Tuesday 25 April 2017

All in a Night's Work

L'il Jo

There was never a dull moment at the Merigal Dingo Sanctuary.

One February morning in the early 1980s Berenice was woken at 3am when the Dingoes started to scream with excitement, the sound bursting on the quiet of a brightly moonlit night.

There was a full moon, and stopping just long enough to slip on working boots, she rushed over to the kennels and yards.  

The noise roused no one else in her house but she mentally noted lights coming on at neighbouring properties on further down the road on. The noise was explosive - something was very wrong.

She ran through the main enclosure, desperately looking for the cause of the excitement. Peter Pan was screaming a challenge at something in L'il Jo's adjoining yard.

As she raced into L'il Jo’s yard, the excited dingo rushed up to her, then hurtled back down the end, with Berenice in hot pursuit. A young ginger cat, bristling and trying to protect himself on fronts, was 'holed up' near the fence.

Having no lead with her, Berenice had to lift and carry Jo out of her yard, as she was likely to attack the cat if she managed to pick it up.

Back to the cat.  It was trapped in the enclosure and with all the fences capped a terrified cat could inflict serious injury if picked up. Berenice looked around but there was nothing around to protect herself in trying to get the now panicking animal safely over the boundary fence. She gently touched the cat's back with a stick. It didn’t seem to alarm it. But, knowing it could suddenly panic again she needed something to protect herself from a potential clawing. She used the only thing available – her nightdress.

Quickly removing it, she draped it carefully over the cat, and with a quick movement scooped it up in the nightdress. Running down the fence line she threw the cat as gently as possible over the outside fence. He landed in long grass. The nightdress obligingly fluttered down on her side of the fence and her nakedness was quickly covered.

A few days later she related the story of the poor cat's predicament to Vice President Ailza Green. She roared with laughter. She reckoned if anyone had seen Berenice prancing around in the moonlight naked, holding a cat aloft, they would probably have thought she was indulging in some strange rite - not rescuing a cat from the Dingo yards.

By a strange coincidence, the cat belonged to Ailza. It was used to jumping in the yards with her collies who played with it.  What a shock he must have received on that nearly fateful night.

Tuesday 18 April 2017

The Truth about Dingoes: 5 The Dingo’s Anatomy

The dingo's body is longer than it is high, and looks long legged.

Dingoes are of light build and do not carry excess layers of fat.

When looking at the dingo from above, the head is the widest part of the body, and the shoulders are tight knit to the rib cage.

A slight waist appears at the loin area.

Males are generally larger than females. In the wild dingoes rarely carry excessive amounts of fat, and seeing them with exposed ribs is a common sight.

In the north and north western Australia dingoes are generally larger than those found in southern and central regions.

Weight varies due to the environment and availability of prey.

Captive dingoes are usually larger and heavier because of easy access to food and have medical care.

Their body is designed for speed, stamina and agility.

The chest is narrow and the forelimbs are pressed into the chest, with elbows turned inwards and paws turned outward to allow both fore and hind legs on the same side to swing in the same line.

The back section of the dingo is straight and very strong. The ribcage is long and extends to the rear. The loin is arched and long. The croup is long.
The rib cage extends almost along its entire body to protect all the organs.

Gait and movement.
The dingo is light on its feet and moves in a very efficient way with unessential movement of muscles or joints.

They are capable of suspended gallop, canter, brisk trot and a loping walk.

When the dingo is moving, the fore and hind legs on the same side swing in the same line.

Dingoes mostly travel by walking and trotting unless hunting or playing.

Unlike most dogs, dingoes make single tracks when they walk. The hind foot
steps in place of the front foot.

Head and skull.
The skull is broad and longer than it is wide. The head looks large in proportion to its body and is wedge shaped. The ears sit forward of the skull and have very broad cheek bones. It is flat between the ears. The skull narrows in front of the eyes to the muzzle. The muzzle has a well developed under jaw. The neck is thick, long and well developed. Dingoes possess strong jaws and a flexible neck that is suited for both small and large prey.

