How To Tell The Difference Between A Belgian Malinois Vs. A German Shepherd

Both breeds are perfect ❤️️

belgian malinois and german shepherd

Looking at a Belgian Malinois for the first time, you might think the pup is a short-haired German shepherd — but these two dog breeds are totally different.

While the German shepherd is an easily recognized breed, Belgian Malinois aren’t as well-known, so a lot of people tend to confuse them, especially since they look super similar.

So Belgian Malinois vs. German shepherd: What’s the difference between them? Here’s what you need to know about these two breeds.

Belgian Malinois vs. German shepherd

Like their names imply, Belgian Malinois are from Belgium, and German shepherds are from Germany.

german shepherd

German shepherds were first recognized in the late 1800s. Most (if not all) German shepherd dogs (GSD) today are descendants of Horand von Grafrath, the original German shepherd.

belgian malinois

Belgian Malinois were first recognized in the late 19th century as one of four types of Belgian shepherd breeds (the others being the Belgian Tervuren, the Belgian Groenendael and the Belgian Laekenois).

Both Belgian Malinois and German shepherds are herding dogs, so they tend to be very high-energy and intelligent (though every dog is different). These traits make them popular police, military and service dogs, too.

But while there are a lot of similarities between these two breeds, there are some key differences, too.


The two breeds are around the same height, but Belgian Malinois usually weigh less than GSDs. They’re typically around 40 to 80 pounds, while German shepherds can weigh up to 90 pounds, with males weighing more for both breeds.


Belgian Malinois have black “masks,” meaning their faces are colored black. The rest of their coats can be a variety of colors, including:

  • Fawn
  • Mahogany
  • Red
  • Red or fawn sable (sable is a pattern where the hair has dark tips and lighter roots)

German shepherds are usually thought of as being black and tan, but they can actually have lots of different coat colors, including:

  • Black
  • Cream
  • Black and cream
  • Black and red
  • Black and silver
  • Blue
  • Gray
  • Liver
  • Sable
  • White

Hair length

One easy way to tell these two dogs apart is the length of their hair. GSDs have longer and fluffier fur than Belgian Malinois. Both pups have a double coat, but German shepherds’ fur is medium length, while Belgian Malinois have short hair.

Body shape

Along with being smaller than German shepherds, Belgian Malinois also have a different body shape. GSDs have long bodies that slope down toward their tails and thicker bone structures. Belgian Malinois have leaner, square-shaped bodies. Basically, Belgian Malinois have a more elegant and slim look, while German shepherds are stockier.

Head shape

Both breeds’ ears stand up, but Belgian Malinois’ ears are more triangular. They also have narrower, longer faces than GSDs.

If you’re interested in adopting a Belgian Malinois, check out some of these pups for adoption or these Belgian Malinois rescues:

If you’re looking for a German shepherd, check out these dogs for adoption or these German shepherd rescues:

And if you’re still having trouble telling them apart, maybe this video will help you.