Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

What Is a Lai Dog? History & FAQ

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

Vietnamese dog sleeping in the yard

What Is a Lai Dog? History & FAQ

Vietnam is home to its fair share of native dogs, and the Lai Dog is one of the most remarkable. With their unique appearance and hunting ancestry, the Lai Dog is sometimes confused with mammals like dingoes. They are, however, a real dog breed recognized by the AKC.

Let’s learn some more about this unique Vietnamese dog breed down below.

Breed Overview


53–64 inches


40–90 pounds


10–14 years


Ginger, black, white, golden

Suitable for:

Active, adventurous families


Loyal, intelligent, affectionate

Lai dogs are a Vietnamese breed loosely related to other hunting dogs in the region but with much more variation. They largely live in the mountainous regions of Vietnam, and domesticated specimens are rare.

Once regarded as a symbol of loyalty, the modern Lai dog is much different than their ancestors in appearance and temperament. They’re a great family dog, although nearly extinct. Hopefully, we’ll see some more in the future.

dogster paw divider

Lai Dog Breed Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

The Earliest Records of Lai Dog in History

Vietnamese Lai dog puppy
Image By: Natali22206, Shutterstock

The Lai dog is one of four native Vietnamese dog breeds, and the others include the Hmong Dog, the Bac Ha Dog, and the Phu Quoc Dog. The Lai dog has been around for a long time—references to it are found as far back as 9th-century China. They’re thought to descend from Mastiffs and hunting dogs used by Chinese royalty, but the records are spotty in that regard.

Most interestingly, ancient relics unearthed in East Asia indicate that the Dai Viet warrior order revered the Lai Dog as a symbol of loyalty1. Regarding the breed’s lineage, Vietnamese folklore claims the Lai Dog was once bred with golden jackals. It’s hard to tell whether they mean the actual Lai Dog or other mammals commonly called by that name.

How the Lai Dog Gained Popularity

Unlike other breeds, the Lai Dog is much less popular than they used to be. It’s unclear why they fell out of favor in Asia, but English traders took a liking to the breed and brought specimens back to Western Europe in the 17th century.

Closer to a modern Lai Dog, they were bred for traits like loyalty and affection rather than hunting instincts. In Vietnam, Lai Dogs are popular as farm dogs, and they do well as ratters and general watchdogs.

Today, the Lai Dog is considered endangered, and estimates suggest there are only a few hundred of the breed out there, although this isn’t confirmed. Conservation efforts to protect their native habitats are underway.

Formal Recognition of Lai Dog

The Lai Dog was first formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in the late 1800s, but they’re yet to be recognized by their Vietnamese counterpart. The breed is mainly used as a companion or watchdog due to their protective instinct and intense loyalty.

dogster paw divider

Top 4 Unique Facts About Lai Dog

1. Reliefs Resemble the Lai Dog

Reliefs resembling the Lai Dog have been found in ancient relics, such as war drums and weapons, in Vietnam.

2. The Term “Lai Dog” Also Refers to Dingoes and Jackals

The term “Lai Dog” is sometimes used interchangeably to refer to dingoes and jackals in rural Vietnam.

3. The Lai Dog’s Ancestors Are Ancient Pups

The Lai Dog’s ancestors are thought to trace back two or three millennia.

4. There Are Significant Conservation Efforts Underway

There are significant conservation efforts to help the breed survive and flourish in the near future.

A stray dog peeing on the pavement beside a lake in Hanoi, Vietnam
Image By: Piranhi, Shutterstock

Does a Lai Dog Make a Good Pet?

A Lai Dog would make a good family dog if you could find one! The Lai Dog’s strong sense of loyalty and gentleness make them suitable for families with kids if adequately socialized. They require lots of attention and an experienced owner because of their intelligence—they’ll run circles around a newbie dog owner.

The bad news is that just a few hundred Lai Dogs are left in the world, and most are tucked away in mountainous Vietnam. Even if you wanted one, chances are you won’t be able to locate a Lai Dog for adoption.

dogster paw divider

Summing Up

The Lai Dog is a gorgeous animal whose ancestry can be traced back further than that of many English noblemen. They make excellent family and watchdogs, but sadly, the breed is critically endangered. Perhaps one day soon, they will make a glorious comeback.

See also: 4 Vietnamese Dog Breeds You’ve Got to See (With Pictures)

Featured Image Credit: HAI THANH DO, Shutterstock

PangoVet Image Speak With A Vet Online

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.