Protective, high energy and loves to be around people. Those are all traits that perfectly describe the Belgian Malinois, though given their size, people often ask, Are Belgian Malinois good with kids?
A Belgian Malinois dog can be good with kids, but he needs to be properly trained before doing so.
While it does have all of these positive traits, the natural herding behavior of this shepherd dog can be somewhat worrisome to parents as the dog’s instinct drives them toward herding kids just the same.
To put it in simpler terms, without training they’re a somewhat hyperactive dog breed where they’ll need a lot of exercise, walking or similar to get their energy out.
They’re very demanding, almost as demanding as a young child might be.
However, if you put in some good effort to properly train them, they can be one of the best family dogs out there, both for child protection and entertainment given how loyal they tend to be.
So, read on to find out what exactly makes this dog breed such a potentially fantastic choice as well as some of the requirements to owning such a high demand dog and the potential downsides that can come alongside if they’re not met.
What Makes The Belgian Malinois So Great: A Brief History
To understand the benefits that this wonderful doggo can bring to your home, you have to get back to some of the Mal’s roots.
Similar to its distant cousin, the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois was, and still is, used as a working dog, or more precisely, a herding dog.
They’re one of the 4 herding breeds bred in Belgium in the latter half of the 19th century alongside the Laekenois, Groenendael and the Tervuren.
They’re highly energetic and deathly loyal partners to any dog owner who treats them right and provides them what they need, companionship and physical activity.
Breeders have selectively bred this dog breed to be strong, lean and capable of enduring lengthy labor.
A Mal has a simple silhouette and is built fit, with strong muscles where it counts. He has a proud, somewhat imposing posture about him.
These traits serve them well when needing to herd livestock, or, more recently, serving as search and rescue dogs, guard dogs, watchdogs or police dogs.
The various coat colors are exceptional too, coming in fawn, fawn sable, red, red sable and even mahogany, each only adding to their beauty.
This is further complemented by black coloration around the ears and mask that make him seem even more imposing, similar to the GSD.
These Belgian shepherds are very intelligent dogs too, making almost no trouble during training and understanding the whole process with ease.
They are demanding, but they’ll give so much back in return, though the opposite is true too.
If their great needs aren’t met, the Belgian sheepdogs often end up more instinctive where they don’t have set limits, usually leading to aggression problems and similar.
So make sure to treat this beautiful dog breed right, and it’ll treat you even better in return.
So, Are Belgian Malinois Good With Kids?
Photo from: @pupsonality
The one thing that’s important to remember is that almost every dog has the potential to be a great family pet, but some need more work than others.
The Belgian Malinois is one such dog breed as they need to have an attentive dog owner who can meet their high energy level and who can entertain their need for socialization.
They also require an adequate level of mental stimulation too, which can be satisfied through the use of puzzle dog toys or something similar.
However, most parents are apprehensive about the breed due to its natural herding instincts, mainly the whole chasing after running children or even nipping at them to get them to fall in line in a sense.
They don’t mean anything bad by it, but, if not given proper training, this behavior can turn into a problem should their aggression spike.
What About Babies Or Infants?
Similar situation, if not even more unfavorable.
As I’ve said before, the Belgian Sheepdog requires lots of attention, and if you have a newborn that you need to take care of, chances are that the dog will end up being neglected and will develop the negative traits talked about prior.
They’re also not as careful around kids at such an early age which can pose a bit of an issue as well.
You may want to get a more laid back, friendlier and lower maintenance doggo in that case like a Bernese Mountain dog or a Golden Retriever.
Though, if you’re adamant about getting a Mal specifically, I suggest waiting until your kids grow up and you don’t need to hover over them as much so you can give both them and your dog the requisite amount of time and affection.
Why Even Get a Mal Then?
Despite these potential faults, if a Mal is properly trained and well adjusted, he’s one of the best dog options you could’ve chosen to be a family dog.
That fierce loyalty and desire to protect will only further extend to the rest of your family members if you put that initial bit of effort in and can spare the time to provide for a member of Belgium’s proudest dog breeds.
He’ll shower you and your family with affection the likes of a golden retriever, and will be the best bodyguard you could’ve asked for.
You aren’t the only one who needs to put in the effort though, your family will need to learn how to properly interact with the doggo, especially the kids to get the most out of this breed.
However, it’s not as challenging as it may seem at first and one can quickly teach both sides how to interact with one another so that there are no issues going further.
11 Tips To Get A Belgian Malinois Adjusted To Kids And Vice Versa
Photo from: @k9perceptions
1. Start Him Off Young
As with any sort of training, it’s best to start it when your Belgian shepherd is just a puppy as he’ll be a lot more impressionable and receptive to the ideas.
The older he gets the harder it’ll be. Not impossible, but harder still, so keep that in mind if you’re still on the fence.
Usually, the best training period, so to speak, is when the Belgian Malinois Puppy is between 2 to 4 months of age.
It’s when they’re at their most impressionable and where most of your methods of raising him will reflect upon him.
In this period, his cuteness will certainly contribute to the ease of approach as would his naturally curious spirit, as he too would be a child.
