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  1. #1
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    Default Police K-9 Units—Why the Switch from GSDs to Malinois?

    So, I should be working, but instead was staring idly out my office window when I saw a police car pull into the old high school football field across the street. Got to see a gorgeous Belgian Malinois play ball with his gorgeous handler.

    Which makes me wonder why the preferred breed of law enforcement has shifted from the German shepherds to the Malinois (sorry, don't know the plural!). Is it because a lot of people are still very leery of GSDs? Although that seems like a plus in this job...

    I know COTHers will know the answer.
    "Dogs give and give and give. Cats are the gift that keeps on grifting." –Bradley Trevor Greive



  2. #2
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    in terms of being leary, a Malinois looks like a GSD for all intent and purposes (my mom owns a Malinois right now,w e had a GSD when I was growing up)

    I think it has a lot to do with the way GSDs are bred these days. Which was actually a trend in progress 30 years ago already. Simply said, you don't expect a show model GSD to do any meaningful work...(I KNOW show lines and working lines are VERY different just sayin')


    BTW, my mom's dog was a police school dropout....(and when she tried to jump out of the window at a castle ruin - oh 100 yards off the ground - she was dubbed Stewardess instead of Meter Maid...) But one fantastic dog (my sister had planned breeding her, proven bitch, sought after lines for police work)
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  3. #3
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    Resources?

    Perhaps there's a new source for well-suited Malinois (seems like that would also be the plural since it's French, with the difference being in the pronunciation) either nationally or internationally, whereas service-level GSDs have petered out in their breeding programs? Just from trolling Wikipedia, it looks like the Malinois is the breed of choice for European security services.

    Though to most of the populace (me being one), the breeds aren't that distinguishable -- a Malinois is going to look a lot like a GSD and vice versa.

    GSD do have a bad rap of biting though any working dog would probably bite if not properly trained....



  4. #4
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    simply put, today's GSD is unhealthy. You put a ton of training into the dog, you hope it will be able to work for many, many years, and today's GSD tends to not be able to do so.
    There are other reasons, too- malinois are much smaller than GSD, and thus can be easily carried by the handler which can come in handy for certain situations- watched a demo of handlers parking their malinois up on their shoulders so the dog could gain access to a building by jumping from the handler up through a second-story window- can't really do that with a big GSD. Malinois are higher drive, much faster, and far more athletic than the GSD, and may be better suited to police work than the GSD- the malinois dominates ringsport, which simulates police work far better than schutzhund. Some drawbacks though- a big sturdy GSD is much scarier looking than a malinois (which is good for some kinds of police work); and malinois are much harder for the not-terribly-dog-savvy officer to handle/live with than the more laid back GSD.
    The military and European police forces have always used a lot of malinois and dutchies (very similar to malinois).
    Last edited by wendy; Mar. 22, 2013 at 03:49 PM.


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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    simply put, today's GSD is unhealthy. You put a ton of training into the dog, you hope it will be able to work for many, many years, and today's GSD tends to not be able to do so.
    There are other reasons, too- malinois are much smaller than GSD, and thus can be easily carried by the handler which can come in handy for certain situations- watched a demo of handlers parking their malinois up on their shoulders so the dog could gain access to a building by jumping from the handler up through a second-story window- can't really do that with a big GSD. Malinois are higher drive, much faster, and far more athletic than the GSD, and may be better suited to police work than the GSD- the malinois dominates ringsport, which simulates police work far better than schutzhund. Some drawbacks though- a big sturdy GSD is much scarier looking than a malinois (which is good for some kinds of police work); and malinois are much harder for the not-terribly-dog-savvy officer to handle than the more laid back GSD.
    The military and European police forces have always used a lot of malinois and dutchies (very similar to malinois).
    Wendy's first reason is the main reason I've heard...that it's hard to find a good-working GSD anymore.

    I have a Malinois, I think he's a great little guy although he certainly does attach himself to just a very few people, and have no interest in speaking to anyone else...



  6. #6
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    I have a very laid back, sociable, friendly kind GSD female (pound find) and before I found her I considered a Malinois as I loved the look, the intelligence, athleticsm, etc. But the more I read and studied up on the breed I decided they were a little too intense for what I wanted. Not sure they would tolerate my lifestyle- barn, horses, little kids, big kids, strangers and safely rides in my car w/ me everyday.



