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To start us off, let's talk about the history and origins of these two breeds.

The German Shepherd story starts in the 1800s when German cavalry officer, Captain Max von Stephanitz, made it his mission to create a superior herding dog. Though, the breed was used for a type of herding called "tending," where the dog acts as a living fence to keep their charges in a designated location. He and others aligned with this goal search all over Germany and brought together some of the most exceptional native herding dogs for the cause. Von Stephanitz created the first breed club for the GSD and spent 35 years refining and getting the breed into the spotlight. While the breed excelled in its original purpose, all good things must come to an end. The German Shepherd found itself displaced as more modernization took its place. Though the breed was incredibly versatile, it quickly found its way into other roles, such as law enforcement and military work.

The Belgian Malinois was created in the 1800s by shepherds. It hails for the city of Malines, Belgium, for which its name is derived. In its native country, the Mal is one of four Belgian shepherds, and all considered the same breed in their originating country. The other three being the Belgian Sheepdog and the Tervuren and the Laekenois. The breed made it the United States in 1911 and was used by US forces in the First World War. In the years following World War I, the number of dogs plummeted outside of Europe. It wasn't until the 1950s and 60s that they made a comeback to other parts of the world.

Next, let's get into the differences in appearance.

The GSD is an instantly recognizable dog. They have a long, narrow muzzle with a scissor-like bite, and tall, alert, erect ears. It is a muscular agile dog with flowing motion when it moves. It's body is longer than it is tall. Males can be up to 26 inches (or 66 centimeters) tall and weigh up to 90 pounds (or 40 kilograms) while females can grow up 24 inches (or 60 centimeters) and weight up to 70 pounds (or 31 kilograms). Their topcoat comes in two lengths, standard, or long-haired. Initially, the breed came in a multitude of colors, including the traditional black and tan, solids, sables, but also brindle and merle. Today the color pallet of the GSD is much more refined, and in an official capacity, accepted colors include black and tan, black and red, sable, and black. Outside of accepted color standards, we can find GSDs who are white, liver, fawn, Isabella, grey, black and silver, and brindle has now resurfaced thanks to a genetic mutation in some lines.

The Belgian Malinois is somewhat similar looking to the German Shepherd, though there are some key differences. Mal's tend to be around the same height as a GSD, with males getting to 26 inches(or 66 centimeters) tall and females around 24 inches (or 60 centimeters) tall. However, the Mal tends to be a lighter, more agile dog with males weighing up to 80 pounds (or 36 kilograms) and females up to 60 pounds (or 27 kilograms). The breed also tends to have a squarer stance.

What are the differences in temperament between these two breeds?

The temperament of German Shepherds can vary between different lines. Working lines such as eastern German working lines, western german working lines, and Czech lines tend to be more on the high-strung side. This also includes more of a desire to work and higher drives. In comparison, show lines and pet lines tend to be a little more subdued. Though the German Shepherd as a whole is intelligent, willing, courageous, and fiercely loyal. It can be incredibly challenging to find a German Shepherd with good temperament as a family companion with the introduction of more higher-drive animals and nervousness that has cropped up in the breed.

The Belgian Malinois is a smart, hardworking breed. They are profoundly loyal and live for their people. Though, this is a serious working dog with very high drives. The Mal requires rigorous mental stimulation and a purpose or can become seriously destructive and develop a slew of behavioral problems.

Now, on to the differences in intelligence between the German Shepherd and the Malinios.

The GSD is considered one of the world's smartest dogs. It finds itself frequently on the list of the world's most intelligent dog breeds and reigns at the number three spot. This is an honor that is well deserved as the German Shepherd is one of the most widely used dog breeds for an incredibly diverse list of tasks. Owners of this breed need to be on their A-game and stay one step ahead of this clever breed. Even experienced owners may sometimes find themselves outsmarted and outmaneuvered by their German Shepherd.

The Belgian Malinois isn't far behind the German Shepherd in the brains department though it tends to be a bit more alert and quick to react. This is one intelligent breed, with the drive to back it up. This breed is capable of learning some of the most advanced obedience maneuvers out there. However, there are many individuals out there who have minds of their own and aren't afraid to use it, which can be a massive challenge and incredibly frustrating for an ill-prepared canine leader.

What about the trainability and the differences there?

