These pups love to be with their humans and make great pets – but you have to be willing to deal with their sometimes independent nature. Belgian Malinois are athletic dogs and are noble in appearance. They have large ears and inquisitive eyes. There are also lots of Belgian Malinois colors which make them a particularly popular breed.
Often confused with German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois and America's third loved dogs do have a lot of similarities. They're not, however, even related! Here's what you need to know about the beautiful coat colors of these wonderful dogs and how to spot if you're getting a purebred Belgian Malinois.
History of the Belgian Malinois breed
Belgian Malinois are one of four related breeds of Belgian working dogs. The others are the Tervuren, Laekenois, and Belgian Shepherd (which is otherwise known as the Groenendael). In some countries, the four distinct breeds are actually labeled as being one breed – the Belgian Shepherd. But not in America, these pups were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1959.
Belgian Malinois were first bred around the town of Malines in Belgium. Original breeders wanted the ultimate working dog – and they pretty much succeeded. The Belgian Malinois was the firm favorite of farmers and shepherds from the very beginning.
This dog breed was first brought to America in 1911 where, they too, were recognized for being excellent herding dogs. Unfortunately, however, with the outbreak of the second world war, there wasn't a steady importation of breeding stock and the popularity of these doggos dwindled. It wasn't until the 1960s that breeders started to breed these pups again and with all the Belgian Malinois colors, they became popular dogs.
How do genetics affect the Belgian Malinois colors?
As is the case with all dog breeds, there are two pigments that define which color your pup will be. These are eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is responsible for the darker colors (brown and black) and Pheomelanin for the red and yellow tones in your pup's coat.
Your doggo's unique DNA then affects which pigment is more dominant in their coat. Some can be darker and others more diluted. It's this combination that gives us all the beautiful dog coat colors we have!
Belgian Malinois colors – what do the kennel clubs say?
Both the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club recognize the Belgian Malinois as a purebred dog. But, they recognize different coat colors as standard and non-standard.
American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club recognizes fawn, mahogany, red sable, fawn sable, and red as standard Belgian Malinois colors. Black, brindle, cream, gray, liver, gray sable, and cream sable are non-standard.
They also allow a Belgian Malinois to have a black mask.
United Kennel Club
The United Kennel Club accepts fawn and any form of sable coloring. They also allow a black mask.
All 12 Belgian Malinois colors according to the American Kennel Club
Here, we'll go through all the standard and non-standard Belgian Malinois colors as set out by the American Kennel Club.
Fawn Belgian Malinois
Fawn is one of the most common colors for these beautiful working dogs. Although each dog is different, a fawn Belgian Malinois will usually look a little more yellow or tan. They'll probably have a black mask which can cover their whole face – even their ears!
This gives the dog a very distinct (and cute) look. Fawn pups can be light or dark in color.
Fawn Sable Belgian Malinois
Fawn Sable Mals generally appear darker than fawn dogs. This is because the sable coat pattern means the base of their hair is fawn and the tips are black. These pups, too, will have a black mask and darker ears. Some may appear lighter and others quite dark, depending on the amount of sable they have.
Mahogany Belgian Malinois
Mahogany Belgian Malinois are particularly stunning. These reddish-brown dogs can be very dark in color or a lighter red. Some of them almost appear black.
Depending on your pup, they may have an obvious black mask or it may blend in more if they have a darker coat. How dark a Mahogany Belgian Malinois is depends on the distribution of the two-coat color pigments.
Red Belgian Malinois
For many, it's quite difficult to identify a red Belgian Malinois. This is because they can be as dark as mahogany pups and as light as fawn (although close up it will look a little more ginger). This is another fairly common color for Mals but not as common as fawn.
Red Sable Belgian Malinois
As is the case with the fawn sable Belgian Malinois, these dogs have black tips rather than hairs of all one color. The difference is that these dogs have a red base color rather than a fawn one. Because these doggos appear darker than just red pups, it can be hard to identify their black masks.
