Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois: What’s the Difference?

Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois

The Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are two supremely athletic breeds that share many impressive traits. And because they are alike in so many ways, it naturally leads us to wonder how they are different from each other.

The smaller Dutch Shepherd is a more active and affectionate dog than the Belgian Malinois, who is heavier and requires less physical and mental stimulation. Meanwhile, Mals have longer lifespans, higher prey drives, and are more vocal than Dutch Shepherds. Both dogs are clever and work-driven.

If you want to learn more about the distinguishing traits of the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois that make them stand out, keep reading until the end!

Dutch ShepherdBelgian Malinois
21.5–24.5 inches
22–26 inches
42–75 pounds
40–80 pounds
Hardworking, clever, lively
Confident, intelligent, diligent
Activity Level:
Very high
Activity Level:
Above average
Above average
11–14 years
14–16 years

Breed History

Belgian Malinois tongue out

Dutch Shepherd

As a native of the Netherlands, the Dutch Shepherd was originally a worker that primarily functioned as a herder in the 1890s. Interestingly, the type of work these dogs are designed for is very similar to that of the Belgian Malinois. 

Dutch Shepherds were dependable transporters of milk and produce. In fact, they were also the ones who pulled carts carrying these goods to the market. At the same time, they served as protectors of children and farmyards.

As the years progressed, modernization and changes in economic activities led them to new career paths.

Dutch Shepherds shifted to being efficient police, search and rescue dogs, and service dogs without losing their innate herding abilities.

Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois was developed in Belgium as a superior herder of sheep and cattle. As such, the Mal possesses excellent skills that allow them to perform well in herding and a wide range of tasks.

They then suffered the effects of the Second World War in the 1940s as their numbers greatly diminished. Thankfully, in the 1960s, fanciers helped pave the way for their reemergence as a breed. 

Like the Dutch Shepherd, they could easily venture into other working fields such as the police force and military. Their hardworking nature and intelligence helped them earn due recognition in these fields.

To this day, the Belgian Malinois remains one of the top choices for reliable police and military dogs.


Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois appearance

In terms of physical traits, the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois look very similar. These muscular breeds with signature dark masks bear a close resemblance to each other.

Upon closer examination, though, you will notice the differences in their appearance. For starters, the Dutch Shepherd comes in three coat varieties: the short coat, the long coat, and the rough or wire coat. 

On the other hand, the Belgian Malinois only comes in a single short-length coat type. As to their colors, the Dutch Shepherd has fewer color variations than the Belgian Malinois, having only three.

The recognized standard colors of the Dutch Shepherd are silver brindle and gold brindle, while yellow is considered a non-standard color. 

Meanwhile, the Mal has 12 color variations, among which fawn, mahogany, red, red sable, and fawn sable are standard colors. Meanwhile, black, brindle, cream, gray, liver, gray sable, and cream sable are non-standard ones. 

Their differences continue with their size and weight. The Dutch Shepherd is slightly smaller by an average of one inch, around 21.5 to 24.5 inches in height. 

They are also generally lighter than the Belgian Malinois, weighing somewhere between 42 and 75 pounds.

In comparison, the larger Belgian Malinois stands between 22 and 26 inches in height and, on average, weighs a few pounds more than the Dutch Shepherd, being around 40 to 80 pounds.

Another difference in their physical traits is their muzzle, which with the Dutch Shepherd appears to be slightly longer than their skull as compared to the Mal’s, which is proportional to their skull size. 

Temperament and Personality

Due to their similar background, the temperament and personality of the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are also somewhat similar. Both these breeds are smart, hardworking, vigilant, and faithful family companions.

While this is so, they still possess traits that set them apart from each other. For one, Dutch Shepherds are more playful and affectionate toward loved ones. 

They are likelier to seek and enjoy belly rubs and snuggles with family members and are always happy interacting with them. But when dealing with strangers, both breeds tend to be reserved and distant. 

