Welcome to DogTime.com

DOGTIME LOGIN or SIGN UP

Belgian Malinois

Whether he's herding, doing police work, competing in dog sports, or being a family friend and protector, the Malinois does everything to the max.

Belgian Malinois Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Herding Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
12 to 14 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

Canines of the Belgian Malinois dog breed were originally bred to be herding dogs. Today, they also work as police dogs, protection dogs, and family companions. In the hands of an experienced dog person, they are intense, intelligent and athletic companions.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog gamesTeaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

  • Overview

    The Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL-in-wah) is a medium-size Belgian shepherd dog that at first glance resembles a German Shepherd Dog. Malinois are shorthaired, fawn-colored dogs with a black mask. They are one of four types of Belgian herding dogs, and have been shown in the U.S. as a separate breed since 1959.

    Originally developed in Malines, Belgium, Malinois have a great deal of stamina and truly enjoy working. They are intelligent and very active dogs that excel at many tasks. In addition to herding, they also do well with police work, search and rescue, and in performance events, such as agility.

    People who are not familiar with the Malinois often confuse him with the German Shepherd Dog (GSD), but there are significant differences in the body structure and temperament of the two breeds. Malinois are smaller dogs with lighter bones. They stand with their weight well on their toes, which gives them a square body profile, while today's GSD has a long, sloping back and carries his weight flatter on his feet.

    Malinois are fawn-colored, red, or brown, and the tips of their hair are black, while the GSD is usually tan with a black saddle. Additionally, the Malinois has a more refined, chiseled head that the GSD and smaller, more triangular ears.

    Many think that the Malinois is more alert and quicker to respond than the GSD. They're also very sensitive dogs that don't respond well to harsh training methods. Some Malinois are friendly and assertive, but others are reserved and aloof with strangers. They should never have a fearful or aggressive temperament. Because of their energy level and sensitivity, Malinois are recommended only for people who have previously owned dogs and have experience with dog training. Malinois are very intense dogs who like to be included in all of the family activities. They aren't well suited for people who work long hours or must travel often, leaving their dog at home.

    If you have decided that the Malinois is the breed for you, you should expose yours to many different people, dogs, other animals and situations as early as possible. Puppy kindergarten classes are recommended for your Malinois puppy, followed by obedience training class.

    Malinois are quick learners and eager to do whatever their people ask of them. They excel are obedience, tracking, agility, flyball, herding, showing, Schutzhund and other protection sports, search and rescue, and police work. Trainers describe them as having a high "play drive," which means that they love to play, and about anything you ask them to do is play to them.

    But the Malinois' owner should never forget that this is a breed that was developed to protect and herd. Poorly bred Malinois or ones that have been poorly socialized may be aggressive out of fear or shyness. Additionally, although well-socialized Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with them, they may have a tendency to nip at their heels and try to herd them when playing.

  • Highlights

    • Belgian Malinois have a great deal of energy and need a lot of exercise. Make sure you have the room and time to provide it.
    • Malinois are very intelligent and alert. They also have strong herding and protection instincts. Early, consistent training is critical!
    • Although they are good-size dogs, they are very people-oriented and want to be included in family activities.
    • Malinois are constant shedders. They shed heavily twice a year.
    • Belgian Malinois are intense dogs that are play-oriented and sensitive. Training should be fun, consistent, and positive.
    • Because of their intelligence, high energy, and other characteristics, Malinois are not recommended for inexperienced dog owners.
    • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
  • History

    The Belgian Malinois is one of four varieties of Belgian Sheepdogs, which were developed in Belgium in the late 1800s. The four varieties are the Malinois (fawn-mahogany, short coat with black mask), Tervuren (fawn-mahogany, long coat with black mask) the Laekenois (fawn, rough coat), and the Groenendael (black, long coat). The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes all but the Laekenois as separate breeds in the U.S., while the United Kennel Club recognizes all four types as one.

    The Club du Chien de Berger Belge (Belgian Shepherd Dog Club) was formed in September 1891 to determine which of the many different types of dogs was representative only of the shepherd dogs developed in Belgium. In November of that same year, breeders and fanciers met on the outskirts of Brussels to examine shepherd dogs from that area. After much deliberation, veterinary professor Adolphe Reul and a panel of judges concluded that the native shepherd dog of that province were square, medium-size dogs with well-set triangular ears and very dark brown eyes and differed only in the texture, color, and length of hair. Subsequent examinations of dogs in other Belgian provinces resulted in similar findings.

