Male vs. Female Belgian Malinois: Which Gender Is Superior?

Female Belgian Malinois and male Belgian Malinois dogs sitting outdoors

Whether you decide on a male or female Belgian Malinois, both are highly intelligent companions that are great for protection and can be a loving addition to your household.

Although there are a few distinct differences between the genders, neither of the two is outright better than the other. At the end of the day, it’s more about which sex is the better fit for your lifestyle rather than which one is superior overall.

Just like any breed, Belgian Malinois have individual personalities regardless of gender. That said, female Belgian Malinois are more inclined to stay close to their owners and easier to handle since they’re smaller and more receptive. Males, on the other hand, tend to be more playful and adventurous.

The reason I put this article together is to help potential Belgian Malinois owners make a conscious decision about which gender suits them and their household better.

It’s an important choice with a lot of factors to consider, so let’s dive in and learn all there is to know about male and female Belgian Malinois.

Does Gender Really Matter When Choosing Your Belgian Malinois?

While a handler’s approach ultimately has a larger impact on a dog’s behavior compared to its sex, it’s still important to know the potential physical and mental differences between male and female Belgian Malinois, especially for first-time owners.

According to a study conducted by Benjamin and Lynette Hart, two esteemed professors of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, male dogs of various breeds were more prone to bouts of aggression towards people and other dogs, had a bigger tendency of being defensive about territory, were generally more energetic, and were more likely to exhibit watchdog barking.

Whereas female dogs ranked higher in terms of receptiveness to training, easiness to housebreak, and were more inclined to demand affection.

Despite the fact that not all male and female dogs exhibit their generalized characteristics, it would still be best if you observed the dog you’re interested in for a few weeks while they are at their breeder’s facility.

That way, you might be able to notice if they show any traits that are commonly affiliated with their gender and you can figure out whether or not their temperament would suit your lifestyle and household.

Physical Differences

When it comes to looks, male and female Belgian Malinois appear largely identical and can be tough to tell apart from a glance.

They both sport short but thick coats that come in varying shades of brown, ears that are near-perpetually perked up, and gorgeous tails that are a bit bushy. There are, however, a few differences that set the genders apart.

Males

As with the majority of dog breeds, male Belgian Malinois are a fair bit larger than females in size and are a few inches taller to boot.

The males are also likely to be slightly more muscular due to the increased testosterone, though it’ll be hard to notice through their thick fur.

Really, the most significant difference between the genders is in their size. Male Belgian Malinois are almost always bigger than their female counterparts, weighing between 60 and 80 pounds and standing approximately 24 to 26 inches tall from the shoulder down.

Females

In contrast, female Belgian Malinois are often a couple of inches shorter than the males at 22 to 24 inches tall and should weigh anywhere between 40 to 60 pounds.

Trainers and veteran Mali owners often recommend females to fledgling Mali owners on account of their smaller size which makes them a bit easier to handle.

Despite the stark difference in size and weight, it can still be quite difficult to tell the sex of a Belgian Malinois based on appearance alone.

Temperamental Differences

Male and Female Belgian Malinois dogs posing outdoors

Belgian Malinois, like most dog breeds, may exhibit particular character traits depending on whether they’re male or female.

While this isn’t exactly set in stone and can also be contingent on their genes and the way they were raised, a Mali’s gender can help you set your expectations as far as their temperament is concerned.

Males

Male Belgian Malinois are often considered to be bolder and more fun-loving. Casual dog owners would probably prefer their laid-back nature and more patient attitude when it comes to strangers and other dogs.

While the breed is known for being energetic, the males are often the more spirited of the two, so expect them to be rowdier, clumsier, and generally more chaotic.

All that testosterone grants male Belgian Malinois a more muscular frame, but in turn, can affect their attitude towards their owners.

Males are known to be more hard-headed, requiring firmer and steadier guidance from their owners and trainers. The testosterone also makes them prone to being aggressive with other males.

They can be quite territorial when it comes to their homes, as most male breeds are, and can be equally territorial towards their owner. Don’t be surprised if your male Mali forms a very close bond with one specific person.

Females

Female Belgian Malinois mature more quickly than males, making them more receptive and easier to train earlier on. They’re also generally more alert and focused compared to males.

Most Mali owners agree that this mellower temperament and their smaller size make females the smarter choice for first-time owners of the breed.

Unlike males, female Malis are wearier towards strangers and other dogs, which could be a good thing for people looking for a guard dog but a bit of a downside for someone hoping for a playful pet.

