If you’ve followed Valor Protection Dogs from our start a year ago, you might be asking yourself, “But where are all the Malinois?” You see, we intended to sell both German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois as Personal Protection Dogs to our clientele. With our high standards, we felt confident we’d find dogs that fit the bill within both breeds. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned, despite our best efforts.
Our first Malinois protection dog prospect
We found a beautiful, young, male Belgian Malinois for sale last summer. He was that gorgeous dark mahogany coloring, and he’d been raised by a professional dog trainer. At eight months old, the trainer assured us that he was social, confident, obedient and an overall perfect specimen, basically. We loved what we saw. The only problem was that he was located in the Netherlands, so we had to trust the trainer and take his word for it. We noticed a few things in videos that made us a little uneasy, but again, we trusted the trainer.
Great with adults? Great with kids? Awesome with dogs? Highly socialized? Confident anywhere and everywhere? That’s what we were looking for in a protection dog prospect. We didn’t like that he was a little bit older – an adolescent, if you will – but the trainer assured us he was everything we wanted. Playful. Sweet. Loving. Protective. So we (I) pulled the trigger and bought him.
Many, many thousands of dollars later – plus shipping, which cost several thousand dollars in and of itself – Tony arrived.
Right off the bat, I had my reservations. He hesitated to come out of the crate. That’s ALWAYS a bad sign. He was timid and shy. Looking at his surroundings, instead of embracing them, he ran to me and clung to me. I hoped it was just jitters from having flown so far, but the dog trainer in me screamed, “Something’s wrong!”
Later that day, when I brought him with me to a dog-friendly restaurant patio, my suspicions were confirmed. He was a fearful dog. He was skittish in crowds. He shied away from men and wouldn’t approach them unless he was massively coaxed to do so. He had zero interest in his toy in a new environment. And he even snapped at someone who reached down to pet him when he wasn’t expecting it.
Mind you, this is a “perfect dog for protection work,” said the dog trainer. And alas, I’d found myself in the very predicament that led me to start Valor Protection Dogs in the first place. Dogs being washed from one industry into the next. This Belgian Malinois couldn’t cut it as a demo dog for the trainer, obviously, so he was sold to a trusting buyer under the guise of protection dog.
Dear reader, please trust me when I say that just because a dog is a certain breed, and just because someone promises you the world in a dog, doesn’t mean the dog is what you’re looking for. A protection dog is a very special dog. This Belgian Malinois was a sweet dog, in the right circumstances, but he did not have what it takes for protection work!
Fast forward, when I got back from San Francisco with him, after picking him up from the airport, Tony was nervous of my wood floors, attacked another intact male dog, snapped at my daughter while muzzled, and the list goes on and on.
Needless to say, I did not keep him. The trainer wouldn’t take him back at-cost, so I sold him with full disclosure on the issues I’d seen from him, to another dog trainer who felt confident he was a good fit for his needs. I lost thousands of dollars on Tony, but that’s besides the point. I lost time, I lost money, and I lost my trust in the dog industry.
A world famous trainer told me he’s “perfect” for the job.
Our second Malinois protection dog prospect
Around the same time, I purchased a Belgian Malinois from a stateside breeder. He was a moderate drive dog who, I was told, had an outgoing temperament and was a confident dog. He was approximately the same age as the first dog (Tony) and had been used a demo dog for a trainer course.
Unfortunately, this dog showed me right away that there was something “off” about him. He couldn’t follow a ball when I had it in my hands – his gaze never went upwards – and he couldn’t chase down a ball to save his life. His jumps and bounces were always…off. It’s like he wasn’t seeing correctly.
After a week of trying to get him to look UP at me, to make basic eye contact, I finally accepted there was something wrong with his vision. He’d never be a high caliber protection dog. I reached out to the breeder I bought him from, who’s also a professional dog trainer, and he offered to take him back.
While he was with me, he spooked at a screw that was on the ground in the garage, picked a fight with another intact male, and spun in his crate endlessly. He had prey drive for days, but I wasn’t seeing any semblance of defense from him. He didn’t even bark when someone pulled up to the house or knocked on the door.
I lost a day of travel and a round-trip flight in that transaction, and after that, I learned my lesson: No More Malinois (at least for awhile).
So if you’re wondering, where are the Mals? Trust me, I’ve tried. But we’ve had such amazing success now with our Czech German Shepherd Dogs that I think it might be some time before I decide to go to the dark side again and buy a Malinois. At this point, the only way I’ll do it is if I can purchase a puppy from overseas that comes from KNPV lines. Those dogs seem to have a higher success rate at being stable dogs than most of the dogs being bred nowadays. The breed has becoming increasingly popular thanks to TV shows and movies, and breeders have come out of the woodwork to make a quick buck. It’s disappointing.
This business requires a massive investment up front to get a dog to the level required of it to pass our stringent requirements to become a Valor Protection Dog. I know Belgian Malinois are considered a popular breed right now, but the German Shepherd brings everything to the table that we’re looking for. So that’s the breed we’ll be sticking with for awhile!
And if you ever see me bring a Belgian Malinois protection dog to our program, just know that it must be one special dog!