Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Differences and Similarities

Belgian Malinois vs German Shepherd: Differences and Similarities

The Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd have a lot in common. They look alike, are both originally herding dogs, and are extremely intelligent. They are both used in the police and military and need extensive training and handling on a one-to-one basis to be able to fit in well with society. Yet, there are a few subtle differences that we will discover about each breed, some of which may surprise you. 

Size difference

German Shepherd is often more muscular at the chest than the Malinois, and the Belgian Malinois appears slenderer.

The German Shepherd is around 10% larger than the Belgian Malinois in weight. They both stand around the same height at the shoulder. The Belgian Malinois appears slenderer than the German Shepherd who is often more muscular at the chest than the Malinois. 

German Shepherd Female German Shepherd Male Belgian Malinois Male Belgian Malinois Female 
Height 20-24 inches  24-26 inches 24-26 inches 20-24 inches 
Weight  50-70 pounds  65-90 pounds  60-80 pounds 40-60 pounds 


Energy levels 

Both of these dogs are high-energy dogs, but the Malinois beats the German Shepherd every time. The Belgian Malinois is one of (if not the most) active dogs known to man. They can run hard all day every day and still have energy left over. This is what makes them such good police and military dogs. 

If you are considering either of these breeds it’s important to consider if you have the time for 3-4 hours of exercise per day. Both breeds will need entertainment in the home whilst you are resting, chew or puzzle toys can help tire their clever minds out enough to rest at night. If you do not exercise these dogs properly, they will channel this energy into destructive or vocal behavior around the home. 

Bite force 

German Shepherds have a bite force of 238psi, whereas a Belgian Malinois has a bite force of 195psi. The German Shepherd has a much stronger bite force than the Malinois, and can even break bones. This is a useful trait when we consider their use for protection and in police work. 

Both these breeds can bite other dogs if provoked and have been known to chase and kill cats. If you already own cats, consider more cat-friendly breeds. 


With Malinois, be prepared to spend around 2-3 hours a day initially on training, and then at least one hour a day on maintenance training.

Both of these breeds are highly intelligent and difficult to train. They need significant hours invested in training from a young age, both on a one-to-one and in a group setting. The Belgian Malinois is harder to train than the German Shepherd and needs a strict routine with firm boundaries in place. To avoid common training mistakes with your German Shepherd, see this blog. 

Both dogs bond highly to one handler or owner, making them good protection and police dogs. If you are thinking of taking on a Malinois be prepared to spend around 2-3 hours a day initially on training, and then at least one hour a day on maintenance training. 

Both of these dogs love agility work, and the Malinois can jump up to 6 feet high, allowing them to fly around agility courses with ease. The same also applies to your garden fence, which will prove no barrier to a Malinois, if it’s small they will jump straight over and escape.  


The Belgian Malinois has a thick double coat that sheds completely twice a year. In between, they will still shed daily so need daily grooming. Their coat is easier to maintain than a German Shepherd as it is shorter and softer. 

The German Shepherd can have a thick double coat, usually with short hairs, but can be medium, or a longer single coat. They too shed the whole coat twice a year and shed daily in between. 

Shedding is worse if you live in a warm environment, or are fond of heating the home to a warm temperature. The good news is, that both breeds enjoy grooming and see it as a way to spend time with their owner, making the task more enjoyable. 


Buying from a registered breeder who has tested bloodstock for conditions such as hip dysplasia can reduce the chances of your dog inheriting this condition.

Being similar in stature and weight both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, GDV, haemangiosarcoma, pannus, and skin disease most frequently. Buying from a registered breeder who has tested bloodstock for conditions such as hip dysplasia can reduce the chances of your dog inheriting this condition. 

Preventative care including daily toothbrushing and monthly nail trims is important to keep these dogs in top shape. 

The average lifespan of a German Shepherd is around 10-13 years, with Belgian Malinois coming in slightly longer living on average between 10 and 15 years of age, which is a long time for a large breed dog. 


These two breeds are often mistaken for each other, and it’s true there are many similarities between the breeds. But, a few standout features separate each of these breeds and this helps potential owners decide if either of these breeds is right for them. If you are an active person with no other dogs and lots of time to spend training and bonding with your dog, both breeds would suit your lifestyle.  Their personality is often described as loving, and loyal, and their fierce desire to protect you will serve you faithfully until the very end of their days. 


What is better German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois?

The Belgian Malinois is much more suited to life as a working dog, whereas the German Shepherd can fit nicely into family life if given enough exercise and training. 

Why do police use Belgian Malinois instead of German Shepherds?

Belgian Malinois have a larger jumping ability, are smaller, and have incredible energy levels during work tasks. Whilst these differences are small, it puts the Belgian Malinois slightly above the German Shepherd when choosing a police working dog. 

Are Belgian Malinois related to German Shepherd?

Whilst you may think the Belgian Malinois is related to the German Shepherd based on looks, they are actually two separate breeds with separate lineage and heritage. 

Is a German Shepherd bigger than a Belgian Malinois?

A German Shepherd is bigger than a Belgian Malinois, being roughly 10% bigger in weight.