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I am writing to see if anyone can give me some tips with this type of dog. Just for background, I am not a new dog owner, have had Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds and have horse training experience and so understand the principles behind consistent training but this dog is a whole new thing for me.
The dog I have is an 11 mo old fem. Malinois. I have had her since she was 4 mos. Yeah, I know, a totally different thing than the Danes and Wolfhounds as I have come to find. I was not looking for this breed but she was so mellow, not mouthy, calm and dog and person socialized that I fell for her. Well, she grew and morphed into the complex creature that the breed truly is. Just to let you know what I do with her DAILY--AM we go to the ocean where she runs at a FULL gallop for 45 mins after various gulls, terns etc and swims hard for another 15. We do this 7 days a week and cover about 6 miles. She will run until she is barely able to stagger up the dune to the parking lot. We practice some simple basic obedience. At home, she will still pace and pick up small items while I get dressed and get my kids ready for their day. Before I head to work, I throw a ball for her and play with a tug toy, maybe some "mind" games for fun (find a treat, etc)She is good in the house until my husband comes home. She is excellent with my small children, tolerant and playful if still kind of mouthy. She is not reliable with non family at the house, good on the beach with other dog owners if they dont reach for her. She tumbles smaller dogs (no biting but a bully) and will play briefly with big dogs until she ends it w/ nip on the shoulder and spoils the moment. No real aggression, backs off if the other dog is aggressive. Plays ball w/the kids in the afternoon. When I come home, recently I have been running w/her another 4.5 miles at night. I know, no road work but have kept it to 2 days a week on the road and the remainder on trail. She is fit and hard as a rock, solid muscle. A little basic obedience again after dinner, like all these dogs, learns extremely quickly. The problem? She is still bored and moves around looking for things to pick up and get into (counter-surf) especially if I am busy. At this point I feel that she has had sufficient exercise and needs to learn to relax, which we are practicing. She probably truly needs a job. I ask others out there, what are you doing with your herding dog to keep him/her content? I have never had a dog with "bottomless" energy before. I live on Cape Cod and am not near many clubs etc but am seriously considering commuting to some organized activity. Any suggestions?
 

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I just spent the last week on Cape Cod!

Anyway, our dogs go on walks, runs, bike rides, they do herding herding (if you can get into herding classes or find friends with sheep--though I imagine that might be hard on the Cape), frisbee, obedience, agility, swimming and we just started playing soccer (keep away) which exhausts the dogs in literally 5 minutes. Colby tried flyball and was excellent at it, but I don't recommend it...just too intense and too much barking IMO.

I don't really think the "brain toys" are worth it. Both our dogs always figure them out in minutes. I do recommend a Kong, however. We stuff ours with fruits and veggies and peanut butter and freeze them. They usually last upwards of 20 minutes.

It sounds like your pooch is getting significant physical exercise, but maybe you should up the mental stimulation. I've found mental workouts tire them out even more than physical exercise. Obedience training is probably our most-used outlet for energy. We work on teaching them complicated tricks, beyond sit/down/rollover/weave/et.al (take a ball up the stairs, drop it, wait for it to get to the bottom, go get it, repeat). I also suggest getting a crate if you don't have one. Both of our dogs (thankfully!) have an off-switch in the house.
 

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agreed w/ the above and it sounds like it's time to start training some "down" time.....when in the house, it's time to chill.....counter surfing is an ABSOLUTE no and my dogs learn that by the time they are about 5 mo (not that they can even reach the counter tops at the age).....they are taught that when we get home from our play time or our walk or whatever, it's "down" time and they lay at my feet or there about.......maybe she's getting overly stimulated at times....maybe rather than letting her chase the birds, turn it into a "herding" session (yes, i know birds like that don't really herd well, but that's where the fun comes in....her approach [slow] can be taught and maybe they won't fly so quickly)

i know if mine are give that (too?) much activity on a daily basis, they are harder to settle......quiet time is just as important
 

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We cycle with our shepherd almost daily, he attends obedience classes and we are planning to do agility in the future. He gets enough exersize, we walk long walks multiple times a day (approx. 3 hours a day, currently) take him down to the lake where he swims. He has lots of energy but is always quiet and calm in the house. When we have a day where he gets less exersize than usual, he is fine with it. But I think that is for the most part his breed; white swiss shepherds are a lot less intense than belgian shepherds like the malinois.
 

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There is a new sport called treibball. You start of with targeting the dog to touch the ball and expand it so that it herds it into a net. Perhaps this is something your dog would enjoy doing since it has both the physical and mental involved in it.
 

