Wednesday, 24 August 2016
A Brief Guide to Characteristics, Development and Trainability of the Dingo.
The following is an extract from an article Berenice Walters wrote in 1980. I am always amazed at how much she learnt about the dingo through observation and being part of the daily lives of her dingoes. Remember very little was written about the dingo up to this time unless it was based on stories spread by graziers and doggers. Laurie Corbett’s book was not published until 1996.
In these pioneering days of the conditioning and training of the Dingo, many of the highly developed behavioural peculiarities are a source of interest.
The bow, gape, mouthing, play-nodding, grins, round-eyed stare, are mostly found in other wild or primitive breeds such as the wolf, pariah, and coyote, the Basenji and Telomian. However, the playful kangaroo-like wrestling with the front feet, tail grabbing, hamstringing, rump biting (that is, attack from the rear), would seem to be peculiar to certain varieties of the Dingo, no doubt due to the hunting methods used to disable the kangaroo. This attack 'from the rear' can have some surprising consequences.
We now have four accounts of a Dingo, greatly outclassed in a fight, taking hold of the adversary's testes. In this event, care must be taken not to drag the dog away, as fatal injury could be incurred. The Dingo’s hold would seem to be aimed at disabling his opponent, rather than maiming him. An attack of this nature was first recorded in 1788 when a Dingo bitch attacked a French fox-dog that was put with her (Bradley's Journal). On a more humorous note, most members have put it on record that they have been bitten on the bottom in play.
The cat-like qualities of the Dingo set it apart from the wolf and most other domestic breeds, and are of particular interest, but do, of course, introduce many problems. The ability to use the paws like hands to open doors and gates necessitates suitable latches. When taught to beg it is fascinating to see Dingo extend the hand (paw) to take the goodie. Being able to climb and spring like a cat all runs must be covered or capped, also footings to prevent digging. Like the Basenji, the Dingo frequently licks himself clean, and it is essential to use a non-poisonous rinse when bathing. During the summer months, it is also necessary to protect his highly sensitive ears with a deterrent to prevent attack by flies.
Ideally, the breed should live in the house as one of the family, taking part in all activities and outings. Being very sensitive, care must be taken at all times to understand your dingo and avoid conditions where problems could arise.
He must have his rights and responsibilities and clearly understand what he can and can't do. Anything new arouses his curiosity and he will probably pull it apart if given the chance - clothes on the line, slippers, hoses, money (notes), tissues, toilet rolls, shoes (particularly elastic sided boots), are his favourites. He should be provided with his own toys, never given old shoes (how is he to know which are old and which are new).
Nothing pleases him more than to sleep in master’s bed, head on pillow, or curled up close to him in a tight ball. Sleeping with Dingo is very warm and comfortable in winter, but the continual circling; around and flopping down against your body, the battle to prevent yourself being pushed onto the floor, can cause sleepless nights.
Although affectionate and loyal, seldom demonstrative, devotion is shown in many quiet ways like gently laying his head on your knees and looking up into your eyes with complete adoration, or when driving, unobtrusively resting his chin on your shoulder for a few moments.
The breed as a whole is cautious and continual and regular socialising with strange places and people is an essential daily routine. Care must be taken always to foster mutual confidence, respect and trust. Training and handling must at all times be gentle and firm, and should start with regular handling from birth to give confidence and humanise. The discipline of confinement, firstly in the whelping box, then kennel or room, later in the yard or garden is crucial. At no time should he be put into an insecure yard, or one with a low fence. Praise when doing the right thing is of utmost importance at all times. The command 'NO' must be given and applied firmly when DOING something wrong like 'killing' your expensive slipper (and it’s your fault for leaving it where he could get it) or tearing your washing from the line. Compensate with 'Good Boy' as soon as he stops. At all times endeavour to avoid situations where problems could arise.
Never strike your dog. Never try to train him if you don't feel well or are impatient. It could take months to overcome the result of a hasty action on your part. Also, in an atmosphere of tension your dog is more likely to do wrong because he will react to your impatience however well you may think you have it under control. Never force your dog into a panicky situation. Confidence must be built up with patience and understanding. The Dingo never forgets a fearful experience. If he is frightened, pick him up and give him the security of your body rather than a dark corner he will naturally seek. Time needs to be given the dog to adjust to a change of environment. Given time to size up the situation for himself, he usually accepts. If your dog does wrong, don’t call him to you to chastise him, as in actual fact, you would be punishing him for coming to you.
Though readily trainable, the Dingo, being strongly individualistic and curious, is easily distracted, his concentration more on survival factors (hunting) usually making it a difficult breed to control off-lead in particular. When recalled he will usually come when he is ready, seldom immediately, sometimes keeping close but just out of reach, till HE is ready to go back on the lead. Mostly this is part of a game, but this ‘catch me if you can attitude can be very frustrating at times, and your sense of humour sorely tried. During the breeding season, this condition can worsen. However, patience and perseverance usually win out and the outcome is a very loyal, loving though seldom demonstrative, companion, quiet, relaxed and restful, but capable of bursts of incredible activity and destruction if not supervised. Training of your Dingo fosters a mutual understanding and trust but is unlikely to be a contender for a top obedience worker.
The key to successful training is regular and continual socialising , regular and varied short training sessions with plenty of praise and play, patience and diplomacy rather than force, and a sense of humour - and the fostering of a close relationship by sharing interests with this highly intelligent and social breed. BEWARE OF BOREDOM AND OVERTRAINING. HIS SPIRIT IS EASILY SQUASHED.
Like children the dingo’s his high degree of intelligence, strong reasoning powers, independence, vital need of security, make his keeping at all times a responsibility, and dedication to his welfare and training a necessity.
For the dedicated, the Dingo can prove an interesting and challenging companion, and a continual source of wonder.
The love and trust of a Dingo do not come free; through understanding, respect and love that is shared only, will he respond to his 'human family’, and his full potential as a friend and companion develop.