BELGIAN MALINOIS Q&A
police forces and airport security. It searched for victims after 911, found Bin Laden, and is used extensively as a detection and search and rescue dog. Is the breed suitable only for the experienced owner? In general, yes! While they are very smart and learn quickly, they are also very manipulative if they think you are not a credible pack leader. There is a learning curve in living with and training a dog—and Mali- nois are smart, fun and energetic—an experienced handler will be able to enjoy all these traits. A Malinois can be too much dog for an inexperienced handler. The responsible owner needs to make a commitment to participating in many activities with them. Has the Malinois’ appearance in films and television helped or harmed the breed? A little bit of both. Awareness of the breed is good. However, some folks like the idea of having a dog like the one they may see on TV and in the media, but don’t understand the responsibility of owning a Malinois and all of the training that goes into making the dog a joy to live with. Also, a Malinois is a very high energy dog. They want and need a job to do, mental stimulation and lots of exercise. Greater recognition and popularity of the breed has resulted in more litters being bred. Unfortunately, this means more Malinois end up in rescue and “casual” breeding increases the risk of congenital issues increasing as has occurred in other popular breeds over time. Despite the breed’s serious reputation, does the Malinois have a silly side? Absolutely! My step-children used to dress my Malinois up, paint their nails and ride them around the house—the Malinois loved this and would play right into it. They also have a wonderfully wicked smile, will bring you every toy in the house, or hide every toy in the house depending on the day. They love to play games, do tricks, anything that demands your full attention! And in quiet moments they love to cuddle. Is there anything else I’d like to share about the breed? They have enriched my family’s and my life! They have facilitated many deep and lasting friendships. Spending time with my Malinois is better than any movie! ANN MACKAY Ann MacKay has owned Bel-
challenges they faced, how they worked through them, and what became of their lines. Yes, it is history, but it is inspirational to me. What first interested me in the Belgian Malinois? I grew up with a Bouvier, and she was a fabulous dog that lived a long, healthy life. I thought hard about what I loved about her, and what I would like different. While in college, I studied the breed standards in the Herding Group, and landed on the Belgian Shepherd Dog, simply from reading the standards. I loved what I read of their intelligence, athleticism and devotion. I knew I wanted the less glamorous and more business-looking Malinois, with its no-fuss coat. It would be a few years before I was in a situation to own one. But I had the good fortune to live in Michigan, which has a legacy of experienced own- ers and breeders in all flavors of Belgians. Luckily, I found a breeder willing to take a chance on me. How is the breed different from its Belgian cousins, German Shepherd and the Dutch Shepherd? The differences between most Malinois, Tervuren, Groenendael and Laekenois (aside from the obvious coat) can be attributed to the way different breeders’ lines develop over time. There really are more similarities than differ- ences between the varieties. The German Shepherd is longer in body, usually heavier-boned. While the Dutch Shepherd and the Belgian Shepherd standards describe somewhat different dogs, they do share common origins, so unsurprisingly, there are similarities. Why does the FCI classify the Malinois as one of four varieties of the Belgian Shepherd? The country of origin has always con- sidered the Belgians to be one breed with varieties. Malinois (even pedigrees with many generations of Malinois) can produce Ter- vuren. Malinois can produce Laekenois coat, as well. These dogs were useful in expanding the gene pool of all varieties following the World Wars. There have been many published articles demonstrat- ing how the Belgians were eventually classified as separate breeds in the USA. In the end, history, genetics, and the whelping box tell us the true story about our breed. Is the breed a good partner for performance events, herding, and Schutzhund? The breed is an excellent partner for just about any kind of event you can imagine. You set yourself up for success if you find a breeder active in the sport that interests you. What about the Malinois’ role as a detection, police, and search and rescue dog? The Belgian Malinois has a long history of bril- liance in these areas. While its origins are that of a herder and farm dog, the decline of the agricultural lifestyle meant that new occu- pations were necessary for survival. Some breeds, like the Belgian Mastiff, went extinct. However, those interested in training police dogs found exemplary partners in the Belgian Shepherd Dog. Is the breed suitable only for the experienced owner? All of us purchased our first Belgian Malinois from someone! Some individ- ual dogs or lines may be more suited to an experienced owner. It is best to develop a relationship with a breeder and discuss interest, experience and expectations, and take their advice on choosing the best dog for you. Has the Malinois’ appearance in films and television helped or harmed the breed? We have seen an uptick in breed inquiries and rescue following film and television appearances. Our very dedi- cated National Breed Rescue organization is frequently at capacity and looking for suitable foster homes. Does the Malinois have a silly side? The Belgian Malinois, with its upright, ears forward, no-muss, no-fuss look, does appear all- business. It is often serious about its work. They do need physical and mental exercise and, ideally, it includes their person. But they are also our beloved pets, and often silly, too. Sometimes the silly side comes out as a clever solution to something you are working on, or to a “problem” you didn’t know you had, or a creative inter- pretation of something you accidentally taught them. Sometimes it is simply an extraordinarily close cuddle, with more-than-expected intensity. They are always watching, evaluating, anticipating, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make us laugh!
gian Malinois for over 30 years, and breeds under the prefix “Avon- lea.” Belgian Malinois owned and/ or bred by Ann have been awarded National BISS eight times, and Avonlea Malinois have earned AKC championships in conformation, herding, agility, obedience, and
tracking. They’ve been Herding Group winners and RBIS. They’ve also competed successfully in France. She has been an officer and active member of the American Belgian Malinois Club, as well as local all-breed and specialty clubs, and was a grateful recipient of the Outstanding Sportsmanship medal from the American Belgian Malinois Club. She has served as Show Chair, Chief Ring Steward, Trophy Chair, as well as bar-setter, mat-roller and the myriad of other jobs performed by any dedicated club member. I was born and raised in Michigan, and I presently live in Min- nesota. I had a career in IT and Sales and Marketing at Ford Motor Company, now retired. I’ve been showing Belgian Malinois for 33 years and have titled my dogs in conformation, agility, herding, tracking, obedience, and rally. Do I have any hobbies or interests apart from breeding and showing dogs? Aside from dog training, I love reading, travel and music. I especially enjoy reading history and I am probably at my best geekiest self when those things merge. For example, seeing “Hamilton” in London after Crufts. Recently, I have been study- ing some of the earlier breeders of Belgian Shepherd Dogs in Bel- gium and France. It is interesting to learn more about their lives, the
218 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JULY 2020
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