"You can't train a Dingo!" is a common cry from those who see dingoes as stubborn and unwilling animals with little domestic purpose.
The dingo is a highly intelligent and intuitive animal that has a high capacity to problem solve and plan. With this high intelligence and foresight comes a strong sense of self-awareness and independence.
Unlike a dog that is mostly submissive to its master, dingoes will only follow the lead of an alpha that they both trust and respect. This is a natural adaptation that serves the dingo well. In the wild they look for qualities of strong leadership, guardianship and provision from an alpha dingo, and in return will provide respect, loyalty and love. This produces a great dynamic within the pack, providing a win-win situation for both the alpha pair and the subordinate pack members.
The same is true of a dingo's relationship with its human alpha (not master). A human can not initially demand or expect loyalty from a dingo. It must be earned through bonding, and proven worth. A dingo will look to a person for strong and fair leadership, guardianship (protection), understanding and provision. If the person does not display these qualities, the dingo is unlikely to provide them with respect, loyalty and love.
The most significant attribute in partnering with a dingo is recognising their needs. The first and most important need is bonding.
Bonding occurs through a myriad of circumstances, all of which involve time. Time spent together playing in the yard, exploring the great outdoors, driving in the car, walking down to the local shop, having a nap together in the sun, all indicates a healthy and loving relationship to a dingo. Dingoes need real world experience and want to spend most, if not all, of their time with their alpha.
Dingoes bond for life and it is important to establish a meaningful relationship built on the foundations of trust, mutual respect, understanding and love. They are surprisingly sensitive creatures that can hold grudges if they feel hard done by or cheated, and will most certainly become introverted, frustrated and excessively stubborn if they are abused or neglected.
Positive reinforcement, encouragement, clear boundaries and lots of patience and love are the cornerstones to training a dingo.
Given these things, a dingo will mostly partner with a human and perform requests to please their alpha, and obtain whatever reward is offered be that affection, praise, food or otherwise.
Two Dingo pups simultaneously performing multiple commands
Adult Dingo performing specialised command- paw painting
It is important to understand and remember that their inherently independent nature may lead them to refuse a request from time to time. Just like humans, dingoes may not always want to do what someone else wants of them. Persuasion, rather than force, is the best solution.
Sometimes, a dingo will just not listen. Like humans they are independent and self-aware and have their own reasons for refusing an instruction that we may not understand. In their eyes this refusal may be very reasonable - they may be hearing, seeing, smelling or sensing something you are not. Other times they simply may just not be in the mood to follow instruction. This high spiritedness should be respected, not 'broken', and is part and parcel of engaging with a highly intuitive and intelligent species.
Sometimes dingoes will do wonderful things for their alphas without being asked. Owners will do well to remember that caring for a dingo is very much a give-and-take relationship and we should accept each situation for what it is worth.
Through much time, bonding, patience and love dingoes can become well trained animals like the three featured above.