Thai Ridgeback: They Will Keep You On Your Toes

Thai Ridgeback standing on ground
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Are you looking for a family dog? One that will protect your home and children? Are you experienced with dogs? Well, the Thai Ridgeback is definitely a breed you should put on your list.

These native Thailand dogs are fully packed with hunting and guarding skills. Though they can be a handful to deal with at times, they are full of loyalty and love.

Before we go on, we need to be honest with you. The Thai Ridgeback is not a dog for those who are looking for their first pet. The Thai Ridgeback is an exceptional breed but needs a firm hand when it comes to their owner. With a firm hand, they’ll be able to use their skills properly and really exude their best qualities.

The Thai Ridgeback is an extremely interesting and rare breed. We’re about to uncover some of the mystery behind the Thai Ridgeback. So, want to learn more about this breed? From personality to feeding schedule, by the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll know everything about them.

Breed Characteristics

Thai Ridgeback's head

  • Adaptability: Good

  • Trainability: Below Average; they are not for first-time dog owners

  • Health and Grooming: Good

  • All Around Friendliness: Moderate

  • Exercise Needs: High Maintenance

Dog Breed GroupHound Dogs
Height20 to 24 inches at the shoulder
Weight35 to 55 pounds
Lifespan10 to 12 years

The Thai Ridgeback is an old breed dating back to at least 350 years ago. They were discovered in an isolated area of Thailand, near the Vietnam and Cambodia borders. In 1004, they were brought to the USA by a San Francisco native, Jack Sterling.

Originally, people used this breed to escort their carts and guard their property. In addition, they also protected their families from cobras and would kill them on the spot.

The Thai Ridgeback is extremely rare outside of Thailand and is an incredible breed. They’re extremely stubborn and love to push their limits and boundaries, seeing how far they can go. Thus, a firm hand is needed when training them—and training is a must. If not, they can easily start to run your home, which is why they’re not ideal if you’re looking for your first dog.

See Also: First Time Dog Owner: Comprehensive Guide

Once they’ve gone through training, they’re extremely loyal and protective dogs. They will fight for their families, which makes them exceptional guard dogs for your home.

They’re relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming; however, they do require daily exercise as they’re high-energy dogs. So, if you already go for daily walks or runs, they’ll be a great companion.

Main Highlights

Thai Ridgeback's puppy

  • The Thai Ridgeback dates back to the Middle Ages.

  • They’re isolated in Thailand, which means their breed is extremely pure.

  • Jack Sterling, a San Francisco native, visited Thailand in 1994 and encountered this breed prior to bringing back the first Thai Ridgeback to the United States.

  • They’re extremely loyal and protective of their family.

  • The Thai Ridgeback is quite challenging to train. Thus, owners must be experienced with training animals.

  • They were originally used as a sentry dog and to keep cobras away. If confronted by a cobra, they will kill it.

  • Some Thai Ridgebacks were born with dew claws on the back of their feet.

  • If you want them to stay out of trouble, they require a decent amount of daily exercise.

  • The Thai Ridgeback has been around since antiquity.

  • The Thai Ridgeback is considered a primitive breed in its native country of Thailand.

  • The Thai Ridgeback is also called the Mah Thai, Thai Dog, and the Mah Thai Lung Arn.

  • They’re a strong and healthy breed with minimal health issues.

Breed History

Thai Ridgeback lying on white cloth

The Thai Ridgeback has a rich history and has been documented as far back as 350 years ago in Thailand. Though, many historians believe that the breed is even older than that.

The main theory that historians believe is that the Thai Ridgeback descended from the Hottentot dog, which is now extinct. It’s believed that the Hottentot dog played a crucial role in the development of the Thai Ridgeback.

The Thai Ridgeback was used as an all-purpose breed as they make excellent companions but are also exceptional hunters and guard dogs. They originated mainly in East Thailand on the island of Dao Phu Quoc which borders Vietnam and Cambodia. Due to their isolation from other breeds, they have a strong and distinctive appearance.

