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The Tenacious Thai Ridgeback Dog

For Jeanine Burkart, it was love at first sight: an amazing looking dog who quietly followed its owner wherever she went like a shadow — attentive, alert, a true best friend who was laser-focused on the one human, not other dogs or other people. Burkart had never seen anything like it. “It was so out of the normal,” she said in recent phone interview about the breed. “It acts so different.”

That was some 20 years ago, and since then, Burkart, now a Texas-dwelling beer brewmaster, has become an expert on the breed, the Thai Ridgeback Dog. She is a very small-scale family breeder whose operation is called Clements Ridge TRD. A breed ambassador who brought some of her dogs to the Golden Gate Kennel Club dog show in 2019, Burkart wants dog lovers to know the following about the breed she so cherishes but cautioned, “It’s not meant to become the next hot dog breed.” 

—Judith M. Gallman

What kind of dog is the Thai Ridgeback Dog?

The TRD is a natural hunting and guarding dog that has existed for a very long time. It is a primitive dog and not related to the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Its origin is in southeast Thailand/Cambodia. Males are 22 inches to 24 inches tall and weigh about 65 pounds; females are 20 inches to 22 inches tall and weigh about 50 pounds. The life span is 10 years to 14 years.

Are the dogs shaved? 

No. TRD have a so-called velvet coat. TRD come in a standard coat, which is normal to short coat. The ridge is formed by the hair growing in the opposite direction to the rest of the coat. There are various shapes of ridges. TRD come in blue, black, red, and fawn.

Does a TRD shed? Do they freeze?

They do shed. On a velvet coat, however, it is minimal. Image the lint of your clothes dryer. Coming from a tropical climate, TRD need to live indoors in most climates and possibly wear a blanket outside when it is cold/wet. They have no undercoat. Their hair does not protect them much from injury.

Is a TRD right for me?

The breed is protective, alert, and active. If you are an advanced dog person, are willing to share your active lifestyle, and invest time in your dog, possibly. A TRD is not a great kids’ dog nor is it very social with other dogs.

If well bred, raised properly, and socialized, the TRD is a loyal pet that loves you and yours and is aloof with strangers. As a guarding breed, they are naturally protective of their home and can be reserved and suspicious with strangers.

Does a TRD hunt? Is it noisy?

Yes, mice, rabbits, birds, deer, and possibly your cat. He’s also an excellent jumper and climber. A good fencing system is a must. We use a GPS fence system to keep ours contained.

A TRD is not much of a barker unless there is something unusual about. They tend to make other interesting grunting and growling noises.

Is a TRD clean?

Yes, most TRD are more like a cat when it comes to getting dirty — they despise rain, wet, and mud. The short hair does not hold much dirt and smell. Fleas and ticks are less attracted to a TRD than other dogs.

Is a TRD easy to train?

Yes and no. The TRD is a smart dog and an independent thinker. It will understand things and rules quickly but will never be an obedience type dog. They are prone to questioning instructions and testing boundaries, so must not be allowed to get away with bad behavior. That said, if you have great canine leadership qualities — firmness, consistency, and love — the tenacious Thai Ridgeback can be your best friend.

How much exercise?

Once adult, one large adventure per day should be sufficient. A content and exercised TRD will be barely noticed — they sleep. It is possible to keep a TRD in a small home as long as they are provided with the exercise they require each day, though they would prefer a rural home with outdoor access. If not provided with the energy outlet they need, they are likely to become destructive within the house due to their boredom and frustration.

What about feeding, maintenance, and health? 

Being primitive, TRD oftentimes have sensitivities toward ingredients in standard/cheap dog foot. A lot of TRD owners choose to feed raw or homemade dog food.

Not much grooming is required — clip nails, clean ears. Being a natural/primitive breed, health issues are infrequent. Dermatoid sinus can occur and should be detected and removed as a young puppy. Cases of hip dysplasia have been reported.

Will I have trouble finding a TRD?

Since this is a rare breed, you may have to wait some time for a litter and possibly it will not be close by. Purchase a TRD puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different people, sights, and sounds before they go off into their new homes. For best results, get your puppy at 8 weeks and continue socialization immediately.

While many dogs exist in Thailand, they are kennel raised and no puppy can be imported until it is at least 4 months out. A lot of time and money will be spent before you have a trusting, stable pet — if you are lucky.

Anything else about socialization?

TRD need to be socialized from an early age. Because they are guard dogs, they will mistrust and can be aggressive toward strangers if not properly socialized. Because they are primitive dogs, they can be timid in unknown environments unless properly socialized. This is make or break between having a well-adapted sociable dog and a nightmare dog.

If you are interested in owning a TRD, do your homework. Talk to breeders/owners, meet dogs, and research. This information represents only a small and incomplete overview.

To learn more about Jeanine Burkart and Clements Ridge TRD, call her at 209-747-2586, or visit her on Facebook at Facebook.com/ClementsTRD.

Main article photo by: Photo by Devid Do