    In 1892, Professor Reul wrote the first Belgian Shepherd Dog standard, which recognized three varieties: dogs with long coats, dogs with short coats, and dogs with rough coats. The Club du Chien de Berger Belge asked the Societe Royale Saint-Hubert (Belgium's equivalent to the AKC) for breed status, but was denied. By 1901, however, the Belgian Shepherd Dog was finally recognized as a breed.

    Today's Malinois can be traced to a breeding pair owned by a shepherd from Laeken named Adrien Janssens. In 1885, he purchased a pale, fawn rough-haired dog called Vos I, or Vos de Laeken from a cattle dealer in northern Belgium. Janssens used Vos I (which means fox in Flemish) to herd his flock and also bred him to a short-haired, brindle-brown dog named Lise (also known as Lise de Laeken or Liske de Laeken). After that mating, Vos I was bred to his daughters, establishing a line of very homogeneous dogs with grey rough-hairs and short-hairs, and fawn rough-hairs and short-hairs. Today, Vos I and Lise de Laeken are recognized as ancestors not only of the modern Belgian Shepherd Dogs as well as the Bouvier des Flandres and Dutch Shepherd Dogs.

    Breeders decided to give each of the different varieties of Belgian Shepherd Dogs their own names. The city of Malines had formed a club for the promotion of fawn shorthairs Belgian Shepherd dog in 1898. Louis Huyghebaert, an early breeder under the "ter Heide" kennel name, as well as a judge, author and the "godfather of the Malinois" (and the Bouvier), along with the Malines club had done much to help popularize these short-hairs, so the name "Malinois" came to be associated with the fawn shorthairs.

    In 1897, a year before the formation of the Malines club, Huyghebaert, suggested that since there weren't very many sheep left in Belgium, that the shepherd dogs should have field trials that showcased their intelligence, obedience and loyalty. From this recommendation, dressage trials for the shepherd dogs were developed that tested a dog's ability to jump and perform other exercises. The first dressage trial, held on July 12, 1903 in Malines, was won by M. van Opdebeek and his Malinois, Cora van't Optewel.

    Belgian Shepherds were also used as guard dogs and draught dogs. They were the first dogs to be used by the Belgian police. Before World War II, international police dog trials became very popular in Europe, and Belgian dogs earned a number of prizes at the trials.

    When World War I broke out, many Belgian Shepherd Dogs were used by the military for a number of jobs including messenger dogs, Red Cross dogs, ambulance cart dogs and, according to some, light machine-gun cart dogs.

    During the 1920s and 1930s, several outstanding Malinois kennels were started in Belgium. During the first decades of the 20th century, Malinois and Groenendael were the most popular varieties of the Belgian Shepherd dogs to be exported to other countries. At that time, many were exported to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Canada, United States, Argentina and Brazil.

    In 1911, two Groenendaels and two Malinois were registered by the AKC as "German Sheepdogs." In 1913, the AKC changed the name to "Belgian Sheepdogs." The first dogs were imported by Josse Hanssens of Norwalk, Connecticut. He sold the two Malinois to L.I. De Winter of Guttenberg, New Jersey. De Winter produced several litters from the Malinois under his Winterview kennel name.

    After World War I, many American servicemen brought back Malinois and other Belgian Shepherd Dogs from Europe, and AKC registrations increased rapidly. The first Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in 1924 and became a member club of the AKC soon after that. In 1924 and 1925, Walter Mucklow, a lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida, popularized the Malinois through AKC Gazette articles that he wrote. He also bred Malinois for a short time under the name of Castlehead Kennel.

    By the end of the 1920s, the Groenendael and Malinois Belgian Sheepdogs had risen in popularity to rank among the top five breeds. During the Great Depression, dog breeding was a luxury that most couldn't afford, and the first Belgian Sheepdog Club of America ceased to exist. During the 1930s, a few Malinois were registered with the AKC as imports trickled into the country. Even after the Great Depression, there were so few Malinois and interest in the breed had dropped so much that the AKC put them in the Miscellaneous Class at AKC shows in the 1930s and '40s.

    In 1949, a second Belgian Sheepdog Club of America was formed in Indiana. In that same year, John Cowley imported two Malinois and began his Netherlair kennel. He showed several of his dogs and several people became interested in them. By the 1960s, more people were breeding and showing Malinois. In March 1992, the American Belgian Malinois Club received AKC parent club status.

    In the last decade, Belgian Malinois dogs have received a lot of attention for their work in the military, drug detection agencies, search and rescue operations, and police forces around the country. As a result, many Malinois have been imported to the U.S. in the last several years. They rank 90th among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club.