The GSD is one of the most trainable breeds in the world. On top of being able to learn incredibly advance obedience skills they also find themselves in an incredibly wide variety of fields such as herding, agility, Schutzhund, personal protection, service work, scent work, bomb detection, police work, military work, therapy dogs, obedience, rally, dock diving and the list goes on and on. Odds are if it can be done. The GSD can learn how to do it.

The Mal is also an incredibly biddable breed. While they are also skilled at performing various jobs, they tend to be a little more refined in their field of work than the GSD. You will find Mals in police and military work, Schutzhund, personal protection work, tracking, obedience, and herding. Belgian Malinois are easily motivated by play, so if you can make the experience fun for them, they are more than willing to participate and try to catch on to whatever you want them to.

The energy levels of these two breeds are vastly different. Let's discuss, starting with the German Shepherd.

A German Shepherds energy level can vary slightly from different lines. But overall, this breed is a fairly active one though most do have an "off-switch." As they are working dogs, they require a lot of physical stimulation. At a minimum, they will need a long walk and a play session each day to keep them content and from developing undesired behaviors due to pent up energy.

The Malinois is an entirely different story. You would be hard-pressed to drain a Mal of all of its energy fully. A long walk is not going to be enough for this breed, and they require someone very active. Even if they do get enough energy to settle and not become destructive, you will find they are always up for some activity of some sort.

Now we will cover the health and life expectancy of these two breeds.

The life expectancy of a German Shepherd is between seven and ten years, and the breed faces an extensive list of health problems. Health problems known within the breed are, Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Bloat, Degenerative Myelopathy, Hyperuricosuria, Multidrug Sensitivity, and Von Willebrand'sWillebrand's Disease Type I. Blue colored GSDs can also suffer from Colour dilution alopecia which can cause hair loss.

On the other hand, the Mal has a much longer life expectancy and can live anywhere from fourteen to sixteen years of age. Possible health issues with breed include bloat, elbow, and hip dysplasia, some eye issues such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, anesthesia sensitivity, and Degenerative Myelopathy.

What about social needs?

Both the German Shepherd and Malinois are people-oriented dogs. They want nothing more than to be with their people and to serve them. These breeds are fiercely loyal, and should the need arise. They would defend their owners with all of their courage and might. Neither of the breeds does well left on their own for long stints of time as their entire world revolves around their owners. While they love their whole families, they also tend to pick one person in the household to share a special bond with that is unlike anything else.

How do these two breeds match up on being child friendly?

The German Shepherd is typically an excellent dog to have around children if they are raised with them. Or have proper socialization with children from a young age. Though, they can be energetic in their younger years and may accidentally knock over young children. There is also something to be said for their herding instincts which may get them into trouble with children if it is not properly addressed.

Malinois can also be good with children if they grow up with them or have slow and careful socialization with them from the start. However, the Mal does have more pronounced prey drive than the GSD, which could result in a Mal that will give in to more intense chase when they are around running and yelling children. Their energy level is also something to consider, and they should be receiving proper exercise, so they do not accidentally play too rough and accidentally knock down or injure a child.

Is either of these breeds good with small animals?

GSDs can be very tolerant of small animals, primarily when raised with them. However, individuals out there might do well with one type of small animal and yet fail with another. Socialization from an early age is essential to minimize the dog from being a potential threat to any small animal. Taking the precautions to do proper and slow introductions is an absolute must.

Malinois can also be great with small animals, but the same rules apply. They should be socialized with a different variety of small animals. Given their long lifespan, this is particularly important if one has any interest in bringing home a small furry or feathered animal into the house within the dog's lifetime. The Mal does possess a higher-prey drive than the GSD, so they might be more likely to chase and try to seize a fleeing animal, and additional socialization may be required to ensure this doesn't happen.

Last, how are they with other dogs?

The German Shepherd is typically an excellent choice to co-exist with other dogs. They do exceptionally well with them, given they were raised with them or had proper socialization with other canines from a young age. However, some individuals are intolerant of other dogs of the same gender.

Like the German Shepherd, the Malinois can be exceptional with other dogs with the right tools: exposure from an early age and consistent socialization. Though like the German Shepherd, they can be predisposed to not be as welcoming of dogs of the same sex. They also tend to be more aggressive with unknown dogs entering their territory.


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