German Shepherd Vs Belgian Malinois Differences – Which One Is Better?

German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois do share the same traits and ability. Both dogs look mighty and reliable, which should not be questioned since they are bred to herd and are commonly used for police and military jobs. Now, you may be wondering, if they have a lot in common, then what are the differences?

If you’re currently stuck in choosing between the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, then read the whole article because we’ll help you decide.

You can switch to the video version of our article and skip the long read:


At a glance, both dogs look similar. In fact, the Belgian Malinois is sometimes mistaken for the German Shepherd or GSD for short.

Malinois is smaller than the German Shepherd. It has a short, sleek, and elegant-looking coat that is fawn in color with a black overlay. It has a black mask and ears and is a powerful and sturdy dog.

On the other hand, the German Shepherd is larger in size and has a longer coat compared to Malinois. They’re usually in a color of black and tan, or black and silver with a black saddle on their body. However, it is also common for them to be solid black, or sable with a dark face.


On average, German Shepherds are approximately 10% heavier than Belgian Malinois.
Both dogs stand at 24 to 26 inches (60.9 to 66 cm) for males and 22 to 24 (55.8 to 60.9 cm) inches for females.

Male GSD weighs 65 to 90 lbs (29.4 to 40.8 kg), while females weigh between 50 to 70 lbs (22.6 to 31.7 kg).

On the other hand, male Malinois weigh 60 to 80 lbs (27.2 to 36.2 kg), while females weigh around 40 to 60 lbs (18.1 to 27.2 kg).

Depending on their daily activities and diet, some may be heavier or lighter.

Life Span

Both dogs are capable of being a lifelong companion. However, Belgian Malinois can live longer with an average life span of 12 to 14 years, while German Shepherd can live between 9 to 13 years. Both dogs’ life expectancy is subject to certain conditions, such as their exercise, diet, regular check-up, and how they are treated as a member of the family. Keep in mind that a happy dog tends to live a longer life.


Throughout the year, both dogs shed lightly, though the Belgian Malinois sheds more. They will also have heavy “blowouts” twice a year, so owning either of them will require regular grooming. If you can’t afford to clean your house regularly, then neither of these dogs is for you.


There’s not much difference when it comes to their personality. Both the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are bred to work. They are loyal, reliable, and easy to train. Their personality to be protective of their owners allow them to be excellent workers in security, police, and military jobs. Both also have natural herding instincts which makes them alert of their surroundings and be vigilant at all times.

They love to work along with their humans. However, if they are not given a job to do, both dogs tend to develop destructive behaviors. Their high intelligence and energy level is best suited for experienced owners who know how to handle them properly.


Both dogs are quick-learners and are suited to any task or role, may it be herding, guarding, search and rescue operations, or personal protection. They are intelligent and enjoy doing what they can in order to please their owners.

Because they are smart dogs, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois will need regular mental stimulation aside from physical exercise, otherwise, they can get in trouble.

Activity Level

While both have high energy levels, the German Shepherd is calmer than the Belgian Malinois. The GSD tends to be more relaxed around its family members, although it is still alert and will offer protection at any given time.

On the other hand, Belgian Malinois is best suited as a jogging and biking partner – perfect for owners with an active lifestyle. They are very social and active indoors and outdoors.

Both dogs aren’t suited for low-energy owners with a laidback lifestyle.


Both dogs will need intensive training in order to adapt well to various environments. They are smart dogs and are easier to train compared to other dog breeds.

However, German Shepherds tend to be stubborn during training. You will need to be more patient and understand that the first few sessions will not be easy.

On the other hand, Belgian Malinois enjoys being involved in every activity, thus making them easier to train. They are always curious and are always excited to learn new things.

Keep in mind that both dogs don’t respond well to dominant training. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques, such as food rewards and praises. Always end training sessions with playtime. Any dog that’s not trained well may be destructive, or worse, may harm someone.

Exercise Needs

Both dogs need regular work to do – they can’t just slouch all day. In fact, daily walks and leaving them in the backyard won’t suffice their exercise needs. In comparison, the Belgian Malinois needs 4 to 6 hours of daily exercise, while the GSD would require about 1 to 2 hours.

They enjoy canine sports, such as obedience, nose work, agility, protection competition, tracking, and herding. These activities help them to be healthy mentally and physically.
If not stimulated enough, both dogs will develop undesirable behaviors, such as chewing, excessive barking, or digging.


The German Shepherd has a double coat to keep itself warm. Though weekly grooming is essential for both dogs, GSD will require more time to bathe since its outer coat is water repellent.

Bathing them should not be too often, though. The nature of their skin is important so as not to make their hair dry and appear dull.

Also, the Belgian Malinois’ deep ear should be regularly checked for the buildup of wax, mites, and other debris that may cause ear problems.

Good With Family

To be an excellent family pet, both dogs need an experienced owner who can provide them with time to be trained and exercised. That said, they are not suitable for families with kids or toddlers since they may not be given enough attention. They are also not for people who spend most of their time at work.

Both dogs will behave well towards other canines, provided that they are socialized at an early age. They are capable of protecting you and are known for their versatility, bravery, and loyalty.

Apartment Living

It is obvious that with their large size and high exercise needs, both dogs would thrive in a home with a large backyard. While they can still adapt to smaller homes, it is still not advisable.

In comparison, German Shepherds can adjust easily in small spaces. They are more toy-driven than the Belgian Malinois so long as they have the proper toys to keep them entertained.

Meanwhile, we mentioned that Malinois needs about 4 to 6 hours of exercise per day. As an owner, it will be hard for you to maintain their needs if you don’t have a yard. Also, make sure that your backyard is securely fenced since Malinois are known to be excellent climbers and can easily escape 6 ft. fences.

Health Problems

Both dogs are generally healthy and strong, although the German Shepherd is prone to some health issues, such as Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Diabetes, Allergies, and Degenerative Myelopathy.

On the other hand, the Belgian Malinois is healthier than the GSD, though it may still suffer from certain health conditions, including Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Cancer, Diabetes, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy.

To make sure that your dog lives a healthy life, don’t forget to regularly visit your veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

To cap off today’s topic, while the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois almost share the same traits and personality, the big difference lies in their energy levels. If you’re a highly active person, it is suggested to go for Belgian Malinois. Nevertheless, both dogs are capable of protecting you and giving you the companionship that would last for years.


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