And while both breeds can be good with small children, given that they are trained and socialized with them at an early stage, Dutch Shepherds tend to be more patient with kids than the Mals.

Dutch Shepherds also have a lower prey drive as opposed to the Belgian Malinois, who has a greater tendency to chase and nip anything that is small and moving.

Because of this, the Dutch Shepherd is a better choice for families with small pets inside their households.

In addition, Dutch Shepherds tend to be more adaptable to changes in their environment, such as weather, noise, daily routine, and living conditions. 

When it comes to barking, both breeds are not inclined to bark unnecessarily, though the Belgian Malinois tends to be more vocal than the Dutch Shepherd.

Meanwhile, both breeds are likely to suffer separation anxiety if they are not with their humans for a long time. But this is more likely with the Belgian Malinois, who considers being with his human his greatest joy. 

Exercise and Training

Dutch Shepherd trained as a police dog

The Dutch Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois are very energetic breeds that suit well with equally active and experienced owners. 

That said, the Dutch Shepherd can be a bit more energetic and may require a little more physical and mental stimulation from its owner. 

While the Belgian Malinois typically requires a daily physical and mental stimulation of about 45 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, the Dutch Shepherd generally needs 1 to 2 hours of daily exercise to stay fit.

Both these breeds enjoy exercise in the form of walking, running, hiking, swimming, and playing fetch. Likewise, they do well in sports such as herding, obedience, tracking, agility, and protection.

I had the opportunity to observe a breeder colleague of mine who focus on both Dutch Shepherds and Belgian Malinois. Seeing him train these dogs, I can attest to how he effectively balances confidence, firmness, and being assertive in his approach with the use of positive reinforcement strategies.

These two breeds are highly intelligent and eager to please their humans, so building the right relationship with them will work best when trying to shape their behaviors. 

Furthermore, obedience training is a must for both of them. Without it, their stubborn nature will take over, and they will start deciding on their own.

Nutrition Needs

The nutritional needs of the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois do not differ by much. These two very active breeds need sufficient nourishment to sustain their daily activities.

Look for quality dog food that contains at least 26% protein to support their muscles and provide enough energy throughout the day. 

For the Dutch Shepherd, depending on their weight, they would need around two to four cups of kibble a day. The Belgian Malinois, on the other hand, needs about two to three cups of kibble a day.

You can also give them fruits, such as bananas and watermelon, as well as vegetables such as broccoli and celery. These are great energy-boosting foods that promote muscle and digestive health.

Also, given their similar predisposition to bone illnesses, both of them will benefit from a diet that supports good bone health. These can be achieved with the help of supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin.

Grooming Needs

Belgian Malinois being combed

Grooming both the Dutch Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois is a fairly simple and easy task for its owner. The Dutch Shepherd’s frequency of brushing depends on its coat type. 

The short-haired Dutch Shepherd must be brushed weekly, similar to the Belgian Malinois. Meanwhile, Dutch Shepherds with rough coats need to be brushed twice weekly to avoid tangles and matting.

On the other hand, the long-haired variety of the Dutch Shepherd would need brushing three to four times a week to maintain its beauty and manage its shedding.

As to bathing, this should only be done if they start to smell. If you want a more regular routine, you can bathe your dog every four to six weeks. 

The same goes for the Mals. This keeps them clean and helps manage the shedding of the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois.

Regular brushing of teeth and trimming of nails should also be a habit to avoid dental disease and injuries such as broken nails. 

Lifespan and Health Problems

The lifespan of the Dutch Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois can be considered one of their significant differences. The Dutch Shepherd can generally live for about 11 to 14 years.

In comparison, the Belgian Malinois can live longer by an average of 2.5 years, having a lifespan of 14 to 16 years. This may be something to consider for families who become really attached to their canines.

While both are regarded as healthy breeds, they can still be prone to certain health issues, some of which they are similarly predisposed to.

For instance, both breeds are prone to developing elbow and hip dysplasia. While this can be hereditary, their large stature and active nature also affect these conditions.

