Belgian Malinois Community Braces for Influx of Rescue Dogs

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The movie Max features a Belgian Malinois military working dog. American Belgian Malinois Club and American Belgian Malinois Rescue are concerned that the movie will stimulate popularity with the breed resulting in an influx of dogs into shelters and rescues.

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“It’s already starting here,” said Midwest Coordinator for American Belgian Malinois Rescue, Taylor Updike Haywood. “People are calling and asking to adopt the Air Jordan of dogs.”

With the release of the film Max on June 26, the community of breeders, trainers and rescue volunteers involved with the Belgian Malinois breed, is bracing for a large influx of Malinois to be abandoned to shelters and surrendered to rescue groups in the coming months. “It’s already starting here,” said Midwest Coordinator for American Belgian Malinois Rescue, Taylor Updike Haywood. “People are calling and asking to adopt the Air Jordan of dogs.” (The movie trailer currently running on the internet and television uses the phrase “Air Jordan of dogs” to describe the breed.)

"We fear a surge in the ownership of the Belgian Malinois breed, similar to the increased popularity of the Dalmatian breed following the release of 101 Dalmatians, (New York Times, 9/14/1997 http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/14/us/after-movies-unwanted-dalmatians.html)
that will be devastating to the breed we love and a disservice to the dogs," said Judy Hagen, President of the American Belgian Malinois Club, the AKC breed parent club. In the case of Dalmatians, many families purchased Dalmatian puppies largely on impulse following the movie, only to find that that the dogs required much more care, training and responsibility than their owners anticipated. As a result large numbers of Dalmatians were surrendered to animal shelters and rescue systems. Many were euthanized. Many businesses also bred Dalmatians to meet the demand, without regard for health and temperament, producing inferior dogs that were sickly and unstable, essentially destroying the breed.

Max, distributed by Warner Brothers, is described as a heartwarming film of redemption and healing. It features a highly trained military dog, Max, and his military handler Kyle. Following Kyle’s death in Afghanistan, a traumatized Max is shipped back to the US and is adopted by Kyle’s family. Max has adjustment problems but connects with Kyle’s teenage brother Justin and as they build a trusting relationship, adventure ensues.

“We are very concerned that the public will see this movie and recognize the intelligence, athleticism and beauty of the Belgian Malinois, but not realize that the dogs currently being featured in movies and television are the result of years of intense training.” said Hagen. “Living with a Malinois requires a commitment to daily training and exercise,” she cautioned. “Without this they will find their own activities that will make your life a nightmare of dangerous and destructive behaviors. ”

American Belgian Malinois Rescue (ABMR) is an all-volunteer organization devoted to rescuing and rehoming Belgian Malinois. In 2014 they had 140 dogs come into their system. “Many people who see the dog portrayed in this film may be drawn to the Belgian Malinois breed, but the overwhelming majority will not be equipped to live with an animal with such extreme energy levels and intensity,” said ABMR President Marcia Tokson. “It is our recommendation that those considering a Belgian Malinois for the first time think seriously about adopting an older dog with known personality traits and qualities that can be matched to their home and lifestyle,” she advised.

Melinda Wichmann, a member of ABMC stated, “A Malinois’ need for daily mental and physical exercise goes beyond what most casual pet owners are willing and able to provide.” Indeed, dedicated Malinois owners joke that Malinois are not just a dog, they’re a lifestyle. Unless you are ready to be a firm leader 24/7/365, Malinois will assume that you are an idiot and that they are in charge. They don’t take no for an answer. Their loyalty and devotion comes with a degree of obsessive clingy-ness that means you may never get to use your bathroom alone ever again. And don’t try shutting them out – they’ll destroy the door.”

The ABMC and ABMR stress that Belgian Malinois need vigorous exercise and intense training. They also tend to be one person or one family dogs. This means that they may respect and obey one family member but not others. It is hoped that with education about the breed, a deluge of Belgian Malinois in shelters and rescue can be avoided. Anyone who believes they are interested in the breed has an obligation to research it thoroughly by meeting with multiple owners, trainers and breeders. More information may be found at the ABMC website – http://www.malinoisclub.com or the ABMR website at http://www.malinoisrescue.org .

For further information please contact Judy Hagen, President, American Belgian Malinois Club, cell -612.961.3473, email – jkhagen(at)comcast(dot)net
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