Volunteering at Soi Dog
Soi Dog welcomes volunteers from all over the world to its sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand. Volunteers play a hugely important role in the socialisation of the animals in our care, in preparation of them becoming adoptable.
Equally as important is the fact that most of the 950+ dogs here love to walk and get some quality time out of the run environment they inhabit on a daily basis. And our 170+ resident cats also love the attention of visitors and volunteers alike. Enrichment for the animals is one of the key factors to maintaining their wellbeing and for dogs who spend most of their lives sharing a large run with up to 25 other dogs, the time they get outside of the run is so valuable to them.
The drop down menus below give you information on what it is like to volunteer at Soi Dog, what it’s like in Phuket and the area local to the Soi Dog sanctuary, and many other pointers about the volunteer experience with us.Please note: The minimum length of stay for new volunteers is two days.
We are consistently ranked highly on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit in Phuket. We welcome over 500 volunteers every year. There’s something here for everyone. Whether you like the rough and tumble of the main dog runs, the peace and tranquility of the senior dog runs, the feline touch in our cattery or the sheer cuteness of our younger dogs – you can be sure to find some amazing animals to spend your time with here at Soi Dog.
As a Soi Dog volunteer, what do I do?
The primary role of a volunteer at our sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand, is to socialise and walk the dogs, as well as socialising and playing with the cats. To be adopted into homes, it is essential to teach the dogs and cats at the sanctuary to trust people and to teach the dogs to walk on a lead.
For cat lovers: You get to spend as much time as you like in the indoor/outdoor cat suites with our adorable felines, playing and socialising.
For dog lovers: After your introductory tour and familiarisation exercise, you will be introduced to the dogs you will take responsibility for during your visit with us.
There are approximately 25 dogs in each 'run'. Once you've spent time socialising with and getting to know the dogs in your run, you can begin to walk them.
We have extensive dog walking routes at the sanctuary and an off-lead area where you can take your dogs for some quality, off-lead fun - chasing toys and expending energy.
Almost all of the animals in our care are former street animals who have never even been indoors and need to learn to feel comfortable around people. Socialisation is especially important for shy animals and for those who have been abused. Many adopters say their new companions are very friendly and comfortable with them, even as soon as they arrive from Thailand. This is because of the amazing efforts of shelter volunteers.
How long do I volunteer for?
The minimum volunteering period is two days. On your first morning at Soi Dog, you will be provided with a volunteer induction and orientation. After that, you are ready to meet the dogs. On your second day, you are free to start walking from your arrival at 9am!
We encourage volunteers to spend as long a time as possible volunteering here at the sanctuary, based on the old adage "You get out of it what you put in"! The dogs in our care can benefit hugely from prolonged interaction with the same person(s). We are very grateful to every volunteer who passes through the gates here at Soi Dog so even if you only stay for two days, that's great. If you stay for longer, that's amazing!
Many of our volunteers fall in love with the dogs and cats at our sanctuary and often end up adopting one of them. If you have the space in your heart to give one of our animals a loving home, then you might just meet your new best friend at Soi Dog!
On which days can I volunteer?
Volunteers are welcome Monday to Friday. The sanctuary is closed to volunteers on Saturdays and Sundays.
How many hours a day do I volunteer for?
The volunteering hours are from 9am until 4pm with a one-hour lunch break at 12pm.
Do I receive any training?
All volunteers undertake an induction process providing the opportunity to understand daily operations, gain greater insight into the work of the foundation and learn about the systems in place to ensure both volunteers and animals have a safe and enjoyable experience together.
Am I supervised?
Less ‘supervised’ – more ‘equipped prior to being unleashed’ (pardon the pun).
Every effort is made to ensure that all volunteers gain a valuable, enjoyable and safe experience. To this end, Volunteer Coordinators are employed to undertake inductions, train volunteers, provide information and offer practical support and guidance when working directly with the dogs and cats, together with hands-on support from the animal carers who work with the animals every day. Their knowledge and understanding is further supported by the professionally trained behavioural and medical teams.
Any queries or concerns can be dealt with either on a one to one basis with the Volunteer Coordinators.
Is there an age limit for volunteering?
The age limit for volunteering unaccompanied is 16 years old.
Those people under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. People aged between 16 and 18 years can visit on their own, but must have written consent from a parent or legal guardian.
The minimum age of an accompanied volunteer is 8 years old. The volunteer experience is not suitable for children under this age.
What's for lunch?
We have a lunchtime service, delivered by a local restaurant, at reasonable (local) prices.
