How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Thailand

IMG_0128In Thailand, a dog has a different connotation than many western countries. A pet dog in Thailand usually is a stray that gets food from a home or store front and therefore casually spends its days lounging around that area. At most, these dogs may get a worn collar, but a dog on a leash is a rare sight. A large leashed Dutch Shepherd led by a white farang (foreigner) is a sight worthy of stares and even photographs.

Many homes, temples, and stores are the place of residence for several soi dogs. Usually they form packs of 2-3 dogs, sometimes more. Even if the home front is fenced, these dogs will simply jump over. They are very territorial and a daily part of life when living in Thailand, especially for pet owners. It can be very intimidating when a pack of barking, high hackled dogs come rushing toward you and your dog.

The fact is, every stray soi dog has been hit, kicked, or had a stone thrown at it throughout its life. These are dogs that have learned the art of survival. Although territorial, they take care not to get injured because this can mean life or death to them. These situations can be smoothly handled if you remain confident and in control.

When traveling down a new street, carry a stick or (my favorite) a water bottle. When a pack of stray dogs come rushing up, use a confident voice and raise your hand as if to throw or drag your stick against the ground. These dogs know a faker when they see one, empty handed threats mean very little to them. Do not yell or get agitated. This will only excite the dogs, and you will lose respect with any local Thais within ear shot for ‘losing face’. This will deter the majority of strays, for those brave few that continue coming (my dog came in heat upon arrival in Thailand), I will give them a splash of water from my bottle. They will never forget and will leave you alone from there on out. I do not actually throw objects or attempt to harm these dogs, a mere threat is more than enough to set boundaries.

If you walk the same area regularly, these dogs will accept you within a few days. Furthermore, stray dogs can have better socialization skills than most house dogs. I don’t fear my dog being attacked as much as the transfer of disease or illness from close interaction. If you are someone who abhors the use of a leash and feels confident in your control over your dog, this is the country for you. Locals who actually do take their dogs on walks usually don’t have them on a leash.

Owners with small or fearful dogs should take extra care in new neighborhoods. I have had a few instances with small shop dogs lunging out and biting at my dog. My dog is now accepted in the neighborhood, and we can walk peacefully around followed by nothing more than a few halfhearted barks. It also helps that Zala is bigger than all the dogs around her. As stated earlier, these strays have learned the art of survival and will not take on a fight without cause, especially with a dog that is a head taller. I will add that my Dutch Shepherd not only scares the local strays but also the local Thais of the area. Keep this in mind when you bring a large dog with you to restaurants and coffee shops.

Although a dramatic change from dog walking lifestyle in western countries, bringing your dog to Thailand can be done if you remain actively aware of your environment and take extra care in reading the dog behavior around you. This experience may actual strengthen your bond with your dog as you will be assuming the role of pack leader and protecting your dog from others. Best of luck and be aware of your dog’s personal tolerance of this kind of environment and always keep their safety first.

11 thoughts on “How to Safely Walk Your Dog in Thailand

  1. Dr Stewart McFarlane says:

    Love your blogs, and your adventures. Zala is a fantastic dog. She looks a lot like a brindled Thai Ridgeback, even though she is a Dutch Shepherd. I have a pack of 8 dogs here in Thailand. Six of them are rescues, partly because my pack leader Pepsi, is a soft-hearted German Shepherd who adores puppies, and rescues any in trouble. Your advice on dealing with strays & soi dogs in Thailand is excellent. I take my dogs out twice a day, usually all off lead in remote countryside. They are good at befriending the local strays on familiar routes, and I find taking to strays in Thai in a relaxed friendly voice, often means you don’t have to wave a stick at them. Of course, always been armed with treat bags helps.My GSD used to be rather a tough guy, but now he has mellowed and grown more confident, and is never provoked by barking posturing soi dogs.He just ignores them unless they want to be friendly.

    I also believe in taking your dog everywhere with you, so mine go to the market and shopping and to out door cafes, albeit in relays. This is in addition to there 3 hours free running & swimming everyday. I have a saying that I don’t take my dogs walks, we have adventures every day. We like to go to different places & explore.

