Belgian Malinois Intelligence: How Smart Are They?

Belgian Malinois Intelligence

Many people wonder about the Belgian Malinois. In particular they ask themselves whether the dog is actually smart or is it all a facade. But that’s not a fair question and it does injustice to the dog and insults its intelligence.

The Belgian Malinois is a naturally intelligent dog. It is no pretense. The dog is smart enough to learn and get trained. That intelligence covers both its cognitive abilities as well as its emotional scope. When it looks at your face, it can read your emotions and understand whether you’re sad, mad, or feeling fine.

So how smart is the Belgian Malinois really? Can it do maths puzzles and help you with the crosswords? Of course not. Their intelligence is more on the practical side. It’s the kind of intelligence that makes them go through their daily life without making a big mess or get into trouble.

The Intelligence of Belgian Malinois

Some dogs are smart, others not so much. A bulldog is clumsy while a gorky is both cute and sharp as a tack. The Belgian Malinois is more on the gorky side of the spectrum although it’s not as cute. But the thing is, it’s really alert and in the moment. It doesn’t get distracted easily, and once it trains its eyes and points its ears at something, that means it’s laser focused on it.

In 9 cases out of 10, that focus is all you need as a dog to solve all the little riddles that life throws at you. Like how to reach the pebble of food that rolled under the low coffee table without toppling over the table and everything on top of it. A less intelligent dog will just shove their head and shoulder in trying to get the food. But the Belgian Malinois will hesitate as it ponders over less intrusive options.

It will try to use its paw like a cat to get the nugget of food. But it’s still too far. So it will lower its head and body to the floor and inch closer ever cautiously. If it feels that its head is touching the top of the table it will stop. Adjust its position and try again from a different angle. In the end it will get the food and walk away satisfied. Mission accomplished.

Instinctive Intelligence

But to really understand how smart the Belgian Malinois is, we need to differentiate between two types of intelligence, the instinctive one and the other which is based on obedience. Instinctive intelligence is the one that the dog has when it’s born. It’s not the result of education, training, or life experience. It’s the accumulation of years of experience distilled and passed down in the dog’s genes.

Instinctive intelligence is what helped this species survive over the years. Back when life was harsh and the dog was grown for more practical purposes than keeping a man company, the dog had to rely on its wits to meet the challenges of wild animals and demanding tasks. When it had to compete over food and meagre resources, the smartest animal got to win and live to see another day.

This instinctive intelligence is most apparent today in the way the Belgian Malinois carries itself and deals with issues big and small. You can rely on that intelligence and know that the dog will not break things intentionally or out of being clumsy.

Obedience Intelligence

The other type of intelligence is obedience intelligence. A lawless dog is not a good dog. You wouldn’t want a dog that feels it’s better than everyone else in the household. There’s a difference between having pride and being stuck up.

Luckily, the Belgian Malinois has pride but doesn’t think it’s better than the other pets in the house. It obeys the rules of the house and waits for its turn. It doesn’t try to muscle its way or throw its weight around. Even though it’s a strong do, it’s also a good dog.

Obedience intelligence also comes into play when it’s time to train the Belgian Malinois. The ability to be trained goes hand in hand with how obedient the dog is.


As we all know, a dog that you cannot train is not a dog worth having. It will create chaos wherever it goes and most likely rub off on the other pets in the house. Soon you’ll have a bunch of rebellious cats and dogs running amok. That’s not what you have pets for.

So it’s important that your Belgian Malinois is open to be trained. Luckily, they are very trainable and are open to learning things and following the rules. So it’s important that you set the boundaries early on.

When the dog is still a pup, that’s when it’s malleable and ready to please. The pup will go out of its way to please you even if it means it will have to do things it doesn’t like. Either way you should always start training the dog from the day it arrives at your house.

The Best Belgian Malinois Intelligence Features

The Belgian Malinois has such a good temperament and is distinguished with its high focus, alertness and friendliness. These are all signs of how smart the dog really is. The focus allows the dog to learn things faster and doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

This means you need only to point things out once to the Belgian Malinois. It has a good memory and since it doesn’t like to get into trouble, it will usually follow instructions. The Belgian Malinois doesn’t forget a face and it remembers a kind gesture or a good deed. These are all signs of its intelligence.

Can Belgian Malinois Intelligence Be Improved?

Once in a while, you’ll have a pup that doesn’t act as smartly as you’d expect it to do. It’s either slow or just doesn’t pay attention. It can be clumsy, hard to train, or just loses focus a lot. It has a short attention span and keeps making the same mistakes over and over.

Obviously that’s not what you expected or hoped for when you got this small Belgian Malinois. So what can you do? Resign to your fate and accept the dog as is? No, you can help the dog improve its mental capabilities. It’s all about training the dog so that it gets better and becomes more responsive. 

How to Develop Your Belgian Malinois Puppy Intelligence?

Training is the key to helping the pup become smarter and catch up with the other smarter animals in the house. You can start with simple instructions such as train it to sit, stand, and play fetch. These are simple exercises that give the dog a good workout both physically and mentally.

By following instructions, the dog’s brain becomes more active. Then you can move on to more complicated exercises that train the dog’s coordination and connecting elements. All of this helps it understand the relationship between actions and consequences.

How Smart Can You Expect Your Belgian Malinois to Be?

Moderately smart at best. The more you train the dog, the better it gets. But it will never be the genius you hope it will become. In the end, the dog’s brain is limited in size and capability. It can process simple instructions, but it will not be able to deal with complex situations and it will certainly not learn anything beyond its capabilities.

Belgian Malinois Intelligence in Comparison with Pomeranians, Shiba Inus, Akitas ,Alaskan Malamutes ,Golden Retrievers and Samoyed

As we have seen the Belgian Malinois has an above average intelligence. It will need practice and training to get better but it has a limit to its intelligence and it will not go further than that.

Pomeranians on the other hand are much smarter than the Belgian Malinois. This has to do with the demanding tasks that these dogs had to perform. The dog was trained to use its brain a lot more than its physical powers.

Shiba Inus are not the sharpest tool in the shed. That doesn’t mean that they’re dumb. They still manage to go through the day without destroying things around the place. But they would take longer than other dogs to grasp a simple command or master a simple trick. Practice and training both do wonders to this breed.

Akitas are noble dogs that have got it all. Looks and brains. They have been part of the workforce in their native Japan for centuries and that close proximity and constant interaction with humans have improved their cognitive abilities and made them the smart dogs we see today.

Alaskan Malamutes are similar to Akitas. Although they were mainly used to pull sleds, the complexity of this endeavor and the need to pick the best trails in the harsh snowy terrains has also improved their mental functions and made them quite smart.

Golden Retrievers are goofy and loveable dogs. They get by on their looks alone. By far, they’re the most intelligent dogs on this list. But that doesn’t make them less cute or adorable.

Samoyeds are somewhere in the middle on this list. They have certain tasks and they perform them to the best of their abilities. But outside of that, they don’t show great signs of intelligence. 

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