I just got a malinois, now what?

1. Get to know the breed

Hopefully you’ve already done this one but just in case; do some research on the malinois breed and find out what to expect. What are their exercise needs, health concerns, social needs, shedding level & barking tendencies. What’s the temperament of the breed? Talk to other people who have a malinois about the breed and utilise all the resources you have! Discuss some ground rules with your family. Is your mal going to be allowed in bedrooms, on beds, in the kitchen? Create some boundaries from the beginning so everyone’s on the same page. If you’re adopting a young mal, think about things it might like to chew. There might be a few items that need to be relocated to higher grounds within the house so that your pup can’t chew or swallow them. Consider your backyard and fencing situation. Malinois’ can jump extremely high as an adult (if they want to) so make sure you’re ready to go with a secure and safe place for your pup to grow up.

2. Where will my dog sleep?

When you adopt your malinois it’s important to decide where your dog is going to sleep. It’s a good idea to consider using a crate for at least the first few weeks simply because you don’t know much about the dog you’ve adopted yet. You could have a chewer or even a dog with separation anxiety. Traditionally the malinois is a working breed which thrives on structure and routine. A lot of trainers and professionals are pro ‘crate training’ and there are an abundance of reasons why crate training can be a positive thing to integrate into a mal’s lifestyle. These dogs really are den creatures and can benefit from having a ‘safe’ place to go when they need it. Crates can also be a good place to keep you mal when you’re not home. This way you can ensure that your mal won’t get territorial over your home and it’s a safe place for the plumber to enter when you’re not around! I’ll leave you to research the benefits of crate training as this is something you need to decide for yourself. There are plenty of cases where dogs have a great life without the use of a crate and while some mals just need a comfortable bed of their own, others will happily sleep at the foot of your bed.

3. Get to know YOUR dog

Before you start introducing your new mal to other dogs and people, take the time to get to know it and it’s personality. Whether your mal is adopted from a rescue or a previous owner, it’s bound to be a little bit shy for the first few days or even the first few weeks and it’s important to spend a decent amount of time alone together in order to get to know each other and build a strong bond. You don’t know yet how your mal is going to react towards other people, other dogs and new environments, and within the first week or so the dog’s behaviour and personality can be subdued due to what’s commonly called a ‘honeymoon’ period. It often takes a few weeks for a dog to feel completely comfortable and confident in their new environment before they start showing their true selves and character traits. Learning what they’re afraid of (if anything) and what they don’t like can save you from some future behavioural problems.

4. Think about toys

We never like to disappoint any of our amazing malinois fosters but all the same it has to be said; the toys are for the pup, not you. So before you get excited about your new remote controlled helicopter, here’s the downlow on Malinois toys. Malinois’ have sharp, powerful teeth and a strong jaw so it’s important to think about durable and long lasting toys. It’s 110% likely that any fluffy toys you have will get torn to pieces, or equally as likely your fluffy friends will ensue the same fate as the “exploding pillows”  and “it was the cat” memes you see throughout social media. (My mal is sitting next to me arguing that exploding pillows are actually a real thing and I’m lucky she’s alive) The other key thing to think about is what the toys are made of. What could your dog be ingesting? Anything your dog can break apart or tear a chunk off, they’re likely to ingest and if you’re keen on saving money at the vets and potentially your dog’s life make sure you check what the toys are made of to ensure there aren’t any harmful chemicals. Regular tennis balls can have chemicals and glue that could be harmful for a dog to ingest. But don’t worry, there are brands out there that make strong tennis balls especially for dogs. We love Tuff Balls! And our personal favourite tough toys are the Kong range. You can find a bunch of strong toys at your favourite pet store, chewy.com or amazon.

5. Food & Water

What you feed and give your mal to drink is another important thing to consider. The biggest part here is doing your research. Everyone has something to say about what you should and shouldn’t feed your dog. There are so many different factors to consider; what should your mal be eating? What’s in the ingredients list? What components does it need for it’s lifestyle, ie. high protein/low protein? How much should I feed it? What human foods are poisonous for my dog? Speak to professional dog trainers, other malinois owners and your vet to help you figure out what’s right for you and your dog. The malinois breed has a high muscle to fat ratio so you want to get this right. Other important things to know? Make sure your dog is sedentary and not active for at least 30 mins before and 30 mins after it eats to avoid bloat, and stomach twisting. The twisting of a dog’s stomach can be fatal in some cases so this one is a biggie. Watering your dog? Don’t do it like you’re watering your veggie garden. If you’ve been out running, give your dog a few laps at a time and don’t let it drink excessively. Just like a human running a marathon, a dog who drinks a lot of water straight after a run risks throwing it up! (This one I’ve learned from experience and several wet outfits)

Bonus Tip: Carefully choose your Veterinarian

Do a little research and decide who your veterinarian is going to be. One who has worked with the breed before is definitely a bonus! It’s a good idea to find one you trust and try to stick with them throughout your mal’s life. Once you get your new pup, take them in to meet their new vet, get them well acquainted with each other and make sure they’ve got a clean bill of health. Not only does this start you both out on the right foot, but it also helps establish a positive experience for the dog in regards to visiting the vet.

Resources: Wallace Mattingly (Director & Head Trainer Coastal Canine) https://coastalk9.com/