You’ll need to give them a bit more time to adjust to their surroundings when you take them to the park or on walks. They aren’t, however, as aggressive towards the same sex as males are.

Females usually adopt a pack mentality, causing them to be more protective about the family as a whole as opposed to playing favorites. They’re not as likely to be clingy towards one person and tend to love the family equally.

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Trainability Differences

Belgian Malinois are highly intelligent and very energetic dogs that are often favored more as working dogs than house pets.

They need to be constantly stimulated, allowed regular exercise, and, most importantly, need to be properly trained with a firm hand. The training process can be a bit easier depending on whether your pup is a male or female Belgian Malinois.

Males

Since male Malis are slower to mature, they spend more time in their juvenile phase where they enjoy playing and fooling around.

During this period, owners will probably have a more difficult time drawing their attention and keeping them focused, increasing the time and effort you need to put in to train and housebreak them properly.

The energetic nature of the Belgian Malinois mixed with the adventurous disposition of the males of the breed means that they’ll always be ready and excited for the next task you give them but they might be too fidgety to concentrate on your commands.

This is all the more likely while in public where there are more distractions that can steal away their focus, such as other dogs and small animals.

Females

With female Malis reaching maturity sooner than males, they’re a lot more efficient to train since they can absorb more at a younger age.

They’re also known to be more sensitive towards their owners and are a lot better at keeping their focus, making females the easier choice for obedience training and dog shows.

Moreover, certain owners are likely to have a smoother time training female Malis on account of their smaller size and less muscular build which makes them a little easier to handle overall.

Health Differences

Most purebred dogs are prone to developing specific illnesses based on their breed and the Belgian Malinois is no different. But the possibility of your Mali contracting certain health issues may also depend on their sex.

Males

Belgian Malinois, in general, are prone to developing hip and elbow dysplasia at some point in their lives, which is when the bones in their hip or elbow joints don’t line up properly leading to pain and discomfort.

Males of the breed are more susceptible to developing and exacerbating the condition because of their larger size and heavier build since this leads to more wear and tear on their bones. Despite this, there has been no reported disparity between the lifespan of both genders.

Females

Thanks to their smaller and more lightweight frame, healthy female Malis are less likely to develop hip and elbow dysplasia. And even if they do, it’s easier to manage the condition and keep it from worsening.

Dysplasia aside, both male and female Belgian Malinois are equally at risk of developing cataracts, pannus, progressive retinal atrophy, and hemangiosarcoma.

They’re also susceptible to obesity so it’s imperative that you watch their weight no matter which gender you choose.

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With Other Dogs and Pets

Young Male Belgian Malinois puppy and French Bulldog

Not all dogs play well with other animals or even other canines, for that matter.

If you have another pet at home, it’s important to consider the type of attitude male and female Malinois usually exhibit towards other dogs and animals so you can choose a gender that suits your household better.

Males

Given the aggression that some male Mali’s exhibit towards other males, if you want more than one male dog to live in the household, you’ll want to consider either neutering your dog after he’s matured or raise him in a way that he regularly socializes with other male dogs so he becomes more accustomed to it.

On the flip side, the male Mali’s playful and peppy nature means that they’ll probably get along just fine with female dog breeds of any kind. Having other small pets in the house like cats, however, is a whole nother story.

Belgian Malinois have a strong hunter’s instinct, meaning there’s a good chance that they’ll want to chase after small animals. This is all the more prevalent in males given how territorial they are and how high-spirited they can be.

If you want your male Belgian Malinois to get along with your feline friend or other furry little animals, your best bet is to introduce him to the animal as a pup and raise them together.

Females

As for female Belgian Malinois, they’re a bit more cautious about meeting other dogs since they’re commonly hesitant to leave their owner’s side. On the plus side, they’re also less likely to get into arguments with other dogs due to dominance.

But that’s not to say that they’re free from same-sex aggression. Female Belgian Malinois are pretty much just as likely to get into a scrap with the same gender as males are.

So if you have another female dog in the house, it’s best if there’s a wide age gap between them or that you introduce the female Mali as a pup.

As for cats and other animals, female Malis have the same hunter’s instinct as the males, but there’s a better chance that they’ll listen to their owners given their more receptive nature.

To be on the safe side, it’s still recommended that you introduce your female Mali to your other animals as a puppy.

With Children

Belgian Malinois are fairly large dogs that are only slightly smaller than German Shepherds. That being said, it’s vital that you know how the males and females of the breed usually act around children if you are planning on introducing a Mali to a house with kids.