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Honestly, mals are a little special even compared to other herding breeds. They are notorious for not having an off switch at all. I know people with mals and their dogs do have schutzhund as well as other sports and they still pace when nothing is going on. Even people at very high levels in sports have told me their dogs just don't settle- or at least most their mals don't.

She sounds like a very typical young mal to me.

My herders all actually settled well inside. I really didn't do much with them other than walks and yard play back when I had them. In my opinion this is more of a specific breed and age thing than the group as a whole. Like I said before, malinois are as intense as you can get.
 

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Also, I have a dog right now (non-herder) that would play ball all day long if you would keep throwing the ball for her. We could go for a long walk then agility for two hours in the heat, come home and she'd want to have the ball thrown for the rest of the night. She's gone full out for 3 hours before with the ball when I didn't know any better. She would have kept going too. When I've had people dogsit her, they've called wanting to know how to make her stop. Problem is, she barks/screams when she's not getting her way so she annoys them so bad they just keep on throwing the ball over and over again. There's got to be some boundaries set there. She knows who she can get away with bullying into endless ball throws too.

Eventually you just have to say enough's enough. It is one thing to give a dog inadequate exercise and then expect a dog to settle down but you can create a 'monster' that needs more and more and more and more. It's very important to let the dog know they're either going to have to settle or entertain themselves. If the dog is self entertaining in a way that doesn't bother you/isn't destructive, then I say let them be. If they just won't behave... put them up in a kennel or something for a little while to take a break.
 

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I just spent the last week on Cape Cod!

Anyway, our dogs go on walks, runs, bike rides, they do herding herding (if you can get into herding classes or find friends with sheep--though I imagine that might be hard on the Cape), .
It's possible that people wouldn't want to sacrifice their sheep to a Malinois (mine was a freakin alligator on stock). Thing is, exercise is good, but you come to a point of diminishing returns when all you are doing is building arousal and stamina. Might be time to concentrate more on self-control games and teaching this dog to self-modulate.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I really appreciate the replies. I was beginning to wonder if I was overdoing it and creating some of the problem and some of your answers confirm that for me. We will definitely spend more time on learning what "down" time means in the house. I am going to also look up about the treibball and try some more complex commands for her. It may be that in trying to reach her "had enough" point I'm just making her kind of overstimulated. Melundie, hope that you enjoyed the Cape!!!
 

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I work all of my mals, sar, agility for fun, hide and seek, bitework, narcotics, obedience, object searching, plus tons of physical exercise. They really benefit from doing work.

Inside we learn to have downtime. After work and lots of energy expending, we come in to rest. No playing. They learn fast inside is for lounging, and out or going to training is to work.

Look into training some type of scent work, and keep up with her exercise routine. It's typical mal, they are always ready to go, and will continue until they fall out.
 

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At 11 months old, she will be very hyper! With all the herding dogs I've had, I noticed slight more mellow behavior around 1.5 - 2 years old. Do you obedience train her while at the beach? Mental stimulation is more draining than physical. When she's just aimlessly running at birds and dogs, it's just mindless stimulation, no real focal point and only physically draining. But if she is exercising and training it drains both mental and physical energy!

When my pembroke was younger, I kept her busy with training (obedience training and trick training!) I taught her many many tricks.
I have both a vallhund and corgi, I keep them both busy with long hikes (with training while on the hikes). Also, I let them hunt small game (lizards, rats, mice) which I like because I like my dogs to still have their gamey side. But I would be careful with hunting if your dog is too over stimulated as they can redirect that hunting instinct on other dogs (especially smaller ones) when in public areas.

Have you thought about biking with her?
 

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We do some training daily at home. Agility once a week. Play time with tug, fetch or a flirt pole/lure everyday. There are a few toys that seem to get our herders drive going. Any rolling toy that is "off-balance" so it rolls irregularly is a big hit in our house, especially if it is large enough that it can't be picked up in the mouth and has to be pushed around instead. Jolly Eggs and Sky Balls (this one is actually a kids toy) are particularly popular in our house. We also try to get out to a dog beach a couple times a month when weather allows.
 

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Honestly, mals are a little special even compared to other herding breeds. They are notorious for not having an off switch at all. I know people with mals and their dogs do have schutzhund as well as other sports and they still pace when nothing is going on. Even people at very high levels in sports have told me their dogs just don't settle- or at least most their mals don't.

She sounds like a very typical young mal to me.

