In Thailand confrontations with aggressive Soi dogs is an everyday common occurrence. Local Thais know how to deal and fend off and protect themselves from Soi dogs so they come out unscathed. Sadly there are reports of death by dog mauling on children. Fortunately those stories are few and far in between.
As a short stay tourist you may not come across a vicious Soi dog especially when you are in the heavily traveled tourist destinations in Bangkok. But what do you do when you come across a wild Soi dog eying you like a t-bone steak? Do you fight or do you run?
Soi dogs are strays found throughout Thailand and there are many roaming the lanes and alleyways which in Thai are called 'Soi'. They usually congregate in packs, living in open lots and vacant spaces. Most Soi dogs are harmless pooches and are taken care of and fed by Thais who run street side businesses and kind residents. While eating at a street side restaurant you may find a few harmlessly begging for food by your table.
But you may come across some that are very aggressive and look like it's ready to do bodily harm. The first thing you should do is to stay calm because dogs can smell fear. I know it's not easy when you are face to face with one or more snarling and growling at you.
I've had more than a few hairy encounters with Soi dogs but mostly on the secluded beaches of Thailand's beautiful islands and coastline. There were instances where dogs would bark at me while I am snorkeling off shallow waters. It is most likely due to my appearance of having snorkeling gear on me, so I can see why the dogs would bark at me as if I were the creature from the Black Lagoon. But those occurrences were a walk in the park.
My Nightmarish Encounter With Soi dogs
The worst Soi dog episode I've experienced was when I was meeting a
friend at a hotel he was staying at on a quiet section of Sukhumvit road
in Bangkok. I was walking past a restaurant that had recently closed
down. I was first approached by a Soi dog which started growling at me
but didn't make a move. So I was cool and kept cool and walked calmly
with the corner of my eye set on the dog. Then out of the dark another
appeared, this one was more aggressive and rushed at me. Then another
appeared out of nowhere too and joined in.
My caveman instincts kicked in and I ran. Which I wasn't supposed to. I felt a nip on my calf as I sprinted. Luckily it couldn't get a grip on me. I ran like the wind with 3 dogs in tail. I barreled up the stairs to a pedestrian walkway and looked back and the dogs stopped in their tracks but continued barking.
I have to admit I was embarrassed. Even though this took place in a quiet area around midnight there are still locals on the Sois eating and drinking as well as many cars on the road who've most likely witnessed me screaming and running like a child. I saw a Family Mart up ahead and decided I just earned myself a beer from escaping a pack of wild dogs. When I went to pay at the counter I noticed a nasty scrape on my wrist.
It happened while I was scrambling up the the stairs
to save my own life.
Use Common Sense While Walking Off The Beaten Path
As I mentioned earlier you may not come across any mean spirited Soi dogs on your short holiday while visiting from one tourist attraction to the next in central Bangkok. However, some might feel the need to walk off the beaten path through side alleys and lanes, especially at night. And that's where most Soi dogs make their homes. And they are very, very territorial even though they are familiar with humans.
The Best Offense Is A Good Defense
Thailand is a nation blessed with many idyllic beaches. And it's near the beaches that I have had the most run ins with violent Soi dogs, though never as serious as my altercation in Bangkok.
Now whenever I go to a secluded beach I always find myself a big wooden stick. As long as my arms with heft and durability. There are many trees on the islands so it should't be hard to find one at all. If you can't find a big one then use whatever is available. I have seen a Thai scare off dogs with a 1 foot stick. Personally I feel better wielding something larger and bigger.
The best thing to do is to just back away, without turning your back. But if you don't have any other alternative you just might have to build up some courage and scare the dogs.
Soi dogs usually don't just charge at you right away. First they size you up and kind of wait until you make the first move. If you feel that the situation is getting too hairy then wave the stick and start screaming at the top of your lungs. If you have successfully scared off the leader of the pack then the rest will back off too. This has worked like a charm for me in several occasions.
Why do Soi dogs attack?
