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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
One of the damndest things happened the other day. My old man was in the kitchen, which opens into our garage with Ninja one night. Ninja was curled up next to the kitchen door, as always, waiting for Dad to finish putting his laptop away before he goes to bed at night. Dad had him in sight and was a few steps away.

It was then my cousin, Danielle, who's a college senior, came in after driving all night. She'd accidentally hit Ninja with the door, I think and he turned around and bit her on the thigh. Dad called Ninja off and he let go right that second.

After a fair amount of drama, in which Danielle's thigh would heal properly, she's terrified of Ninja now. No charges were pressed.

A little background is in order. Ninja had never bitten anyone before and he's a very well behaved dog. He's a veritable social butterfly with canids and homnids alike.

We think that this biting episode was linked to his quick reactiveness when the door hit him. And our breeder thinks its linked to the fact that he'll bark like crazy whenever anyone knocks on the door.

Mom and Dad trained him now to go to a down/stay whenever anyone knocks at the door, but now my cousin's terrified of Ninja. When I get back home from deployment I'm trying to get her comfortable around Ninja again. Any suggestions for training for both Danielle and the dog? Because Danielle regularly goes to our house and my dog normally sees and smells her almost every week and normally was very friendly with her. I attribute the bite to the fact that she surprised him while he was asleep. What could make a dog that's known my cousin since puppyhood bite her?

What I plan to do is make sure she reasserts (?) her standing over the dog and not show him fear. I might go for a walk with both of them, but have her hold the lead while I hold the e-collar control. Ninja for his part still solicits play from her, but she goes and hides in the other room whenver he comes near her.
 

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yep the more I research about them the more I hear the "maligator" thing.

according to one person

"that's what happens when you make producing a working protection/police dog a focus of your breeding program. sometimes...they bite. they're supposed to."

from another source

"Some breeds are bred specifically to have "prey drive" directed toward humans. Dobermans, German shepherds, rottweilers, Belgian malinois and Dutch shepherds, like the dog shown here, are some of the breeds which have hunting drives easily directed by police trainers from game animals to man. Police dogs must have a strong "hunt" drive and also a strong "fight" drive to locate and overpower suspects."

and from yet another source commenting on the above source

"of course it goes in degrees. but any breed that includes guard and protection work in what breeders are selecting for is going to have one or both of the following to some degree, wariness towards strangers and a reactive bite reflex."


I don't know how true all that it yet but it seems "Maligator" is apt.

as for how you can help your cousin...muzzle him when she is around. it will make her more comfortable knowing he CAN'T bite her and that you are willing to take steps to ensure her safety.

and Ninja might benefit from some desensitization towards loud noises.
 

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I forget what Ninja is. But it sounds to me like she startled him (from a sound sleep), he didn't recognize her (at that moment) and bit her. I don't know how severe the bite was but for her to be that terrified of him, at her age, is odd.

Has she ever had a fear of dogs before? If Ninja still initiates play with her, maybe she can work on her fear without you...? Your dad might be able to help with that.

Good luck to your cousin.
 

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It is true that Mals tend to run very hot. Most of us have seen the video of the university security K-9 latching on to the Auburn U. football player in the endzone. I strongly suspect (but don't know) that the dog's trainer probably had less than perfect experience with the breed. Who knows what experience the campus cop had? Mals tend to "go to eleven" very quickly in comparison to GSDs. I know of one PD K-9 program that is moving back to GSDs for that reason. After getting a few through their program, they have begun to view Malinois more as "military grade ordnance".


And the video of the French (?) K-9 handler who's dog gets so amped up that he turns on him and latches onto his hand--but hard. It's the last segment of the video.


That's not a knock on the breed, but one must recognize how reactive and volatile they can be. It is a real advantage in a sentry dog , but it can be an extreme liability in a family pet.
 

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Your Mal reacted like a Mal....their reactivity is the reason I can't have one. I know quite a few Malinois, and they are lovely working dogs, but in situations like with your cousin, I can't have that around small children (and as I said earlier, NO ONE I know with a Belgian breed has small children).