My herders all actually settled well inside. I really didn't do much with them other than walks and yard play back when I had them. In my opinion this is more of a specific breed and age thing than the group as a whole. Like I said before, malinois are as intense as you can get.
You said pretty much what I was going to, she sounds like a typical young Mal to me.

That being said I do have an aussie and our days go something like this usually. We get up in the morning and do some training and play some tug and then she hangs out in my room for a few hours while I get my kennel work done. After I'm done with my work, we go back to the pond and she free runs for as long as she likes (she won't swim yet, but we're working on it), usually we stay back there for an hour or two. Then we work more training and play ball/tug/what have you off and on throughout the evening. She will also get put out with some of the shepherd puppies during the day to play. Oh and we also go herding twice a week.
 

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Also, I have a dog right now (non-herder) that would play ball all day long if you would keep throwing the ball for her. We could go for a long walk then agility for two hours in the heat, come home and she'd want to have the ball thrown for the rest of the night. She's gone full out for 3 hours before with the ball when I didn't know any better. She would have kept going too. When I've had people dogsit her, they've called wanting to know how to make her stop. Problem is, she barks/screams when she's not getting her way so she annoys them so bad they just keep on throwing the ball over and over again. There's got to be some boundaries set there. She knows who she can get away with bullying into endless ball throws too.
I know we've gone back and forth on this before...Colby is totally in the same boat XD When she was younger we'd toss the ball in the house but same thing--she never stops. I'm sure you know it...people think I'm exaggerating! We had to make a rule: no ball in the house EVER EVER EVER and we never give into the barking, no matter how bad it gets. >.< I usually walk the dogs, come in to cool off/eat dinner and then take them back out to play ball in the evening. Colby knows when it's time to play and she will start getting antsy. I make sure to never take her out until she lays down and relaxes (hips to the side). It's definitely helped.

To the OP, don't give into your dog's "demands."

It's possible that people wouldn't want to sacrifice their sheep to a Malinois (mine was a freakin alligator on stock).
Yikes! I'm not suggesting this is the case with you or your dogs, but I think this can happen with any herding breed if you just let the dog out without training or a long lead. Luckily, my dogs don't resort to nipping unless staring, stalking and barking don't work...lol. I've only seen Colby get mouthy when we were attempting to herd rams. A definite perk of having a dog that was bred to excel at one thing! I don't really have any experience with Mals, but if the tendency is for them to bite, I'd think so long as you can find an experienced herding instructor (like I said, might be hard where the OP lives) the dog could succeed.
 

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Yep, I cna tune out obnoxious demand barking and screaming with the best of them nowadays. I hardly notice anymore but she's gotten a lot better as she's matured. Still drives my family batty.

Malinois are nicknamed maligators for a reason. They tend to go in with their teeth first. Mals generally are not bred to herd anymore, they're bred to excel at the very top levels of bite sports. I am no expert but I can't see how this wouldn't create a totally different kind of dog than a breed still bred to be used on stock. I can definitely see why so many instructors will not put malinois on their stock.
 

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Yikes! I'm not suggesting this is the case with you or your dogs, but I think this can happen with any herding breed if you just let the dog out without training or a long lead. Luckily, my dogs don't resort to nipping unless staring, stalking and barking don't work...lol. I've only seen Colby get mouthy when we were attempting to herd rams. A definite perk of having a dog that was bred to excel at one thing! I don't really have any experience with Mals, but if the tendency is for them to bite, I'd think so long as you can find an experienced herding instructor (like I said, might be hard where the OP lives) the dog could succeed.
Not every dog of every herding breed will be successful as a herder. Sometimes, when the dog is operating on "dinner drive" even with good facilities and good instruction, you are fighting who the dog is. It's hard on the dog and harder on the stock. This is less the case with BCs because they tend to work at more distance and herd differently from loose eyed breeds. And additionally, Malinois have been bred to bite first and ask questions later. That's the "one thing" they are bred for. Most people who are good stock owners really don't want their stock terrified and bitten by dogs. Many weekend warriers simply look at stock as a "tool" for their dog and aren't worried about the well-being of the livestock. It's much kinder to both the dog and the stock to admit when you are trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, and simply find a job that dog is good for. Especially if you are only doing it as a sport.
 