Order your lunch in the morning from Soi Dog and enjoy your well-earned midday meal in our volunteer area.
Alternatively, if you have your own transport, there are shops and food outlets along the main road in Mai Khao, around a kilometre away.
Drinking water is complementary. Soft refreshments are available for a small donation. In the hot and humid conditions at Soi Dog, it is important to stay hydrated! Please bring your own, reusable water container.
What should I wear?
Clothing is personal choice however please consider the following:
During the rainy season (May to November) you may want to use footwear that will not get damaged by the wet.
Trousers or shorts are suitable.
If susceptible to sunburn, consider suitable clothing. The UV index is high all year round.
Where would I stay?
There are numerous options for various standards of accommodation in and around Nai Yang and Mai Khao. Most volunteers stay in the same area and, often, the same guesthouses. Lasting friendships with fellow volunteers are common place (but not compulsary!)
How do I get to Soi Dog from my guesthouse?
The Soi Dog songthaew (local style bus) runs from Nai Yang to the sanctuary in Mai Khao in the morning and back again in the afternoon. It stops at five pick-up points around Nai Yang from around 8:25am and returns to Nai Yang in the afternoon, departing the sanctuary at 4pm, for a small fee of 100 THB pp, per day. Payment in advance for the remainder of the week is required on the first day of your volunteering visit and on the Monday of each subsequent week.
Motorbike hire is available from many places. Rates from around 250 THB per day.
Bicycle hire is available from various places for those volunteers who choose to stay in Mai Khao.
Flight volunteers needed!
We are always looking for flight volunteers to help accompany our adopted pets to destinations in Europe and North America. Advanced notice is required. You can find out more about how you can help and register your interest with our logistics team here.
Safety and security while at Soi Dog
It is essential to follow the guidelines set out by the Volunteer Coordinators for the safety of all involved. Details are given in full during the induction process with regards to entering runs, use of leashes and harnesses and how to behave on walks.
In the event of an accident, basic first aid can be supplied on site. In cases requiring a greater level of medical treatment, Soi Dog will provide transport to external medical services.
Volunteers should make sure they have obtained personal medical insurance to cover any medical costs.
Veterinary volunteering at Soi Dog
Soi Dog Foundation welcomes vet volunteers to the specially equipped canine and feline hospitals at the sanctuary.
The canine hospital, completed in 2016, has state-of-the-art equipment and is the largest facility of its kind in South East Asia dedicated to the treatment of stray animals.
The feline equivalent opened its doors in 2019 and provides similar high-quality standards for the treatment of cats.
We are currently lucky enough to have adequate veterinary staffing to provide medical care to the hundreds of animals at our shelter. At this time, we are not in need of veterinarians to perform surgery. If you are a veterinarian or veterinary technician/nurse interested in volunteering with Soi Dog Foundation’s medical team, you can best assist us by helping with the medical management of cases in our clinic. We accept 3rd year veterinary students and above.
Applicants should be self-guided and have the ability to multi-task as well as communicate in a professional manner with members of the community and shelter staff members. It is our hope that volunteers experience hands-on interaction with patients, learn technical skills, and participate in diagnostic and treatment decisions. Enthusiasm for the human-animal bond is essential!
· Minimum of 3 years’ vet school completed.
· We ask you for a minimum stay of 2 weeks at Soi Dog.
· We can only accommodate a maximum of 5 vet volunteers at a time.
· As a rule, students are not permitted to participate in spay/neuter procedures. Case by case exceptions can only be made for final year students and only if the SDF vet approves of technique and is able to supervise.
If you are eligible and would like to volunteer with the medical team at Soi Dog Foundation, please attach your CV and EMS form and email to email@example.com
Places to stay
There is a wide range of guesthouses, hotels and backpacker accommodation available in both Nai Yang and Mai Khao. Prices vary depending on the style of accommodation but there is something to suit every budget.
The list below includes just some of the regularly used hotels by volunteers and many offer discounts on accommodation and food for Soi Dog volunteers.
Nai Yang is the popular choice for volunteers as there is more to do and more places to eat and drink. Many volunteers choose to stay here and socialise after a long, hot day walking dogs in the sun!