Bite first, think later. You startle other dogs from a sleep, they go "Dude, WTH!?" and move to a new place. The Belgians tend to go as Ninja did *BITE* "Dude, WTH!?" and then remain a bit on edge.

The Malinois can go from 0-14 on the aggression scale in a matter of seconds, where as the GSD needs to be "Coached" up that direction and generally never hits the mark....because he doesn't need to.
 

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This is so interesting! I had heard that Malinois were reactive dogs but I never imagined they'd be this high-strung. Are all the Belgian Shepherds this way, or just the Malinois? I've always been a fan of Groenendael but maybe I should rethink ever owning one?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Has she ever had a fear of dogs before? If Ninja still initiates play with her, maybe she can work on her fear without you...? Your dad might be able to help with that.
Actually no. We grew up with dogs our whole lives. Danielle is just afraid of Ninja right now and Ninja can't understand why one of his favorite ladies of the house is scared of him.

Our breeder who is also a great dog trainer as the best breeders are, is helping us as well. We think it was because Danielle hit him with the door on accident is why he spun 'round and bit her.

It is sort of weird, though. Ninja tends to be well socialized with people of all ages, other dogs (he loves to rub noses with almost any canid, even our neighbor's AmStaff Lady (aptly named as she is the biggest sweetheart on the planet. Mom calls her Ninja's girlfriend). I figure Malinois are very reactive dogs, and thus bad first time dogs. Ninja's our family's third dog, and my father's fourth (Dad owned a Doberman before he and Mom got married).

Danielle e-mailed me and said that everything's alright. She's still afraid of him, but he's still solicits play from her.

Thanks everyone for all the tips.
 

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The point is, that this breed of dog seems to be known for reactivity in surprising situations. Your dog was in dream land and the door hit him.. and apparently this breed has the reputation of biting first and asking questions later.

The thing that bothers me about this.. and there are breeders who push for similar reactivity in the GSD.. it that these dogs were bred for herding. In herding, while a grip on a wayward sheep can happen, it is not encouraged. Herding is prey drive controlled absoutely.. you do not want your shepherd to send the sheep herd over a cliff!

I am seeing in the videos and in the discussion dogs that could NEVER herd sheep. They are far to aggressive to do the job they were bred for. They are also far too out of control to be used for herding..

The same thing is evident in a LOT of GSD's that are bred for "protection."

I guess I am just looking at this and wondering if these breeds are not getting so far removed from the herding group that they should be re-labeled. We are no longer an agrarian based society and have given these dogs different jobs and are now breeding for different things.

I am not saying I like it either. IMO a dog that cannot be trained to come off (you saw the videos.. especially the police dog..) needs a different job or better training. A dog should come off on a single word every time asked.

Now it may be partly bad breeding or bad handling or bad training.. but what I am reading here is that the Malinois has been bred away from herding and that is a shame.
 

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For those that don't know, the German Shepherd Dog was once in the working group :)

Lone, I know it may be hard to "figure out", but the fact is...your Mal is a Mal, and he behaved as a Mal is known to behave. Nothing cause this but pure Malinois.

Nekomi, since the Belgians are generally one in the same, they all are a bit reactive, HOWEVER, the Groenendaels (Belgian Sheepdogs in America) are more likely to try to run away. Still reactive, but not like the Mals.

ALL of these dogs are the ORIGINAL police dogs (Before the GSD!!!!), but the coat of the Malinois is easier to care for and thus the other two fell out of favor in K9 work, so you see them mostly as herding dogs or family pets.

They ARE a high strung breed of dogs, but wonderful for the right people :)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Lone, I know it may be hard to "figure out", but the fact is...your Mal is a Mal, and he behaved as a Mal is known to behave. Nothing cause this but pure Malinois.
I love him nonetheless. My dog is like my best friend who sleeps by the foot of my bed (or occassionally on top of it) and lounges on the couch with me (at my parents' house, it drives my mother bonkers). But when he hears the doorbell he'll bark and rush the door and we usually have to tell him 'Settle', and he puts on the brakes normally.

