Malawa, when used in reference to the Belgian shepherd, is an incorrect spelling of the breed's actual name, Malinois. Malinois are one of three Belgian shepherd varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club--Groenendael and Tervuren being the other two. They are often trained for police work or as other service dogs because of their intelligence and energy. Malinois are similar in stature and size to the more well-known German shepherds.
History of the Breed
The Belgian Malinois was, first normalized in the Belgian city of Malines in the 1890s. The quality of their coat made them ideal working dogs for the Northern European climate. They were first utilized as service dogs in North America after World War I and the American Kennel Club began to recognize them as a separate breed in 1959. By the 1970s, the Secret Service began using Malinois and as of 2010 use the breed exclusively over German Shepherds.
Malinois are very intelligent, energetic and protective, and therefore must be well-socialized and are best taken care of by confident and experienced handlers who can establish dominance. Malinois that are not properly socialized may have a tendency to become apprehensive or aggressive and difficult to handle. They require firm and consistent discipline and frequent exercise and are at their best when they are active and have something to do.
Malinois are often confused with German Shepherds, with whom they share a similar appearance. However, Malinois are generally smaller, standing anywhere from 22 to 26 inches tall, depending on gender. Square in shape, Malinois have elegant, muscular frames that are solid without being bulky. Malinois' coats are course and short with a dense undercoat. They are typically fawn in color, with a black overlay and some dogs may have black snouts and ears.
Malinois as Work Dogs
Because of their intelligence and innate ability to learn and be trained, Malinois are ideal working dogs. Originally bred to herd and protect flocks of sheep, Malinois are most commonly used as security dogs and K-9 unit dogs. Trained to seek out drugs, guns and other contraband, these dogs are essential members of their respective police or secret service details. Two police-trained Malinois, Rocky and Barco, were so effective in sniffing out drugs that Mexican drug smugglers put out a bounty on the dogs for upward of $70,000.
Health Problems in Malinois
While Malinois usually live healthy lives of 12 years or more, they are occasionally beset with health problems, most typically hip dysplasia and juvenile cataracts, both of which are hereditary diseases. However, tests are available for both of these problems and are advised before purchase or adoption of a Malinois.