Are They Safe?
“Aren’t you worried it’s going to turn on you and your family one day?” asked a man who had approached me in a park to inquire about the dingo pup resting quietly in my arms.
“No”, was my response, “I have seven dingoes, and I trust each one with my life. My family and friends all love my dingoes. One couple trust my dingoes with their little boy over their own Staffordshire bull terriers. The Dingoes are allowed to play
with the boy, the Staffies are not.”
People are often surprised with such a response regarding Dingoes and children. That's because many are not familiar with the nature of dingoes, or the nature of a natural species in general.
Dingoes, like all natural species, are inherently timid and
cautious. Their flight or fight response is predominantly to take
flight – to hide or run away. A dingo would rather avoid conflict than to engage in it. This natural response is based on wisdom and survival longevity. To avoid a fight is to limit chances of injury which may result in death.
Being a natural species, dingoes do not have the same paranoia and instantaneous aggression that fighting dog breeds like bull terriers, mastiffs, bulldogs and shar peis sometimes possess. These breeds of dog were purposely bred for their aggressive responses to stimuli, which made them successful fighting dogs.
Comparatively, dingoes are far less confident than dogs. Their natural timidity causes them to respond sheepishly to new situations, crowds of people and excess noise. When faced with a situation they feel uncomfortable with, a dingo’s first response is to run away or hide.
This is evident in the ratio of reported injuries across Australia incurred from dingoes compared to dogs. The ratio of dingo
attacks versus dog attacks across Australia is 1:5000. For every
injury caused by a dingo there are 5000 injuries from dogs, with 78% of dog-attack victims being members of the dog’s family or a family friend (Sydney Morning Herald, August 7 2013, Robert Zammit, Vineyard Veterinary Hospital).
To answer the man’s question at the park, my family, just like your family, are statistically 5000 times safer in the company of the family dingo than they are in the company of the family dog.
Typical Dingo Traits
Experiences with wild-born dingoes that have successfully assimilated into a domestic setting, and those born and
bred in captivity has been that both male and female
Fight or Flight Response
Like any animal, a dingo should not be forced into a situation that it feels uncomfortable with. If a dingo displays hesitation or discomfort, it should be left alone. If a dingo feels threatened and does not have a clear avenue to evade the situation (flight path is blocked), it may defend itself against the potential threat. Where a flight response in unavailable, a fight response may follow.
Game Drive & Hunting
As an apex predator, dingoes possess a naturally high game drive. This means they instinctively know that their food is sourced from other animals, not from their food bowl (even when born in captivity). With their high intelligence and superior athletic abilities, dingoes will hunt other animals for food. This is not a sign of aggression, nor does it pose a risk to their human owners.
Some dingo owners allow their dingoes to fulfil this natural desire, just as Indigenous Australians had done for twenty millennia with the dingoes that lived in their camps. Dingoes are known to bring the animals they have caught to their human owners just like a cat may bring its owner a mouse. The same dingoes who hunt with their owners socialise
superbly with strangers and dogs in public settings like dog parks. Dingoes are not mindless beasts, but highly intelligent and well-balanced animals who understand individual situations for what they are, and what is socially reasonable, and expected of them.
Dingoes who recognise humans as companions will not hunt humans. Wild dingoes who do not have a relationship with humans may inquire if a human is a food source.
One couple trust my dingoes with their little boy over their own Staffordshire Bull
Wild dingoes should always be treated with the utmost respect, just as if they are a Lion in Africa, or a Tiger in Asia because they are Australia’s equivalent. This is best achieved by not feeding wild dingoes, or approaching them in any instance.
Behaviour with Other Dingoes or Dogs
Dingoes have a strict hierarchy and will correct the behaviour of dingoes or dogs that disrespect them. This is not a sign of inherent aggression or instability. It is quite the opposite, with the lead dingo educating the inferior dingo or dog on what is socially acceptable.
During breeding season (March - August) female dingoes will typically become aggressive towards other females and desexed males. Male dingoes may become territorial once a female begins her cycle. Desexed dingoes may present some forms of aggressive behaviour at this time.
Outside of breeding seasons all dingoes tend to be calmer and will socialise more successfully with other dingoes or dogs. It is advised to limit interactions with new dogs during breeding season.
Wild dingoes that have successfully simulated into domesticity or dingoes that have been born and bred in captivity make
enriching companions for those who understand their timid nature and natural desires. Dingoes are a unique animal and do not suit all people. They will flourish with owners who are sensitive, intuitive and possess a high degree of emotional intelligence and awareness. Owners need to be patient and understand that a dingo is a highly wilful and intelligent animal, and must be willing to let their dingo conduct itself in its natural manners where appropriate.