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Correct Malinois Temperament & Judging Correct Malinois Temperament

Buying a Malinois Puppy?

TUCKED TAILS IS NOT CORRECT CHARACTER! IT IS A SIGN OF FEAR.

Belgian Malinois are not a sighthound breed, so a tucked tail is due to fear, NOT to structure. There is NO EXCUSE for fearful behavior in non-threatening environments – and I am sorry, but a show ring is NOT a threatening environment. I have heard every excuse in the book for why I see so many Mals tucking their tails in the show ring – and none are excusable. The breed is supposed to be CONFIDENT. It is in our Breed Standard! They are dogs meant to do a job – a dog can’t perform if it is fearful. And much of temperament is INHERITED, so I am seeing it passed down the generations.

Despite doing 18 months of “research” speaking off the record with every AKC Judge I could pull aside (somewhere over 100), the American Belgian Malinois Club shot down my proposal to start a “Temperament Committee” to educate breeders on correct temperament, heredity, behavioral modification, etc., in an effort to improve the temperaments I am seeing in the show ring (and, by the way, it is seen even in National events like Westminster and Eukanuba!). It seems because the numbers of Mals showing this fearfulness is so overwhelming, it is either ignored, accepted or even considered normal! Yes, I guess it IS the “norm” now, numerically, but it is NOT right. At the meeting to present my proposal I was told by a well-known breeder that there IS NO PROBLEM with Malinois temperament, that they “are better” than they used to be (that alone insinuates there at least WAS a problem), that a tucked tail is a sign of confidence (apparently she missed out on knowing anything useful about dog behavior), and then a well-known breeder-JUDGE tells me she will be glad to send me an article she wrote on the “right way to approach a Malinois in the ring.” Doesn’t that mean if you approach them the “wrong” way there is a problem? Yes, according to the judges I spoke with. Heck, I have even seen dogs REFUSE to be examined at National events – Eukanuba, actually. What is more frightening is that said dog was already a finished champion – who in heck had put up a dog that refused to be examined?! But judges tell me they can only judge what is in front of them, and even one judge remarked “if I excused all the Malinois I see with bad temperament, you would have nothing to show against.” Very sad.

I do realize that good, solid temperament is recessive – Mother Nature prefers nervous/fearfulness as those who avoid potential dangers survive longer. A bold wolf is at increased risk of dying do to sticking their nose where it is not such a good idea to do so. I also realize solid temperament is few and far between in our breed right now in the United States, and it a serious challenge to find confident breeding stock. In my experience the dam (mother) of the litter has the greater influence on puppy personality. Genetically it is a 50/50 split between the parents, but that first eight weeks of pups modeling their behavior on their dam that sort of tips the scales – I guesstimate 75% of puppy behavior is from the mother – whether it is genetic or exposure. So it is CRITICAL that the dam be solid and stable, and that is an even bigger challenge to find in the breed. To those interested in getting a Malinois, when selecting a pup, ALWAYS make sure to interact with the mom – and if she is in any way “sketchy” DO NOT get a pup out of her. As for the pups themselves, definitely interact with them and see their responses – you should NEVER see them run behind a familiar human or tuck their tails in fear. If you get a pup like that you will have an adult like that, and many fearful Malinois end up being fear-aggressive and high bite risks due to their fear. A good Malinois pup will be confident and fearless and into everything new – especially a new person to explore!

Speaking of pups, after being “in the breed” for about 15 years, I met a bitch who was just the most solid, stable, sound-tempered Mal I’d ever met. She was out of working lines, so it was even more impressive to me that she was also calm and easy to live with (a lot of the working-line Malinois have such constant energy they are a “challenge” to live with – always needing to DO something). The perfect character for a dam. I have a show-line male who has the best temperament I have ever seen in a male, not only has he collected a whole bunch of titles, but he has also been my working Mobility Assistance Service Dog since he was 4 years old. I hadn’t gotten him to be a Service Dog but he showed me he could not only do all the things I needed him to do, but also be totally calm and appropriate even in completely stressful environments – i.e. Times Square, New York City! I knew breeding the two would produce amazing pups.

It took me 4 years to convince the bitch’s owner to lease her to me for the breeding, but in the end she did and I got 1 female and 5 male pups. The pups are going on 2 years old now, and have the temperament I was breeding for: solid, stable and sound. A couple of them have gone to professional dog trainers, a competitive dog sports home and families. I have kept a co-own on the pick male and female – the male I raised until he was 16 months before he went to a professional dog trainer. That male reinforced to me how important good temperament is, as he is my personal Service Dog prospect, and despite all of the high-stress situations he was subjected to in order to prepare him for his future as a Service Dog, he always behaves in a confident, affectionate and willing-to-please way. This is the way a good Malinois should be.

So I challenge Malinois breeders to REALLY look at their stock – objectively. I am a big proponent of the American Temperament Test Society’s “TT” (Temperament Test). We had it at the Malinois Nationals – I was an apprentice judge at the event – and my own dogs are all TT’d. When I did the event at Nationals, I was amazed that it wasn’t fully booked with competitors – down here in FL within 24 hours of announcing a TT it is usually full with a cancellation waiting list! To my surprise, I was told by some folks that they “didn’t need to prove” their dog’s stability with a TT – ok, so if you know it will pass why not go for it and support the club, right? And at the meeting I was told “all the dogs entered in the TT passed” showing me that there isn’t a temperament issue in the breed, according to them, however MY OWN dogs were entered and the majority of entrants did day-of entries to support the club and they were ALL FROM 1 KENNEL – a breeding program well-known for producing solid character (1 of my own Malinois is out of their breeding), so the argument really just reinforced my own point… but unfortunately not to those who think otherwise. I think the old saying goes “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

ZJ – Belgian Malinois

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“ZJ” (officially registered as “Filles des Loups A’Djinn del Mango, TT, HICs”) is the pick male out of my first litter of Belgian Malinois. It was a breeding I had been wanting to do for years – begging the dam’s owner until she finally relented an d allowed me to breed her working-line female Am Champion Ouija du Loups du Soleil CD to my show-line male, BISS/BOSS United/International Champion/American Grand Champion TriSorts Zorro del Mango, CGC, PAT, HICs, RE, TT, Mobility Assistance Service Dog.

