Meet the national Phu Quoc Ridgeback champion barking up a storm

By Phan Duong   May 7, 2020 | 04:00 am PT
Rising star Loc, a Phu Quoc Ridgeback, is fast racking up the accolades at one dog show after another following two-months of training.

Khieu Bang Doan, an expert dog trainer, said: "No Phu Quoc dog has ever achieved the highest title in such a short time."

In his nine years of experience in the profession, training hundreds of dogs, Doan said Loc is his best pupil.

Four-and-a-half-year old Loc, meaning tornado or swirl in Vietnamese, is famous for having a "nearly perfect" body ratio and topped six out of seven national dog shows after only two months of training.

His owner is Le Thi Ha, a pharmacist running a chain of pharmacies. She owns an additional five dog training camps in Hanoi.

Loc caught Ha's attention when he was just an "ordinary" dog belonging to a couple in northern Nam Dinh Province who Ha paid VND100 million ($4,270) in exchange for the animal.

Loc is a four and a half years old Phu Quoc Ridgeback. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Loc is a four-and-a-half-year-old Phu Quoc Ridgeback. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

"The former owners in Nam Dinh consider Loc their spiritual friend. When deciding to sell Loc, the couple told me about his personality and preferences. They agreed to sell me Loc since they knew I would bring out the best in him," Ha said.

Loc is raised in a barn in the suburbs of Hanoi covering an area of over 400 square-meters with lots of open space, sand, and tall trees. The barn also houses other animals like rats, birds, and even snakes to satisfy the hunting nature of Phu Quoc Ridgebacks.

Loc proved he was unique when he was just a pup. He would hold his ears taut and tightly forward, bark loudly and remain still when facing a stranger, contrary to other dogs that normally bark in retreat or attack.

"It is the behavior of a dog with a stable and calm nerve," Doan said, sharing his first impression of Loc before deciding to train him in 2017.

Doan said Loc has lots of standard Phu Quoc Ridgeback features, as defined by Vietnam Kennel Association (VKA) - long and slender head, deep abdomen deep, wide peck, seashells-shaped ears and curved tail. Like others, Loc has almond-shaped eyes, but "has a more intense yet friendly look."

Loc has almond-shaped eyes and sword-shape ridge on its back. Photo VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Loc has almond-shaped eyes and sword-shaped ridge on his back. Photo VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

In particular, a ridge of hair shaped like a sword covers the animal’s back. Ingrown hair is typical of Phu Quoc dogs with many different shapes located along the spine.

Doan first met Loc at one-and-a half-years of age. With its outstanding beauty, Loc was already famous among dog trainers even though he had yet to win an award.

From his first training session, Loc displayed a knack for memory.

After two months, Loc headed to Saigon to participate in his first contest. Local judges praised him for carrying the "typical beauty of native Vietnamese dogs." An international examiner from World Canine Organization (FCI) in turn highlighted Loc's body proportions.

He ranked first in his age group and finally won first prize.

Loc then participated in different regional competitions and raked in the awards. At Vietnam Champion Dog Show in December 2017, he surpassed a H'Mong dog breed to claim Vietnam Grand Champion.

Loc sired many beautiful offspring, including three that later also scooped the Vietnam Grand Champion title. As a result, each of Loc’s offshoots are sold for tens of millions of dong (VND23,195= $1).

One time, a person from Saigon offered to buy back Loc for $15,000.

"I would not sell him even if I was offered a higher price," Ha said.

She fell in love with Phu Quoc Ridgebacks when she was only a third grade student. With German Shepherds known for their intelligence and H'Mong dogs for their ferocity, Phu Quoc Ridgeback's are loyal and display a deep foresight.

Once, when Ha was sick and could not go to work, Loc watched over her.

"He understands my emotions. When I am sad, Loc walks quietly beside," she said.

The last time Loc won a competition in Saigon, Ha was in her last month of pregnancy and couldn't go.

"On the day of their return, the whole family came over to welcome him back. He ran back to me, wagged his tail, his ears pushed back and his face radiant with joy."

Loc poses for picture next to owner Le Thi Ha. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Loc poses for picture next to owner Le Thi Ha. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Ha said Loc can be hyperactive, attempting to chase down a heard of cows only to have a bad fall from which he luckily recovered quickly.

At the end of last year, Ha spent nearly VND300 million (around $12,800) to buy another Phu Quoc Ridgeback named Cop, one of the offspring of Dom who won a dog beauty pageant in Paris during 2011.

Ha said Loc and Cop are the two most famous of the 100 Phu Quoc Ridgebacks she currently owns.

"Letting my spiritual children shine is my greatest wish," Ha said, adding she is looking to bring them overseas to attend international competitions.

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