Search and Rescue

Search and rescue is another activity where the Belgian malinois can excel and surpass all competition in but this is one activity where a malinois may not be your best choice (I will get into this later).

The malinois has the stamina to put in an entire day of hard work, even in not-so friendly conditions (hot, etc.) and are dedicated enough that they will not stray from the task.  Their sense of smell is top notch which will enable them to find the person that they are looking for.  They are also intelligent to follow their handler’s commands, even off lead, and strong enough so they can help pull someone out of danger.  A malinois in search and rescue is also friendly enough, and have the appropriate body language, that the person they are rescuing will not feel threatened.

In most situations, the Belgian malinois is the perfect candidate for search and rescue, situations like finding lost hikers, children, etc.. they will perform very well but in some instances the malinois may not be the ideal candidate.  The main instance is in large disaster areas.  A malinois can be too focused for their goal (in this situation, finding survivors) and may not think of their own, or their handler’s, safety.  Other breeds may take a step back when conditions are too dangerous but a malinois might not – the goal is their only focus.  A malinois may jump onto a piece of rubble that is unstable and cause a collapse, possibly injuring the malinois, the handler, or the victim.

Malinois are also sensitive, emotional, and can get depressed.  In situations where the malinois is searching for survivors in large-fatality events they may get depressed, distressed, and disinterested in the task at hand.  This happened after Sept 11 at the site of the World Trade Center, S&R dogs got so depressed from not finding survivors that, as the last task of the day, S&R teams would stage a “victim” (someone from another team, an officer, etc.) for the dog to find thus lifting the dog’s spirits.  This isn’t a trait just for a malinois (many breeds suffered this) but a malinois may be more susceptible to it.