  7. #7
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    The hubby of one of my equestrian friends is a K9 officer. I asked her about this one day, and her explanation for the use of Malinois (they have two--one is the working dog, the other is a rescue lacking the confident temperment that would make her appropriate for police work) as opposed to GSDs was the second reason wendy mentioned: size. They are a much more personally portable breed, which is very handy for an officer that sometimes has to carry the dog into odd environments.

    Health was never mentioned.
    SA Ferrana Moniet
    Not goodbye--just waiting at the end of the trail.
    My bloggity blog: Hobby Horse: Adventures of the Perpetual Newbie


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  8. #8
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    I know of one community that chose language for changing to the Malinois. They purchased a dog trained in Belgium which responded only to commands in French. The officer was 'trained' by the Belgium dog trainer. This was done in part to keep the local populace from giving verbal commands to the dog.
    Keep in mind many of my Southern neighbors have dogs who are trained to respond to verbal and hand commands - often retrievers for hunting. So they don't mind giving orders to a K9 dog to see if it responds or not.
    "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
    Courtesy my cousin Tim



  9. #9
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    Our police department does various breeds, the general purpose and tracker dogs are usually shepherds and mallies. Very few are local bred,many are imported from europe and come with breeder guarantees (we screen them all, radiograph all joints,spine and do pennhip evaluations on them). If they do not pass, breeder sends another dog until they do. There are still some good german shepherds that pass the inspection. We also have many different belgian sheps and malanois come through.

    Drug dogs are generally springers, cadaver dogs are generally labs. A few tracking dogs have been labs. However, a good sniffer is a good sniffer. They are also trying to work with local shelters for sniffer dogs.

    They are very very particular on pre purchase exams, and its true that local bred german shepherds are generally not suited to the program.



  10. #10
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    I will say unsoundness, in the GSD, is probably the leading problem to choices in Police work. If you are paying $15-20 THOUSAND a dog, you should expect to get at least 5 years from that animal. Not so true with the GSD, especially the American bred lines. I do see European bred GSDs being used, obvious with the longer, fluffy hair, standard sizes for the breed, not monster sized. Athletic dogs, of 70-90 pounds, that can DO THINGS.

    Our local County Sheriff Dept. keeps a police dog, who gets a LOT of use, mentioned in the local paper as assisting in many incidents around here. He sniffs drugs, tracks, and will find, hold a suspect being pursued on foot. Dogs visit the local schools, very personable animals with the kids. We have always had a GSD "on staff" for the County, gone thru a number of them over the years. Not sure where they shop, dogs last about 5-6 years, nice specimens. Again, they do get a LOT of use, so those working times could be stressing on joints, for a shorter work life. Prices I mentioned were what is quoted in the paper, when they go shopping for a replacement dog. Retired dogs usually go live with the handler as his "house dog" until they die.

    As a long time GSD fan, we raised them when I was a kid, they just have not ever proven to be a long-lived dog for us. They were seriously aged at 7yrs and up. Maybe they wore themselves out with constant busy-ness around the place, because they ALWAYS were doing things. We had to hunt far and wide, to find animals without issues, no history of issues, and THEN the show breeding made them into giant lap-dog wannabees! Not guardians, beyond barking some at new arrivals. And if you didn't keep them BUSY they got into trouble or invented problems with their intelligence. I gave up on the breed quite a while ago, though I still love the look. The Malinois, Tervuran (sp?) just never were as appealing to me with smaller size, different minds. After hearing about them from friends, I don't want one.

    We ended up changing breeds, and I like our choice. They are as nice as the old-type GSDs we had as kids and make me feel the "home place" is covered when I leave. Lucky for me, they have not been nearly "GSD creative" in causing me problems either.



  11. #11
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    Speaking to the health issues of the GSD, we are incidentally euthanizing our GSD/lab cross today (that's another thread). I was stunned that at 9, she is so...old. Cancer is taking over her body quickly, and her hips and one patella have been awful since she was about 2. We adopted her at age 7--not knowing how "up there" that was. Not that it matters--I just wish we'd had more time. Our sheltie lived to be 13.
    SA Ferrana Moniet
    Not goodbye--just waiting at the end of the trail.
    My bloggity blog: Hobby Horse: Adventures of the Perpetual Newbie


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  12. #12
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    My neighbor retired from the police force at the same time as his GSD retired - he didn't want to break in a new K9 partner then retire in a couple years. The nice thing about my county is when the police dog is retired, the county pays for all his vet work for the rest of his life, including supplements. I'm not sure if the cop has to buy his food, but that should be the only expense he has for his dog.

    StG


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  13. #13
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    Some places won't use malinois as they are generally more 'sharp' than GSD are. I think this still depends on the location.