Eyes and Ears.
The eyes are almond shaped. They are medium sized and usually hazel to dark and have dark rims. The shape and position of the eyes and ears allow for extreme awareness of their surroundings.

The ears are upright and situated high on the skull. They are small to medium in size, and slightly rounded at the tip.

The chest is narrow in width. The shoulder is high and flat at the highest point of the dingo's shoulder.

The front feet are oval shaped, medium sized, thick pads and slightly turned out. Nails are short and strong.

The croup is broad and long. The entire hindquarter is sound and well muscled. The feet are medium sized, oval shaped with thick pads and no hind dew claws.

The tail is flattish, broadening from one third behind the base to mid length and then tapering to the end. The tail is carried low. A scent gland is positioned down the tail. It is identified by a distinctive dark spot.

The coat has a dry/hard outer with a soft undercoat. Most dingoes have white points. The coat is seasonal and in general has no body odour

Information reproduced with permission from http://jennyleeparker3.wixsite.com/aussie-canis-dingo

Tuesday 11 April 2017

So, You Want to Own a Dingo by Berenice Walters. Part 1

Many people today still think that owning a dingo is the same as owning any breed of domestic dog. This is just not the case and was a matter that concerned Berenice many years ago. This is the first part of an extract from her book “The Company of Dingoes: Two Decades with Our Native Dog” published in 1995 and based on her own experience over 20 years. 

Comments from experienced Dingo people are welcome.
After two centuries of persecution, the dingo has been honoured by an ever-increasing number of admirers; those who see the Dingo as a beautiful and integral part of our wildlife and those who want to 'own' a dingo. This is where the trouble usually starts. You can't own a dingo. You can be its friend and companion, but like the wolf, it is always a free-spirit.

In our efforts to familiarise the Dingo with the general public through personal contact, there is one particular adverse side-effect: the ever-growing number of partially informed, or totally ignorant persons who are under the impression that the successes we have obtained through very specialized treatment to condition and train carefully selected dingoes, can be achieved by the average pet owner, under normal conditions.

This is, of course, totally false. The dingo is a highly intelligent animal with strong reasoning powers; it is independent, sensitive and shy, incredibly cautious, and strongly territorial. It is, therefore, never slavishly obedient or affectionate and its keeping demands patience, understanding, dedication and total selflessness. It is usually a commitment for the lifetime of that dingo.

The fact that the dingo has been culled by nature to survive independently as a wilderness animal, particularly over the last 200 years needs to be considered at all times.

Are Dingoes really savage?
The Dingo is not normally an aggressive, or savage breed but it must be remembered that it is a natural hunter of small animals and birds. The Dingo is an agile, alert, cautious breed that would prefer to retreat when feeling threatened and size up the situation from a safe distance. It is almost neurotic in its fear of being cornered and, without an escape route, could easily panic and behave unpredictably in such a situation. For example, it would be unfair to this breed in particular, and potentially dangerous to an unsuspecting person or child, to leave such an animal chained up, especially on strange territory. Dingoes usually relate well to children and women but are generally more cautious with men. During the breeding season, extra caution needs to be taken, especially with male Dingoes.

Are dingoes good watch dogs?
In the normal sense, dingoes do not make good watch dogs because they seldom bark. The usual requirement of a watch dog is that he bark to warn his owners of the presence of intruders. However, the dingo has highly developed senses of scent, hearing and sight and combined with its extreme cautiousness could well result in the breed being an excellent watch dog for an observant and understanding owner, despite the fact that dingoes seldom bark.

At the slightest suspicion of anything abnormal, or not routine, the dingo is instantly on total alert, ears twitching sensitively, nostrils flared, hackles slightly raised, every sense strained to its utmost, and will not relax until the whole area is thoroughly checked. Sometimes during such an alert, a short gruff bark, or a snort, may be uttered, but no continual barking as is to be expected from the normal watch dog. In excitement or defence Dingoes (and wolves etc) can bark in a single gruff voice. When extreme danger is sensed the Dingo will utter three or four short harsh barks which reach a crescendo in a short screeching howl which immediately alerts every dingo within earshot. I have also seen young children scream in terror at this vocalisation, recognising the danger signals.

