Seaside dwellers and dog owners who live near lakes will be all over this topic. The most popular working dog in the world has all the attributes to thrive in any environment. That being said, do Belgian Malinois like water?
There are always plenty of other dog breeds that are practically amphibians, but the GSD lookalike with extremely high working drive is a better choice for some people. Where do you start with explaining whether a dog likes water, and how do you do it?
Like every other Mali story, it all starts with their strong working drive and excellent references from agencies and organizations across the world.
Belgian Malinois Like All Things Fun
Although they belong to the herding group of dog (the word shepherd gives it away), the Mali is a working dog. Replacing the German shepherd as the most work-oriented and trainable breed was no easy task.
That easily explains why they are the number one dog breed choice for law enforcement and the army. Skydiving and catching international terrorists, like Bin Laden, is only part of the breed’s resume that spans from the First World War until today.
What does this have to do with liking water? The answer is simple – whatever you want them to do, they will do it with absolute dedication. If the Navy SEALs keep sticking with the Mali, that certainly means they like water.
With many water dogs like the Labrador, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, English Setter, the standard Poodle, etc., the Belgian Malinois might not be a hunter’s first choice. Does that mean they perform badly?
No, it does not. They were simply bred for herding, which does not necessarily involve a lot of work in water. Excelling at countless other jobs like sniffer dogs, service dogs, and the previously mentioned law enforcement and army roles, the Mali’s work ethic is better used elsewhere than livestock management.
Bribe Your Mali Into Liking Water
To be honest, they do not require much incentive to work their socks off. My Mali will do basically anything that includes lots of physical activity and mental stimulation.
As a dog trainer, working with this breed is a pure delight. The willingness of a Belgian Malinois to perform a task is extremely high, but there are individual dogs that deviate from the norm. My dog loves nose work, so focusing on that and using it as a reward makes my job easy.
Lakeside and seaside trips with a Belgian Malinois can be hit-and-miss if it is your first time introducing it to water. Some will just sprint right in, while others will have a meticulous, analytical approach.
A Mali that can swim does not necessarily need to like water work, but if taught from an early age, it will not present a difficulty. Despite working in high stress environments and in tough conditions, the breed is very sensitive, which means they react best to positive reinforcement.
One instance of punishment or a bad experience with water will often create a mental barrier that will prevent them from ever trying that again. This is why gradual water immersion is crucial when teaching a Malinois how to swim.
Of course, the most important thing is to do it in a controlled setting. A pool is ideal, especially one with stairs or a slope. The perfect scenario is simply calling it into the water or casually walking in with your Mali on a leash to feel the water on its paws.
Forcing your dog to enter the water will be a traumatic experience, so never do that. After all, the whole point of owning a dog is being able to persuade it to do anything for or with you.
Should A Mali Know How To Swim?
Any dog should know how to swim, but if you seldom bring your dog along to the seaside or around water in general, it is not essential. Rolling in muddy puddles does not count as water activity.
The relationship between you and your Malinois will definitely improve as you learn new things together, but going out of your way to teach it how to swim is a chore most dog owners are not eager to commit to.
A Belgian Malinois is a great dog that requires constant training and structured attention. While they make amazing army and law enforcement dogs, I would certainly not put them as a top ten family pet breed.
Most of their skills, including swimming, come from thought-out training regimes, which means companion Malis will not be combat-ready, protective swimmers out of the box. I would not recommend them for first-time dog owners or those looking for a low-effort family pet.
To further explore the Belgian Malinois temperament, check this article on Malinois aggressiveness levels and general mental traits and whether they are good with kids.
Teaching A Belgian Malinois To Swim
A little nudge in the right direction will be enough to lure them into the water, so a tug-of-war rope, Frisbee, favorite ball, or yourself in the water are motivation enough to get those paws wet. These 11 best toys Belgian Malinois should give you a good idea of what works well.
Water can be intimidating for an uninitiated Mali, so taking it easy and having a lot of patience will keep you on the right track. The breed is hyperactive most of the time, so I have found that certain commands and activities get them to stop “worrying”.
My, or should I say our, favorite thing to do when a Mali is reluctant to go into water is using their speed to break through the mental barrier. It can be as simple as a ball throw or as complex as a running boost jump.
The latter means I tell my Mali to stay and get into the water. Then I build up some anticipation and excitement so that he can forget about the potential dangers of water and give the “boost” command, which means running up to me and using my back as a platform to jump off of.
Next thing you know, he is in the water, swimming furiously to do it again. He is a decent swimmer, like most Belgian Malinois, but not as good as dogs with webbed feet that specialize in swimming. Those would be Labs, Newfoundland dogs, Dachshunds, Water Spaniels, etc.
Throwing its favorite toy in the pool and getting the “No, you fetch it” look from a Malinois is common, so do not get too upset about it. If you do not succeed today, tomorrow will be better. Just make sure you have a plan about how to accomplish the task.
The breed does not inherently have an affinity for water, nor are they the mightiest of protectors. There are plenty of big dog breeds that are naturally better guard dogs, and you already know which ones are great swimmers.
A Hands-On Approach
The approach to teaching a puppy or adult Malinois is similar, so these instructions and tips will work for either. Needless to say, a young dog without any experience with swimming will be easier to work with than an adult, so starting the water journey as soon as possible is better.
Assuming you managed to get your Mali to step into the water using the directions from the previous chapter, the next step is to assist with the floating. The instinct of a dog will make it paddle through the water, but they usually only use the front legs.
Support the dog’s body by holding the stomach with both hands. That allows the use of the back legs to swim around. You should be standing in the pool while assisting your dog in this process of swimming.
Start in shallow water where your Mali’s feet can touch the bottom, and as you both gain confidence, go for a deeper part of the pool. If you do not have access to a pool, the same principle applies to lakes or the seaside. Use the gradual depth increase from the coast.
Always reward a successful exit from the pool. Do not make the sessions too long. Instead, help them swim from one end of the pool to the other, so that they can get out of the water on their own four feet and call it a day.
Your Responsibilities As A Swimming “Coach”
In the beginning there will be insecurity about entering the pool, but as your Belgian Malinois learns that you are there to assist, it will become an amazing way to bond with your dog. After a week, you can expect your dog to be enamored with water activities that involve you.
Do not leave your dog unattended around a pool or lake. Once the dog can swim well for several minutes, you can have more confidence about letting it cool down in the scorching summer days.
Still, keeping a watchful eye on it is recommended, even when the dog is able to swim well. Note that every swimming session, especially while still learning, should be rewarded with some preferred activity or food.
I found food to work great with puppies and exercise with adults. This list of 8 best Belgian Malinois treats is proven to work for these purposes, so try them out with yours too.
Diving Into The Conclusion
Hopefully you are now satisfied with the answer. Do Belgian Malinois like water or not is a good question to ask if you plan on getting one to enjoy the blue sea, lake, or pool. A word of caution, though – you will have to put in a shift to teach your dog to swim.
If you recently moved to a home near a body of water, and you are wondering how your Mali is going to take it, just relax and take it slow. Your dog might take like a duck to water, or require a decent amount of work to get in, but it will eventually be a good experience for both of you.