Both Ouija and Zorro are from French bloodlines – Zorro’s are especially rare as his sire was dead 10 years before Zorro was produced using frozen semen. Zorro was 8 years old when he was bred to Ouija, who was also an older bitch at 5 years old. I knew, with such an outcross, I might not produce anything fantastic – genes don’t always bundle the way we want them to – but as good, solid temperament is a recessive in our breed, I knew, at least, that dogs with stable character would be produced.

My goal of mixing both the working- and  show-lines was to bring balance – a malinois with a steady personality, good work ethic with correct structure and type. Having studied bloodlines and genetics for the last 15+ years, I knew that this first attempt was not likely to produce what I think is the perfect package – I figured it would be a couple of generations before I got what I wanted. So I was thrilled to have produced ZJ in this first litter.

ZJ is the total package – he is incredibly social with people, polite around other dogs, naturally merry in temperament, excellent work ethic with natural retrieve drive and metal affinity. His grip is full, calm and he doesn’t even roll a dumbbell in his mouth. He is “safe” a malinois who can be trusted in a “roomful of toddlers” yet be appropriately interested in protecting his people without being a “loose cannon.”

He is medium-sized with correct angulation, full dentition, a beautiful neck with that typical arch ed “crest.” He has a beautiful head – masculine without coarseness – and gorgeous tiny, high-set little ears that make his show-line dad jealous! He has a plush bronze-colored coat with plenty of “charbonnage” (black tipping on guard hairs) and a complete mask. He “single-tracks” when trotting, and this, combined with his other physical traits, has led to show-ring surprises like a 3 point major the first time he was in the ring at 6 months old – the win just moments after he broke his show lead and leapt out of the ring to be with me, as opposed to his handler.

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ZJ is currently in training for both the sport of Schutzhund, as well as his future job as my next Mobility Assistance Service Dog when his sire retires. I decided to place him on a co-own with dog trainer Daniel De La Rosa, as, with my own physical limitations, I knew I couldn’t bring him to his utmost potential like Daniel could. ZJ passed the American Temperament Test Society’s Temperament Test and was Herding Instinct Certified on sheep. We are planning to title him in a variety of dog sport venues from Schutzhund to Conformation to Rally to Therapy – ZJ is always “game” to try new things and with his sensitivity, he is always willing to please his person.

He will be x-rayed for OFA after his 2 year old birthday as Casa del Mango always strives for a sound body with no genetic faults. We will then offer his stud services to approved bitches of merit. We don’t know what genes he will pass on, but the hope is that his genotype matches his phenotype. We firmly believe in breeding for the “golden middle” – in any breed – it is important to preserve the working ability as well as the correct structure in any dog – to make good temperament a priority, as well as health. We are more than happy to answer any of your questions about ZJ – feel free to check back often as we update his accomplishments.

Zorro – Belgian Malinois

IKC/UKC/AKC Grand Champion BISS BOSS TriSorts Zorro del Mango, RE, CGC, TT, PAT, Therapy, HICs, Mobility Assistance Service Dog

OK, I might actually have forgotten some of Zorro’s accomplishments, so you may see the above titles updated at some point. After Mango, I wanted to find another Malinois that combined beauty and brains and was stable and easy to live with. I did about a year of research before I decided on getting a Tri Sorts Malinois – the Knocks consistently produced dogs that I liked so I drove all the way to Virginia to meet them, see their dogs and have them interview me. Zorro was out of a wonderfully stable and outgoing mother, and happened to be a “pupsicle” as his sire was 10 years deceased – he was conceived through frozen semen. That made him a little more “old-fashioned” in type, but that was a positive for me, as I preferred that more moderate type.

Zorro is 10 this year, and he has brought so much joy into my life and opened so many doors for me, I would never had anticipated when we first brought him home as a pup. Until relatively recently, I showed Zorro myself – a gimpy owner-handler – and I have to credit his quality over my skills when it comes to the success he has had in the ring. Group Placements, ranking in the Top 25 (and only through LOCAL dog shows!) several years, which led to multiple Eukanuba National Chamionship dog show invitations (where he has earned a Best Opposite and an Award of Merit at 9 years old!), 4 Westminster Kennel Club shows, being featured in multiple newspapers, television spots, he has done theatrical work such as portraying a police K9 in a soap opera, filmed as a “demo dog” for multiple pet products on 1800PetMeds.com, commercials – and to top it all off he has been an incredible Service Dog for me – totally stable even in the most stressful of situations.

As solid temperament is a recessive trait in Malinois, I have always maintained that Zorro is a genetic asset to the breed, and should be bred to bring in correct structure, type and most importantly, SOLID, stable character. He has passed all of his health clearances and I have collected his semen to use if I want to at some point in the future. He sired a lovely litter with a workingline bitch Ch Ouija du Loups du Soleil, CDX, RN – see “Zee Jay’s” page to follow the story, as Z J will be following in his sire’s paw-prints.

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