Law enforcement chiefs in Germany are phasing out the use of German Shepherds as police dogs, news website The Local reported Monday.

Gunther Bonke, a dog expert for the police in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said the breed was being replaced by sturdier Belgian Shepherds, which are also known as the Belgian Malinois.

He said the breed was considered more dependable and robust than its German rival, and could be deployed as sniffer dogs unlike German Shepherds, which are largely limited to security details.

The state, Germany's most populous, only has 26 German Shepherds working with the police, compared with 281 Malinois, Bonke said.

As well as being a popular working dog around the world, German Shepherds are regarded as loyal pets and were the No.4 breed on the U.K. Kennel Club's 2011 list of top breed registrations.