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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Thai Ridgeback is a primitive breed that originated in Thailand and was first brought to the United States in 1994. The dogs were used in Thailand as watchdogs, to pull carts, and to hunt vermin such as rats and dangerous prey such as cobras and wild boar. Like most primitive breeds, they can be a handful and a half to live with.
The Thai Ridgeback can have as many as eight different ridge patterns formed by hair growing in the opposite direction of the rest of the coat. Patterns include whorls, circles, and even the shape of a guitar.
Primitive dogs, sometimes known as pariah dogs, have distinctive physical traits, such as a moderate size, prick ears, wedge-shaped heads, wrinkled foreheads, squarish bodies with long legs, and smooth coats. The Thai Ridgeback is a classic example of one of these dogs. He comes in four colors — red, black, blue (gray), and yellow (fawn) — and he has pigmentation or spots on his tongue, similar to the Chow Chow and the Chinese Shar-Pei. Most (but not all) members of the breed have the signature ridge of hair running down their back with up to eight different ridge patterns.
He tends to be a smart dog and an independent thinker — two strikes for a first-time or inexperienced dog owner. He will push you to the edge to see what he can get away with, and if you let him win even once, you may never regain the upper hand.
That said, if you have great canine leadership qualities — firmness, consistency, and a great sense of humor — the tenacious Thai Ridgeback can be your best friend, not to mention a talented watchdog that has the added benefit of not being much of a barker unless his property or people appear to be in danger. He tends to be a one-person dog, but he can be protective of the entire family.
Early, frequent socialization is critical to help prevent a Thai Ridgeback from becoming overly suspicious or fearful of anything new or different. Purchase a Thai Ridgeback puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Once your vet gives the go-ahead, continue socializing your Thai Ridgeback throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, to visit with friends and neighbors, and on outings to local shops and businesses. This is the only way he can learn to be discriminating, recognizing what is normal and what is truly a threat.
Train the Thai Ridgeback with a firm hand and consistent direction. For best results, begin training early, keep training sessions short, and use positive reinforcement techniques, never force. If you can persuade the Thai Ridgeback that what you’re asking is something he’d really like to do — through games or treats, for instance — the better your chances of success.
The Thai Ridgeback can be a good playmate for older children, but a puppy can be too rambunctious for toddlers. Cats are likely to be viewed as prey, and he will probably be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know, though socialization can help.
A Thai Ridgeback needs plenty of companionship and activity to be happy. Bear in mind that he will need at least a good hour of strenuous exercise daily. Overall health permitting, a couple of long walks or runs should satisfy him. He is also eligible to compete in lure coursing competitions.
Always walk your Thai Ridgeback on a leash to ensure that he doesn’t chase or kill other animals. He is an escape artist and needs a securely fenced yard to keep him contained. He’s an excellent jumper and climber, so make sure the fence is high. An underground electronic fence will not keep the Thai Ridgeback contained, as he may not let a shock stop him if he sees something he wants to chase.
Better yet, keep him indoors, especially if the weather is rainy or cold. Because he's from Southeast Asia, he’s not one to appreciate that type of climate.
Once he is house-trained and past puppyhood, the Thai Ridgeback is less likely to be destructive in the home. However, until he reaches maturity, take steps to protect your furniture, carpets, and other belongings from being gnawed, torn, or otherwise taken apart.
Thai Ridgebacks can adapt to living indoors or outdoors, but the most important thing to know about them is that they need human companionship. There’s no point in having a Thai Ridgeback if you’re just going to stick him out in the backyard all by his lonesome. If you do, you’ll come home to find the yard relandscaped to look like the surface of Mars. Keeping him indoors also lessens his opportunities to escape.
The Thai Ridgeback was first noted more than 350 years ago in Thailand, but he is thought to be far older. One theory suggests that he is a descendant of the now-extinct Hottentot dog, which may have played a role in the development of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The Thai Ridgeback was an all-purpose dog, kept to guard property and serve as an alarm dog, escort or pull carts, hunt small and large game, and keep cobras at bay. He lived mainly in eastern Thailand, as well as on the island of Dao Phu Quoc, near the border of Cambodia and Vietnam. His relative isolation ensured that he maintained his distinctive look.
