In April, the Bangkok Post reported that by the end of 2016, there will be more than one million stray dogs (known as soi dogs) in Thailand. We love dogs, and we have made many soi dog friends during our time in Thailand. However, we are very vigilant and cautious when we are around dogs because the SE Asia region is a rabies-endemic area.
According to the World Health Organization, dogs are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans. While rabies is not a major risk to most travelers in Thailand, if you are bitten you will need to go through a series of rabies vaccinations.
While visiting Idaho this summer, I saw a news report praising a police officer in Meridian, Idaho for handling a vicious dog attack without the use of lethal force. The video was captured on the officer’s body cam and it is a great tutorial for how react to a vicious dog attack. In an interview, Meridian Patrol Officer David Gomez said, “You kind of have to have some faith in the training because until you do it, it’s hard to imagine that just pointing a stick at a dog will work. But in this case it worked beautifully.”
Last week, Sara and I were visiting Khao Lak, Thailand and we were walking early in the morning to a beachfront swing in a public park near our hotel. There were four dogs laying around the swing, a common occurrence for Thailand whether it be a swing, an ATM, or a 7-Eleven! As we neared, one of the dogs became aggressive and charged, barking and growling. The other dogs followed suit, but they were not pressing.
I had a large, heavy umbrella and I pointed it, handle first, at the aggressive dog. It attempted to side step the umbrella, but I simply kept it pointing toward his nose. This created a tense, nerve-wracking stalemate that lasted several minutes as we attempted to slowly retreat to safety. At that time, the dogs saw someone that they appeared to know at beachfront building next to the park and ran off toward that person. It works!
Since that event, I have read up more on the technique and the one thing that seems constant is to point the umbrella (or stick, cane, etc) at the dog, do not swing. Swinging gives the dog the opportunity to attack and may escalate the situation.
I am glad that I saw Officer Gomez’s video and that I happened to be carrying a large umbrella. From now on, a large umbrella or walking stick will accompany us on all of our walks!