The Belgian Malinois currently sits in 2nd place on our list of ‘Top Four FITDOG Breeds’. Possibly the most universal working dog on the planet, the malinois is commonly referred to as the ‘maligator’ and rightfully so. This multifunctional breed is as serious as they come with a drive thats through the roof which allows them to be employed by military special forces and police departments worldwide.
In todays blog article we are going to review the specific exercise considerations when it comes to helping your Malinois perform to the highest level possible!
To understand the Malinois requirements it’s essential that we know how and why the breed originally started. The Malinois is one of four varieties of Belgian Shepherd, which is part of the Sheepdog / herding family of dog breeds. This family of dogs is the result of selective breeding between the Bouvier des Ardennes , Dutch Shepherd and German Shepherd.
Being a herder by default, these breeds were originally created to herd livestock and guard their flock which means they needed to be very agile, fast, highly driven and possess incredible stamina. Today the Belgian Malinois is actually best known for being the ultimate police dog. The breed is used as a working dog for tasks including detection of odors such as explosives, accelerants (for arson investigation), and narcotics; tracking humans for suspect apprehension in police work; and search and rescue missions.
As a result the Malinois is a medium to large sized breed best suited to agility and endurance based activities. They generally have a light frame which allow them to move quickly with great speed while also being able to maintain their workload for extended periods of time.
Canine agility is defined by a dogs ability to rapidly change body direction, accelerate, or decelerate. This is a canine fitness component that was not only crucial for herding and shepherding but is also vital to be a successful police dog.
When being used for detection work a police dog is required to move quickly in physically challenging environments often in spaces that are not accessible to humans. During apprehension of a suspect police dogs need to be agile especially if the suspect needs to be chased through challenging environments and stopped.
One of the best ways to not only maintain good agility but to also boost your dogs agility is flirt pole conditioning. The flirt pole is one of the most dynamic conditioning tools because it works not only agility but also power and muscular endurance. However, like most tools, it’s not what you do its how you do it and so many dog folks use the flirt poleincorrectly. Use the following tips to flirt for agility:
- Keep your dogs feet on the ground
- No air time, jumping or landing (It’s impressive to look at but not needed and the risk out weights the reward)
- Only circular movements to begin with until your dog is at least a ‘3’ on the Canine Body Assessment Scale.
- Progress from circular movements to back and forth movements
- Make sure you add in a rest period of at least 1:1 work to rest ration. So for example if they work for 1 minute then rest for 1 minute and continue is sets. Most people get this wrong and they get the dog too tired to the point where they are not increasing agility anaerobically but rather doing an aerobic exercise. This is a big error as aerobic exercise is proven to reduce strength and decrease agility.
- As your dog gets more agile and is at least ‘3’ on the Canine Body Assessment Scale you can make the flirt pole sessions more challenging by adding resistance to the flirt pole session using a 4lb Weighted dog Collar. When used properly the Weighted dog collar is an ideal tool to help increase agility as it increases the speed of the Type IIB muscle fibres.
Aerobic endurance otherwise known as stamina is also a key fitness component for the Malinois. Herding dogs are known for their gruelling levels of stamina helping farmers sort sheep over distances covering 25miles+ of rough terrain a day. As a police dog the Malinois doesn’t require as much stamina as their sheep herding ancestors but stamina is still important. A police dog can generally work 8 hours a day performing a variety of tasks ranging from drug sweeps, suspect chase downs, and patrol shifts and they need to be able to maintain their workload. As a result aerobic endurance is important, especially the ability to maintain a high level of aerobic capacity.
One of the best ways to boost Aerobic endurance is through running related activities. Specialised Fetch training is perfect because it uses the Malinois natural high prey drive to develop endurance through our specific 12 Week Ball endurance program. Treadmill running is also highly beneficial, especially for those days when weather is poor. Our specialist Slatmill provides you with the ability to also track your dogs workout via our speed computer.
STRENGTH & POWER
As we’ve seen, the malinois is a naturally agile dog with great stamina due to its shepherding history. However, the Malinois is evolving now into a more specialised police dog and more specifically used as a protection dog around the world. Although their drive and agility make them top choice for close quarter combat style protection work they generally lack in strength and power making them more vulnerable against intoxicated, armed suspects who are not afraid to fight a dog. As such the Malinois needs to increase their physical ability and stopping power by increasing their strength and power. This will help them strike the bad guy with more impact on the takedown and allow them to wrestle stronger while in a grip.
Strength and power are two very distinct canine fitness components. Strength is your dogs ability to generate high force independent of time. Power is the amount of force your dog can produce in the quickest time possible. Both are high intensity activities but very beneficial for a Malinois.
Weight pulling is a great example of strength based activities for the Malinois not only because it will help them become stronger without the added heavy excess body weight but also because weight pulling itself has so many benefits such as:
- Increasing the handler – dog bond
- Reducing hyperactivity
- Increase lean muscle
- Reduces risk of hip and knee injuries
- Great for socialisation
For more information on how to start weight pulling read our ”Weight Pulling”Article
As we have seen already, power is related to strength but the key difference is speed. Increasing your Malinois’ power will help them jump higher, launch and strike harder and build an impressive lean physique that can withstand more punishment from a suspect. Some good examples of power training involve:
The conclude the Belgian Malinois is a dynamic and versatile breed who is naturally agile, highly driven with great stamina. Due to its recent transformation from a sheep dog into a police / protection dog its important that emphasis is placed on improving strength and power capabilities. The next generation of Malinois require more physical resilience and strength to withstand punishment in altercations.
That’s it for today! Comment below and ask us any question you like!
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