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by fooler View Post
    I know of one community that chose language for changing to the Malinois. They purchased a dog trained in Belgium which responded only to commands in French. The officer was 'trained' by the Belgium dog trainer. This was done in part to keep the local populace from giving verbal commands to the dog.
    Keep in mind many of my Southern neighbors have dogs who are trained to respond to verbal and hand commands - often retrievers for hunting. So they don't mind giving orders to a K9 dog to see if it responds or not.
    awesome!
    I think a lot of K9s are trained to respond to German commands though.
    Bumped into a German cop at a schutzhund test in a smallish town near by...I thought I was seeing things...that guy in the bright green uniform!
    Quote Originally Posted by Mozart View Post
    Personally, I think the moderate use of shock collars in training humans should be allowed.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by chestnutmarebeware View Post
    So, I should be working, but instead was staring idly out my office window when I saw a police car pull into the old high school football field across the street. Got to see a gorgeous Belgian Malinois play ball with his gorgeous handler.

    Which makes me wonder why the preferred breed of law enforcement has shifted from the German shepherds to the Malinois (sorry, don't know the plural!). Is it because a lot of people are still very leery of GSDs? Although that seems like a plus in this job...

    I know COTHers will know the answer.
    Probably due to those absolutely GOD-AWFUL GSD slanty HIPS & general hind-end walking-on-your-hocks conformation!!!! Who would want to depend on the soundness of them? Lol!!! (sadly)


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  16. #16
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    There are different lines for GSD.
    West German, East German (working only)
    My dogs were W.German show/working and DDR from Czech. The straight working line GSD was the best.

    .....and then there are the American show shepherds, which are basically ruined with over angled hind ends and lack of drive. I swear that they look like those big lick Tennessee Walkers.

    Sad.
    Malinois are very intense, sharp, full of drive dogs. They are one of my favorite dogs to watch work. Fast and hard.
    While you can still find good working line GSDs, maybe the size and drive are what make the Mal more appealing. ??
    We a mix of german working and showing dogs at our club along with two malionis. The one pup is coming 7 months and you don't need to build drive one bit.
    Me, I stick with my Mastiffs.
    Proud to have two Gold Prince POAs!
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauruffian View Post
    Speaking to the health issues of the GSD, we are incidentally euthanizing our GSD/lab cross today (that's another thread). I was stunned that at 9, she is so...old. Cancer is taking over her body quickly, and her hips and one patella have been awful since she was about 2. .
    I'm very sorry for your loss. I have a Shepherd mix too, and he is failing. His hips are very bad. We're doing the best we can for him but I think our time together will end in a year or so.

    I like to go to the Iron Dog Competition here and noticed the same thing; different kinds of Shepherds but not many GSD's. Soundness was the reason given. I noticed the Malinois were very Chatty Cathy's compared to the other dogs. It was a real treat to see them all in action (wouldn't want to be on the receiving end though!)
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSwan View Post
    I noticed the Malinois were very Chatty Cathy's compared to the other dogs.
    Mine doesn't ever shut up. HUGE talker. Not barking incessantly, or anything, but he whines and grumbles a lot when he's just hanging out with you or wants attention. To be fair to him, I've always encouraged it, so it's partly learned, but it's funny to see how there really are certain breed traits.



  19. #19
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    I was lucky enough to have my german shepherd last to 15 years old. She was poorly bred (as far as breed standards), small (about 60lbs) and not at all pedigree bred. The father was a registered german shepherd, the mother looked full shepherd but no papers so could have had other breed influences. Breeders thought the female was spayed as they rescued her...but not before puppies. Puppies were free to good homes, and parents fell in love. I was 6 so no imput from me...but I loved her to bits.

    Never had a lame day, and was really never sick up until her last few weeks where she started seizuring and having neurological signs. Sure she slowed down as she aged, but could still do stairs/long walks and looked extremely good for her age.

    She was obvioulsy a very lucky dog as she was owned by my very naieve family (free feeding grocery store brand!). Now that I know better, I have realized she really lived nearly double her life expectancy!!



  20. #20
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    Health issues!! We had 3 fabulous GSD's - one "real" imported one lived to 14 healthy years and slipped away in his sleep one night. The other 2 were unrelated, "German bred" in America..... both had to be PTS at/around 7 yrs. from spinal issues. Loved them all, especially #1 dog, but after euthing two "young" 7 yr. olds...I probably won't have another GSD unless it is Czech bred. The Mals are too intense for my taste.
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