Australian Working Dogs

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(NOTE: All information presented here is for entertainment purposes only. We have endeavored to collect only the facts from reliable sources, such as “The Complete Book of Australian Dogs” by Angela Sanderson, but this is in no way meant as a definitive guide. All images used are sourced from free domain.
For all up to date information on these dogs, please consult your veterinary specialist.)

This native Australian dog is the original Aussie Working Dog. It is also the dog that has been used in development of all the other breeds mentioned here, so a lot of it’s temperament as well as physical characteristics are to be found in this eclectic category.
Dingoes and dingo hybrids have also become popular pets in parts of Australia and even around the world, so we wanted to devote one journal to them.

The facts surrounding the dingo have been deeply influenced by politics and various cultural issues. Consequently, the opinions regarding this breed of dog vary from claims that dingoes are dangerous and untamable to evidence from the owners of dingoes who testify that they behave just like any other dog.

Dingo has been recognised as Australian national breed in 1994, and many happy owners of these wonderful dogs continue to confirm the warm and loyal temperament of domesticated dingoes.

Dingo has a very privileged position in indigenous Australian culture – they are revered and respected to the point of indulgence, much in the same way that we treat all our cherished family pets today. Also, Indigenous Australians commonly refer to dingo simply as “the dog” and “dingo” as a word means “tame”.
Dingo is present in many cave paintings, totems, holy places, carvings and myths and has been living as a domesticated dog species with humans in Australia for millennia, ever since they arrived with the travelers from southeast Asia.

The concept of a “pure” dingo has been a very fluid one, as the exact breeds of dog which lived with humans on a vast Australian continent are many. There have always been lots of free-roaming dingoes who lived in human settlements (some of which were nomadic) and they often served as pets as well as hunting companions.
Indeed the dingo has lived as a companion alongside Indigenous Australians and European settlers alike, and they are reported to be very tame and behave just like any pet dog as long as they come in regular contact with humans.
Dingoes have also been used to herd livestock, and even today they are sometimes used as genuine working dogs on farms.

This variety of environments and conditions resulted in dingo developing into an animal that was well adept to survive on it’s own as well as within a human community.

Dingoes who live in the wild and don’t have regular contact with humans display normal behaviours for any wild dog – they hunt for food, often in packs, and in the cases of food shortages have been known to prey on livestock (something that has earned them a lot of animosity from the farmers who, for a very long time, treated them as savage animals and pests).
There has only ever been two recorded serious attacks on humans, each time it involved purely wild dingoes, never domesticated ones.

This is why it is very important to make a distinction between a domesticated and a wild dingo. Even though they look the same, they gravitate towards humans, are not particularly dangerous and are admittedly very cute, domesticated dingoes are basically just another breed of dog while wild ones are essentially feral.
Therefore, wild dingoes should not be petted or treated as tame (so no hand feeding them next time you go to Fraser Island!).

Most objections to keeping dingoes as pets come from people who are concerned with survival of what is considered to be a “pure” dingo. However, dingoes have been influenced by many dog breeds throughout the millennia so it is not quite clear what exactly a “pure” dingo is.
Due to varied backgrounds and a lot of interbreeding with other domesticated dogs, it is now widely believed that “pure” dingo no longer exists. Certainly in 1990s, it was estimated that even in the wild, there are 78% dingo hybrids.
Conservation concerns also have two principal sides – one that believes that only this “pure” dingo needs to be protected via strict control of the wild dog populations, and the other which advocates that the conservation of these dogs should be based on where and how they live, as well as their cultural and ecological role, instead of concentrating on precise definitions or concerns about “genetic purity”.
Both sides are controversially discussed.

It may be relevant to mention that it has been observed that once tamed, dingoes are unlikely to return to the wild (presumably this is the same with any domestic dog) which may affect the success of breeding programs which have return to wilderness as the main goal.
Domestication of a dingo may result in favouring more timid and tame dogs, which will over time probably result in less wild dingoes overall.
Otherwise, the concern is limited to issues with irresponsible dog breeding (which is not unique to dingo but a concern in all dog breeds) such as inbreeding.

Physical characteristics

Dingoes are physically distinct by their usually red or red and light tan colour, but rarely they can be almost white. Majority of domesticated as well as wild dingoes are at least bi-colored, and dingo hybrids usually sport a wider variety of coat colours.

They have a short coat and can be slightly larger than Kelpies and Heelers (50 – 60 cm tall) but tend to be leaner. However, the facial features are very similar to all other Australian working dogs.
Dingoes bark as well as howl to communicate but they tend to be short monosyllabic vocalisations and as pets they can be more quiet than some other breeds of dog.
Dingoes are generally very clean and owners often report that they don’t have a “dog smell”.

Dingoes as pets

Depending on your area, ownership of a dingo can be fully permitted, require a permit or even be forbidden.
In all Australian states (except for Tasmania) dingoes can be kept as pets outside of certain farming areas, where they are commonly classified as pests. This has resulted in dingo populations thriving in the urban environments, as well as in conservation areas.

There are many clubs and private individuals in Australia as well as USA that breed pet dingoes, but since this breed has been only recently returned a pet status, it is important to check the legislation in your area before you buy or re-home a dingo or a dingo hybrid.

While wild dingoes appear to be quite shy, domesticated dingoes have very warm and friendly disposition. They greet people with a smile, are very respectful and loyal, and very keen to learn. They are also easily toilet-trained.
If they are bored, they can make excellent escape artists. They also love to dig and bury food and bones or toys (in the ground or in their beds, under the pillows etc) and love to climb to an elevation (the couch or even the roof of a car) and watch the world go by.
In summer, dingoes love to cool down in water but they tend not to swim around, rather they love walking only chest high in slow river streams or dog pools.

Dingoes also have a strong flight response, so when frightened they tend to get scared and even run away. They also have a strong prey instinct (usually manifests as chasing cats or birds) so it is important to be mindful of this and train your dingo from an early age.
It may be that the dingo will always have a tendency to chase cats and be shy of humans they don’t know, but they are also very good natured and highly intelligent which makes them great family pets.

They respond very keenly to training, but not to pressure or punishment, so the best way to train them is by positive reinforcement and patience. They are very bonded to their owners and tend to follow them all the time.
As with any other dog, if properly trained, dingo will behave just like any other well behaved dog and be perfectly ok off as well as on the leash. In that sense there are no upfront restrictions on their activities.
In Melbourne, dingoes are even being trained as guide dogs due to their good nature, intelligence and long life

Dingoes never miss an opportunity to feed but don’t actually require a lot of food. They love a variety of dog foods mixed with cooked meat and vegetables, but any balanced canine diet is perfectly adequate as they have the same dietary requirements as any other domestic dog.

Dingoes and dingo hybrids, just like all other Australian Working Dogs need plenty of off the lead runs (upwards of 1-2 hours exercise per day) and lots of mental stimulation.
They are also very dog-friendly.

Dingoes are generally very healthy and don’t have any known genetic weaknesses.

Domesticated dingoes have very long lifespans, as long as 23 years but around 15 years is probably the average.