re ready to roll up their sleeves and put in the work for training and socializing with their furry buddy.

On the flip side, we typically don’t recommend Belgian Malinois for folks just dipping their toes in the dog-owning waters. These sprightly pups can be quite a “handful.” Plus, they need experienced handlers who know the ropes when it comes to steering their high energy and drive in the right direction.

Health Concerns: “Fit as a Fiddle” vs “Under the Weather”

Lastly, let’s talk about health. German Shepherds, bless their hearts, tend to be more susceptible to certain health issues like hip dysplasia compared to Belgian Malinois. Regular vet visits and preventative care can keep things in check, but anyone thinking about bringing home a GSD should keep this tidbit in mind.

Swinging over to Mals, they’re generally fit as a fiddle, but they’re not immune to problems like eye disorders and epilepsy. So, in a nutshell, while German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois might seem like two peas in a pod, their differences make them unique in their ways.

Which One’s Better?

Picking between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois is like choosing between a burger and a hotdog at a ballgame—it all boils down to what tickles your fancy. If you’re on the hunt for a loyal, smart, and protective family pooch, the German Shepherd might just be your “ace in the hole.”

But if you’re all about that high-energy, full-throttle working dog life and you’ve got the chops to handle it, the Belgian Malinois could be the “cream of the crop” for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which breed is more aggressive: the German Shepherd or the Belgian Malinois?

Neither breed is inherently more aggressive. It’s important to remember that a dog’s temperament can largely depend on its upbringing, training, and socialization. However, Belgian Malinois are generally known for their intense drive and high energy levels.

If not properly trained and socialized, they can come off as more aggressive or challenging to handle. German Shepherds, while protective and vigilant, are usually more balanced.

Are Belgian Malinois and German Shepherds good family pets?

Both breeds can make great family pets in the right circumstances. German Shepherds are often more adaptable to family life and can be more patient with children. On the other hand, Belgian Malinois, with its high energy, may be better suited for families with an active lifestyle. In both cases, early socialization and proper training are crucial.

Are these breeds good for first-time dog owners?

While German Shepherds can be a good match for first-time owners who are ready to put in the time for training and socialization, Belgian Malinois are generally not recommended for beginners. Mals can be quite a “handful” and usually do best with experienced handlers.

How much exercise do these breeds require?

Both breeds require a good deal of exercise due to their active nature. However, Belgian Malinois, being the “live wires” they are, usually need more physical activity and mental stimulation than German Shepherds.

Remember, these are general breed characteristics. Each dog is unique, and individual temperaments can vary. So, whether you go for a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, the most important thing is to love and understand your furry friend for who they are.

How easy is it to train a German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois?

Both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are highly trainable breeds, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. German Shepherds, with their balanced nature, often take to training quite well. They’re known for their ability to learn and execute a wide range of commands.

Belgian Malinois, on the other hand, are also highly trainable but can be a bit more challenging due to their high energy levels. They need an experienced handler who can maintain consistency and provide ample mental stimulation. 

Keep in mind that both breeds require early socialization and continuous training to be at their best. A well-trained dog, whether it’s a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, is not only a happy dog but also a joy for its owner.


We hope our “barking” comparison between the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois has given you some food for thought.

These two breeds, though similar, offer distinct experiences based on what you’re looking for in a dog. Remember, choosing a dog breed is a personal journey. It’s all about finding the one that’ll fit right into your lifestyle and become a cherished part of your “pack.”

So, whether you decide on a German Shepherd or a Belgian Malinois, we’re sure you’ll have a tail-wagging, slobbery-kissed good time together!

James has been raising and working with dogs since 2017, and has been a dog lover his entire life. He and his wife have a young son and love spending time together, traveling, enjoying the outdoors and connecting their quality German Shepherd pups with great families.