New Guinea Singing Dog

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult New Guinea Singing Dog

The beautiful New Guinea Singing Dog looks similar to a dingo and is classified under the trinomial name ‘Canis lupus dingo’. This breed stands out because of its noble features, intense stare and melodic singing voice. Their thick fur is typically light brown with white patches and most have a white tip to their densely furred tail, much like a fox.

Never having co-habited with humans, this breed is wary of people and will often run from them rather than approach them. They are incredibly adaptable and can hunt, forage and completely fend for themselves in the wild. An independent dog with complex needs, the New Guinea Singing Dog is not really designed to be kept as a pet.

About & History

The New Guinea Singing Dog is unlike most and has an incredibly interesting history. This breed is considered to be a wild dog and was never domesticated in the same way as other breeds. They have lived as feral populations within Papa New Guinea since the stone age. They have always lived in the ‘Central Range’, or New Guinea Highlands, a mountainous region, which contains picturesque river valleys. Experts are divided on how exactly they should be defined, with some classifying them amongst other companion breeds as ‘Canis lupus famliaris’ with others arguing that they would be more correctly categorised as ‘Canis lupus dingo’.

Even something as simple as obtaining a photo or video of this breed in the wild is difficult and sightings are exceptionally rare. It is suspected that these dogs do not live in permanent packs and are often found alone or in pairs. They have an inbuilt distrust of people and will shy away from their presence, running and hiding. It is not within their nature to be overly aggressive or confrontational with humans.

The behaviours and body language of the New Guinea Singing Dog have been studied in depth, with characteristic ‘head tossing’ and extreme territorial aggression being noted in some. Of course, much attention has been paid to their unique vocalisations, which consist of melodic shrieks and howls. Some dogs will vocalise in a group, a behaviour known as a ‘chorus howl’.

The New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society work hard to preserve this unique breed and they are kept internationally in more than 20 zoos, most within America. It is discouraged to breed the New Guinea Singing Dog with other breeds to create hybrids, which will ‘water down’ their genetics and may make the original dog extinct. To ensure this is the case, any New Guinea Singing Dog homed outside of a conservation project tends to be neutered.


New Guinea Singing Dog Large Photo

The New Guinea Singing Dog is a striking animal that looks almost like a cross between a Dingo and a Wolf. Their head is relatively short and wedge-shaped with a flat skull. Their ears are set far apart and stand erect. One notable feature is their mouth, as their black lips tend to curl up at the ends, almost giving the impression that they are smiling. Their brown eyes are small and narrow and they often have expressive eyebrow skin folds above. They have a thick and strong neck which tapers down to a well-muscled body. Their chest is quite deep and they have a good abdominal tuck-up. Their bushy tail is wide at the base and resembles a fox’s tail.

The double coat of the New Guinea Singing Dog is dense and profuse. Their fur may be light or dark brown and white patches as well as grey or black facial masks are frequently seen. Most exhibit a white tip at the end of their brown tail. The average height of a fully-grown New Guinea Singing Dog is 31-46cm and they weigh between 9-14kg, so are relatively small.

Character & Temperament

It is important to remember that the New Guinea Singing Dog is a wild animal and not a domesticated pet, so they should not be expected to act like one. Even those bred in zoos and who are exposed to humans on a daily basis will be incredibly wary and constantly looking for an escape route when approached. When raised in family homes, it is said that they will bond strongly with their family members, though extensive socialisation from a very young age is required to achieve this kind of relationship, which is rare.

Though this breed can anecdotally do well with children they have been raised with, extreme caution is advised as there will always be an unpredictable element, and they must certainly be supervised at all times. Canine companions might be tolerated but others pets will not. They have an exceptionally high prey drive and will always feel a desire to chase and hunt.

They have an independent streak and are not likely to act submissive. While they can learn to obey commands and respect their owner, they will tend to see the relationship as an equal one.


Photo of New Guinea Singing Dog puppy
Oldsingerman20 /

The novice trainer should steer well clear of the New Guinea Singing Dog who poses a challenge for a number of reasons. Though these dogs are highly intelligent and adaptable, they are not usually eager to please and do not take to basic training in the same way as a domesticated dog might. Their body language and habits are also quite different, so any trainer must familiarise themselves well with the breed before meeting them.

Negative reinforcement or punishment type training styles are ill-advised, as will only result in a dog that is reluctant to participate. Instead, positive reinforcement styles should be used, rewarding the dog when it behaves well.


While no health studies have been carried out on the New Guinea Singing Dog, most assume that they enjoy good health, as they have had to adapt to living in the wild with no veterinary care at all. Evolutionary wise, only the strongest and fittest would have been able to survive. Most live an impressively long life, with examples of 19 and 20-year-old males being recorded within zoos.

Interestingly, unlike most other canine breeds, the New Guinea Singing Dog bitch will only come into season once a year. In the wild, the New Guinea Singing Dogs scavenge and forage for food, keeping themselves fed on a mix of small rodents, birds and fruit. Anecdotally, those kept in captivity or as pets do well on the BARF diet (Bones and Raw Food).

Exercise and Activity Levels

A dog that is used to being constantly on the go, searching for food and shelter and avoiding predators, the New Guinea Singing Dog has a high exercise requirement and needs plenty of good outlets for all of their energy. As well as long runs and hikes, they should be provided with other forms of physical stimulation, such as agility courses and scenting trials. They are avid hunters and relish the opportunity to perform this basic instinct when possible.

Any fenced-in area that houses the New Guinea Singing Dog must be robust as they are avid diggers and climbers. They are notoriously flexible and can squeeze through even the narrowest of openings. As they make good escape artists and can have a very high prey drive, owners should be wary of keeping them near other animals or livestock.


As the New Guinea Singing Dog has a plush double-coat they should be brushed a few times a week, or more during the moulting season. Bathing only needs to be carried out if they have gotten particularly dirty, such as after a roll around in mud.

More so than in other dog breeds, it is critical that the New Guinea Singing Dog is exposed to a normal grooming routine from a very young age. They need to be shown that tasks, such as claw clipping and ear cleaning, are the norm, and a one-year old dog is far less likely to accept this than an eight-week-old pup.

Famous New Guinea Singing Dogs

An isolated population of dogs, the New Guinea Singing Dog is an exceptionally rare breed and there are no famous examples to speak of. Within the UK, ‘Kota’ and ‘Belle’ are thought to be the only two Singing Dogs in the country and they live in Exmoor Zoo.


Crossbreeding of the New Guinea Singing Dog is strongly discouraged as conservationists are working hard to prevent them from becoming extinct. While some crossbreeds do exist, there are no established ones of which to speak.

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