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The American Dingo: What Is a Carolina Dog?

I am the proud (if sometimes bewildered) mom of a Carolina Dog. She may be hard to deal with at times, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Actual dingos at the zoo. Learn more about the domesticated American Dingo.

Actual dingos at the zoo. Learn more about the domesticated American Dingo.

The American Dingo (a.k.a. Carolina Dog)

While looking through rare dog breeds, I discovered that one of the rarest dog breeds was in my own home! The Carolina Dog, also known as the American Dingo, is essentially a wild dog. While my dog was labeled as a "German Shepherd Mix," there was no doubt in my mind once I saw the photos of the breed. It explained much about my dog: why she was so stubborn, why she was so smart, why she wouldn't listen to me, and how she could run 30 MPH away from me at the park.

The Wild Dog

Carolina Dogs are a true primitive breed. They have been affected only just barely by the presence of humanity and thus are as close to a wild dog as you can get without being feral. At the same time, these dogs are fiercely intelligent and relate to humans on a scale that is beyond the common domesticated dog.

The Breed Characteristics of the American Dingo

The American Dingo is notable for looking exactly like a dingo. People who saw my dog would constantly question why I had a wild dog in my home and how I had managed to get it.

The American Dingo has a fluffy tail that it holds above its back, though not touching its back, in a "fishhook" formation. It's always tan and sometimes has white spots. The American Dingo is said to come between 35 to 55 pounds by the breed registry, but there are dogs both above and below this spectrum.

Carolina Dogs are very healthy dogs that can run for miles. Active, healthy, and intelligent, they display all the traditional characteristics of a primitive breed. This means that they aren't necessarily as obedient as other types of dogs. My dog is not food- or play-motivated at all. She simply plots against me.

It took me two years to realize that my dog, pictured above, looks like a dingo because she is a dingo.

It took me two years to realize that my dog, pictured above, looks like a dingo because she is a dingo.

What Are Primitive Dogs?

Primitive dogs are breeds that have been met with limited interference by humanity. People have made Dachshunds shorter and Labradors happy to be alive, but primitive dog breeds remain very close to their wolf origins. Primitive dog breeds include:

  • Shibas,
  • Akitas,
  • Siberian Huskies,
  • and Alaskan Malamutes.

Of all primitive dog breeds, only dingos, American dingos, and New Guinea dogs still roam in packs. Thus, I got the most primitive type of wild dog I possibly could—because I'm an achiever.

The most primitive of all dog breeds share dingo characteristics. They are a tan or golden color and have a thick coat and pointed ears. They will also likely never play fetch.

Four Reasons (Not) to Get an American Dingo

  1. They actively plot against you at every turn.
  2. They can climb. Yes, you read that. This 50-pound dog can climb.
  3. They don't really care what you have to say.
  4. You'll never be able to go back to another breed of dog again.

How to Get Your Own American Dingo

  • Go to your local dog shelter.
  • Ask for an adult dog that is friendly and active.
  • Look through dogs until you find one that stares directly into your soul.
  • Walk around with the dog until you're satisfied that it's healthy and active.
  • Find out three days later the dog was sedated when you saw it.
  • Realize everything precious that you own is now inside your dog.
  • Cry a little.
  • Have a unique friend and companion for life.

© 2013 Jenna Inouye


George on August 05, 2020:

WOW !!!

My 1 yr old Darcy is part Dingo. Got him from an Amish community 900 km west of Montreal. Mother was Bernese/Blue Heeler& father was Black Lab/Border Collie..He gets his size (about 78 lbs so far) from Bernese & colour (shiny black with blue grey on chest and groin) from large black Lab & Blue Heeler & Dingo from Heeler. He is gorgeous, moves, runs & jumps with AMAZING speed and agiliy !!! Herds like a border collie and drives like a heeler. Behavior....crazzzy smart..stuborn but trainable..always tries to out think me..shy at first with strangers,,fiercely loyal to family members including 3 young grandsons...loves to play with any other dog..totaly 7th dog ( last 3 were Goldens which we all loved)...but this dog is way different and I love him crazy..Going to introduce him to agility to keep him challanged, exersized and out of trouble...Oh and a GREAT watch dog !!!!

