Hey Mighty Paw fam, Barbara here to share a recent conversation with you I had with Belgian Malinois lover Frank Davis.
He breeds, trains and boards Belgian Malinois on his House of K9 property in Porter, Oklahoma and is a big fan of our Martingale Leather Collars and Tactical Collars!
If you're not familiar with the Malinois breed, they're an extremely intelligent, high energy, high drive Belgian Shepherd.
They're mostly used as military and police working dogs, but they also make excellent family dogs as long as they are properly exercised. We're talking running, biking, hiking and dog sports like agility, Schutzhund (protection), tracking and herding.
Ready to learn a few things from Frank, along with who makes the perfect Malinois owner? Let's jump right into our conversation!
Belgian Malinois Training Tips From Malinois Breeder & Trainer Frank Davis
What fascinates you about this breed?
There are so many things that are just fascinating about the Belgian Malinois.
Intelligence is probably number one, but so are:
- Willingness to work
- The connection between handler and dog
- How quick and agile they are
- And of course their beauty!
How long have you been breeding and training Malinois?
There is a lot of history here! It started back in 2013 when we obtained our first Malinois, Max, from S.A.R. Kennels in Missouri.
From that day on, it's been a learning and growing experience.
I've actually had many breeds of dogs through the years and successfully trained Dobermans, GSDs and some others, yet when we got Max, this was a different experience.
As a matter of fact, he never seemed to stop...well, maybe for 10 minutes at a time!
I soon discovered that giving him mental and physical stimulation was a daily requirement.
After training with many professionals and working in Schutzhund (= protection), I really learned that I had a very intelligent dog that I could depend upon in almost any situation.
He ended up turning into my heart dog. I've truly never had a dog that I felt so strongly about.
My wife and I made a conscious decision to breed Belgian Malinois in 2015 and obtained OFA Certification for Max for hips and elbows, and purchased the breeding rights.
FYI: "The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is the recognized certifying body to evaluate and determine if a dog will have problem hips."
We then started a long search for the right female. I knew what I wanted and learned quickly that this was quite a difficult task!
We wanted to focus on health so we looked for other breeders that actually had completed OFA on the sire and dam, and had dogs with high drive and even temperament.
We soon found out that this was an almost impossible task, yet we finally obtained our first female out of Florida in early 2016.
Her name is Grace and she is only second to Max. She had five litters and is now retired.
We actually came very close to loosing her with her last litter in 2021 as she had Pyometra just a week and a half after delivering her pups, but thank goodness the emergency surgery she had saved her life.
Note: Pyometra is a life threatening uterine infection.
I was never so thankful for the veterinary skills of the emergency clinic we went to as it happened on a weekend!
How did you develop an interest in breeding and training? Which came first?
The idea of breeding came first.
I think the training part of it just came after people started asking me to help them.
At first, I was reluctant. However, after being in a Schutzhund group and everyone helping each other, I found a knack for reading dogs and finding solutions.
This is something I really enjoy about training, is finding solutions to difficult problems.
Also, watching a green dog and an inexperienced handler develop together is very satisfying.
That's why I started offering my professional dog training services in 2017.
Who makes the perfect owner of a Malinois?
Wow, the toughest question yet!
I believe that almost anyone can be a Malinois owner given time and the right set of circumstances.
The most important aspect to understand is what the puppy's/dog's needs are, as well as that owning a Belgian Malinois is a 15-year commitment.
I have trained with people as young as twelve years old up to a man in his eighties.
That said, you must be very active and have the time to devote to the dog and most importantly want to devote that time for all of those years.
Understand that it's not for a week or month, you're in it for many, many years.
So commitment is required on day one.
It also takes professional training so the expense should be a consideration.
Who’s harder to train - dogs or their humans?
That one's easy - humans are harder to train!
Dogs I think are inherently brilliant while humans tend to not understand how to communicate with their dog.
That's the single most important thing that humans have to learn, is how to communicate with their dog.
Once they've achieved that, they will be successful in training them.
Over the years, I've observed that 90% of dogs rule the house. Those are the same dogs who listen to a "sit" command, and then when the human's not paying attention, they got up twenty seconds later.
Those dogs are always making decisions for themselves AND the human, and it is difficult to teach the human this simple concept.
However, with a lot of patience and repetition, it can be done!
Are Belgian Malinois harder to train than other dogs?
The Belgian Malinois is such a joy to work with because they're incredibly intelligent and willing to please!