Accommodation in Mai Khao
Mai Khao Hotel - (SHA+ Approved) – +66(0)76 371 388
Arun Apartments – +66(0)65 348 6242
Coriacea Resort - (SHA+ Approved) - +66(0)76 684 971
Mai Khao Palm Beach - (SHA+ Approved) +66(0)76 616 340
Mai Khao Home Garden Bungalows - (SHA+ Approved) – +66(0)86 594 0960
Wayla Villa - (SHA+ Approved) – +66(0)98 824 5599
Accommodation in Nai Yang
Pensiri House - (SHA+ Approved) - +66(0)81 895 9489
Happy Place Condo +66(0)93 581 7226
Luna Hostel - +66(0)99 485 5500
Slow Life Beach Hostel +66(0)93-5835158
Chez Charly Bungalows - +66(0)84 745 6284
Dewa Phuket Resort - (SHA+ Approved) - +66(0)76 372 300
Chill House - +66(0)86 947 9090
Ideo Phuket - (SHA+ Approved) - +66(0)76 328 355
Nai Yang Boutique Resort - +66(0)87 387 5752
Transport to and from your Nai Yang guesthouse
Soi Dog operates pick-up and drop-off services. It picks up at five locations in Nai Yang in the morning and returns to the same locations in the afternoon. We kindly ask for a donation of 100 THB pp, per day to cover the cost of running the service. Donation in advance for the remainder of the week is appreciated on the first day of your volunteering visit and on the Monday of each subsequent week. If you require transportation from designated locations near your guesthouse (Nai Yang area only) to the Soi Dog sanctuary, please indicate on the booking page.
Bus Stop Number
Near Happy Place Condo
On the 4031 southbound side, 10 metres towards the airport from Spo Bangmalaew 7
08:20am – 08:30am
Pensiri Guest House
Outside Pensiri House
08:20am – 08:30am
Near Chill House, Proud Hotel and Slow Life
08:25am – 08:35am
7-Eleven, Nai Yang Soi 2
Near 7-Eleven on Nai Yang Soi 2
08:25am – 08:35am
Pharmacy next to 7-Eleven
On 4031 (Airport Road), northbound side
08:30am – 08:40am
Songthaew pick up points; (Note: Pick-up times are approximate. Volunteers should be ready at the pick-up point at the earliest stated time and allow adequate time to get themselves from their guesthouse to the pick-up point).
Alternative transport is always available from Nai Yang. A taxi can cost between 300 and 400 THB each way. For your return trip, we can book return taxis for you from the Soi Dog sanctuary in Mai Khao to your destination with an average 20-minute waiting time.
If you are staying further away than either Mai Khao or Nai Yang then you can expect to pay much more for a taxi. Popular destinations beyond Nai Yang will take a minimum of 30 minutes to get to and from Soi Dog.
Motorbike hire is also available from many places. Rental costs from around 250 THB daily. Just two options for motorbike rental are Pensiri House in Nai Yang and Kayapa Massage in Mai Khao, opposite 7-Eleven at Soi Mai Khao 8.
Should I get my jabs?
Thailand, like most countries in Asia, is a rabies-endemic country. This means that cases of rabies do occur in animals and humans each year. However, the island of Phuket has only reported one confirmed case of rabies since 1995.
All of the animals at Soi Dog are vaccinated against rabies so you are not at risk from contracting it within the sanctuary.
However, the recommendation whilst travelling anywhere in south-east Asia is that you should be vaccinated against rabies and if you are bitten by an animal that you should seek post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) shot from the local medical centre.
The nearest hospital to Soi Dog is Thalang Hospital, around a 30-minute drive.
As always, please consult a medical professional for travel vaccination advice.
General precautionary and medical advice
Drink bottled water, not tap water.
Wear sunscreen – the UV levels are always high in Thailand and burn time can be as little as 20 minutes in the midday sun.
For minor ailments - such as cold and flu symptoms, headaches, upset stomach – local pharmacies provide a wide range of effective medications which don’t require a doctor’s prescription.
Mai Khao and Nai Yang
The Soi Dog sanctuary is located in Mai Khao, Northern Phuket, a 15-minute taxi ride from Phuket International Airport.
Mai Khao is a relatively small area situated within minutes of the stunning Mai Khao Beach. The 11km-long stretch of beach is still blessedly undeveloped as it is part of the Sirinat National Park. The only significant constructions along it are the JW Marriot Resort at Turtle Village and Phuket International Airport near Nai Yang Beach. The beach is practically deserted a lot of the time, making it possible to walk for kilometres without seeing a single other person. A short distance out into the water, there is a sharp drop off into the Andaman Sea. Swimming is not recommended during the monsoon, from May to November, but is gloriously pleasant the rest of the year.
