Vietnamese Talents
Looking for development of the Phu Quoc dog breed
  • | SGT | March 12, 2013 05:12 PM
At the International Dog Show held in late December in HCMC, Nguyen Minh Khang’s dog named Mickey won two prizes: the first prize for “Phu Quoc Female Dogs” and the second prize for “Phu Quoc Dogs”.


Nguyen Minh Khang poses with his award-winning Mickey at the International Dog Show last year in HCMC
Minh Khang discussed about the process of raising Phu Quoc dogs and his expectations  of further developing this  breed famous for its intelligence.

A Love for Phu Quoc dogs

It was not simple to train a dog, he said. And it was much harder to have it win awards. Mickey has  gone through only 5-7 training sessions. He trained it to walk back and forth, and then to run. At first, Mickey often refused to follow orders and usually pulled on the leash. But after only 2-3 sessions, things fell in place. “Only training couldn’t lead to a beautiful running dog, but they need to be gifted,” Minh Khang said. Fortunately Mickey is very good at running so it took far less time to train it as compared to other contestants.

Minh Khang’s hobby is pets. “I raise birds and fish and plant bonsai,” he said. However, his great passion is dogs. A colleague gave him two Phu Quoc dogs in 2010. At that time he did not know much about this breed. He searched on Google to find more information about the breed’s trading and standards, and joined forums on Phu Quoc dogs. Thanks to chance and his good observation, Minh Khang got another Phu Quoc dog, which won prizes at the International Dog Show in late December in HCMC. After watching its pictures online, he bought it  at a reasonable price: 1.2 million dong for the 2.5-month-old dog.

Raising Phu Quoc dog is not difficult nor expensive. Minh Khang’s dogs eat rice and fish twice a day. He lives and works in HCMC but his dogs are cared for by his relatives in Ba Ria city.  During weekends, he goes there to spend time with them. He said that the owner must be close to his/her dogs which will show their friendship in return.

He usually spends the weekends looking after his dogs. He observes them to see if there is any sign of illness and if they gain or lose weight. If they gain weight, their meal portions will be reduced, if they are sick they will get more food. He guides his friend in details how to take  good care of the dogs, including giving them proper medication, injection, feeding and bathing.

Besides providing proper health, he also pays attention to the adequacy of their doghouse. The current house was designed and built following guidance collected online. He enclosed an area with a metal trellis fence and built a small doghouse to shelter  them from rain and heat. The yard is divided into two areas: one is paved with cement and the other is filled with sand. The dogs love to play outdoor and roll in the sand. They use their doghouse only when it rains.

Regarding Phu Quoc dogs’ character, Minh Khang said they are too friendly. It is both an advantage and a disadvantage. They are friendly to everyone. As hunting dogs, they require large amount of exercise. If they are raised in the city, their hunting instinct will be affected and their need of activities held back.

However, Phu Quoc dogs are very smart and easy to train. Minh Khang said that when they caught a chicken, he would  punish them so they won’t do it again. It is easy to raise Phu Quoc dogs. They have short hair and no odor so it is not a problem to keep them in-door.  As hunting dogs, they are very alert  and are good guard dogs. “My dogs have been with me for two years. Now they can even catch my thoughts. They are so smart that I don’t need to send them to a training center,” he said.

A dream about standardizing the Phu Quoc breed

Minh Khang’s award-winning dog Mickey  gave birth to 12 puppies three months ago. He only kept three puppies, two males and one female, to see how their genetic characteristics will  develop. He sold the others to those who have the same passion for Phu Quoc dogs. Currently, he wants to find out standards for an award winner dog. He is raising five dogs and a bitch.

His ambition is to develop his own Phu Quoc breed. He plans to select a male dog whose hair color and shape are simiar to Mickey’s for breed and genetic development. His next goal is developing a 15-month-old dog in his herd, called Red Wolf. He said it was a wild dog with a very beautiful red-orange hair.

According to professional trainers, a beautiful Phu Quoc dog must have many criteria. First, its hair and its claws should be good-looking. Second, it should have a small waist, firm  calves, a long tail, a sharp sense of smell, and undamaged teeth and jaws etc ... And it is critical that the dog needs to have a full stride when running.

However, it happens that  some dogs have elements that match the standards but as a whole don’t form a perfect dog. “Another important factor in choosing a dog is to observe it when it’s running,” said Mr Du Thanh Khiem, a Vietnamese-born Belgian fan of Phu Quoc dogs. When a dog is running, all its body parts should move together, then we can see if the dog is well-built or not.

The Phu Quoc breed was once recognized worldwide. However, to date, they have been hybrid. Thailand succeeded in developing its ridgeback breed and registered its international trademark. Thai people even claim that Phu Quoc dogs were originated from their ridgeback breed.

Many people, including Minh Khang, who are devoted to Phu Quoc dogs try to conserve and develop this breed. But how to make the word recognize the Phu Quoc breeed again? “First, it is important to gradually restore the breed,” Thanh Khiem said. “Second, the two founding countries, France and Belgium, of the international organization for  dogs - Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) – need to recognize the Phu Quoc breed. France has agreed to recognize it and I am working on Belgium. If Belgium also agrees, our Phu Quoc dogs will have the right to participate in the international dog shows.”

The Organizing Committee of the International Dog Show also wants the world to recognize this particular breed. “The Show is an opportunity to introduce the current breeds in Vietnam to international dog lovers. This is one of our activities to make FCI acknowledge the Phu Quoc ridgeback of Vietnam, “ said Mr Ly Nguyen Khon, Chairman of the Organizing Committee.

Phu Quoc dogs could participate at international dog shows if there are 1,000 dogs recognized as purebred. It is an absolute requirement for breed recognition. However, it is really a challenge since raising and breeding Phu Quoc dogs is still a fragmented and spontaneous activity, and there is not an overall strategic plan for development.

Origin of the Phu Quoc Dogs

Phu Quoc dogs are  island dogs, different from the other dogs by their ridgeback. They are one of three ridgeback breeds in the world. The two others include the Rhodesian ridgeback and the Thai ridgeback.

Two American scientists, Merle Wood and Merle Hidinger, said that ridgeback is only seen with the ridgeback breed in eastern Thailand and the African ridgeback dogs. Therefore, Phu Quoc dogs firmly rooted in the Thai breed and reached the Phu Quoc Island 400 years ago. However, according to Nguyen Van Bien from Can Tho University, this hypothesis is unreasonable since at that time, Thai fishermen could not sail more than 400-500 kilometers to reach the Phu Quoc sea.

Phu Quoc dogs are highly appreciated by their wild beauty and unusual intelligence. They were once referred in the “Larousse du Chien” (Larousse Dictionary About Dogs). In the 19th century, Phu Quoc dogs were widely recognized by the Western wealthy. However, through many ups and downs, the Phu Quoc breed is currently not recognized.

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