Perry on May 27, 2020:

I own a Carolina Dog. I got her from a neighbor who was going through a separation with her boyfriend. They kept the dog in their back yard and they didn't always show up to take care of her. I went over to their house and brought the dog to our home to take care of her. My neighbor told me that my family could keep the dog and she said that she was part dingo and German shepherd. Keira fell in love with my family as have my family with her. She's the best friend and a big part of our family. I would like to find another American dingo so Keria can have a playmate.

dave moose on May 04, 2020:

I trapped Dixie (about 12 mo. old) with a coyote trap. The police had been after her and could not get close enough. A company had reclaimed and dozed home of 400 acres trees and brush. She had chosen a near neighborhood with lots of fences which she could jump or climb over and they could not get her..

Now two years far the best dog I ever had. And yes, NO TRICKS. But she will lay down and come and set and heal. I just hope I can be as good a person as Dixie thinks I am. She lives in the home and sleeps with us She now has a well fenced 1 acre bath room and a magnetic dog door to the deck and down to her back yard... When She comes back in, she checks to see that I , the wife and the beagle are ok (with out fail). The pack seems to mean everything to her. Yes we do get snout holes at times in the back yard and when she races around in the yard she has that double suspension stride like a grey hound. The hound has taught her to bark, but not much.

Mostly she will howl and sort talk or fuss with a "ah-rawh, rawh, rawh" sound.

She is perfect with tall pointed ears, thick neck and the quintessential Dixie Dingo when compared all the pics I see on the net.

These dogs will keep you on your toes. on April 22, 2019:

Recently we got a puppy and were told that it was a husky mix. Three months later we realized that this was no husky so after looking on the Internet at different breeds we figured out that it must be a Carolina Dingo mixed with a hound. Anyhow, everything that you have described in terms of behaviors, this dog of ours displays. She is absolutely wonderful and a delight even though she chews up anything and everything. She’s mischievous and can run like the wind. A smarter dog I have never seen. I think she’s almost magical in certain ways. When we took her to the vet he said we hit the lottery with this dog. And he was right. I highly recommend this breed although you better be prepared to have an animal That will keep you on your toes.

CatalinaMoreno on March 22, 2019:

Sorry this is so long lol

I've had several dogs in my life (including three at the moment), and my American Dingo is easily my absolute favorite. She's super obedient and it almost seems like she's eager to please humans. She's also super affectionate, intelligent, mellow, and friendly. I actually got her certified as a comfort dog and I take her to hospitals/nursing homes and the aftermath of traumatic events to help people feel a little better.

Shes also extremely food motivated. Food, snuggling, and running around the backyard barking at EVERYTHING are her favorite things. But she's obedient without the promise of a reward. I actually haven't rewarded her with treats since she graduated from "puppy school" 6ish years ago.

She's also super protective of her "pack" (my other two dogs). But she looks to us for comfort and protection. I would expect primative breeds to view humans as part of a pack, but she seems to use the "parent-child" bonding dynamic that's common with regular dogs.

We did genetic testing because my husband just had to know what kind of dog she is. He was obsessing so much after we adopted her.

So we're as positive as we can be that she's actually an American Dingo.

I actually feel like there's a ton of diversity in American Dingo personalities! I think this might actually have something to do with how primative the breed is. Human breeders typically look at certain personality traits in addition to physical appearance. But Carolina Dogs haven't had that selective influence. Possibly a reason why our dogs could have such different personalities while being the same breed.

I also feel like they're not so much rare as they are sort of overlooked. The feral packs are very difficult to come by, but it seems like a lot of people in the Southeast (Southwest to a lesser degree) have wound up adopting an unusual "Shepherd mix" that looks more like an Australian Dingo than a German Shepherd. Who knows how many "shepherd mixes" are actually just American Dingos hiding in plain sight?

Mark from OK. on February 24, 2019:

Kate was my American Dingo. She passed a year ago at 14. She was the best dog ever...

Laura on February 16, 2019:

I have an American Dingo/ Carolina Dog and he is very smart, very! well trained, and loves playing fetch. He doesn't plot. He's just super shy around new people. He's barked maybe 4 times in his 3 years, though will whine. He's very pack oriented so loves being around me and my husband bit few others. Great dog, great breed. Love my CD!

Chrissy on February 12, 2019:

This absolutely nails what its like to have them. my first one from the shelter didn't bark for 3 days and I thought he was an angel baby...nope, he is always plotting. Love him to death, don't think there is a stronger bond then these dogs with their owners, but sometimes I wonder why he is the way he is (outloud, while he's being himself).