Soi dogs living on the streets of Thailand are very territorial. While some are more overprotective than others. And they will bark or show aggressive behavior to anyone who they think are a threat while encroaching their territory. It doesn't matter if you are Thai or not, because dogs are color blind. However, the way you smell might give you off.
It's usually the leader of the pack that is the most aggressive and whatever it does the pack follows suit whether it be charging or retreating.
There are usually a few sentry dogs in the pack guarding an area. If you see one eying you I would get back a bit because if it barks there will be more dogs coming.
The best thing to do is to back away, without turning your back. By keeping a safe distance from aggressive Soi dogs you will have successfully avoided a run in and a bad experience in Thailand.
Mark on December 06, 2015:
This happened to me in Chiang Rai. I woke up early to catch the bus and when I walked down the street (6am) this PACK of dogs came running at me and barking and I thought SHIT that's it for me. But Ikept walking and the bastards fformed a circle around me and "escorted" me for about 2 blocks. I guess I was in their territory but that was terrifying. I kept my cool and showned no sign of weakness or fear as these sons of bitches can feel that. But eventually they left me alone. I love Thailand but the dogs are a problem.
Sean on March 05, 2014:
Living in the Lad Phro area of Bangkok with small children, the soi dog problem is quite disturbing. Our children tend to get easily scared by dogs in general after our encounters with gangs of barking dogs following and attacking us.
Sad to say it's like a gamble every time we and the children go out after sunset. The dogs makes it very hard get around without a car/taxi - visiting friends, shopping, enjoying sport activities etc.
Some areas a worse than others, but we cannot trust a certain street or small soi to be "safe" as these wild dogs roam abound within their territories.
We've had a couple of close calls, so now I look for a stick instinctively when we leave our home for a walk.
Wonder what it will take to get attention from the right people on the problem with these dangerous wild dogs?
Essi on February 07, 2014:
I've been visiting Thailand every year for the last 20years and have never had a run in with a soi dog... At nights it can be a little scary as like stated in comments above they are very protective and territorial... I usually keep some beefy treaties in my pockets and I have made some life long friends with may soi dogs.... Last week I went to Phuket and did some volunteering with SoiDogFoundation (amazon, beautiful, people and organisation )and when u see first hand the abuse and torture of some of the dogs brought in and how these dogs have suffered at the hands of humans it is no wonder that some of them may have a disdain for humans.... Jonathan u got it right initially there are no bad dogs.. Just bad owners...these are not native wild dogs... People, including farang, buy a dog as a pet, irresponsibly not get it desexed and then when a dog no longer fits their lifestyle they get turned out into the street and now u have 1 of 1000's of soi dogs breeding trying to survive a life on the streets against cruel people and other aggressive dogs.... This situation is 100% the fault of people....
Superman_bkk on November 10, 2013:
Nice article. I also live in BKK and these dogs really frighten me everytime. Just today had a face off with a Soi dog, but a nice bike taxi guy came who was standing not very far came with a stick and just frightened the dog away. Saved!
I guess this is useful - http://m.wikihow.com/Protect-Yourself-from-a-Stray...
David Pearl from Bangkok, Thailand on November 05, 2013:
Vegan animal lover but dogs have attacked me and ruined trips to Thailand....Any suggestions ??? I wish I could kill 100 % of them
nopangolins on July 31, 2013:
Staying in Bangkok recently I made the mistake of booking myself into a hotel a little way off the beaten path (Rambuttri road). When I approached the hotel one night down a "soi" a large dog spotted me from near the hotel and started growling. I retreated quickly and walked about a kilometre back to Khoi San road. From there I got tuk-tuk to transport me back to the hotel, dropping me off at the door. I had to repeat this several nights before moving to a more central hotel. These dogs are a real problem and the authorities need to deal with it. They are also a problem in Siem Reap (Cambodia).
