A little over 10 months ago, tucked away at the back of a small cage among his mother and brothers I found Huxley, the white and brown Border collie that has become part of my family. Looking after a dog can be difficult in Vietnam, coming with its own set of challenges, and there is a lot to learn when training a pup in the country. With all this in mind Chào has put together a list of dos and don’ts that should help when it comes to looking after man’s best friend in Hanoi. It is by no means exhaustive, but we are sure a few these will help when it comes to ensuring your dog is safe and well in the capital and beyond.
One of the first lessons to learn is that a lot of these dogs are not kept in the best environments as puppies, and often will soon get sick after you take them in. Two-month old Huxley was riddled with illnesses and was administered a large quantity of medicine for the first few months. These medicines along with the many vaccines necessary for any pup proved to be quite expensive (around 5,000,000 VND).
However, if you get past the initial stages you will likely find yourself with a healthy pup, so here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to owning a dog in Vietnam.
Do train your dog to ride on the motorbike from an early age if you are going to let them travel this way. When just a tiny guy, Huxley would curl up in my jacket as we drove around. This got him use to the motorbike. When he got bigger, he would sit on the floor of the scooter. For those with semi-automatics, I have even seen dogs trained to stand upright and hold on.
“I couldn’t believe all the big dogs on motorbikes! It’s amazing to see people and their dogs adapt to different lifestyles,” said Hanoi resident Bonnie Van Aswegen. “The first time I took my dog Eevee on the motorbike, she loved it. She loved it so much that she pooped all over me. Luckily I saw the mess before walking into the shop.”
Don’t let your dog become too comfortable with the
busy Hanoi traffic. As a border collie, Huxley instinctively herds things –
from people, to chickens to, you guessed it, motorbikes. I immediately trained
Huxley out of this by scolding him when he was getting too close to motorbikes
Do take your dog out as much you can, with bigger breeds generally requiring more exercise. Try Hanoi Botanical Gardens, the park near Puzzles and Anita Cantina, or Huxley’s favorite, Bai Da Vuon Hoa Song Hong – a botanical garden with open fields, near the river. If your dog is well trained, you can let him or her off leash to play fetch, meet other dogs and feel the general freedom and joy of a dog in a park. You can also take your dog to most restaurants and bars.
Lauren Lackey has only had her dog Barnes a short while, but
has loved looking after him. “I was immensely surprised by the warmth of
the dog community here,” she said. There are no dedicated dog parks or
safe areas to let dogs off leash to run around, but people have been
supportive and willing to share information. The community has made life with a dog much easier.”
Don’t let your dog out of your sight or have him or her off leash outside of the park. Dog catchers and dog thieves are all too common. If it is a Vietnamese dog they will be stolen and sold into the dog meat industry. If the dog is a more expensive breed like a border collie they will be sold either back to the owner or to another buyer as a pet. Even if it is for just a quick pee at night, do not let your dog out unsupervised.
Anastacia Susilo lived in Saigon for nearly five years before moving to Hanoi, and has a dog called Meatball. She said she “noticed there’s more dog napping in Hanoi, however there’s more dog poisoning in Saigon […] I guess so they can steal them?”
On being social (with dogs and humans)
Do let as many people as possible pet your dog (if
your dog likes people and is generally friendly). There is a tendency of many
locals to be afraid of dogs. This is on account that most dogs are trained to
be guard dogs and thus are less then friendly when it comes to strangers. Dogs
Huxley show people that animals can be a part of the family and a friendly companion to all humans, big and small.
Don’t introduce your dog to other street dogs. Sometimes it can be okay, but if you are remotely uncertain of the encounter then steer clear. Make sure to carry a stick with you when walking your dog – if a street dog does attack your little buddy it is better to be able to give it a good whack to scare it off then have to sacrifice your hand to break up the fight. I have seen this many, many times, so do not set you and your dog up for a painful encounter. Carry a stick.
This has long been a worry for Van Aswegen who said, “Watch out for other dogs when walking your dog. I’m lucky I’ve never had a problem before, but a lot of local dogs roam free around the streets and might be aggressive.”
To pee or not to pee
Do let your dog pee outside in any place you will not be yelled at.
Don’t let your dog pee in front of a house or, sometimes, in an alley or on a pile of garbage. I’m unsure about this rule – I see men peeing on the streets all the time, but I have been yelled at on several occasions for letting my dog pee in the corner of an alley away from everyone’s house. So, I am not even sure about this one. Perhaps better safe than sorry.