Kim Marie on February 07, 2019:

We have a GSD and a Carolina dog. Will be getting another. Jazzy loves to run and she is gentle with the children in the family. You may see Gunny at the door but you will hear her barking. She knows she is a southern belle the way she sits or lays on tge floor front paws folded. Yes she is very gentle no plotting.

Patrick Mc on December 21, 2018:

Rescued our dog as pup 8 wks old. She was to be a shepherd mix. She grew to a 50 lb. Carolina Dingo beauty. She's smart, soooo affectionate, active, obedient and does well w/ the grandkids too. She remains very shy and rarely barks. She loves to run in the open fields. There is one negative- she is a shedding machine! Had dogs all my life but this Dingo dog is a joy!

Andrea E on December 01, 2018:

We got a rescue that somehow made her way to northern Ontario in Canada. They weren't sure of her mix, but she is identical to these pictures and descriptions. We couldn't be happier - she was harder to house train, but easy to train in other ways, and incredibly smart. Like the other descriptions runs like crazy outside off the leash but never goes far away but in the house is relaxed (as long as she got her walk). The only difference is she loves to cuddle is incredibly affectionate. She doesn't chew a thing, takes only what is hers, and never plays fetch. She sounds like an American dingo 100%. She could be more affectionate as she spent the first year of her life in a harsher area and now is enjoying being part of a human pack. We did a generic dog DNA before finding pictures of what looks like her online, but they couldn't test American dingo. Is there a place we can get her tested specifically for this?

Jessica A on October 10, 2018:

My dog looks just like that! Although, she is on the smaller side. She was a rescue and the person I got her from said she would be 40-50 pounds... She stopped growing at 30 - what a disappointment. She can run for hours and hours. But she does listen incredibly well, so maybe I just got lucky!

Eileen on August 02, 2018:

Same story here too. We got our carolina dog from a rescue at 8 months, they also told us she was a shepard/lab mix. Well she never got any bigger and her bark was wierd. The vet told us she is much older than 8 months. Her temperment is much better than what Im reading here though. She is high energy but for the most part a very good girl. Down falls: She was hard to house brake and runs away a lot, nothing can keep her contained.

Frank Bell on March 18, 2018:

Got this dog from the shelter looks just like the pictures of the American

Dingo I found on the Internet tall long body yellow hair hook tail

Monica Sanchez Alfonso on March 03, 2018:

I adopted my dog from the animal place and no one knows what mix he is. Well reading his papers and blood test he is a pure Carolina Dog

Jaybird on February 22, 2018:

Holy crap, the same has happened to me except my dog must be a mix. She totally looks dingo esque and the shelter told me she was a German Shepard mix but she is too small for that and craaaazy smart

Pat on January 09, 2018:

Go to new leash on life Josie. That's my girl.

omalley on December 15, 2017:

OK. I read Sunshine's Daddy's post. "We just found out that our dog, who we thought to be a Malinois/Ridgeback mix, is a pure Carolina Dog. Got her as a 4-month pup and she just turned a year." We had our puppy at 5 wks due to the litter's illnesses at the pet rescue and ours is 10 months old now. That is where Sunshine's Daddy's post similarity ended for us. The article above describes our dog TO A "T"!!!! The part of how to get an American Dingo made me want to laugh and cry. What have we gotten ourself into!!! And we now love her. Darn it!!! My husband has one deformed bicep from having to hold her back on walks!!!

Sunshine's Daddy on October 19, 2017:

We just found out that our dog, who we thought to be a Malinois/Ridgeback mix, is a pure Carolina Dog. Got her as a 4-month pup and she just turned a year. I have to say our experience was not nearly extreme as this article suggests. I know it sounds weird, but I've never had such a well-behaved dog. She could be a little more obedient and she's definitely on the very low end of the physical affection scale (for dogs). But she's also extremely loving and just very good. Never chewed clothes or shoes or anything that wasn't given as a toy. Never ran away even when she got out on her own. Comes when called...OK, on the second time. I don't buy that this breed was independent for centuries...she's too easily domesticated for that.