In 1994, San Francisco native Jack Sterling visited Thailand and encountered this breed. He discovered a veterinarian who showed him the breed, and he decided to bring back a 5-month-old male, Sakron, and two females, Bent and Navinee, to the USA.

He then entered the two youngest Thai Ridgebacks in the Rare Breed Association show in Washington, D.C. the same year. In 1997, the Thai Ridgeback was included in the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service program. Then, in 2003, Sterling returned back to Thailand in order to continue his breeding program.


black Thai Ridgeback

The Thai Ridgeback is a medium-sized dog that’s well-built. These dogs are muscular with prominent features. The ridge that runs down their spine adds a swiftness to their look.

This breed can weigh anywhere from 35 to 55 pounds, and they usually have a height of between 20 to 24 inches at the shoulder. With this breed, the males tend to be noticeably larger than the females.

Personality and Character

Thai Ridgeback running with a stick

The Thai Ridgeback is not one of the “sits and listens” type of breeds. The Thai Ridgeback certainly has a mind of their own, which is what you’re going to notice immediately.

They love to get their own way and can become quite stubborn when they don’t. They will constantly test their limits and push the boundaries to see how far they can get their way. Hence, it’s important that owners have previous training experience because they’re going to need it.

Though they’re stubborn, they are highly intelligent and understand authority. If you have firm leadership, they’ll respect and listen to you.

See Also: Electronic Dog Training Collars

They’re exceptional hunters and will go after any small and fuzzy animal. It’s ideal that you take them on walks or runs as they have a lot of energy that needs to be unleashed.

They make for excellent watchdogs. They’ll bark only if they feel threatened.

The Thai Ridgeback has a tendency to favor one person in the family, though they will protect the entire family with their lives. In short, if you’re looking for a dog to entertain you and that will sleep with your pet cat, this isn’t the breed for you.

Health and Potential Problems

Thai Ridgeback lying on floor

Dogs are no different than humans when it comes to health. Regardless of where you’re from, everyone is prone to some type of hereditary health condition. In this case, the Thai Ridgeback, though is an extremely healthy breed, also has some health conditions that you need to keep an eye on.

Here are some of the health conditions that are more common in their breed. Do remember that each individual dog is different and some may have more problems than others.

#1: Hip Dysplasia

This condition is typically more common in larger breeds than smaller ones. You can treat mild cases of hip dysplasia with pain medication. However, more severe cases will require your Thai Ridgeback to undergo hip replacement surgery.

You may be wondering if there’s a way to screen this condition in dogs and the answer is yes. When going to a breeder, they should provide you with a certificate of the health of the parents as this is typically a hereditary condition.

Now, the certificate will show that the parents are healthy, but there’s always a chance that your Thai Ridgeback may have hip dysplasia regardless of the parent’s health.

#2: Dermoid Sinus Cyst

A dermoid sinus, also known as a pilonidal sinus, is a skin defect that’s caused by the incomplete separation of the dog’s skin and nervous system. This condition is usually formed while the puppy is still in the mother’s womb and is a genetic disorder.

This condition causes cysts to form underneath the skin, typically near the spine. A dermoid sinus can open your dog up to inflammation of the spinal cord and brain. Though, treatment is possible.

Care Features

Thai Ridgeback standing in grass

The Thai Ridgeback is a big dog that’s amped with energy. It’s crucial that you properly exercise your Thai Ridgeback. If not, they can easily become bored and destructive.

Daily exercise is highly recommended, and if they’re trained, off-leash runs or playtime in a fenced area will help exert their energy. They love to swim, hike, play fetch, frisbee, and play hide-and-seek.

If you live in an apartment, the Thai Ridgeback will be fine. However, you need to make sure that they’re properly exercised. The ideal amount of exercise would be two decent walks/runs/playtime per day—one in the morning and one in the evening.