Mai Khao has some excellent, affordable restaurants and cafes but not much in the way of ‘nightlife’. The bars you will find are situated in resorts, hotels or restaurants. People who stay in Mai Khao generally stay for the peace and tranquility as opposed to the bustling nature of other Phuket beach locations.
It has two 7-Eleven convenience stores, a Supercheap store and various small, local shops for most grocery supplies. Roadside vendors are also common-place.
Local attractions include the Splash Jungle Water Park and the Turtle Village shopping complex, which includes cafes, restaurants and boutique stores. On Mai Khao beach, you'll find the best vantage points for spotting planes arriving at and departing from Phuket International Airport.
With the various amenities being quite spread out, motorbike hire is recommended, available locally from around B250 a day. Alternatively, the roads in Mai Khao are relatively quiet so bicycle hire is also a popular option.
In contrast to Mai Khao, the nearby Nai Yang Beach is lively in comparison, with its many restaurants and bars all located conveniently close to each other. There is a good selection of hotels and guesthouses, some of which offer discounts for Soi Dog volunteers.
Many of the restaurants front on to the beach and provide an ocean and sunset view from your dinner table. Similar to some of the guesthouses and hotels, a lot of the restaurants offer Soi Dog volunteers a discount. Always mention you are volunteering at Soi Dog and see what they will offer you!
Nai Yang is also market town, with markets every night of the week except Friday. The main market on Nai Yang Soi 2 takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on Saturday and Sunday. The market at the Thalang mosque, near Happy Place Condo, is on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Nai Yang is just minutes from the airport and, although further from the sanctuary than Mai Khao, is where most Soi Dog volunteers choose to stay.
Hot, sunny and sometimes wet!
The climate of Phuket is tropical. It is hot all year round, with a rainy season that lasts from May to October, and a dry season that runs from December to March. In April, before the monsoon, there is a certain increase in showers. In November, there can still be abundant rainfall, especially in the first part, either for any delay in the retreat of the monsoon or because of a tropical cyclone. However, there may also be some rain showers in the dry season, especially in December when some of them can be particularly intense.
Most questions have been answered in the other sections on this page but here’s a summary of some of the questions most frequently asked by new volunteers;
Before I arrive
Q How do I apply?
A Fill out the online booking form here – it’s that easy.
Q How long should I volunteer for?
A We strongly recommend volunteers spend a week or more at the shelter as this enables them to build a close relationship with the dogs and progress can be made with their socialisation. However, if you can only spare a few days we would still really appreciate your help.
Q What does it cost?
A It is free to volunteer here with us at Soi Dog, but because we are a non-profit organisation that relies entirely on donations, we are unable to provide accommodation or food. Soi Dog-organised transportation from local Nai Yang is available for a fee of 50 THB each way. All other expenses will be covered by the volunteer. There are cash machines readily available in Thailand, but speak to your bank beforehand to discuss any charges. We would recommend exchanging a small amount of currency before you leave your home country.
Q How much should I budget for my stay?
A Your budget will be determined on where you stay. Hotels and guesthouses typically cost from 800 THB per night up to 2000 THB per night, depending on rating. Some long-term rooms are available in both Nai Yang and Mai Khao for as little as 5,000 THB per month.
For restaurant food, you can expect to pay between 100 THB to 180 THB for a dish + rice.
Drinks – the average small beer in a restaurant costs 70 THB.
If you are interested in purchasing food from street vendors, you can expect to pay a lot less.
Averagely, you should allow around 7,000 THB per week for accommodation and around 5,000 for basic meals and drinks.
The savvy traveler can still operate in Thailand for relatively little compared to prices in the West - even in Phuket.
Q What accommodation is available?
A The best place to stay when volunteering at Soi Dog is Nai Yang beach or Mai Khao. Nai Yang has five pick up points (for Soi Dog songthaew trips to and from the sanctuary) and a large range of restaurants, bars, mini marts, souvenir shops, tour booking stands and activities. Mai Khao is much quieter, although getting busier every year, but closer to the shelter. It is up to you to book your accommodation directly with your chosen guesthouse. The locations book up fast so make sure you reserve, especially during high season (Nov-Apr) well in advance.
Q Do I need a visa?
A If you want to visit Soi Dog and as part of your holiday you want to volunteer, it is legitimate to enter on a tourist visa. Visas may change for different nationalities so please check with your local Thai Embassy beforehand.
Q What vaccinations do I need?