Males

Belgian Malinois were originally bred as herding dogs and as such, they have seemingly limitless amounts of energy. Add this to the fact that the males of the breed are known for being rowdy and you’ve got a potentially 80-pound beast darting around your house or lawn.

However inadvertent, there’s always a chance that they could run into a kid at home and cause injury.

They also love to bite things even when playing, so they could end up nipping at a child while horsing around. In the end, it all boils down to proper training.

Belgian Malinois are smart dogs and as long as you have the time and dedication to train them, they can become great family pets. However, the males might just make it a little bit harder.

Females

A female Mali’s lower energy level coupled with their pack mentality makes them better suited to being around young children at home.

They may not have the same drive as males do when it comes to playing around, but at least you won’t have to worry as much about your dog bulldozing one of your kids out of excitement.

And since they’re easier to train and better at staying focused, you’ll have a better shot at teaching them to do away with their biting reflex while they’re still young.

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Are Male or Female Belgian Malinois Better Guard Dogs?

Despite being initially bred for herding, nowadays Belgian Malinois commonly work as military and police dogs thanks to their athleticism and keen intellect, so it’s safe to say that they would make fantastic guard dogs no matter their sex.

While their effectiveness for protection lies primarily in how well they’re trained, there are a few differences between the genders that could potentially make one better than the other depending on the situation.

Advantages of male Belgian Malinois guard dogs:

  • Physically stronger on account of their larger, more muscular build.
  • Territorial nature makes them better at guarding property.
  • Better stamina.

Advantages of female Belgian Malinois guard dogs:

  • Matures quicker than males and can be trained sooner.
  • More likely to stay closer to their owners in public making them better individual guards.
  • Watchful towards strangers and other dogs.

As you can see, it really depends on what you intend for your Belgian Malinois to guard. If we’re talking about guarding your home against intruders, then a male Mali’s territorial instincts would make it better-equipped for the job.

But if you’re looking for a dog that will keep you safe while you’re out on a walk, a female Mali’s innate wariness towards strangers mixed with their tendency to stick close to their owner makes them the superior candidate.

Are Male or Female Belgian Malinois Better Family Companions?

Male and female Belgian Malinois family companions

The general difference in demeanor between male and female Belgian Malinois makes them each suited for very different environments.

A female’s usually more docile nature would make her better suited for a house with younger kids, while a male Mali may be better off in a home with older children due to their inexhaustible energy. Here are a few of the advantages that come with either gender:

Advantages of male Belgian Malinois in a family environment:

  • They have the energy to spare for playtime with the kids and other activities.
  • Their adventurous quality makes them more sociable with people and other dogs in public.
  • They’re more likely to get along with a female dog in the house.
  • They often bond closely with one person.

Advantages of female Belgian Malinois in a family environment:

  • Their calmer demeanor is better for younger, more delicate children.
  • Their quick maturity rate allows them to be trained and housebroken sooner.
  • They’re likely to get along with a male dog in the house.
  • They are more protective of their owner while in public.
  • They tend to love family members equally.

If you already have a dog, it’s best to adopt a Belgian Malinois of the opposite sex as they usually get along better that way.

If you have other small animals like cats at home, then you’ll want to introduce your Mali to them as a puppy and have them grow alongside each other. That way they’ll get used to having each other around.

Whether you end up choosing a male or female Belgian Malinois, the most important thing is that you allow them to socialize with the other members of the household as soon as possible. That way, he or she will grow up to be a kind and loving dog, no matter the sex.

Which Gender Should You Choose?

Deciding whether you should adopt a male or female Belgian Malinois should really depend on your taste and your lifestyle. Here’s a quick recap of the major differences between the two genders to help make your choice a little easier:

Male Belgian Malinois are better suited for:

  • High-energy households with older kids
  • Guarding houses and other property
  • Homes that have a female dog/dogs
  • Owners looking for a more sociable dog

Female Belgian Malinois are better suited for:

  • Mellower homes with young children
  • Personal protection when out and about
  • Homes that have male dog/dogs
  • Owners in search of a dog that’s easier to train and handle

Final Thoughts

Most of the characteristics I discussed in this article are common traits that are often, but not always, attributed to male and female Belgian Malinois.

But, ultimately, they are merely generalizations and the driving factor behind a pup’s temperament remains their upbringing and the environment they grow up in.

Ask any Mali owner worth their salt and they’ll tell you that every dog has its individual personality and each one is unique.

While I’ve tried my best to lay out all the possible differences between male and female Belgian Malinois, what really determines their demeanor is where and how you raise them.

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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