Black Belgian Malinois
These black dogs are the first of the non-standard Belgian Malinois colors according to the American Kennel Club. Although incredibly striking, black Mals are very rare. In these pups, the pigment eumelanin is dominant which means they should have black eyes, lips, paw pads, and noses.
Pure black dogs, in general, are very popular – and black Belgian Malinois are no exception. Because they're so popular and rare, you should do your research when it comes to finding a responsible breeder.
You need to make sure they're not inbreeding black dogs and that it truly is a purebred pup (some breeders may breed a Belgian Malinois with another black dog in order to charge premium prices).
Brindle Belgian Malinois
Brindle dogs are easily recognizable thanks to their tiger-like stripes. The brindle coat pattern can appear on any coat color, although with these pooches it's usually on fawn or red. To be considered brindle, these dogs can have brindle markings over their entire bodies or only over a small section.
Many brindle Mals will have a black mask but it's also common for them not to. This is because of the unique way the pigment is spread throughout their coats. These dogs are also very rare.
Cream Belgian Malinois
A cream Belgian Malinois is a rarity. They usually have this distinct coat color because of the lack of eumelanin in their coats which means that the pheomelanin takes over. Even though they're pale in color, these dogs still have black masks, eyes, paw pads, and noses.
Cream Sable Belgian Malinois
Just like the other dogs on the list with this hair pattern, the cream sable Belgian Malinois has a light base color (in this case cream) and darker black tips.
Depending on the exact color of the dog, they can appear almost gray and sometimes dusty. It's unlikely that these dogs will have a black mask but they can have darker eyes and noses.
Gray Belgian Malinois
Gray dogs are always beautiful and a gray Belgian Malinois is stunning. Pups have a gray coat thanks to a dilute gene that turns the eumelanin (forming a black coat) gray. These pooches often have a blue tinge to their coat and some even call them blue dogs!
Gray Belgian Malinois can have blue eyes but it's common for them to also have dark brown or black. Many will have black paw pads, eye rims, noses, and lips.
These dogs are considered pretty rare as not only do they have to be black dogs (which is rare) but they also have to have the dilute gene. As is the case for black Belgian Malinois, it's important to find an ethical breeder. Blue dogs are always popular which can lead to unethical breeding practices.
Gray Sable Belgian Malinois
These pooches have a gray base coat with hairs that go black toward the tip. It can be quite hard to tell the difference between a gray sable Mal and a pure gray one but sable dogs usually look a little darker.
It's common for gray Sable Belgian Malinois to have gray noses, ears, lips, paw pads, and blue or gray eyes.
Liver Belgian Malinois
Just like gray coats, liver coats are the result of a dog inheriting a recessive gene. In this case, however, the dog has to inherit the gene from both parents. A liver Belgian Malinois can be red, yellow, or cream in color depending on how dominant the pheomelanin is in their coat.
The dilute gene will affect the entire body of a Belgian Malinois puppy, meaning they'll be born with a liver nose, eye rims, paw pads, and lips. These dogs can have amber-colored eyes too.
What's the rarest Belgian Malinois color?
A couple of the Belgian Malinois colors are pretty rare but the rarest is brindle. This is because brindle is a recessive gene that needs to be inherited by both parents.
Although recognized as standard by kennel clubs, brindle isn't a common coat coloring for modern-day Mals. It's quite common for some other excellent herding dogs, such as the Dutch Shepherd, to have a brindle coat. So it's possible that your brindle Belgian Malinois has a very distant relative that was mixed with a Dutchie.
Although even rarer than a brindle Mal, it is possible for German Shepherds to have a brindle coat too. So they may have a great-great-grandfather who was a traditional German Shepherd!
Black and blue Belgian Malinois are also pretty rare.
What's the most common Belgian Malinois color?
The three most common Belgian Malinois colors are fawn, red, and mahogany although many breeders will say that fawn is the most common color.
The American Kennel Club allows a black mask as the only type of markings for this dog breed and it's very common for these dogs to have one. Only gray and liver dogs won't have a dark, contrasting mask, and brindle pups may have a small/faint one.
