New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society: The Official Website

New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society

The Official Website

All content copyright © 1998-2013 New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from any page of this website without written permission is strictly prohibited.
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Differences Between New Guinea Singing Dogs and Other Dogs

New Guinea Singing Dogs (NGSD) differ from man-made breeds of dog in several ways. Physically, their upper first molar, called a carnassial tooth, is large, usually greater than 10% of the length of the skull, a trait normally present only in wild canid species such as wolves. NGSD eyes seem to be more light reflective than domestic dogs', shining bright green in low light. Like the Basenji, an African pariah breed, and the Australian Dingo, the NGSD has, on average, only one heat per year, in late summer or fall as the hours of daylight begin to shorten (spring in the southern hemisphere). Modern breeds average two heats per year that are not dependent upon environmental cues. NGSD also show tremendous flexibility and can adopt positions not normally seen in other dogs.
NGSD can fold their legs under them as cats do.
NGSD play invitation appears to be a "stalking" posture.
Although there have not been enough independent observations to confirm them, the NGSD also appears to have some behaviors that differ from that of wolves and dogs. They drop their ears forward and down, or out and down ("airplane ears"), in submission rather than folding them back against the head. Although they are physically able to fold the ears back, submission is shown by airplane ears and sometimes occurs while the dog is wagging its tail and approaching the owner. In addition, the NGSD play invitation appears to be a "stalking" posture, performed either standing still or in motion, rather than the dog/wolf play bow (forequarters lowered and rump high) and tail wag. The entire body is lowered and an intent, staring gaze is directed toward the being solicited. They also have an "open-mouth play bite" that has not been recorded for dogs or wolves, but is seen in coyotes, in which the mouth is opened wide and pressed over the neck or back of the recipient.
In general, though their vocalizations are similar to the Dingo and Basenji, the NGSD howl is unique. Sonograms show this vocalization to be very different from those made by any domestic or wild dog, including the Basenji. Dr. Mark Feinstein, Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, a canid vocalization specialist, has begun a study of the NGSD vocalizations. For the last few years Dr. Lehr Brisbin, Jr., in an effort to conserve this dog, which is now rarely kept in zoos because of the re-classification mentioned above, has been providing NGSD to qualified persons who would promote them as household pets and show animals.
Placed as puppies, these NGSD have become extremely affectionate and enjoyable companion animals. They have adapted to environments ranging from New York City apartments to farms. However, because of their recent wild origin, NGSDs have intense hunting drives and associated strong tendencies to work at escaping any barrier restricting their movements. Sensible precautions must be taken to keep both them and their potential prey (birds, squirrels, rabbits, etc.) safe.
Like other wild or primitive dogs, NGSD are adept climbers and determined diggers, so fences where NGSD will be left unsupervised, even large yards, must have footings and toppers to prevent escapes. Doors and gates opening to unfenced areas must be used with caution, and the dogs taught to wait for permission to exit after their leashes have been put on. They are innately polite and want to avoid upsetting their human leader, so once they understand proper behavior at exits, they normally do not attempt to squeeze past someone going out a door. But all bets are off if a chipmunk is present!
NGSD can climb trees.
When NGSD realize they are suddenly free, they do not run "away from" home and their owner. They run toward adventure, toward the bird flitting in the bush, toward the mouse in the grass. In a perfectly safe world they would undoubtedly return home when they got tired and hungry, and several lucky NGSD owners have reported their escaped dogs were found lying on their porches when they returned home. The best way to catch a loose NGSD (or any of the other independent breeds, such as the Basenji, Shiba Inu, and the terriers) is to have a lure, such as an old white sock or strips of white cloth tied to the end of a rope, to entice them back to play, or to drop to the ground and make strange noises until their curiosity draws them close enough for you to calmly and securely take hold of. They are so fast and agile there is no hope of catching unless they get into a small enclosed area, so running after a loose NGSD, or grabbing wildly at them, is the worst possible thing to do. That is how they learn they are faster than humans. Keep-away is favorite NGSD game.
In order to become acceptable house pets most NGSD require some training. Due to their natural curiosity and active exploratory behavior, untrained NGSDs could, like monkeys, be very destructive if left to run the house unsupervised for extended periods.
However, they rapidly learn what to leave alone if given firm verbal reprimands, and then they will usually "honor" their owner's limits. Due to their sensitive natures, NGSD react negatively to physical punishment, which can slow the learning process. Part of the breed's charm is their high intelligence and independent nature, and they should not be expected to perform obedience commands such as "stay" as well as breeds that have been selected specifically for their ability to cooperate in human endeavors. In the wild an individual NGSD's life depended upon it making its own decisions.
They have not evolved the emotional dependence upon man that creates a desire to work for him, although they do develop very strong attachments to their human family and become distressed when separated from them. While they may be reserved or aloof with strangers, they do not hold back on affection with people they know and like, often lavishing cheek rubs and kisses on them. As with cats and other animals still close to their wild behaviors, they will be your loving friend and companion, but never your slave.
NGSD cheek-rub to greet friends.
NGSD obviously derive much pleasure from human contact. When well socialized, they are very affectionate with people they know, ever ready to give their human friends a rapid-fire series of kisses. They have an amazing capacity to totally relax their bodies like an under-stuffed rag doll while being held and petted by someone they trust. However, unless they fall asleep in your arms - a common occurrence when they are in a secure environment and nothing more exciting attracts their attention - these "love sessions" usually last for only a few minutes before they want to be off playing or exploring again. The only problem with well-socialized NGSD and visiting humans is keeping them out of visitors' laps. Because of their wild heritage of natural caution, adult NGSDs that were not properly socialized as young puppies are often wary of strangers and should be given the opportunity to make the first advances. They are NOT aggressive, and never attack humans.
Unless they have been trained to accept handling by strangers, the NGSD's first reaction to a strange person suddenly reaching out toward them is to leap away and run to a safe distance, then turn and approach cautiously, observing the person. If the person stays still and talks softly, even an under-socialized NGSD will usually come up and allow petting around the head and then, if nothing spooks them again, on the rest of the body. Like most wild and domestic dogs, the only time a NGSD might try to bite is if they feel a need to defend themselves from what they perceive as aggression by a human, such as being grabbed and forcefully held by a stranger.
NGSD have no known breed-specific health or genetic problems. They are very hardy and adapt to any climate if given adequate shelter. They do well on any quality dog kibble or canned dog food and do not require any special additives. Many amateur NGSD keepers have made the mistake of feeding an over-abundance of meat and fats, especially red meat and chicken parts, and the dogs become malnourished or ill on this unbalanced diet.
Every NGSD should come with a pedigree listing International Species Information System number (used by zoos) and a bill of sale that states the breeder's name, dog's birth date, sire's and dam's names and numbers, and any additional conditions such as health guarantees or neuter agreements.
A few NGSDs are made available for adoption at minimal cost to qualified persons wishing to engage in research on their behavior, genetics, etc.

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Home
Description
History
Research
Living With NGSD
Resources
Membership
Rescues
Zoos That Have NGSD

All content copyright © 1998-2013 New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from any page of this website without written permission is strictly prohibited.