Meet the rearer whose dogs are selected to guard the Indian border

Seventeen of the 18 Belgian Malinois puppies reared by him were selected by the Indian army to guard the nation’s borders


Anamika Chatterjee

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Raghavendra and Ananya Bhat with a Belgian Malinois
Raghavendra and Ananya Bhat with a Belgian Malinois

Published: Fri 14 Jul 2023, 6:16 PM

“It was always my dream to join the Indian Army, but unfortunately, I could not despite coming close in the selection process. I fell short in meeting the age criteria and later being the eldest son, I had family responsibilities. But this is a dream come true for me and I am really happy to serve my nation in this way,” says ardent dog lover Raghavendra Bhat from Karnataka.

The last few weeks have been truly memorable for him as a whopping 17 of the 18 Belgian Malinois puppies reared by him were selected by the Indian army to guard the nation’s borders. A Facebook post by Bhat about the pups caught the attention of the relevant authorities who got in touch with him. After rounds of video calls, inspection and personal supervision by the officials, the pups bid adieu to their home in Bavikere in Ankola taluk of Uttara Kannada district when they were 90 days old. “Nurturing them since the day they were born, monitoring their diet, height, weight and ensuring that they do not get infected with any disease was a challenge, but it was really worth all the effort,” says the 44-year-old dogophile with a hint of pride.

How it started

Bhat has been a dog lover since childhood, a trait he inherited from his father. His first pet was an indie when he was a teenager and since 2001 he has had breeds like Doberman, Great Dane, Labrador, Boxer, Pug and even Mudhol at home. While he initially enjoyed their company, a visit to a dog show as part of the Karavali Utsav in 2014 changed his perspective.

Seeing dog owners pick up prizes for their dogs piqued his curiosity on what exactly a ‘good quality’ dog meant. “It was only then that I started researching about dogs, different breeds, their temperament and traits related to trainability and socialisation. I bought books, most of them from Bangalore and other places to gain knowledge as those were the ‘pre-Google and pre- YouTube’ days,” says Bhat.

Having learnt the characteristics of a well-bred dog, Bhat was successful in winning awards in subsequent dog shows, which included prizes for his Pug and the ‘champion award’ for his Mudhol. In his quest to get the best quality dogs, Bhat started breeding dogs and his first was with Doberman.

“I was extremely interested in native breeds and the ancient Indian breed, Bully Kutta, fascinated me. This is essentially an extremely well-built and ferocious dog native to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Though I was successful in getting the dogs and breeding them, I had to give them away as they were too ferocious and people around were not comfortable,” mentions Bhat.

Belgian Malinois pups being taken by Indian army officials
Belgian Malinois pups being taken by Indian army officials

Tryst with the Belgian Malinois

As Bhat tried to rear more unique dogs, one of his friends in the armed forces enlightened him about the extremely sharp Belgian Malinois. “These dogs are very intelligent and known for their agility, endurance and ability to adapt to a variety of climatic conditions. Moreover, they do not require any special treatment and can be looked after like our local dogs,” quips Bhat.

Incidentally, Belgian Malinois were also used by the US Navy Seal Team in their mission to track and capture Osama Bin Laden. Given the fact that these dogs can be trained for a variety of tasks, they are a favourite among those in the special forces and are commonly used as guard dogs for surveillance and assault operations.

After intense search and scrutiny, Bhat obtained a Belgian Malinois male originally from Hyderabad and two females from Haryana. Among the first batch of pups, one was selected to serve in Bangalore Rural Police and the others reared by him are in the anti-naxal force in Hubbali and Belagavi Airports. Bhat’s joy knew no bounds when both his females gave birth to a litter of 10 and 8 puppies each this March.

As he posted the news on Facebook, he was contacted by army officials who expressed an interest in picking them up. “They first saw the pups via video call and once they were convinced, they visited my place when the puppies were about 35 days old. They had a number of conditions and wanted me to keep the pups till they were 90 days old, We also had an officer residing at our place during this period and he was monitoring their progress first hand,” explains Bhat.

Period of critical care

Bhat explains how it is of utmost importance to take care of the nursing female dogs as well as maintain cleanliness while tending to the young pups. It is also a time when the puppies are most vulnerable to contagious diseases like canine distemper and parvo. Strict diet, regular vaccinations and deworming were carried out to ensure that they remained healthy.

Their diet included Cerelac, multigrain powders, curds and boiled eggs. “All the puppies exceeded the prescribed height and weight specifications; hence the officers were really happy to take almost all of them which I consider an achievement,” concludes Bhat.

Raghavendra Bhat is a man who wears many hats. Apart from rearing dogs, he works full-time as a probation officer in the Department of Women and Child Development in Uttara Kannada. Further, he is an avid farmer, owning a plot where he cultivates areca nut, coconut and pepper. His wife Rajeshwari and 16-year-old daughter Ananya, who are also cynophiles, are his biggest cheerleaders and supporters. Bhat insists that in order to rear dogs successfully, one must be passionate, have unconditional love for canines and, most importantly, practise the principles of ethical breeding. Point noted!


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