Allow him to interact with kids at this crucial stage, but make sure that the kids don’t come in too hard and take it slow.
It’ll help him adapt to their behavior better and he’ll be less apprehensive about it when he’s older, if at all.
If you’re just looking to help him adapt to what kids usually do around dogs, you can play the part yourself to a degree and tease him with the things they’d usually do like hugging, light tail pulling, grabbing his paws and similar.
It’s a safer way to get him adjusted to this type of behavior as kids usually can’t help themselves, no matter how hard you try, but don’t think ill of them for it as that’s just how all kids are, they mean no harm by it.
If you successfully do so, by the time he’s an adult dog, he’ll mostly just ignore that sort of behavior or play along.
2. Expose Him To Kid’s Toys
We all know how much dogs dislike loud noises and how much they frighten them due to their acute and sensitive hearing.
Kids toys are some of the most notorious noise makers as they serve to grab their attention and help them learn through simple, albeit loud, tonal cues.
These can be a big detriment in training or for the dog’s life in general if he’s not taught how to deal with them or how to ignore them in general.
Make exposure to children’s toys a regular part of his dog training, especially at a young age so he can better acclimate himself to it and not be as bothered in his adulthood as he would’ve been otherwise.
3. Curb Your Dog’s Enthusiasm
While this may sound like a mean thing at first, it’s important to realize that some dogs can be just as eager as kids, too eager.
They may be excited to meet a child, but may end up being too upfront and may end up scaring your kid which will only result in an overall negative experience for both parties.
Things like jumping, excited barking, straight up tackling the child are all big no’s among other things.
Teach him how to better restrain himself when meeting others and to only let loose once he’s more comfortable around them and when he better judges how delicate a child actually is. This is usually best done through tough love methods.
It may sound mean to do so, but it’s the best option for the safety of your dog and your kids at the same time.
4. Let The Mal Register The Child With A Sniff
First things first, you need to allow your dog to get a bit better acquainted with your kids. Allowing him to sniff him up properly to register the child’s scent will help break that first barrier.
In order to achieve this, you need to instruct your child to temper themselves a little.
Small children are innocent beings after all and look at anything new, especially something fluffy like a dog with intense glee, adoration and curiosity.
However, they don’t know their limits more often than not in this case and will often get too far into the dog’s personal space.
5. Teach The Child How To Properly Approach Any Dog
You have to make it clear to them on how a dog needs to be properly approached. Teach your kids before teaching your dog, it’s usually the best approach in this case.
They’ll need to stay put for a few seconds and put their hand out for the dog to sniff.
Once the Mal has done so and shows no ill intent, they can freely move in and pet him, but only going in from under or the sides, never overhead as that may be seen as an aggressive action.
Naturally, the curious spirit needs to be tempered a bit more by explaining some basic rules.
Tail pulling, for one, is an absolute no, though kids seem to gravitate toward it way too often.
The other thing is that they should learn that not all dogs should be approached, especially not ones that are foreign to them like strays or similar.
6. Teaching Them To Recognize A Dog’s Non-Verbal Cues
It’d be good to teach them easy-to-recognize signs that the dog’s exhibiting in order to better understand his emotional state.
It should be easy enough to pick up for kids and adults alike and will soon become second nature.
Things like your dog tucking his tail between his legs or lowering his ears are a clear sign of the dog feeling some sort of guilt.
If he has a hunched back like a cat or is trembling, it’s likely that he’s afraid of something or is simply anxious.
If he’s baring his teeth then it’s a good sign that he’s upset or being protective, especially if followed up by growls.
On the other hand, if he’s wagging his tail with his tongue lolling out of his mouth, he’s more than likely excited to see them or is eager to play.
If he’s leaning up against them, nudging their hand with his snout or laying down or rolling over on his back to offer up his tummy, then he wants some physical touch and some nice scratches.
If he’s angling his head curiously or sniffing the child, then he’s curious and wants to find out more.
All of these are commonalities that, once learned, will make it so much easier for your child to understand what to do depending on the mood they see the dog in, removing a lot of hassle from the equation.
7. Let The Mal Do It On His Own Time
This one’s more for you than either of the two other parties involved. Don’t try forcing an interaction as that’ll have more chances to fail. Let your new canine companion approach your kids at his own pace.
Let his natural instinct for exploration guide him to the act and it’ll end up in a much more positive outcome.
Forcing anything is only going to upset your dog or build up stress which isn’t going to be good for anyone in the long-run and is more likely to cause a poor outcome.
8. Doing Group Activities As A Bonding Exercise
Once contact has been properly established, the best way to connect a child with your dog is to make them more comfortable around one another.
This is best performed through some form of group activity, though it’s best to start it off light.
Going for a walk is usually the best introductory activity as it doesn’t risk anything that may include too much physical contact while they still haven’t gotten used to one another.
Taking a walk is leisurely enough to count as the needed daily activity for a Mal while providing that needed initial bonding period where both your kid and your dog will learn how the other works, in a sense.
Keep them both on opposite sides of you with the Belgian Malinois on the leash while your child holds your hand.
Keep the leash tight so he doesn’t stray too far so that herding instinct doesn’t kick in and make the Mal want to go to the other end to motivate the child into moving along.