    I am building up a detailed map of dog walking routes, in the quiet countryside inland from Pattaya ( Huai Yai area) which is where I live. recently discovered a little rainy season only waterfall in the back country, and the dogs enjoy chillin in pools. I put some pictures of them at the falls on Facebook and Goodreads. It is actually easier walking a pack in the Thai countryside than it is in Europe. Local field workers are always happy to see us and have a chat, though the Cambodian labourers are scared of Pepsi. But I usually manage to re-assure them that they wont be savaged. I have never flown with my dogs, though I know people who take their dogs from UK to Norway on the ferries, to go walking in the Norweigan wilderness.

    As a woman travelling alone in Thailand, you do have to be careful. The countryside is much safer generally than tourist areas and cities, and of course you have Zala to protect you. When I am away, my wife, who is a Thai country girl, would never go out alone with the dogs, she always takes an uncle or teenage nephew with her.
    I know Pepsi and the pack would protect her, but I wouldn’t want them to risk a violent encounter. SInce the recent news of killings and attacks on western tourists in Thailand, even I am extra careful, I make contact and talk to people I meet, partly to asses their character and intentions, and to make it clear I speak Thai and understand Thai culture. I also carry a stick and a sharp diving knife (often used for freeing birds, snakes and turtles from fishing lines).and I am fully trained in martial arts ( I taught Wing Chun & Tai chi boxing for over 30 years).

    So be safe and be careful. I love your travels and adventures; and your dog is a stunning. If you are ever in Chonburi province, just south of Bangkok, you are welcome to join pack for walks.

    You may like my dog & animal stories: OF MICE & ZEN. ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS IN THE LIFE OF A WANDERING BUDDHIST, many of them set in Thailand. It is an e book on Amazon & on my website. As well as free samples and pictures on my Author Profile on Goodreads. That book has an appendix on the cross cultural variables of dog owning & training, considering Thailand and the West, which you may find interesting.

  2. veronica russell says:

    Would my chihuahua be safe there? On another site they mentioned dognapping of small breeds to traffic to China. Is this true?

    • mcfar99 says:

      Yes, there are many Chihauhas in Thailand.should be safer than most breeds. Dogs are stolen for meat or skins,some transported illegally to Cambodia. Small dogs not targeted. Traffic is the biggest danger, walk off road or on leash. Stray dogs get curious ,so be ready to pick yours up, strays are usually harmless. Lots petshops & some decent vets.

  3. Mark says:

    Hi, thanks for this – very useful. I am coming to Bangkok next month for 18 months and planning on bringing my Rough Collie, how do you find access to public parks and have you visited Chiang Mai as I could be working there as well.

    • Stewart McFarlane says:

      Hi Mark. The heat and very different conditions in Thailand will be difficult for your dog. Especially Bangkok, which is built on a coastal swamp and is hotter than the rest of Thailand, due to all the concrete. Chiang Mai is cooler and pleasanter than Bkk in many ways.There are parks & open spaces in Bangkok, with no restrictions on taking a dog as far as I know. The problem will be with other dogs, ie strays and semi owned dogs just running free. If your dog is male, the male strays will want to defend “their territory” and may attack him. They are worse with a big dog on his own. If female, they will want to check her out as mating prospect. So in parks and anywhere around human habitation there will be dogs, so you need to keep yours on a lead. I run my pack of 8, free off lead in quiet countryside, where there is no danger from traffic. Any dogs around will normally avoid mine, as they are a pack led by a very fit strong German Shepherd. If you can have your dog with you while working, that is better, but if you have to leave your dog in someone’s care then there can be problems. There are very few Thais that I would trust with the care of my dogs. Most are negligent and irresponsible and have no conception of a dog’s real needs. The habitually leave the dogs without access to fresh water, and do not understand that dogs need human companionship. Ideally the dog if left, would need to be in a safe, shaded cool place with access to fresh water and areas to sleep, and see to its toilet needs, and have some company. You can pay someone to stay with the dog, not expensive, but the problem is finding someone who is responsible and caring, who will not let the dog out on the street, and who will actually take care of it, rather than messing with their phone all day. People will promise all sorts, but not deliver. I only trust the care of my dogs to my wife, if I am away. Last September while I was in UK, a family member staying at my sister in laws house, didn’t close the gate and one of the family dogs got out and he was killed on the road. I was the only person who actually walked and trained that dog, so was very upset. So when I returned, I brought the remaining 2 dogs to live with my pack, for their own safety.
      The other thing you need is the vaccination passport, proving the dog has had all its shots recently. For the return to you own country, these have to have it absolutely right, and updated,or the dog will be put in quarantine or destroyed. different countries have very different requirement and quarantine laws.