Can Dingoes be trained?
The dingo can be trained. Training is education, and the Dingo puppy in the wild environment is trained, or educated, by its parents and the environment, to exist independently in order to survive. Nature has culled the Dingo for this life for thousands of years. The basic temperament of the breed - its independence, cautiousness with strong reasoning powers - enables this breed, and other hunting breeds, to use their own initiative to hunt (to survive), and for the same reasons, the Dingo in the domestic environment is seldom slavishly obedient, or openly affectionate except in greeting. The Dingo comes when it is ready, rather than when called, and its training is often likened to that of the Siamese cat.

The Dingo is at all times a free spirit and cannot be dominated without breaking its spirit.

A natural social animal with strong family ties, it is essential in the domestic situation that a Dingo be reared as a member of its human family; to share in family activities and outings, to develop trust and confidence; to know its place in the family pecking order, to have its rights and know its limitations. The dingo seldom recovers from a fearful experience or rejection. It is absolutely crucial to the developing Dingo, in particular, that all handling be kind but firm, with predictability, patience and understanding. 

A situation where the Dingo could react fearfully, or badly, is better avoided until confidence, understanding and trust is well established, or avoided at all times. Where it cannot be side-stepped, try to distract the Dingo with talk or play, or if it is really fearful, kneel beside the animal, handling it and talking continually, or pick it up and hold gently but firmly against your body to give confidence, carefully avoiding contact with your face in case of a panicky snap. At all times, talk confidently to your dingo. He needs the reassurance of your voice.

Part of the Dingo's education in domesticity is the necessity of learning that its territory is restricted to a dog-proof back garden, or similar except when out on lead (this is not 'unnatural', as territorial boundaries would also exist in the wild state).  The preferred material is heavy duty chain wire, or steel mesh, at least 1½ m high, and with a lip at least ½ m to prevent climbing or jumping. Footings are also necessary to prevent digging. ¾ m wide weldmesh laid on the ground and attached to the base of the fence provides good security.

An internal kennel with a small yard where the Dingo can be put in the owner's absence, is also an important item, as the process of, locking up the dingo, and then letting it out into larger yard helps to vary the routine. The dingo likes to lie on a high, or raised object, but make sure it is not near the fence, otherwise it could be used as a launching pad.

If your dingo chews your shoes or destroys your plants BLAME YOURSELF for leaving them within reach. Ever curious, the dingo can be very destructive.

Socialisation with strange places and people is an essential part of stabilising a Dingo's temperament, but do not allow him off-lead. The 'unexpected' can so easily occur; the ever-cautious dingo panics; and that could be the last you see of your much loved companion. The breed must be assiduously protected from this all too often occurrence.

Attendance at obedience training schools is excellent for general socialisation, and for learning new skills. Take the dingo along as a pup so it can accustom itself to the environment in preparation for the time when it is old enough to participate in classes. Neither during classes nor at any other time, allow a stranger to take over control of your dingo (remember, it is you he trusts), and never treat him harshly. Accept that the dingo will only respond if its training can be made interesting and enjoyable.

If you want a breed that you can more easily control and train, then choose one that has had generations of domesticity behind it. Unsympathetic treatment will break the spirit of the dingo, and when the opportunity presents itself, it could just 'disappear' in an effort to make a life for itself elsewhere.

Dingoes are essentially dogs of habit and routine. Their safety and peace of mind depends on these two basic characteristics. Change the routine, and you immediately have an apprehensive dingo. Regular socialising helps to overcome the stresses generated by changes, and it is a very important part of the lifetime commitment and dedication necessary for the successful keeping of this breed.

Remember, your dingo is your companion for its lifetime - your home is its territory for its lifetime. Particularly with the male dingo, a change of address could spell the end of the confidence and peace of mind of a previously well-adjusted dingo.

To be continued