Just as with any other breed, it's the human who can either make the training process difficult or they can decide to enjoy it, which will make it considerably easier.
Your technique is really what will do the trick.
I believe that anything we do CAN be difficult until we learn the technique to conquer the task at hand.
I like to compare it to a person who has no idea how to cut down a very large tree. They'll have the hardest time until they find an arborist who'll help them make the task an easy and satisfying one.
Over the years, I've learned that the best time to train your dog is when you're playing with them.
That really strengthens the bond between your dog and yourself and is a wonderful opportunity to playfully learn new commands and tricks together.
What is it about our leather Martingale and Tactical Collars that you like so much?
The Mighty Paw Leather Martingale collar is simply the best on the market. It's made with quality products and the craftsmanship is superb.
It's actually the longest-lasting Martingale collar I have found. It looks great and is so durable, it will serve people reliably for many years.
The same statement is true for the Tactical collar. Quality goes a long way and both are very affordable.
If you had to choose between the Martingale and the Tactical Collar, which would you choose?
Every tool has a purpose!
It's the same concept that applies when you choose a hammer rather a screwdriver to land a nail.
It's the same with training tools such as the Martingale or the Tactical collar or any other dog training tool you might use.
First understanding the tool and application will then give you the knowledge to use the right tool.
When we have puppies, I include a small Mighty Paw Leather Martingale collar for everyone that picks up a puppy, and I recommend that they invest in a medium sized one as well.
Many folks will also get the large size later as it is very well loved for training and everyday use.
Overall, I find that the Leather Martingale collar is a very valuable tool in early training with your Belgian Malinois puppy:
- For the safety of the pup because they are unable to back out of it
- To provide a gentle correction
It has several functions that are helpful in many situations:
- With larger dogs, the built-in handle helps in situations in public to keep the dog close and under control.
- The Tactical Collar is so well made that you can trust that it will not fail when restraining a dog during many training or real life situations.
- Combined with one of the Mighty Paw Leather leashes, you have both style and strength for proper leash training and control.
- You can also combine it with the Mighty Paw long leash (15' or 30') when you're looking to give your dog some more controlled freedom or when you're training the recall.
Hardest dog/human combination you’ve successfully trained? How did you do it?
The combination is always dependent on the human, ALWAYS.
Time and time again I get folks here that want a very well trained dog, yet they lack the time and patience to complete this very simple task.
Time, just as with a human child, is the best thing you can give your dog.
If you don't devote it to your dog (and your kid for that matter), you're likely to end up with a complete mess when they are older.
Funny training anecdote?
I was at a seminar and working with my five-year-old Belgian Malinois Max in a heeling exercise that involved bite work.
Max was very amped up and he made the decision to take the ball from me.
Well, he bit my forearm and the instructor said after looking at me bleeding "if you are not bleeding you are not training".
Belgian Malinois Training: Let's Recap Frank's Tips
I hope you enjoyed hearing from Frank!
Although I specifically asked him about the Belgian Malinois, you can apply much of his breed-specific wisdom to general dog training:
- Understand your puppy's/dog's needs
- Be ready for a long time commitment to your dog
- Be (very) physically active (run, bike, do agility/Schutzhund/tracking/herding)
- Learn how to communicate with your dog
- Use the right tools to help you in your training journey
- Don't shy away from hiring a professional dog trainer
I think it's really important to note that every dog that you decide to bring home with you is a longterm commitment throughout your pup's life.
Every dog has their very own needs that require more or less of your time, so it's important to think about what your particular dog may need BEFORE they come home with you.
Likewise, the combination of physical AND mental exercise are extremely important for all dogs in order for them to thrive, regardless of breed, size or age.
Obviously, your senior Bulldog won't need as much physical exercise as your two year old Malinois, Weimaraner or Border Collie, but they'll still benefit from daily walks for sure!
They'll also thank you for challenging them a little on a mental level. For example, asking for a polite 'sit' before meals or for a treat, or before you head out through your front door on your walk.
...oh, and just by the way, although I admire the beauty of the Belgian Malinois breed along with their intelligence and endurance, I'll be honest and admit that I'm not active enough to bring one of those guys home with me.
So chapeau to Frank and all the other Belgian Malinois dog owners who manage to make the time this beautiful breed requires!
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Barbara Rivers writes regularly for Mighty Paw. She is a blogger, raw feeder, former dog walker and maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee.
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