The breed has been in the United States since 1994. The United Kennel Club recognized the Thai Ridgeback in 1996, and it was recorded in the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service in 1997.
The Thai Ridgeback has a mind of his own. That’s probably the first thing you need to know about living with this interesting breed. He likes to have his own way, doesn’t give up until he gets it, and will quickly run your life if you give him half a chance.
This is a dog who will test your limits to see what he can get away with and will refuse to do anything he doesn’t want to do. He’s a terrific hunter, and small furry animals are ideal prey. It’s a good idea to keep him active and channel his energy and intelligence; overall health permitting, a dog sport or some kind of daily exercise such as jogging may suit him well. To top it all off, he is highly intelligent and a skilled escape artist, not to mention a talented counter surfer.
In a nutshell, this is not the breed for you if you want a dog who is willing to please, who will always obey you on the first command, who won’t kill your cat (or your neighbor’s cat), and who won’t give you any trouble.
On the plus side, the Thai Ridgeback recognizes authority when he sees it and will be a wonderful companion if he respects your firm but not harsh leadership. He can be good with children when he has been brought up with them and is properly supervised. His alert but quiet nature makes him an excellent watchdog, without the tendency to become a nuisance barker, as he barks only if he senses a threat. He tends to choose one person to be his favorite, but he will be protective toward the entire family. Once they are past the destructive puppy stage — when they are likely to eat your sofa and start digging a hole to China through your living room carpet — you might consider permitting run of the house. But don't forget about counter surfing.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a headstrong adult dog to deal with.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Invite people to your home, as well, so he becomes accustomed to visitors. These experiences as a young dog will help him grow into a sensible, calm adult dog.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Thai Ridgeback, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Avoid any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
In general, the Thai Ridgeback is a healthy breed, but the Thai Ridgeback can develop hip dysplasia and may be prone to a skin condition called a dermoid sinus.
Hip dysplasia is a hereditary defect of the hip socket. It can be mild, causing little or no pain, or it can lead to severe lameness. Thai Ridgebacks with hip dysplasia may move slowly or avoid jumping. Depending on the severity of the condition, weight loss, medication, or surgery can help relieve pain.
Thai Ridgebacks that will be bred should have their hips X-rayed and graded by a veterinary orthopedic specialist at 2 years of age. Ask the breeder to show written evidence that a Thai Ridgeback puppy’s parents have hips that have been rated as fair, good, or excellent by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Dermoid sinus is a genetic skin condition that can appear as single or multiple bumps on the middle of the back. It is the result of incorrect development of the neural tube. Infection of a dermoid sinus can result in serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as meningitis and myelitis.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dog can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and cause of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Thai Ridgeback at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Thai Ridgeback has a short coat that is easily cared for with a weekly brushing. Use a rubber curry brush to keep it gleaming. He sheds year-round, but not heavily. Give him a bath when he is dirty, maybe once or twice a year.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Keep the ears clean and dry, and check them weekly for redness or a bad odor that could indicate infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with a mild pH-balanced cleanser recommended by your veterinarian. Brush the teeth regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Introduce your puppy to grooming from an early age so that he learns to accept it with little fuss.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the best dog for you and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She should be more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who tell you only good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and will come back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life. Look for more information about the Thai Ridgeback and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Association of Thai Ridgeback Owners and Fanciers.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Thai Ridgeback puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment and come from parents with health clearances, as well as conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Thai Ridgeback might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health, and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below.
There are many great options if you want to adopt a Thai Ridgeback from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Thai Ridgeback in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (house-training status, for example) or very general (all the Thai Ridgebacks available on Petfinder across the country). Animal Shelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Some local newspapers also have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Thai Ridgeback. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Thai Ridgebacks love all Thai Ridgebacks. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Association of Thai Ridgeback Owners and Fanciers' rescue network can help you find a dog that could be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Thai Ridgeback rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be up front about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities, so that with training, you could bring a Thai Ridgeback home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he house-trained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Thai Ridgeback, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Whether he's a puppy or adult, take your Thai Ridgeback to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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