See Also: Hiking with Dogs

Feeding Schedule

Like all breeds, the Thai Ridgeback requires a high-quality diet. Like humans, what they eat reflects on their bodies. Most likely, the food you select for your dog will be the food they eat for their entire lives, which is why choosing the right brand of dog food is essential.

When choosing a brand, always consult your vet. If you’re deciding to home-prepare food for your Thai Ridgeback, double check with your vet that your meals contain enough carbohydrates and proteins as this will change depending on their age, activity level, and health.

See Also: Healthiest Dog Food Brands

The Thai Ridgeback, if fed too much or fed low-quality, food has the potential to become overweight, so you need to keep an eye on calorie consumption and activity level.

Since the Thai Ridgeback is challenging to train, using treats will become a crucial part of your training regime, however, don’t give out too many as it will cause obesity. Lastly, alongside their food, you should always have a fresh, clean bowl of water available for them throughout the day.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Thai Ridgeback puppies of different colors

The Thai Ridgeback comes in four colors: black, red, fawn, and gray. They’re well known for the signature ridge of hair that runs down their spine. Though, not all Thai Ridgebacks have this signature ridge.

What’s interesting with the Thai Ridgeback is that with those that do have the ridge, it can come in eight different ridge patterns which may go against the rest of their coat.

Now, you may be thinking that their coat will need extra grooming due to this ridge, but that’s not true. In fact, the Thai Ridgeback is extremely low maintenance when it comes to grooming.

The Thai Ridgeback has a short, straight, and hard coat; therefore, a decent brushing will be able to remove any dead cells and loose hairs. During the molting period, frequent brushing will be required as they do tend to shed a fair amount. However, this only happens once or twice a year.

If you’re looking for a dog that’s easy on allergies, since the Thai Ridgeback lacks an undercoat, their coat tends not to aggravate allergies like other breeds.

Aside from their coat, it’s essential that you trim their nails and check their ears. Their nails grow quite quickly. Thus, trimming will prevent overgrowth and splitting. Check their ears to prevent wax buildup and loose debris from entering further into the ear as this can cause an infection.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Thai Ridgeback and man's hand


The Thai Ridgeback does very well in a family setting. They love to protect their family and are highly loyal animals, which is what makes them great family dogs.

They can be very good with children; however, they need to be brought up with them and properly trained. Once that’s done, they’ll be great around children. However, regardless of the breed, you should always supervise your dog around small children.

With other pets, they can be fine around dogs if they’re brought up with them; however, as they’re avid hunters, they will not do well around small animals such as guinea pigs, cats, and ferrets. Their hunting instincts are strong, and they will go after them.

See Also: Best Dog Breeds for Cats

Wrap Up

Thai Ridgeback dogs playing together

When it comes to choosing a dog, it’s never a breeze. You want a dog that’s going to fit your home and blend into your family, not stick out like a sore thumb. Plus, it’s not like you have only a couple options to choose from; you have hundreds of different breeds, many that share similar characteristics. Naturally, finding the right one can be a challenge. But that’s what we’re here for.

The Thai Ridgeback is a medium-sized breed that loves to be active and be around their family. If you have the time and, of course, the will to go for walks and runs with your Thai Ridgeback, then this may be a good breed for you. Plus, if you’ve had a dog before, then training the Thai Ridgeback won’t be such a challenge.

Though this breed has many positive qualities, there are some traits that will definitely not suit everyone.

They can be quite stubborn and difficult to train, plus, they need a lot of physical activity. Now, if this is your first dog, then this is definitely not the breed for you as they can easily run your house if you don’t have firm limits and boundaries. However, if you’re experienced with training dogs, once you’ve paid the training period, they’re great listeners and companions.

If you’re looking for an energetic, quiet, and protective breed, then why not consider bringing home a Thai Ridgeback? This former hunting breed is highly loyal and protective to their family members, making them exceptional dogs to join your home.

Do you think the Thai Ridgeback will be able to fit into your family? Let us in on your opinion by posting a comment below! Also, check out our list of exotic dog names if you’re looking for the perfect name for your newly adopted Thai Ridgeback.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.