After watching some spectacular Belgian Malinois perform amazing stunts in action movies like John Wick and Dog, I wondered if this breed had higher-than-average intelligence or if it was the trainer’s expertise. Turns out to be a bit of both.
Belgian Malinois are gifted in the ‘easy to train’ department and known for their ability to learn commands in a shorter time than other breeds. A Belgian Malinois can be relatively easy to train since they are highly intelligent, motivated to work, and driven to please their human.
Read on to see why Belgian Malinois are easy to train and review some of the best ways to train them.
Are Belgian Malinois Easy to Train?
Certain dogs, like Belgian Malinois, are easier to train than other breeds. According to Stanley Coren, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, the Belgian Malinois ranks #22 on the list of the most intelligent dogs. This means they learn new commands with 5 to 15 repetitions and obey the first command 85% of the time.
To understand why they are easy to train we should look at their history and genetics. Also known as a Belgian Shepherd, a Belgian Malinois is a medium-sized herding dog originating from Belgium. In addition to working on homesteads and ranches, the breed has long been used by the military, as a companion dog, an assistance dog, a detection dog, or a police dog.
How Do I Start Training My Belgian Malinois?
There are several types of activities to set your Belgian Malinois’s training up for success, including the following:
Socialization: You will want your Belgian Malinois to be social with people and animals. This will keep them from displaying aggressive behavior such as jumping on people and attacking other animals in public settings.
The best way to get your Belgian Malinois socialized is to bring them to public places. These include busy shopping streets, festivals, parks, and more. Watch the dog for signs of anxiety and calm them down if you think it may be getting stressed out.
If you don’t have many chances to take your dog out, you can also get them socialized by playing with them at home. A young Mal may need at least 30 minutes of playtime a day. Activities and exercise should increase to at least 1.5 hours a day in adult dogs.
Potty Training: Potty training is something you will definitely want to work out with your dog. Here are some tips to ensure they don’t mess in the house.
- Establish a routine so your dog understands there are certain times to eat, sleep, poop, play, etc.
- Take your puppy out frequently. Every 2 hours is best. Outings should be scheduled for after they wake up, eat or drink, and during and after playtime.
- Designate a spot outdoors where your puppy can do their business and take them out to that spot regularly while they are leashed.
- Come up with a word or phrase that you can say when you want your puppy to go. Get them familiar with the phrase by saying it every time they relieve themselves.
- Verbally praise and/or reward your dog every time they go potty outside.
Obedience Training: Obedience training is important for young Mals. The trick is to introduce an expression the dog can get familiar with when they are acting in a way that is undesirable.
So, let’s say the command word is ‘stop’. Take your dog out for playtime and wait until they engage in undesirable behavior such as barking at a stranger. Tell them firmly to stop.
Keep using the word every time your Belgian Malinois misbehaves. They will get used to it soon enough.
More important than using a word like stop is rewarding good behavior. Positive reinforcement for good behavior is key when training herding or working dogs such as the Belgian Malinois. You should also reward them with a treat, favorite toy, or verbal praise every time they act appropriately.
Clicker training can also be used in obedience training. It involves a similar strategy only a clicker is used to let your dog know they are misbehaving instead of a word.
Leash Training: You can get your dog used to wearing a leash by putting the leash on them inside and during playtime.
Once your dog gets used to the leash, teach him a command that makes them come to you. Then walk a few paces together while holding the leash. Continue practicing inside giving treats and praise every time they act properly.
Once you feel your dog is ready, you can take them outside. If you feel they are getting distracted, use your command word to keep their focus on you.
Crate Training: You may choose to crate train your Belgian Malinois for times you leave for a few hours, at bedtime or feeding time, or as a way to help potty train them.
Dogs tend to cry at first when they are in their crate and may be reluctant to get in, but with the right training, they will behave and may come to enjoy their comfy little room. Here are the steps you may want to take to get your Mal used to their crate.
- Select a crate that is the right size for your dog. Here are some great options on Amazon. The dog should be able to move around freely and stand up without hitting its head on the top of the crate.
- Put a soft blanket, dog bed, and toy or chew in the crate then bring your dog over to it.
- Use a verbal command to encourage the dog to go into the crate.
- Repeat the process until your dog can enter, lie still and even eat in the crate.
- Reward them with a treat and praise each time they get in the crate during training.
How Much Training Does a Belgian Malinois Need?
The amount of time it takes your Belgian Malinois to train will vary depending on how often the training sessions are, the duration of the training and the topic of the training. However, you will find your Belgian Malinois can learn basic commands within a few days or a week.
Professional Training vs. DIY Training
You may consider whether you want to train your dog at home or take them to a professional trainer. There are pros and cons involved in both situations. Here are some things to think about.
DIY Training Pros:
DIY training is great for promoting a bond between the dog and the owner. It will help strengthen the relationship.
DIY Training Cons:
Training a dog is a time-consuming process. The owner can get impatient with the dog. You also run the risk of teaching them the wrong behaviors and training them improperly.
Also, while the Belgian Malinois breeds are easy to train, they are high energy, and they have a high prey drive due to their herding background. It’s not advisable for individuals that have never trained a dog before to start on a Belgian Malinois.
Professional Training Pros:
A professional trainer is knowledgeable in training dogs. They know the techniques to use, and they will teach them the behaviors they need to learn. They can provide ongoing support and they will be accountable if anything goes wrong.
Professional Training Cons:
The biggest con to professional training is the cost. Training sessions can be quite expensive. The owner will also need to learn from the trainer or personally attend sessions. Training the owner is just as important as training the dog!
The best option will be a mix of DIY and professional training. It’s best to bring your dog to a professional to find out the basics, then follow up with the recommended techniques at home.
Belgian Malinois is a smart, friendly, loyal, and protective breed. Following the training techniques in this article will help you get your Malinois well-trained to make them a terrific companion.