A We strongly recommend that you visit a doctor before coming to Thailand to discuss any vaccinations you may need. Rabies is not commonly reported in Phuket and it’s not a requirement to be vaccinated against this when volunteering at the sanctuary as all of the animals here are fully vaccinated.
Q Do I need to have previous experience with dogs?
A It is desirable for volunteers to have worked with dogs before, but not essential. The main qualities you need are patience and a passion to work with animals.
Q How do I become a flight volunteer?
A We are always on the lookout for people who can accompany adopted dogs on their flight home. If you are interested in becoming a flight volunteer, please follow the link on our website here.
When I arrive
Q What is the best way to get to Nai Yang/Mai Khao?
A There are a number of taxi booths situated outside Phuket International Airport arrivals. Prices vary depending on which type of taxi you choose but meter taxis, for example, should cost no more, overall, than 250 THB to Nai Yang hotels and no more than 400 THB to hotels in Mai Khao. Note there is always a 100 THB surcharge on airport meter taxis, included in the overall price.
Q What do I need to bring when I start volunteering?
A We recommend bringing a water bottle which can be refilled here at the shelter throughout the day. Lunch, if you don’t plan to order from local restaurant menu at the shelter, the typical prices ranging from 50 THB to 80 THB for lunches ordered from Soi Dog.
Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and will feel comfortable in.
Sun tan lotion and mosquito repellent, although mosquitos are generally active in the evening and early morning.
Q What will my day involve?
- Pick up between 08:25 and 08:45 from pre-determined locations in Nai Yang.
- Upon arrival you will be greeted by volunteer coordinators and you get the opportunity to order some lunch and have a cup of coffee.
- On your first morning with us you will receive a full volunteer induction which covers all aspects of volunteering here at the sanctuary (returning volunteers have the option to join this induction or to receive a brief, ‘catch-up’ version) and includes an orientation tour around the sanctuary.
- In the afternoon, we will introduce you to the dog run which has been allocated to you. Your first day will be spent getting to know each dog in your run, with dog walking also beginning in the afternooon.
- Mornings in the run (except your first morning) are from 09:00am until 11:45am.
- Lunch is from 11:45am -13:05pm. This is your time to relax and kick back, recharge the batteries for the afternoon.
- At 13:05pm it’s back into the runs to spend time with your dogs.
- The afternoon in the run finishes at 15:45pm and the transport leaves the sanctuary at 16:00pm to take you back to Nai Yang.
- On your second day, you will start walking your dogs. You will be working quite independently during the day but staff will always be on hand to provide assistance, if required.
Q What is there to do in the evenings?
A (Some ideas)
- Meet up with other volunteers to have dinner at one of the many restaurants on the beachfront (Nai Yang).
- Have a few drinks at one of the numerous bars on the beachfront.
- Visit one of the markets.
- Grab a takeaway for a relaxing night in.
- Walk on the beach.
- Get a relaxing massage.
Q What is there to do in my free time?
A (Including travel time from Nai Yang by road)
- Water sports or beach day at Nai Yang beach (seasonal).
- Mai Khao beach & plane spotting, Mai Khao Beach (15 mins).
- Splash Jungle Water Park, Mai Khao (15 mins).
- Turtle Village shopping and restaurants, Mai Khao (20 mins).
- Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre, Pa Khlok (25 mins).
- Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Pa Khlok (25 mins).
- Central Festival shopping and cinema, Mueang Phuket District (45 mins).
- Phuket Town night market, Phuket Town (50 mins).
- Patong nightlife, Patong Beach (50 mins).
Q On which days are volunteers required?
A For volunteers, Soi Dog operates Monday to Friday, 09:00 – 16:00. But your trip itinerary is up to you! If you wanted to do some island hopping or take a trip to the mainland, that’s entirely up to you. The most important part of your trip is that you enjoy yourself!
High season in Thailand runs from November to April. During this period, we are often blessed with many volunteers. As we can only accommodate up to 50 volunteers in our dog runs at any one time, it is often worthwhile to consider coming during the low season, when the weather is often just as good but the need for volunteers is that much greater.
We do, of course, welcome volunteers any time of year but cannot always guarantee that you will be placed in dog runs when volunteer occupancy is high. There are other activities available to volunteers during these times, general gardening duties and outdoor painting tasks being just a couple.
If you are flexible on when you can volunteer, please consider booking during the period from May to October. Rates for guesthouses are often lower and there are many other benefits to visiting at this time of year.
If you simply can’t wait any longer, click the link below to get started.
So, what are you waiting for?
Get over to Soi Dog Foundation and enjoy the experience of a lifetime!