Hyderabad: If a mobile phone advertisement campaign lifted the Pug, an obscure dog breed with distinctive physical features like short stocky built and a wrinkly, short-muzzled face to fame, then their central role in eliminating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS chief by the US special forces has made the Belgian Malinois breed of dogs into global celebrities, pushing them up on the shopping list of security forces around the world.
The Telangana state police also boast of having the Belgian Malinois in their staff. The state police had inducted this dog breed long back into their teams. The dogs were especially deployed with elite forces like Octopus and Greyhou-nd. These high energy dogs, agile and light of weight, can take high levels of training compared to others breeds, making them perfect for special operations. Unlike most others, the Belgian Malinois dogs have a unique characteristic – they are great jumpers.
Globally, an interest has surged in the Malinois, a medium to large breed, which some experts classify as a sub-variety of the Belgian Shepherd, used predominantly by forces in detecting explosives and narcotics, and in leading search and rescue missions, with reports of one of them working with US special forces chasing and cornering the dreaded terrorist Baghdadi to the end of a darkened tunnel in Syria. While the terrorist blew himself triggering a suicide vest, the canine suffered minor injuries and is repo-rted to be out of danger.
US President Donald Trump appreciated the dog’s work, tweeting, “We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog that did such a great job in capturing and killing leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” Training the Belgian Malinois is not easy.
In the unified AP, couple of Belgian Malinois dogs have attacked their trainers.“Police dogs are put through nine months of intensive training at the Integrated Intelligence Training Academy (IITA), Moinabad.
They are trained for detection of different narcotics besides explosives including RDX. But Belgian Malinois and German Shepards are not trained like other dogs, and are provided with special assault training, said Mahesh Muralidhar Bhagwat, who inducted two Belgian Malinois dogs into the AP state police force in 2013, recalling his days as security chief of the Intelligence Security Wing.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, Mr Bhagwat, now police commissioner, Rachakonda, said, “With physical characteristics of being thin and tall, with a long protruding tongue, they look ferocious and are swift in action. They are mainly used for assault, particularly in anti-terror operations. They seldom miss a target.”
Anjani Kumar, Hyderabad city police commissioner, said, “In the last five years, the Belgian Malinois, which are smaller and swifter version of German Shepherds, have become more preferred. They are now used in frontline defence by both the Army and police forces during operations.”
Sharing his own experience, Mr Kumar told DC that in 2006, when the-then US President George W. Bush came to the city, the Americans had brought six Belgian Malinois with them for security. Subsequently, we also inducted them into Hyderabad’s city security wing.”
“Any dog can be trained for attack. Most European countries use the Rottweiler as attack dogs. The advantage of Belgian Malinois is they are smaller and swifter in action,” he said.
Phillip Butt, CEO of Commando Kennels, which supplies these breeds to not only Telagana police but also the Army, CRPF and other forces, said, “Malinois are high energy dogs. They can take high levels of training compared to others and survive in extreme hot weather, which make them suitable for special operations. A unique characteristic is that their jump – they can jump up to four feet normally, but with a little support, they can clear a jump of up to eight to ten feet. They have distinct genetics advantage of being a bloodline.”
Mr Butt, who is honorary secretary of the Hyderabad Canine Club, told DC that a puppy costs between `60,000 to `70,000. These dogs are deployed by the army, CRPF and state police forces across India.” He further added, “They are difficult to train. It depends on a trainer’s level of proficiency. If you are not fast enough to deal with this dog, you might be in danger.”
He informed that people of Hyderabad could see a double attack by Belgian Malinois dogs at a demo at Petex India, starting from November 1.