Meanwhile, Dutch Shepherds can also be prone to having other health issues such as goniodysgenesis, degenerative myelopathy, thyroid problems, and von Willebrand’s disease.

In comparison, the Belgian Malinois is susceptible to certain diseases like progressive retinal atrophy, pannus, cataracts, and hemangiosarcoma.

It is important to find reputable sources for your puppy, be it a Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois, to ensure that you are getting a healthy pup cleared of the genetic issues mentioned above.

Also, remain consistent in providing your pup with a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle.

Puppy Price

Two Belgian Malinois puppies leaning on a tree trunk

In terms of the puppy price, Dutch Shepherd puppies tend to be a bit pricier, having a price range of $1,500 to $3,500.

They are likewise harder to come across as compared to the Belgian Malinois puppies, which are being offered by reputable breeders in the $1,000 to $3,500 price range. 

While the initial purchase price is important to prepare for, it is crucial to keep in mind the other costs associated with owning a puppy like the Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois.

As these breeds can be very expensive, it can be tempting to resort to other sources that offer much lower prices, such as backyard breeders and puppy mills.

This is never a good idea as these sources are only profit-driven and are not concerned about upholding ethical breeding practices, nor do they screen their breeding stock for health and temperament issues.

Similarities Between Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois

The Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are breeds that resemble each other in many ways, and it’s easy to mistake one for the other. 

Since both have a similar original working purpose as herders, they naturally have the same admirable traits such as their strength, intelligence, and hardworking nature.

It is also due to these traits that both of them were able to successfully transition to being top choices for police dogs and military dogs.

Appearance-wise, these two are also very similar, having tall and muscular physiques and signature black masks. They can also come in brindle patterns and short coats.

The Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are also both protective of their loved ones and tend to be reserved with strangers.

In addition, these active breeds will do well with active families providing enough physical activities and mental stimulation to keep them fit. Both breeds need a confident and assertive leader who can properly handle them.

Lastly, the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are similarly prone to bone and eye health issues. Hence, pet parents must be very keen on ensuring that good bone health is maintained and that they get proper eye care.

Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois: Which Is Better for You?

Dutch Shepherd standing on the grass

Choosing between the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois can cause quite a dilemma for an aspiring owner. These two are such remarkably excellent dogs worthy of being the ideal choice.

That said, they still have distinctive traits that fit better with particular individuals and families. I have listed some helpful pointers to help you better decide between the two.

 A Dutch Shepherd is a better choice if:

  • You prefer a more affectionate canine who loves belly rubs, snuggles, and licks your face most of the time!
  • You want a dog that can keep up and engage in a more playful way. 
  • You need a dog that can cope better with changes in the family’s daily routine and living conditions.
  • You have young children and smaller pets in the household.

A Belgian Malinois is a preferable choice if:

  • You tend to get attached to a particular dog and prefer to be with one with a longer lifespan.
  • You prefer a dog with a larger physical stature, which helps to solidify its powerful protector image.
  • You are not going to be constantly away from your dog for long periods.
  • You are willing to put in the effort and time to train and manage your dog’s high prey drive.

Hopefully, these pointers helped you gain clarity on which breed matches you and your family’s lifestyle better. 

Final Thoughts

The Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are two very similar breeds. From their origins, appearance, behavior, to temperament, both seem to be parallel with each other.

While they resemble each other in many ways, they still have some trait differences that make each become a more suitable choice for specific families and individuals.

And though the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois have breed-specific temperaments and personalities, their environment and upbringing still play a huge part in how they will turn out as adult dogs.

On a side note, if you still can’t decide between these two breeds, consider the Mali Dutchie — the crossbreed between the Dutch Shepherd and Belgian Malinois. This mix should fit the bill! 

With that out of the way, which of these breeds is a more suitable companion for you? Let us know your thoughts about the topic of Dutch Shepherd vs. Belgian Malinois in the comments below!

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