The leash will also help symbolize the closeness and bond that you and your dog have already established with one another which may help in reducing the dog’s anxiety level around any new family members.
On the other hand, being that buffer in between your dog and your child will help curb those herding instincts and adjust him more to family life.
It’ll help him learn to let the child go about his own business while still keeping a watchful eye out for any dangers that may lurk nearby.
9. Make Sure He Has A Safe Space To Retreat To
Even with all that training, kids can be a handful and can exhaust or even overwhelm a high energy dog like the Belgian Malinois.
It’ll be beneficial for him if you can secure him a safe, child-free space where he can retreat to if he needs a bit of a breather.
This can be a whole separate room dedicated to him, a dog house if you have a yard or a dog crate if you don’t.
Make sure to indicate to him that that’s his area and always make an effort to make it so.
Don’t let others in or near it while he’s resting and provide him with a bowl of water and dog food if needed so he can recuperate and lounge around for a bit.
10. Hire A Professional Dog Trainer
There’s only so much we alone can do. If you ever feel like you’re stuck and have no clue on what to do if things don’t end up sticking, seek advice from a professional dog trainer.
They’ll be able to better work with the Mal and help train and adjust him for family life.
If you can find an AKC (American Kennel Club) certified one, all the better as they’re guaranteed to deliver results.
11. Have A Pre-emptive Talk About Having A Dog With Your Kids
The earlier mention of teaching your child through practice may not be enough, you may need to tell them exactly how they should behave with a dog if you’re to have one.
It’s also wise to hear their input about it in general, though kids will most likely say yes to a dog regardless of circumstance.
However, their excitement always needs to be followed up by the standard talk regarding dogs, about how big of a responsibility they are and how everyone will need to chip in regardless.
It’s always a good way to get them invested and make them more serious about his training.
It also helps deepen their bond with your doggo if they have to spend time with him.
Depending on your child’s age, it’s best to keep it simple at the start like filling the bowls or brushing him, to taking him out on walks and similar.
You should also teach them how to properly approach a pooch without risking any aggressive behavior as stated earlier.
A gentle touch, slow, allowing the dog to sniff you before you move in to pet him under the snout, around the lower neck area.
To not try pulling on his ears, tail or his fur as he too is a living being. Comparing it to some human equivalents would help bring the point across a bit better most likely.
Teach them to not run around a dog like the Belgian Malinois as it may trigger those herding instincts and make him chase after them to get them back in line.
A common trait across many herding breeds, but particularly with the Mal.
What Else Should One Pay Attention To Regarding A Belgian Malinois?
While not directly related to kid compatibility, Belgian Malinois are prone to some hampering health issues later on in life.
One of the most common issues, due to being a larger breed, are issues with joints, especially elbow and hip dysplasia which will start showing its ugly head as your doggo grows older.
If this starts becoming a problem, tell your kids to be gentler with your Mal as he isn’t going to be as spry as he once was.
Mals also have common issues regarding their eyes and sight in general. The most common problems regarding that area in particular are cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy and pannus.
Should this happen to your doggo, once again, tell your kids to take it easy so he can keep up and to keep him safe from bumping into places he normally wouldn’t.
The one other thing that can occur is hemangiosarcoma, a pretty severe and ultimately deadly form of canine cancer.
Thankfully it’s not as common, only affecting a small number of dogs, but it has a higher chance of rearing its ugly head with Mals, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, and, sadly, there’s currently no known way to prevent the internal version.
If your dog may be so unlucky as to contract this, you may need to prepare your kids for ‘the talk’ and have them be more mindful about your precious pooch’s needs.
Is A Belgian Malinois The Right Choice For Your Family?
With all this said, you have to ask yourself, is the Belgian Malinois even a good option for your household?
I know that you may be eager for one, but you, just like the other actors at play here, need to understand just how much is needed to maintain this breed of dog in particular.
If this is your first time owning a dog, you may find yourself overwhelmed with trying to figure out his needs on the fly and may end up taking a lot longer than you’d want to to facilitate all of that.
Owning a dog requires dedication and responsibility to meet his needs, and they’re high demand dogs.
Not only will they want to get a lot of physical exercise to expel their high amount of energy, they’ll also need to be given attention often.
They need someone patient and devoted to them who’ll be able to curb their instincts and high prey drive, and better acclimate them to a more family-oriented lifestyle.
They need someone who’ll discipline them to behave and not bite others out of the blue, especially not when walking outside.
If you have kids, you’ll need to rethink the idea as both kids and a Mal will take a lot of time from your schedule.
Many people see how fierce a Mal can be so they end up asking themselves, are Belgian Malinois good with kids or are they too aggressive for family life?
On paper, they might be, but if properly trained and socialized, they’re some of the best choices for a family dog.
The only problem is that it all requires a lot of time and effort for it to pay off, but it pays off big time.
While I’m certain that you’re more than capable of raising a Mal on your own, I would think about him in tandem with raising your kids to see whether or not it may be a bit too much of a challenge.
Whatever you end up deciding on, I’m sure it’ll be the right choice for you, your kids, and the dog in question. Until next time.