How Dogs Affect Your Life in Thailand

King Bhumibol was so against any cruelty to dogs that he wrote a book about Tongdaeng, a mongrel he rescued from a slum. The government later imprisoned a Thai man, under Thailand’s strict lèse majesté laws, for posting sarcastic comments about the dog online.

Ten true stories explaining how dogs interact in our lives in Thailand.

What really happened to Sunantaa’s puppy.
Sunantaa rang me to say that Kitaloo, her one-year-old puppy, had been killed in a road accident. He had escaped from their fenced garden. Unusually for a Thai, she was very tearful on the phone.

Some monks had said that a hill tribe family had accidentally run him over and brought him to the temple for them to bury. He could then be born again. Sunantaa’s husband, Surachai, was not so sure. He employs Burmese and hill tribe workers and knows they eat dog flesh. He didn’t believe the monks. However, his sister had said that she had seen the body in the temple.

But when he went to the wat and asked to see the grave, the monks explained that he could not take the dog home for reburial. If it was indeed Kitaloo, he wanted the dog to be buried in its own garden. But Surachai could not go against the monks.

He still has his doubts about what really happened. He is too old in the tooth to think that what you are told is always the truth.

Sunantaa continues to think that Kitaloo is now resting on holy ground.

Dogs sleeping on the roads.

Dogs won’t move for vehicles.
Dogs won’t move for vehicles in Thailand. They will do what they want to do. Similarly, Thai drivers reason that, as Thailand is the country of the free, they too can do as they wish on the road.

You will see many dogs on the roads of rural Thailand. Only a few are kept inside the house or in the garden as guard dogs. Some may be caged or chained at night.

One often sees a dog asleep in the middle of the road, cars sounding their horns or swerving to avoid. Some are wild or temple dogs.

Thais are not allowed to euthanise their pets and sick or unwanted dogs are left at the temple for the monks to care for.

Thailand’s hot weather probably makes dogs lethargic and not want to move out of the way of approaching vehicles. They may be clever enough to realise drivers will do all they can not to hit them.

Motor cyclists have a similar view that cars will make way for them.

Thais usually avoid personal responsibility and blame someone else.
I was surprised some weeks ago when I read on Benjawan’s Facebook page, just under a picture of her son’s pet.

“Some nasty man hit my dog.”

Today she told me what had actually happened. Her husband had hit Lamyai for misbehaving. Whether it was appropriate or not is questionable. Shaking the dog immediately after the event and saying, ”no” in a firm voice would probably have been better.

Benjawan’s dog
Lamyai, Benjawan’s dog.

But I now understood her comment on Facebook. She was blaming someone else and not criticising her husband.

It is the Thai way of taking out one’s frustrations and anger without involving the person you are really annoyed with. You may notice it a great deal in Thailand. It is called prachut in Thai.

The Thai is actually directing his venom against the person who has wronged him. He is letting him know what he really wants to tell him if culture allowed such openness face to face. One’s rage is projected at another person, animal or an inanimate object.

The person, animal, or object is being made the scapegoat in place of the real target for anger. It is a means of staying friends with someone by not directly chastising the person who is the real object of your displeasure. The anthropological term is projected vilification. As Michael Caine would say, “Not many people know that”.

Two dogs guarding the gate of the family home.

Two dogs guarding the gate of the family home.
Guarding the family home.

Thais are somewhat security conscious and anxious, at times a little paranoid, when it comes to protecting their homes. There are few routine police patrols at night, certainly not in the rural areas, and response times are slow. Dogs, either loose or chained, are popular methods of responding to the threat of being burgled.

The dogs are rarely trained or even exercised. They can be quite vicious and, if they have not been inoculated, can pose an even greater danger.

Training dogs in Thailand
In his Thai wife’s name, because he can’t legally run the training school himself, Francois has set up a dog training centre. He has an uncanny way with dogs that gets them to respond to him quickly. He seems to understand how they think and react.

François has set up an agility course which dogs love and which is popular with his clientele. It helps in training dogs to be obedient and under control. Only one Thai family has joined his club. They see the benefits.

The photo shows dog jumps, an A-frame, a tyre, a ramp, tunnel, and some weave poles.

Thais won’t usually euthanise their dogs.

Most owners won’t put their pets down, and many unwanted dogs end up at the local temple. They live off what the monks can give them and scavenge around the local sois. You need to watch out for them when you are driving.

There are cases of strays being poisoned, but generally the locals will not harm dogs or even shoo them away. They thus become confident when lying on roadways and will not move out of a car’s way as readily as they would in the West.

Firecrackers and Snakes.

One week to go before the Loi Kratong festival and we already have the regular sound of firecrackers going off throughout the day, but more particularly at night. The dogs do not like it, but it signals to me the start of Thailand’s most colourful and enjoyable festival.

The snake sunning itself beside the pond was not a cobra but it was about two metres long. Nevertheless. I was not going to go near it and tried to get the dogs to move away.

A deadly monocled cobra.
A deadly monocled cobra.

Unless cornered, snakes will normally keep out of your way. Just be careful if walking in long grass that you don’t accidentally disturb them.

Some snakes have keen eyesight; others don’t. This is why you often see them moving their heads from side to side to get better focus. They sense movement more from any ground vibration when you try to walk away than anything else. The best advice is to stand still, hold your breath, and not make any sharp change of direction.

If you don’t pose a threat to a snake, it may slide away.

Make a mental note of its colour and other distinguishing features. If you are bitten or sprayed with venom, it would become critical information for the hospital in its choice of serum.

If their young are threatened, you could be in a dangerous and tight spot. Snakes have been known to chase a car that has driven over a snake’s batch of eggs.

Having said that, you are more likely to encounter snakes in their professional capacity in lawyers’ offices than anywhere else.

Dogs being purposely poisoned or killed.

Tears from a dog after being poisoned. He died one minute later.
Tears from a dog after being poisoned. He died one minute later.

Someone has been placing poisoned dog biscuits around the grounds of the local wat. A few stray dogs have died. The monks would have had nothing to do with it. They do not accept the taking of any life.

They will only eat fish that is given them on the alms rounds if they believe that the fish had not been caught solely for their own needs. They will not eat the meat of any animal slaughtered especially for them. Seems odd, because they would never know the origin of the food they were offered or be able to check how it was obtained.

Sad about the dogs, but Thais do often take matters into their own hands rather than talk through any trouble they may have. Maybe it will change but it has been going on for centuries. Perhaps Thais are resigned to accept the way problems are dealt with here.

Rescue centres in Thailand.

There are some dog rescue centres in Thailand, but they get their dogs mainly by collecting injured animals. Thais will never go to a centre to select a pet to take home. Farangs occasionally use them if they want to give a dog a good home.

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