Nish on April 07, 2013:
@CommonTravels I think you are an animal lover fanatic. Edwin has the right to be able to walk freely anywhere in Bangkok without fearing for his safety. What if instead of wild dogs, these were wild tigers roaming around. I doubt you would say the same thing. Instead of calling Edwin an idiot, it seems you are the one who is the moron. Unless you are a vegetarian, you are a hypocrite. When my life is being endangered, I have the right to self defense. Killing these dogs would not be wrong in this case.
laraloopsy on February 06, 2013:
Hi Edwin, from the encounters I have witnessed the lion share of the affection goes to the resident poodle/shihtzu that occupies the motorbike basket!! But yes of course many Thai dogs are very well loved by their owners. It is true, making friends with a dog that is unknown to you is not an easy task as they will be wary of you as a stranger and protecting their territory by instinct. As far as the dog is concerned the soi he lives on belongs to him, it is not for general public use!! I think if you find yourself in a situation where you feel intimidated by a dog or dogs, it would be useful to have enough language to speak to the people around and ask them to call the dog off, the dogs should listen to them. If nobody is around, make yourself big, shout 'Bpai lay-o' (apologies for the transliteration!) loudly to the dogs and pretend to pick up something to throw as others have said - golden rule, don't turn your back and never run! Be brave!
Edwin Clark (author) from Thailand by way of New York on February 06, 2013:
Hello laraloopsy, no doubt at all many Thai families take care of soi dogs not only for protection but genuine affection as well.
Yes, sure you can make friends with a stray. But it's sort of difficult when one initially sees a person as an aggressor.
CommonTravels on February 05, 2013:
You idiot. Shame on you for posting something like this. You should post about how these dogs have become this way. Pathetic people capture these poor dogs for illegal meat trade to sell to neighboring countries. They cram them in small cages stacked on top of each other. Many of them suffocate before they even make it to their gruesome death. The ones that make it alive are often skinned alive and killed in the most inhumane ways. These monsters believe that killing these dogs in this way increases meat tenderness. If you want more information about these practices you should see some of the work by the rescues for these dogs. It is so sad, and maybe you should understand why they are threatened by people in the first place before you go and write a post about them labeling all of them as attack dogs. https://www.soidog.org/
laraloopsy on January 26, 2013:
I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that many Thai people feed the dogs in order to gain the protection that they provide to their family/home/place of work. So the dog is just doing his job and earning his scraps. Many 'owners' do not neuter the animals so this obviously creates a population problem but also does not help with dominance or aggression amongst the males. I have worked with soi dogs on the islands - if you take the time to establish a relationship with them, most of them are wonderful creatures with distinctive personalities who you do not need to fear! As for the government controlling the population, sadly this is often done on the islands with indiscriminate strychnine poisoning so pets and/or spayed, neutered, vaccinated strays are killed. It is a horrific death, life for Thai street dogs is hard........a 6 year old dog is considered a survivor.
JonathanEAA on January 08, 2013:
Funny I'm also called Jonathan and I agree 100% with Jonathan.
I also loved dogs, all dogs, always believed there was only bad owners not bad dogs after working with dogs for some time, but after coming here and taking in a soi puppy, I have 100% percent changed my mind. Thes animals should be put down, generations and generations of pore breeding has led to some naturally over teratorial and agresive dogs, with owners who just let there agresive animals roam around, you will be surprised at how many of these stray dogs actually have owners.
Outright pests, no diferent that street rats ownlley bigger and more agresive.
Shaun Metcalfe on May 10, 2012:
Useful article, I've never had a problem with dogs anywhere else in the world but had a couple of unpleasant incidents in Thailand. The worst was in Ayutthaya I got lost one night walking back to my hotel and ended up on a barely lit road when I heard a dog barking then another and suddenly a whole pack, I crossed to the other side of the road walked slowly and avoided looking at them, they kept their distance but were still barking when another pack appeared in front of me, really scary I actually thought I was going to die in a dog attack, fortunately a car came down the road its embarrassing when I think back but I stood in the middle of the road flailing my arms like a mad man, the driver very kindly stopped and picked me up. I had other nasty incidents including being followed by a pack in Aranya Pratet one of which looked particularly aggressive, I was saved again by a car which came wizzing down the road and scared them off. Not sure what it is with dogs in Thailand even just across the border in Cambodia I've never had a problem.