Brad on October 15, 2017:

I found my dog as a stray. Maybe a month old. You could hold him in one hand. I went around to all my nabors to see if they new whose dog it was. They told me it was a wild dog and didn't belong to no one, so I took him in. At first he was the most difficult dog I ever owned. But after a few months he got better. Long story short, the best dog I have ever owned. I have hundreds of story's about my dog, here and abroad. Don't know how to show pic☹️

David Wise on May 19, 2017:

We have two, my son has one and we are currently fostering a little female now. I will not have any other breed from this point forward. By far the best rescue a person could have but be prepared if you don't know the breed and their capabilities.

Mine can open ice chests, food bins, enter any car with an open window and melt our heart at the same time.

JY on April 25, 2017:

we have a 2 year old Carolina dog along with 2 Labs and maltipoo.

once you have a Carolina dog you won't want any other breed.

they are the best dogs - smart, clean, easily trained, love their family, get along great with other animals and instinctively protective of their home and family. in the house just lays around quiet and calm and when outside she runs like a gazelle but never goes to far away from her pack or family.

Greg on February 01, 2017:

Yeah got this dog from a no kill shelter in North Carolina in September of 2016. We where told she's was a corgi mix but the good folks at the shelter didn't know what she was mixed with. After about a week we figured out just what that was, Evil! So yes we just decided that we'll we have to keep her no matter what. We thought we had a corgi mixed with evil breed. Today when we let her in from the back yard she wouldn't walk on her front right leg at all. So it was off to the vets office with a broken Leg! Turns outs it was just sprang. A lady their said to us that she looks like a Carolina dog and that she's been around dogs for forty years. We looked up Carolina dog on the Internet and found out were the evil part comes in, she gets it honestly! Her name is Unity and she was found on Unity Church road and taken to the no kill shelter on Church road. The personal at the no kill shelter named her Unity. So their you have it a Dingo named Unity!

Mark on January 13, 2017:

A lot of good information but also some misteps. Please correct. Wherever you say They are always... Would be a good start.

frank/gavin on June 29, 2014:

Me and my son moved to Carolina and as a single parent went to the shelter and got what I thought was a regular stray dog!!in actuality we got a true Carolina dingo I thought I was losing my mind but this dog understood not only what I was saying but what my actions were gonna be!!I retired from football and have a terrible back do you know this dog mimics me going up the stairs!! He goes slow right beside me and actually limps!! Its nuts!! You can't make up what I've seen this dog do... But hear this I've never had a more intelligent loyal guardian in my life!!! He's part of the family and we were blessed to get him!!! His name is sully and we love him

NKSmith on May 20, 2014:

Your article is dead on!!! I especially loved your "Reasons Not to Get an American Dingo"!!! It took me about 3 years (her nickname since her ears stood up around 7 weeks has always been Dingo, durrr!!!) to finally become curious enough to begin researching what type of breed my "Baby Girl" REALLY is...Her papers say that she is a Red Nose/Blue Pit, which was the doggie companion that I was looking for at the time (up to that point I said I would never own any other breed lol). Needless to say, I lucked out BIG TIME!!! Carolina dogs are SuperrrSmart, happy go lucky & there definitely is a special kind of bond with them that is like no other breed (Baby Girl is a "hug dog" too lol). I recently read another article on the American Dingo that gave me a HUGE sigh of relief...most live well into their teens!!! Thanks so much for your article!!!

Sari on April 24, 2014:

Thanks for your article. The shelter also labeled my dog as a Shepard mix but soon started trying to figure out what he is after is primitive behavior. He is stubborn, sly , and very sneaky , buries all his stuff ( even in the house plants )but he is also fun, smart , loving and super loyal. I have never had to work so hard with a dog but he is starting to behave but he needs massive amounts of exercise Now I am working with him to not be so protective when strangers are in the house

torrilynn on January 26, 2014:

It always nice to learn something new. Thanks for the article.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on January 25, 2014:

So you are a proud owner of a dingo haha.

Well, that dog looks good. And this is a short but a very informative article on Carolina Dog / American dingo.

Loved it!

Mark dos Anjos DVM from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 25, 2014:

German Shepherd mix...right. You sound like you have been able to handle all of the heartaches, and certainly not everyone is. I am pinning that photo of your dog on one of my Pinterest pages, and sharing this on HP. Nice article about your dog.

Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on December 11, 2013:

Extremely interesting article! The Blue Heeler is a dog crossed with wild Australian Dingos and is the best cattle herding dog in America. It's an extremely smart animal and I've seen even herd a flock of chickens! They are very protective of their owners and, although very small, will tackle an aggressive 3,000 lb. animal without batting an eye.

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