Thai Ridgebacks

The Thai Ridgeback is a primitive breed that originated in Thailand and was first brought to the United States in 1994. Primitive dogs, sometimes known as pariah dogs, have distinctive physical traits that include moderate size, prick ears, wedge-shaped heads, wrinkled foreheads, squarish bodies with long legs, and smooth coats.

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. Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in acquiring a Thai Ridgeback.

Is the Thai Ridgeback the Right Dog for You?

The Thai Ridgeback 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. Males weigh 45 to 55 pounds, with females being slightly smaller. And, of course, 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.

This is a smart dog who is an independent thinker—two strikes against him as a choice for a first-time or inexperienced dog owner. He will push you to the edge to see what he can get away with. If you let him “win” just 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 is protective of the entire family.

Early, frequent socialization is critical to 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. Continue socializing your Thai Ridgeback throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and 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 use of games or treats, for instance, the better your chances of success.

The Thai Ridgeback is a good playmate for older children, but a puppy can be too rambunctious around toddlers. Cats are likely to be viewed as prey, and he will probably be aggressive towards dogs he doesn’t know, although 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. A couple of long walks or runs should satisfy him. He is also eligible to compete in lure coursing competitions. With a Thai Ridgeback, the axiom to remember is that a tired dog is a good dog.

Always walk your Thai Ridgeback on 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, so make sure the fence is high. An underground electronic fence will not serve to keep the Thai Ridgeback contained. He’s not one to let a shock stop him from crossing it if he sees something he wants to chase.

Better yet, keep him indoors, especially if the weather is rainy or cold. Being from Southeast Asia, he’s not one to appreciate that type of climate.

Once he is housetrained and past puppyhood, the Thai Ridgeback is unlikely to be destructive in the home. Until he reaches maturity, though, 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.

The Thai Ridgeback has a short coat that is easily cared for with a weekly brushing. Use a rubber curry to keep it gleaming. The only other grooming the Thai Ridgeback needs is regular nail trimming, ear cleaning and tooth brushing. He sheds year-round, but not heavily. Give him a bath when he is dirty, maybe once or twice a year.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Thai Ridgeback Puppy

  1. More information about the Thai Ridgeback, including breeder contact information, can be found on the websites of the Association of Thai Ridgeback Owners and Fanciers and the American Kennel Club, which registers the rare breed with its Foundation Stock Service. The breed is uncommon outside his homeland and potential owners may experience a wait of six months or more before a puppy is available.
  2. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Thai Ridgebacks aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Thai Ridgeback can live to be 10 to 13 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
  3. Puppy or adult, take your Thai Ridgeback to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, and in particular to watch out for the early signs of diabetes and skin problems, including ear infections.
  4. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to Thai Ridgebacks

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from 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.

The Thai Ridgeback is a healthy breed in general, but he has some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia and 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 eventually 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 to 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 evidence that a Thai Ridgeback puppy’s parents have hips that have been rated as fair, good or excellent.

A dermoid sinus is a genetic skin condition that can appear as single or multiple bumps on the middle of the back. It results from incomplete development of the neural tube. Infection of a dermoid sinus can result in serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as meningitis and myelitis.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing. Look for your puppy elsewhere.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia
Medium $1,500-$6,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for Thai Ridgebacks

Pet insurance for Thai Ridgebacks costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Thai Ridgebacks are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Thai Ridgebacks are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Thai Ridgeback is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.

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