HOW TO TRAIN A BELGIAN MALINOIS
Training your Belgian Malinois is an essential step, as much for you as for your dog. But how can you be sure you’re creating good habits and providing your pooch with a solid base that will allow them to evolve comfortably in their surroundings? Discover all our tips and tricks for successfully training your Belgian Malinois below.
What Age Should I Start Training My Belgian Malinois?
The answer is simple: as soon as you welcome your new puppy home, at the age of 2 months old. It’s important to set boundaries right from the start and stick to them. Forbid your Belgian Malinois puppy from doing anything you wouldn't want them doing once fully grown. It’s much easier to grant permission later—letting your dog on the sofa, for example— than to withdraw permission granted too early and then have to fix bad habits. While your little puppy is not difficult to control at first, they will grow fast and be much harder to contain once they reach full adult size. Don’t forget that Belgian Malinoises reach a substantial height and weight in adulthood! If you are unable to control your dog, the consequences could be dire, for them and others. So set limits and make it clear to your puppy that you are in charge.
While training a puppy is easier, it is of course possible to train and socialise an adult dog. However, the task becomes more difficult the older they get, due to their history and potential traumas. Adult dogs already have lots of life experience and, perhaps, deeply rooted bad habits. However, it is quite possible to “re-train” a Belgian Malinois, you will just need to be patient and understanding. In this case, don’t hesitate to call on the help of a professional dog trainer.
Belgian Malinois Training Tips
Keep in mind that you should never use violence with your dog, neither verbal nor physical. Favour positive dog training based on rewards. Reinforce good behaviour with cuddles or playtime, and ignore bad behaviour. Punishment should be rare, never violent, and only used as a last resort.
These are the three main principles to adhere to when training your dog: patience, coherence, and consistency!
Patience: Patience is a virtue, as they say! The Belgian Malinois is an intelligent dog who likes to please, but don't ask for too much of your dog too quickly. They cannot be expected to understand everything immediately, no matter how smart they may be. Your Mali will need to repeat the exercises over time to master them, so be gentle and don’t get cross with your dog if they don’t understand what you want right away.
Coherence: Keep your commands short and easy to remember, both for you and your dog. Changing things up will only cause confusion, so stick to the commands you choose at the start. Each action or request must correspond to a specific word, which is easy for your dog to understand.
Consistency: The only thing that will bring concrete results is repetition over time. Set aside fifteen minutes a day for training sessions, after a game or a walk, and repeat each lesson as many times as necessary until your four-legged friend understands what you want.
Be mindful of the fact that for training to really be successful, your Belgian Malinois needs to feel happy and balanced. This means you need to satisfy your dog’s exercise needs by taking them out for a run regularly, so they can exert all their excess energy. The Malinois is a natural athlete and working dog with lots of energy to spare. Left inactive, this pooch would quickly become unhappy and difficult to handle.
Which Basic Commands Should I Teach My Belgian Malinois?
Considering the weight and size of a Belgian Malinois, certain basic commands must be learned quickly. Prioritise these commands over the rest:
Come: This command helps you keep your dog safe under any circumstance. Your Mali needs to be able to understand their name and come back to you when called. This allows you to keep control of your dog and prevent accidents, which could, unfortunately, affect the lifespan of your Belgian Malinois.
Heel: This should also be high on your list. Your dog needs to learn how to walk to heel properly, without pulling on their lead, as they could wind up injuring you or themselves. This is especially true if you live in the city, where there are many dangers around (cars, bicycles, scooters, etc.)! Start teaching your pup how to do this in a well-enclosed area to avoid accidents. As soon as your Mali starts to pull on the lead, flick the lead with your wrist and pull them back to you. Praise your pooch profusely when they obey.
Stop: This command tells your dog that they’re doing something you don’t want them to. However, you need to keep a positive approach; it should not be interpreted as a punishment by your dog. So, when your Malinois obeys you, praise them with cuddles and kind words to make it clear that they benefit from not engaging in bad behaviour.
The Importance of Socialising Your Belgian Malinois
Training your Malinois should also include socialising them. This is an essential and crucial step, which will determine your dog’s relationship with the world around them, as well as with people and other animals. Socialisation begins with a pup’s siblings and mother, when they’re first born, and must absolutely continue once the dog is with you. The most pivotal period is between the second and third month of your pup’s life. Focus on creating positive experiences for your Mali and allow them to meet as many people, dogs, and other animals as possible.
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