Last year I did my first SEA trip (4 weeks, mostly Laos and a bit of northern Thailand). When I think back, I realize that the only thing I felt uncomfortable about was, well, encounters with some dogs. In Nan, Thailand, and Vientiane (riverfront at midnight!) I had aggresive dogs barking at me, a couple of times I had to bow and pretend picking up a stone to stop them from attacking me.
It's not that I'm cynophobic or something, (although admittedly a cat-lover) but I came across various remarcs while searching in blogs or travel sites regarding "unfriendly" dogs in Savannaketh or Banlung or...
Any similar experiences or maybe suggestions?
Err..., if you have some horror stories, please don't post them here. I just booked the flight for my next trip, so my sensitivity level is rather high. Thanks.
I found a few territorial mutts around Savannaketh in particular. I also had a dog dart for me pretty aggressively when I was slowing my bike down on Bokor Highlands near Kampot and been nearly chased down while on a bicycle in Xishuanbanna, China. However, on the beaches of Ko Maak I had great experiences with the beach dogs escorting me back from one end of the beach to another late at night and friendly mongrels hanging out around the huts of Tad Lo, Laos.
My overall feeling has been that city dogs are more aggressive and should be treated with caution while many of the beach dogs or dogs in smaler communities in more popular tourist areas will not bother you as much, and can often be very friendly.
See I think you've got to worry more in small towns than big cities. I've yet to come across an aggressive dog in Bangkok, save a toy poodle that yipped at me when I tried to take its picture. In Ayutthaya I got surrounded late at night by like 6 barking dogs. I just walked right through them as though I wasn't scared in the least and they just let me through - no bid deal. I agree that beach dogs are generally very low key. I did get bit by a dog on Ko Kradan - but it was my fault - the dog was limping and I tried to see what was wrong with its leg... I had been petting and hanging out with the dog throughout the day and it seemed super chill... That's what I get for forgetting it's a stray dog in Thailand. Another time I had two dogs dart aggressively at me outside of Hoi An in Vietnam. That one was a little scary.
The most potentially dangerous situation I've had with dogs was in Pak Chong near Khao Yai NP. My girlfriend and I were riding bikes down a dirt road surrounded by farms and woods when we came across a few dogs in the middle of the road. These were red wild dogs - they're a problem up that way. As they started barking and coming towards us, other dogs started coming out of the woodwork. There must have been 18 or so and they all started chasing. We pedaled our asses off in the other direction. They chased for a while and finally gave up. That was the worst because packs tend to do things that individual dogs wouldn't. For like a month after that I was looking around everywhere I went to see if there were trees or structures I could climb in case a pack of dogs showed up. :0
Oh sorry, you said no horror stories... But come on, you're kind of asking for them. Truthfully, though, in the 3 years I've spent in SE Asia the only time I had an actual problem was that one on Ko Kradan, which was totally my own fault. And even then, a little rubbing alcohol and I was fine (the dog was obviously not rabid).
Get a can of mace if it makes you uncomfotable. I was threatened by a pack a few times - but I'm definitely a dog guy and literally talked them out of trouble. I also feel sure I can kill a dog easily with my bare hands rather quickly, and I think they sense that. So I'm never actually afraid. We have some pretty aggressive dogs near the Tae Kwon Do studio where I train, but as long as you don't show any fear and don't run away (their pursuit instinct kicking in) they are most likely to just bark to let you know you are in their domain. The worst case I actually had was in my wife's village when my fahter in laws dog followed me around (like a dog) and we were all but attacked by a pack from the temple. They were very aggressive, but a bash in the head from a stick I picked up (a stout stick) and the rest decided that safety was the better part of valor and backed off. My dad's dog stayed tight with me, which was a plus. Most of the time though I don't have any trouble with dogs at all. But if you are concerned, like I said, a can of mace in your pocket should allay your fears. They hate that crap almost as much as I do.
I was in a town once where a local remarked on how all the dogs were dying, or having to be killed.
I was with two other foreigners at the time. We all looked at each other. We'd been in the town 3 days.
In Asia I pretty much ignore dogs and pretend to stoop and get rocks if they bark too close. Entering a village I've had the little boys huck rocks at the dogs for us, those kids can throw rocks hard and with accuracy. Ultimately I carry but haven't had to use, mace, good for dogs with four legs and two.
I've likewise run across a few dogs showing aggression in Thailand. I figured out that when one starts following me and growling, if I partially turn my head so to look to the side, the dog normally backs off. Dunno why (I've never owned a dog or spent much time with them, so I don't know anything about their behaviour) but it often works for solo dogs. Less so for packs - those I just try and avoid. Another tourist told me about the holding-a-rock trick, but after I'd left Thailand so I never tried it out.
It can be scary, I know, but just remind yourself they rarely actually attack, and you can nearly always bluff them off.