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This discussion about herding traits is very interesting as I've debated commuting to find someplace to learn this with her (Malinois). We have nothing on the Cape for learning this. I have noticed that when we are on the beach she naturally crouches, stalks and repeatedly looks to me for the command to go while pursuing birds and I've encouraged her to wait for me to signal her when it is time to go and to look for direction in where to head next. Her favorite birds are birds that she can "turn" and that fly in a rectangular or circular pattern rather than straight along, these fill her with greatest doggie joy. It never occured to me that she may be too rough for the sport. She certainly bites and hangs onto tug toys with enormous enthusiasm and I use this as a reward at times.

As to scent work, I find that the mal is VERY visual, more like a sight hound and only seems to use scent as a secondary tactic, at least when I play,work with her so I wonder how people find their mals take to scent work? For example, while riding in the car, she only looks intently at things (usually up at the sky) rather than sniffs out the window etc. but maybe that's just my dog.

Anyone part of a herding group in Massachusetts? There is probably a safe way to figure out if she would enjoy it without injury to the livestock. I totally agree with matching the dog to the work. Thanks again for all of the feedback about dealing with the restlessness in the house. I have raised my expectations for her in terms of "quiet time" after play/exercise and she is already responding.
 

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I don't claim to have any experience with Mals, and I appreciate the insight... I was responding to the term "herding dog" in the OP.

Not every dog of every herding breed will be successful as a herder.
You're absolutely right about that. In fact, if the dog isn't bred of working stock, it would be really hard to make it a successful herder, but even so I don't think it would be impossible. I was simply offering the OP another option for giving their dog some mental stimulation. Besides, I said the dog could succeed, not that she absolutely would. Nor did I say the OP should take their dog herding and continue forever even if the dog doesn't like it. We tried Flyball. Colby seemed to like it and was actually very good at it, but I didn't like it. It was too intense and too loud. The point is, I think if you're looking for new activities for your dog, it's worth a try. It's not like you have to commit for life.

Sometimes, when the dog is operating on "dinner drive" even with good facilities and good instruction, you are fighting who the dog is. It's hard on the dog and harder on the stock. This is less the case with BCs because they tend to work at more distance and herd differently from loose eyed breeds. And additionally, Malinois have been bred to bite first and ask questions later. That's the "one thing" they are bred for. Most people who are good stock owners really don't want their stock terrified and bitten by dogs. Many weekend warriers simply look at stock as a "tool" for their dog and aren't worried about the well-being of the livestock. It's much kinder to both the dog and the stock to admit when you are trying to pound a square peg into a round hole, and simply find a job that dog is good for. Especially if you are only doing it as a sport.
I'm not really sure about your tone here, but it sounds a little snarky to me and I take a little bit of offense to your "weekend warrior" comment. I guess if I was being irresponsible and just letting my dogs gnaw on and terrorize sheep for 8 hours every weekend it would be one thing, but I don't. Just like many herding dogs have the instinct to herd, sheep have an instinct to flock together and being "herded" is actually very good exercise for them as long as it's done responsibly and with control.
 

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mine stay out during the day & they know that inside house time means quiet time, i never play in the house with them, EVER no exceptions so they never learn to be excited in the house.
 

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This discussion about herding traits is very interesting as I've debated commuting to find someplace to learn this with her (Malinois). We have nothing on the Cape for learning this. I have noticed that when we are on the beach she naturally crouches, stalks and repeatedly looks to me for the command to go while pursuing birds and I've encouraged her to wait for me to signal her when it is time to go and to look for direction in where to head next. Her favorite birds are birds that she can "turn" and that fly in a rectangular or circular pattern rather than straight along, these fill her with greatest doggie joy. It never occured to me that she may be too rough for the sport. She certainly bites and hangs onto tug toys with enormous enthusiasm and I use this as a reward at times.

As to scent work, I find that the mal is VERY visual, more like a sight hound and only seems to use scent as a secondary tactic, at least when I play,work with her so I wonder how people find their mals take to scent work? For example, while riding in the car, she only looks intently at things (usually up at the sky) rather than sniffs out the window etc. but maybe that's just my dog.

Anyone part of a herding group in Massachusetts? There is probably a safe way to figure out if she would enjoy it without injury to the livestock. I totally agree with matching the dog to the work. Thanks again for all of the feedback about dealing with the restlessness in the house. I have raised my expectations for her in terms of "quiet time" after play/exercise and she is already responding.
Malinois are one of the best detection dogs there are. Scentwork should take about five minutes to get the basics down. They are very visual, as well as scent oriented.
Herding can be done, and mals can excel at this as well. They do have to be taught not to bite stock.
She should know a wait to bite on the tug, and have an excellent out as well, before started on livestock.
There really isn't anything they don't excel at. If she likes water, look into dock diving.
 
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