That's also why we keep an eye on him always, just so things like this don't occur and made sure obedience training was the first thing we focused on.
 

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Your Mal reacted like a Mal...
Your Mal reacted like a Mal ...their reactivity ...
Xeph is dead on here. It's a wonderful breed, but the Mal is notorious for "biting first, and asking questions later". They can be trained to machine-like perfection, but they're generally far more reactive and less thinking than, for example, GS's ...

It's not a bad thing. It's not a good thing. It is what it is - just part of the breed make-up.

Because this is not a thinking behaviour, but an intuitive reaction to stimulus, it's doubtful whether or not use of an e collar would help for this "problem"; in fact, not used correctly and judiciously, the e collar may escalate a simple reaction into real aggression.

Just my opinion.
 

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I guess I am just looking at this and wondering if these breeds are not getting so far removed from the herding group that they should be re-labeled. We are no longer an agrarian based society and have given these dogs different jobs and are now breeding for different things.

I am not saying I like it either. IMO a dog that cannot be trained to come off (you saw the videos.. especially the police dog..) needs a different job or better training. A dog should come off on a single word every time asked.
It's true that the large herding/protection breeds are leaning more towards the protection side of the ledger. Bouvs and Briards are used in Europe as police dogs as well. I can't speak for all areas, but in my neck of the woods criminals outnumber sheep by a hefty margin.

But there is one or more splits in many breeds. A Labrador who is bred for winning field trail ribbons, and one bred for guide dog work, may as well be separate breeds. They only look like the same breed. I have to wonder if the (Schutzhund, French Ring, etc.) gamers haven't affected the temperaments of the Malinois the same way that field trialers have done with Labs. The extreme performers certainly put on a good show, but they are not for the fainthearted. Dogs bred for the game have a place in the world, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Well, we use Ninja as not only a family pet but a family watchdog as well. We've got him trained in American Street Ring (heck he's knocked me down when I've put the bitesuit on) and I train him in bite work. But before we did any of that we trained him in obedience first.

Mr. Ted Hoppe, our breeder/trainer, has been a big help for us in training the dog, but we know Ninja comes from working lines and we keep his prey drive sharp with bite work and bite suit work at Ted's place. We knew and know the risks when adopting a Mal into our home.

My Uncle Danny in the Phillippines has several Mals in his own house as well (he's a breeder over there) and he told us the same thing about Malinois reactivity. Danielle's willing to give it another try, so I guess that's a good thing. Dad's helping her with working with the dog.

Uncle Danny also says that that's just inherent to the Mal, reactive biting, and thus don't punish him for it.
 

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I have to admit (and please don't take this offensively) I am not a big fan of people buying dogs for "protection". If its a hobby thats great but if you train a dog to have that reaction and you are not a proffesional, especially with a breed who is high strung/high prey drive/easily reaches their theshold like a mal, someone will eventually get hurt. Its not Danielles fault for not realizing he was there and its not his fault for reacting. I have no problems with "watchdogs" I have a dog who barks twice, two short high barks if theres someone at the door or in the yard that's a stranger. He has been taught to come get me if there is someone who he does not reciginize or isn't one of my close friends. I like that, it was easy to teach and makes me feel more comfortable living alone. However, I would never teach him bite work (wouldn't work he's a retriever anyway ;) ) but I have had a lot of training customers with mals, GSD (especially the BYB GSD zomg!) who went to a local trainer to make their dogs "protection dogs, you know, guard the house" Now they are aggressive, uncontrolable, and frankly dangerous. I'm putting this to you personally, its just a vent more so. This local trainer ruins dogs, he doesn't know what he's doing and I've seen wayyy too many local vicious dogs who need to be put down because they become over stimulated and either try to bite whatever they are after, their handler, or both. I just think that protection dogs are working dogs, not pets. Same as a pack of hounds isn't a pet and a lot of farm dogs aren't pets. Can they be pets for the hobbyist or the professional? Yes! but if you bite off more than you can chew you're going to get bit.
 