Show who is boss
Do assert your ownership over your dog, especially as a woman, because there are plenty of foreigners and locals alike that will tell how to train your dog at any given opportunity, solicited or not.
Don’t get into arguments with these people because often they are drunk foreigners or grumpy old Vietnamese men – neither of which, unsurprisingly, will be open to a sound argument.
Health and expenses
Do go to Happy Pet Valley or Asvelis Vet for all your Veterinary needs. The staff are friendly and the pricing fair. Also, make sure to have Gaia Vet Hospital in your phone as they are a 24 emergency vet clinic.
Don’t expect owning a dog to be cheap – vaccinations, food and accidents will all cost a pretty penny, so be aware of the financial situation you are getting into.
Traveling with your dog
Do train your dog to become comfortable in a crate if
he or she is likely to be doing this type of traveling. This is important as
you don’t want your dog to get anxiety on the flight, so buy a crate right away
and train him or her at home so he or she is comfortable in the crate when it
time to travel.
“[We took] Meatball on the plane when we moved from Saigon to Hanoi. Our vet helped us with the paperwork and it was fairly easy, but stressful on Meatball,” Susilo said.
Don’t expect every city, car, hotel or restaurant to
be dog friendly. Most places in Vietnam are dog friendly, but always call ahead
to ensure that your little friend can come along. “We’ve travelled by a
private shuttle, car and bus, usually no issue.” Susilo said. “I always call ahead to let them know we have a small dog. Travels companies and hotels or guest houses usually just charge us a little extra for bringing our dog.”
Do carry water with you and be sure to take breaks from the hot heat.
Don’t trim all of your dog’s fur as it is self-regulating in the heat and cutting it all off can cause sunburn. Also, even on hot days, take your dog out – they are animals and they need to be outside. Just make sure you take regular breaks.
A dog’s dinner
Do buy dog food from any of the pet shops or from L’s
Place (130,000-300,000 VND for a medium bag). Also, feed your dog plain rice
and raw egg from time to time to help with digestion. Susilo said that
something that surprised her about Vietnam was that many locals “limit
water [for their
dogs] so they don’t pee and of course have no nutrients in their food […] it’s just sad.”
Don’t let others feed your dog without asking.
Especially if they are offering chicken (this has happened so often) – dogs
will often choke on chicken bones. Be aware, often people will try to feed your
pup when you are not looking. Also, be aware of rat poison, which is often
found in many
homes, this is the last thing you want your furry friend to eat. In many cases it is fatal.
Han Giang, owner of Tay Ho-based Fish Bar, has a different set of worries when it comes to looking after her dog Sausage. “Well, growing up in a bar he is pretty social, sometimes too social,” she said. “My main problem is making sure my customers don’t keep giving him beer. He seems to have developed a bit of a taste for it.”
On pet hotels
Do let your pet stay at Etti Pet Shop if you work during the day or if you go away on a trip without your little dude (200,000 VND per day). They will take amazing care of your pup and send you videos every day. They also offer an excellent grooming service (400,000 VND).
Van Aswegen and Lackey both agree that owning a dog is highly rewarding. “The best thing about having a dog is that even after a bad day, seeing how excited they are to see you when you get home, it lifts your spirits and changes your attitude,” said Van Aswegen. Lackey was more succinct: “Having a dog is better than Tinder – I highly recommend it!”
There you have it. These are just some of the dos and don’ts of owning a dog in Vietnam, but of course the list could be considerably expanded.
Having a dog can be one of the most rewarding things, but also one of the most taxing, especially for someone who enjoys travel. You can always take your dog with you when you are traveling, but if you are considering getting a pup just remember it is very stressful and difficult at times.
Do not take your decision to get a dog lightly. It is not a choice to make on a whim, but if you do decide to get a little furry companion then he or she will surely change your life for the better. Huxley certainly has changed mine!
Hanoi Doggie Photo Competition
Happy Pet Clinic will provide a Free Health Check Up for your dog for the winners of the Chao Hanoi Doggie Photo Competition, post a photo of your dog in this group for a chance to win! bit.ly/2w5MtR9
Pet Clinics in Hanoi
Happy Pet Clinic
103B, Lane 12 Dang Thai Mai Street, Tay Ho
024 3718 3621 Hotline: 0903 268 266
Gaia Pet Clinic
No. 38 – Lane 1 – F361
An Duong, Yen Phu, Tay Ho
024 3795 6956 – Hotline: 094 666 1080
No.2, Lane 67 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho
024 3718 2779
Etti Pet Shop
Số 11, Ngõ 9, Đặng Thai Mai, Tây Hồ,
038 681 0993