I'm pretty surprised to be writing about the most recent John Wick action movie on a dog training blog, but here we are! When John Wick 3 hit theatres, the dog training world gasped in horror.... not another movie featuring the Belgian Malinois!
Truly, it could be any breed and that breed's community and caretakers would be worried. The popularity of a dog breed often skyrockets when they've been featured in a movie. My Dog Skip made everyone want a Jack Russell Terrier. Babe sent everyone to the farm for their own Border Collie. 101 Dalmatians sent families running to Dalmatian breeders and of course, John Wick highlighting Malinois will have a lot of people wanting to get one.
So What is the Problem? Isn't Popularity a Good Thing?
The problem is the fad. The thing that falls in favour with the masses until the next new thing comes along to take its place. This new 'it' thing is often an impulse buy. Usually, very little research is done with this type of purchase and when it comes to a sweater, you can get away with that! Not when it's a dog! Dogs are living, breathing creatures with wants and needs that will last far beyond the time it takes for box office ratings to stop driving up their popularity. Believe me when I say, there are some breeds that you can acquire and 'fake it until you make it', but a Malinois is NOT amongst them.
When we watch a movie and see how amazing the performing canine is and we want one just like it, it's an understandable reaction. So we seek out that breed, assuming we'll get our very own version of what we fell in love with on the big screen. Then comes reality.....
What We Don't See in the Movies
What is missing from fantasy to reality is the work. Hundreds of training hours have gone into making those dogs the fun, endearing, smart, mannerly, responsive and safe creatures up on the screen.
My point is that most people who want to add a dog to their lives have no intention of putting in that much work, which is why a breed like a Malinois, will be making you question your sanity before the popcorn has been swept up. These dogs don't usually make good 'pets', they are working machines who require much more than the average dog owner will be interesting in dedicating.
For fun, I thought I'd share some of the terms people who know and love the breed use to describe them:
- Land Shark
- Not for the weak at heart
- Not an entry level dog
- Hair missiles
- A full time job
These are terms used by those who know the breed and love them. Not by people trying to paint them in a poor light.
The Belgian Malinois is an Extremely Serious Working Dog
Malinois are one of the top choices for Police, Security and Military work. That is because the Malinois is a dog who will literally work themselves to death if given the opportunity. Most people who want a pet dog to share their life with want a dog with a good off switch. While there are always exceptions to the rule, Malinois do not have a natural off switch. They are tireless. They are intense. They are a LOT of dog. They require someone with experience in dogs to teach things like an off switch. They are not an entry level dog. If you are new to dog training (not just new to dogs), do not start with a Malinois. You will likely end up frustrated and miserable, as will your Mal.
They are Bred to Bite and Bite Hard
Most dogs will hurt you when they bite and Malinois are ranked up there for strength of bite at approximately 195 PSI. More importantly, they are bred to love biting! There is likely nothing more rewarding to a Malinois than biting. Do you know how to channel that kind of drive so it is not a danger to your family or the public? If not, are you willing to find the answers and put in the work so you can live harmoniously with your Mal? If you answered anything other than a resounding, "YES", do not get a Malinois!
They are NOT Weekend Warriors
More than once, I've heard the Malinois described as a full time job. While the description always makes me giggle, it is an accurate one. These dogs are not weekend warriors. If you are not able to dedicated a significant amount of your time through the week to training and exercising your Malinois, this is not the breed for you. Think of them as a German Shepherd on steroids. A walk around the block will barely scrape the surface and when they are not worked and content, they will invent behaviours that are often described as neurotic. Here are a few examples from those who have lived with a Belgian Malinois.
"Sabre would lie on the deck staring at the siding of the house for hours. When a fly landed, she would jump at it, hitting the siding of the house with all 4 feet about 6 feet up the wall before resuming her position on the deck waiting for the next fly.
She would often play tug-of-war with our lawn! Reaching in for giant mouthfuls of grass, she would create divots in the yard in the blink of an eye.
Obsessed with hiding her toys and food bowl, she would repetitively push the carpet with her nose, often resulting in a bleeding and scraped mess. She would actually self-mutilate in her obsession with trying to bury her toys.
Flyer was obsessed with her toys and would be in a total panic until they were all gathered together in 'her' corner.
Both Flyer and Sabre would screen and froth at the mouth to play with balls." - Chris S. - Previous Malinois owner and World Record Flyball Competitor
"Our Belgian Malinois would spin at the drop of a hat. If she thought there was anything exciting happening she would spin manically in her crate, at the front door, in our backyard etc. It was so neurotic, I don’t think she ever realized she was doing it. When I told her to lie down in her crate, she would, but after a few moments she would be spinning slowly again. She would continue until she was sure there was no action she was missing.
When she was out with all of our dogs, she would sometimes knock them over with her spinning. Often, we would have to leash her to prevent this from happening, but it took a lot of management.This constant spinning led to her being sore on one side as she got older.
She listened well, but required a lot of management on a day-to-day basis to ensure she kept a calm mind and didn’t hurt herself or others accidentally with her stimulating behaviours." - Kayl M. - Previous Malinois owner and Agility World Champion
In the end, you can make any breed work for your family IF you do your homework and take an honest assessment of whether or not you can give that breed what they need.
Is a Malinois right for you? To know, you'll have to do your research!
As always, Happy Training!