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I have to admit (and please don't take this offensively) I am not a big fan of people buying dogs for "protection". If its a hobby thats great but if you train a dog to have that reaction and you are not a proffesional, especially with a breed who is high strung/high prey drive/easily reaches their theshold like a mal, someone will eventually get hurt.

Its not Danielles fault for not realizing he was there and its not his fault for reacting. I have no problems with "watchdogs" I have a dog who barks twice, two short high barks if theres someone at the door or in the yard that's a stranger. He has been taught to come get me if there is someone who he does not reciginize or isn't one of my close friends. I like that, it was easy to teach and makes me feel more comfortable living alone.

However, I would never teach him bite work (wouldn't work he's a retriever anyway ;) ) but I have had a lot of training customers with mals, GSD (especially the BYB GSD zomg!) who went to a local trainer to make their dogs "protection dogs, you know, guard the house" Now they are aggressive, uncontrolable, and frankly dangerous.

I'm putting this to you personally, its just a vent more so. This local trainer ruins dogs, he doesn't know what he's doing and I've seen wayyy too many local vicious dogs who need to be put down because they become over stimulated and either try to bite whatever they are after, their handler, or both. I just think that protection dogs are working dogs, not pets. Same as a pack of hounds isn't a pet and a lot of farm dogs aren't pets. Can they be pets for the hobbyist or the professional? Yes! but if you bite off more than you can chew you're going to get bit.
This is very well said.

IMO the best dogs in gaming are NOT being aggressive. They look at bite work like a game. If you take it over to aggression, you lose control.

I will say it again. A dog should wait for the command to bite/hold and should also instantly obey the command to stop. This, IMO, cross applies to prey drive. Chase when told, stop instantly when told. Without those things in place you have a liability, not a well trained dog.
 

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It seems to be the consensus that the most desirable prospects for gaming are the dogs with insane levels of drive. The thinking is that "you can take it out, but you can't put it in". The same way a field trial bred Lab is a poor choice for someone who wants a family dog who will accompany him on a couple of duck hunts per year, a high drive Malinois is a poor choice for someone who only wants a protective house pet.

And I am not suggesting that LoneRider has taken that casual an attitude about his dog's training. I would suggest that perhaps the dog would do better with only one handler, and an alternate who can handle the animal in the case of the Primary's absence or incapacitation. Too many handlers = inconsistency = the dog making his own decisions = potential disaster.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
Pretty much with my household is me and my Dad as the dog's primary handlers. He only bites or makes any aggressive movements when we give him the appropriate commands. Ninja was actually the most mellow dog out of his litter of puppies, we just train him to do what a Malinois is born and bred to do to work of his energy.

Bite work pretty much is just a game for the dog and me. It's nothing to encourage aggression. We go out and just play. And another way I satiate his prey drive is with the tennis ball. He loves it when I throw the ball...

Ninja will obey other members of my household, my uncle, grandparents, and mother to be exact and likely bit Danielle out of the fact that she surprised him and he reacted.

And as far as training goes, our breeder is also a professional trainer and we work with him for additional training with the dog. His obedience to commands is remarkable and that one incident was entirely due to him being surprised. Heck he's been great with other guests we have in the house. I normally make sure he's well exercised before they show up though.
 

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I don't know you or your dog, I haven't seen his training, and I wasn't there, so don't take this the wrong way (though I'm 90% sure you will). But I see huge red flags when someone appears to be making excuses for the dog. "He got scared", "he was too excited", and "he was surprised" may or may not be the actual reasons for a dog's behavior, but they never excuse an unprovoked bite. I completely understand that *stuff* happens, but that doesn't make anything right. We are always responsible when our dogs do harm.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
None taken. We should've paid more attention to his behavior of barking loudly at the door and running towards it when he hears it getting knocked on. That was the root, our breeder and we, think of the incident that triggered the bite.

We've also taken steps to desensitize him to the sound of door knocks. Dad puts him in a down/stay whenever we hear that noise or the door bell and we always praise and reward him for alerting us with a bark or two about approaching strangers, and staying calm while doing so.
 

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While I agree with you Marsh....I also don't know ANY Malinois that would have responded any differently than Ninja did.
 
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