How important is the color of a Belgian Malinois?
Lots of potential pup parents think the color of a dog is really important. If you want to compete with your pooch, then the color does matter. If you just want a healthy and good-natured dog, then color really doesn't matter.
To enter your dog into a show, it needs to be one of the standard colors set out by the kennel club. That includes any markings. So, if this is your plan then you need to adopt a dog with one of the five standard Belgian Malinois colors. It's still very important that health is the first thing you consider.
If you're not thinking of entering your pooch into a competition, it's much more important to think about the health of the dog and whether you can look after that breed. Belgian Malinois, for example, need a lot of exercise and physical activity. They're absolutely not meant to stay indoors – and actually, if they can be working out in the fields they'll be happiest. Thinking about whether you have that kind of lifestyle is much more important than the color of a dog.
As already mentioned, rare dog colors sometimes mean dogs are bred unethically to produce that particular color. This may include inbreeding or mix breeding. You need to make sure you're not paying extra for a mixed breed or a pup that will suffer in the future.
What Belgian Malinois color lives the longest?
There's nothing to suggest that a dog with one of the standard Belgian Malinois coat colors will live longer than another. As long as these dogs are well-bred and cared for during their life, they should live to be 14-16 years old. It's important they go to the vet regularly for check-ups, get plenty of exercise, and are fed a nutritious diet.
Does coat color affect the temperament of a dog?
There's also no reason why coat color should affect the personality of a dog. Belgian Malinois can be pretty independent and need lots of early socialization to grow into well-rounded dogs. With plenty of training, these doggos will be incredibly loyal and they will love to put their intelligence to good use. These are much more important factors than their coat color.
Belgian Malinois colors that aren't accepted
Some coat colors aren't standard but many colors are actually not accepted and you should be wary of breeders intentionally breeding these dogs. This is because they're not breeding with the health of the dogs in mind.
Merle Belgian Malinois
Merle pups have a very unique and beautiful coat pattern. They usually have blotches of color on a white base coat that are very specific to the merle pattern. They can also be tri-colored. Whilst some dogs are accepted with the merle pattern (such as Australian Shepherds) it can cause health problems in others. This is especially true if they are double merle and inherit the gene from both parents.
White Belgian Malinois
White Belgian Malinois are almost always suffering from some genetic condition. In many cases, white Belgian Malinois are double merles. The merle gene can be very aggressive and affect more than just coat color. It can affect eye color and other pigmentation too. White Mals nearly always suffer from eye problems or deafness. They also have a much shorter life expectancy. So, be wary of a breeder advertising white Mals.
Does the coat color of a Belgian Malinois change over time?
It's not common for a Mal's coat to drastically change over time. Belgian Malinois puppies born with a red sable coat won't wake up one morning and be fawn. It is possible, however, that dogs get lighter or darker as they get older.
This can be totally natural but if you notice a large and quick change in color, this may be caused by medication, diet, or too much sun exposure. Check with your vet if you're worried.
Grooming a Belgian Malinois
Mals have short and waterproof coats that don't require too much grooming. Occasional brushing will help to remove dirt and keep your Malinois looking its best. This also helps to promote new hair growth and distribute essential oils throughout their coat.
These dogs blow their coats twice a year (in spring and fall) so they can grow a warmer or cooler coat. During this period your dog will likely shed much more so it's worth brushing them once or twice a week to keep it under control.
Because Belgian Malinois are so active, they should wear down their nails naturally. If not, you'll need to keep them trimmed as long nails can get infected and be painful. If you're not sure how to do this, ask your groomer.
There are 12 Belgian Malinois colors listed by the AKC – 5 standard and 7 non-standard. In our opinion, they're all as beautiful as each other!
It's important you can keep up with this breed's exercise needs and are experienced with independent dogs. They're not the best choice for first-time owners. It's also essential you find a reputable breeder who breeds for the welfare of the dogs, not just for coat color. This will ensure you have a healthy and happy dog who will be your loyal companion its whole life!
Which of the Belgian Malinois colors is your favorite?
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!