      If at all possible I would advise leaving the dog in the care of someone responsible in your own country. I know 18 months is a long time, but it would be in the best interests of the dog. There are many diseases effecting dogs here, to which your dog will have no resistance. An English friend of mine brought their rough collie when they came to live here. it did not do well, and eventually she had to take it back to love with her mother in UK. The heat and parasites were too much for it. A year later, they left Thailand, and returned to UK themselves.

    • mcfar99 says:

      Hi Mark. I have 9 dogs here in Thailand. All Thai bred and recued by me personally, from abuse and neglect and in one case vicious cruelty by Thais. My advice would be not to bring your dog. Thailand is overrun with millions of stray and semi owned dogs. The vast majority are neglected; never been vaccinated, never been cared for properly and never been trained. Not only would your dog be subject to extreme heat and dust and dirt in places such as Bangkok & Chiang Mai, but the risk of disease and parasites to which a western bred dog will have no resistance. The standard vaccinations required for transporting a dog here, are only the tip of the iceberg. If possible I would leave the dog in the care of a trusted friend or family member. Some friends from UK brought their rough collie, but her could not adapt to the climate & conditions. They had to return him to UK and live with family, til they too returned to UK. I am retired and most of my time is spent looking after my dogs and caring for some stray & feral dogs. I take my pack out twice a day in the car to the countryside to run, hunt and swim safe from traffic, and other dogs. Because they are a pack led by a my powerful & fit German Shepherd, random dogs they do encounter nearly always run away. But walking a dog alone is asking to be attacked, by male stray dogs who feel challenged or are defending their turf; or be pursued if, your dog is female. If there are any Thais around, they will either think it funny that your dog is being attacked or try to say your dog was the aggressor, and they may attack it. They will not help or try to control a dog even if it is nominally theirs. This applies even if one of their dogs attacks you. You mention walking the dog in parks. But the parks & temple grounds are full of stray dogs which are very territorial and will create problems. Very few Thais walk their dogs, they are too lazy and selfish and don’t want hassle from the street dogs. So the strays are not used to seeing strange dogs appearing with a foreigner. Also, public spaces in Thailand tend to be littered with rubbish, rotting food and broken glass, thrown down by ignorant, irresponsible Thais; all these are a danger to your dog.

      I go to deep countryside where there are few dogs, just to get peace and quiet and away from problems. I know the areas with few dogs. And if I see a crew of field workers with a dog, I call my dogs in and go in a different direction. Any field workers I see regularly, I chat & make friends with and let them get to know the dogs, so then there are no problems.
      If you are working full time, how will you care for the dog? Perhaps if you are lucky and can have the dogs with you while you work, as i have aIways done. I am lucky here as I write at home and my dogs are with me. But a dog left here would need shade and access to water and space to exercise.and some to give it some companionship. Most Thais have absolutely no idea about taking basic care of a dog. I had to train my wifes family to make sure they had fresh water to drink. It is no accident that the majority of people working in animal rescue and organizing these things here, are foreigners. If your dog is left in the care of a thai, there is always a risk that some idiot will let the dog out and into danger. Last year I had to be in UK for 3 weeks. When that happens my wife takes care of my pack. She is one of the few Thais I would trust to take care of my dogs. But there were three dogs at her sisters house nearby, which I walked every day and gave what training they had. While i was away, some idiot relative left the gate open and one dog was killed on the road. When I returned, I took the other 2 to live with my pack to keep them safe. On my street of about 30 houses there are about 40 dogs. Mine are the only dogs ever taken out for walks. The rest are penned in the small gardens, and they are never allowed out, and a couple are allowed to wander, and will eventually get hit by cars or poisoned. A couple took 2 lovely puppies and a mature male street dog to their home on our street. They were apparently kind etc, but if course never walked or trained the dogs, and didn’t bother to vaccinate them. All three died recently of parvo virus, so the puppies never made it to 8 months old. parvo virus and rabies are everywhere, and there are many parasitic and skin problems, for which there are no vaccinations.

      I would think seriously about your situation and try to make a safer arrangement for the dog.

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