  • Size

    Males are 24 to 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 60 to 80 pounds. Females are 22 to 24 inches tall and weigh 40 to 60 pounds.
  • Personality

    This is an outstanding working dog who is confident and protective in any situation. He's affectionate with family members but reserved toward strangers until he takes their measure. The watchdog abilities of the Malinois are excellent. He protects his people and property with only as much force as is required. Shyness and aggression are never appropriate in this breed.

    That said, temperament doesn't just happen. It's affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available--to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.

    Like every dog, Malinois need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Malinois puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.

  • Health

    Belgian Malinois are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Malinois will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Malinois, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
    • Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
    • Elbow Dysplasia. This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It's thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog's elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, or medication to control the pain.
    • Anesthesia Sensitivity. Belgian Malinois are very sensitive to anesthesia. They have a higher than average rate of death when put under anesthesia because of their muscle to fat ratio. Be sure your vet understands this sensitivity before allowing your Malinois to have surgery or even have its teeth cleaned.
  • Care

    Belgian Malinois can do well in small quarters if they receive enough exercise. They prefer cool climates but adapt well to warmer environments. They do best when they are allowed to be a part of the family and are able to live indoors at least part of the time.

    If possible, provide your Malinois with some off-leash exercise in a fenced area in addition to long walks or jogging. Malinois need about 20 minutes of activity three or four times a day, and a leisurely walk won't satisfy them. They're built for action. If you like to hike or jog, your Belgian Malinois will be happy to be by your side. Consider training him to compete in obedience or agility. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you keep him active. Don't be surprised if he runs in large circles in your yard; it's a remnant of his herding heritage.

    Puppies have different exercise needs. From 9 weeks to 4 months of age, puppy kindergarten once or twice a week is a great way for them to get exercise, training, and socialization, plus 15 to 20 minutes of playtime in the yard, morning and evening. Throw a ball for them to fetch. From 4 to 6 months of age, weekly obedience classes, daily half-mile walks, and playtime in the yard will meet their needs. From 6 months to a year of age, play fetch with a ball or Frisbee for up to 40 minutes during cool mornings or evenings, not in the heat of the day. Continue to limit walks to a half mile. After he's a year old, your Malinois pup can begin to jog with you, but keep the distance to less than a mile and give him frequent breaks along the way. Avoid hard surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. As he continues to mature, you can increase the distance and time you run. These graduated levels of exercise will protect his developing bones and joints.

    Malinois are sensitive and highly trainable. Be firm, calm, and consistent with them. Anger and physical force are counterproductive.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 2 to 3 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

    NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Malinois, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    Malinois have short, straight hair that feels hard to the touch. The hard topcoat and dense undercoat provide weather resistance for a dog that was bred to work outdoors in all conditions. The hair is slightly longer around the neck, forming a sort of mini-mane.

    The coat is typically fawn- to mahogany-colored with a black mask on the face, black ears, and black tips on the hairs. Fawn-colored Malinois sometimes have a tiny bit of white on the tips of their toes or a small white spot on the chest.

    The short, smooth coat of the Malinois is easy to groom. Brush it weekly with a firm bristle brush, and bathe only when necessary. Malinois shed year-round, more heavily in the spring and fall.

    Brush your Malinois' teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

    Trim nails regularly if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the dog's feet in good condition and keep your legs from getting scratched when your Malinois enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Begin accustoming your Malinois to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

    As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.

  • Children and other pets

    Well-socialized Malinois are good with children, especially if they are raised with them, but because of their herding heritage they may have a tendency to nip at their heels and try to herd them when playing. You must teach your Malinois that this behavior is unacceptable. An adult Malinois who's unfamiliar with children may do best in a home with children who are mature enough to interact with him properly.

    Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

    Malinois can be aggressive toward other dogs and cats unless they're brought up with them from puppyhood. If you want your Malinois to get along with other animals you must start early and reward them for appropriate behavior. If your Malinois hasn't been socialized to other animals, it's your responsibility to keep him under control in their presence.

  • Rescue Groups

    Belgian Malinois are often purchased without any clear understanding
    of what goes into owning one. There are many Malinois in need of adoption and or
    fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you
    don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or
    a local breed club and they can point you toward a Malinois rescue.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Rarely

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Very

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • More than average

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Not usually

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Moderate

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Somewhat

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Extremely

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • Very high

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • Very high

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Not usually

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Fairly good

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Not usually

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • Very high

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • High

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Not usually

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Very High

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Very high

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • Low

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • Very low

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • Very high

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Large

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Very high

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Not particularly well

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Not so well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Moderate

    Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

Breed-center-300x90
Animal-header-dogtimeclose