Dogs in Thailand, a Different Breed

This dog isn't up for anything requiring physical activity, but be careful many dogs in Thailand don't like the smell of foreigners!
This dog isn't up for anything requiring physical activity, but be careful many dogs in Thailand don't like the smell of foreigners!

The way that Thai people treat their dogs and the leeway they give them is astounding to me. I have finally come to accept it as I have most things here. They call them soi dogs because they live in the streets. Soi is street or small street, alley.

Dogs are running loose all over Thailand. They are or were originally “owned” by someone. Or, usually fed by someone. Maybe fed by multiple people. Maybe they just exist in the alleys off the main roads by eating garbage and things that fall from kids’ hands. These are called “Soi dogs”. They are disgusting, flea ridden, maybe missing half or most of their hair from mange or other illness.

The dogs you really need to be concerned about are the territorial ones that think they own a certain space or piece of land. That space might be the public sidewalk to you, but to them it might be the front of their owner’s or feeder’s business or home. Dogs are tough to judge here… if you are walking around the streets as I did when I first arrived, you will see many dogs. Most of those dogs are fine with you walking by them – beside them, past them, whatever. Some dogs are not and it’s quite impossible to tell sometimes if you are walking past a dog that cares about you and is going to bark and scare the hell out of you or if the dog is cool and couldn’t give you a second thought. Sometimes I’ve walked along close to a dog I thought was sleeping on the public sidewalk only to have it nip at my feet as I walked by – and run up behind me and bark as if it would bite me.

Women seem to get bit more often than guys here. I’m not sure why – whether the dogs see them as weaker, or whether they display fear, or if the women trust the dogs more I’m not sure. I’ve heard 6 stories of dogs actually biting someone in the two years I’ve lived in Thailand and 5 of them were girls that were bit as they were walking away with their back turned.

Thai Dog Owners

As you’ve seen above, the dogs are a different type here. They are free-roaming and sometimes quite territorial. They may have a dislike for farangs in some areas – Ubon Ratchathani is a place they didn’t see many of my kind around and they seemed to really go nuts when they saw my American face and smelled me.

But, the dog owners are absolutely NO HELP to you whatsoever. The Thais’ will NOT call a dog away that is barking at you or threatening to bite. They just will not. I don’t know what it is – I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ve yet to see it happen unless there was some violence about to be inflicted upon the dog by a tree limb, metal bar or other instrument.

The dog owners here let the dogs do anything they wish. It is similar the way the Thais’ raise their children. They will rarely say “no”. Whereas in America if you went the whole day without saying “no” to your kid or your obnoxious dog – there’d be chaos ensuing and probably something would die by the end of the day. Not here.

Don’t bother to ask anyone close by for help with the dogs – it won’t be forthcoming. Just deal with it on your own.

Dealing with a Threatening Dog in Thailand

As far as I know, MACE or anything resembling it is illegal here in Thailand. I’ve seen some sort of spray at the malls on the tables with sling blades, switchblades, axes, hatchets, machetes and other instruments for ‘protection’. I believe I heard from a friend that mace is illegal here.

So, what to do? Do NOT turn your back on the dog – face it… keep your hands down but be watchful for it coming up for a quick bite… If you can put anything between you and the dog – like a bicycle or motorbike, parked car, whatever, do so. If it is a very small dog – smaller than your knee and you are a man you might want to take a run at it like you’re going to pound it into roadkill. This has worked for me but I’ve done it only for small dogs that were not near any other dogs. Sometimes you’ll be facing 3 dogs at a time as others will come to see what the farang is doing walking on the sidewalk. Recently I faced a pack of 10+ dogs as I ran through a wooded park. I grabbed a large stick and ran at them screaming and swinging it. That worked.

For a bigger dog – just walk slowly around it – and away from it. Facing it all the time so you don’t lose a chunk of your bottom while turned around.

Luckily there aren’t many killer dogs here – rottweilers, shephards, pit bulls… these are usually locked up behind fences. But, there are some and extreme caution is recommended for those.

Dogs chasing you on Motorbike or Bicycle

Invariably you’ll be chased from the side by a dimwit dog or dogs that think chasing motorbikes or bicycles is a good way to have fun. It has happened to me countless times. I’ve not been bit, having been pretty aware of the constant threat. I usually just lift my feet up where it would have to jump to bite me while running – and they don’t do that. I haven’t seen them do it anyway. I’m usually able to hit the gas and swerve quickly too – so I’ve not had any misfortune (yet). I have told myself numerous times that I’m going to bring a stick the next time I need to drive in that area but so far I’ve not brought one. If I had to face it daily I would definitely take some action like whacking it in the face once so it gets the idea.

I love dogs – but I’m not going to get bit by one.

While I was a teenager delivering newspapers in America I was repeatedly chased and nearly bitten by an insane medium sized collie named “Albert” at one of my customer’s houses. The owner kept promising he’d do something about it but he really didn’t give a care and it was almost daily I faced the possibility of getting bitten. This dog would fly out of nowhere to bark like a nutcase and attempt to bite me by getting behind my newspaper sack. I finally got tired of the threat and brought my slingshot (wrist-rocket) and a rock about the size of a robin’s egg. When that dog came flying out from behind the house that day barking like it would kill me, and I let the rock fly into his teeth – teeth shattered like a thrown bag of popcorn and he shut up and from that day on. I would still see him occasionally but I never saw him without his tail between his legs and running away from me.

I’ve seen a guy from Sweden visiting the northeast of Thailand, having been threatened by a rather large group of dogs (big dogs) repeatedly during his walk up the soi from the guesthouse to get some dinner, and being laughed at by the locals that witnessed it, return with a thick branch that he was swinging at the dogs like he was possessed. The owners called the dogs in then, and quickly… go figure.

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5 thoughts on “Dogs in Thailand, a Different Breed”

  1. I was jogging in Chiang Mai one day in January, headed up towards Chiang Mai University. It was new territory, hadn’t run around that area before during my 6 weeks thus far in town, and just as the thought of dogs occurred to me, I looked down and saw a thick bamboo stick, about 4.5 feet long, perfect for protection.

    Sure enough, no more than five minutes later, jogging down a fairly deserted, non-commercial street, a dog sleeping in the road leaped up and snarled just before I passed. Within seconds, a pack of 5 big barking feral dogs charged me from a small hill. It was clear they would attack. Thankfully, I was in a bad mood already—a busload of teenagers had just ridden by a couple minutes before pointing at me, laughing and screaming, “Farang! Farang!” Feeling no fear, just anger, I reacted instinctively with strong body language, threatening them with the big stick and and shouting in a booming voice, “Get out of here!”

    They instantly reversed ground and sprinted the other way, with one straggler staying behind and following me for just a few more yards after I turned my back. It was crazy, and I am sure if I hadn’t had that stick and reacted so forcefully, they would have attacked me. No one was around.

    Not once in Laos or Cambodia did I ever encounter a mean-spirited dog.

    1. Great comment, I appreciate your writing that out. Dogs in Thailand in some places don’t see many foreigners, so every one of us is like the postman. Some hate us… lol. A stick almost always does the trick. They understand sticks because most or all of them have been beat with sticks in the past. They also understand thrown rocks… That backs them FAR off. Cheers man, Vern

  2. Worst thing about Thailand is all the dangerous dogs running free !
    I got jumped once and it was scary as shit !
    Constant threat every time you walk outside there and it got very old quickly !
    Fucking nuts !
    Makes me never want to go back to Thailand and makes me think less of the Thais !

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