With the release of the film “Max” last weekend, many rescue shelters and animal control centers across the country fear a large increase in abandoned Belgian Malinois. Why? A simple misunderstanding: Moviegoers who decide to adopt “Max” will not have a true understanding of the breed and find their new family addition isn’t what they expected.
Having worked with a surplus of dog breeds over the last 25 years, I have seen it happen time and again, like with St. Bernards and Dalmatians after the releases of “Beethoven” and “101 Dalmatians.”
Now, we anticipate the same problem with Malinois, a breed most commonly used in police force and military teams. The film “Max” features a highly trained Malinois who returns home to the U.S. from service in Afghanistan after his handler, Kyle, is killed. Kyle’s family adopts Max, who instantly bonds with Kyle’s teenager brother, Justin.
The movie highlights the beauty, intelligence, athleticism and loving personality that Malinois dogs possess. What audiences don’t see are the years of intense, rigorous training Max endured to behave the way he did in the film.
Bottom line: Belgian Malinois are genetically engineered to perform tasks. They make better working dogs than family pets. But if your family has completely fallen in love with “Max,” you must know what to expect before making the commitment to adopt a Malinois.
Socialization is crucial. Take the dog around as many people as possible so he learns to trust other humans. If you don’t socialize your dog, it may become aggressive toward other people or become very shy. Also, ensure that your Malinois bonds with each member of the family to minimize any undesirable issues, such as aggression or biting, in the future.
Malinois possess a great deal more energy than many other dog breeds. So, in order to be obedient like Max, your dog needs to undergo rigorous professional training. This training will channel the dog’s energy into useful activities, like obeying commands, and teach him to become a welcome member of the human community. Without training, your dog will actively seek out activities, many of which will get him into trouble.
Malinois have the energy of 10 dogs wrapped into one, so it’s important your dog gets daily exercise. Just going on short walks isn’t likely to satisfy the dog, so it’s best to either take him to the dog park or have a fenced in yard for him to run.
If it’s a rainy day, make sure you have toys for the Malinois to play with to keep it occupied. Otherwise you may find that your couch is missing the stuffing.
When watching a film such as “Max,” it is easy to get caught up in your feelings for the dog on the big screen. But before you bring one into your family, please take the time to learn about the breed to ensure that it is a mutually beneficial relationship for both you and the dog. Like in the movie, Malinois are fiercely loyal and can become a member of the family, but it requires dedication and commitment on your end to make it work.
Diana Sosa is owner and chief handler at Dog Inspectors, the first company in Tennessee to utilize trained, certified detection dogs to find bed bugs in commercial and residential buildings. She brings a lifetime of work and experience in the field of training, breeding and handling dogs to the company. For more information about the company’s services, contact 1-855-BUG-DOG1 (284-3641).
This article was originally published in the Tennessean.