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Carolina Dog

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Carolina Dog

The Carolina Dog is an ancient wild dog from the US that lives for the main part in southern states. In the last 40 years efforts have been made to re-domesticate it, though originally its ancestors were brought to North America over 9000 years ago! They are a primitive breed meaning they have been mostly uninterrupted with by humans and their selective breeding. It is a medium sized dog that while still somewhat wild when kept as a companion, with good socialization and training you can get a gentle and completely dedicated pet. It is sometimes mistaken for a small Dingo hence its is also known by the names American Dingo and Carolina Dingo, and also American Pariah.

The Carolina Dog at a Glance
Name Carolina Dog
Other names American Dingo, Carolina Dingo, American Pariah, Native American Dog, Indian Dog
Nicknames Ol'Yeller
Origin US
Average size Medium
Average weight 30 to 44 pounds
Average height 17 to 20 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Short, smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red ginger, pale buff, pale white
Popularity Not a registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Very good
Tolerance to heat Very good – handles the heat well
Tolerance to cold Moderate – not as good in cold weather
Shedding Moderate to average with seasonal heavy
Drooling Average – some drool but not prone to it
Obesity Average – make sure it is well exercised and not over fed
Grooming/brushing Average – brush a couple of times a week usually, daily when it is heavier
Barking Occasional – but it also has some interesting vocalizations as if it is talking to you, and does like to howl!
Exercise needs Very active
Trainability Very difficult – house training is easy but obedience training needs an experienced hand
Friendliness Good but care should be taken when approaching it
Good first dog Low – needs experienced owner due to it being a primitive breed
Good family pet Good with socialization – best with single or couple owners
Good with children Good – socialization needed
Good with other dogs Moderate to very good – socialization needed but with dogs it is raised with it is close to them, but it does not like strange dogs coming close
Good with other pets Low – very high prey drive, this is not a dog to have around other pets
Good with strangers Moderate – wary and suspicious, can also be shy, socialization and supervision needed
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard or land
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone, can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Very hardy breed – being a primitive dog it does not have the same health issues as domesticated dogs
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $230 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $835 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Saving Carolina Dogs Rescue and Adoption, Saving Grace Animals
Biting Statistics None reported

The Carolina Dog's Beginnings

The Carolina Dog may be an ancient breed but it is only recently that people have started to take a closer look at it, to understand its genetics and such. Because those studies reveal it is linked to Asian breeds it is now believed they descend from dogs that migrated to North America with Asian people about 9000 years ago. Paintings from early settlement times depict them in the Southeast areas of the US but until the 20th century not much was recorded about them as they were not domesticated.

For thousands of years it lived in forests and swamps mostly in Georgia and South Carolina. Then in the 1970s Dr I Lehr Brisbin Jr working for the University of Georgia discovered packs of them during a study being conducted in the Swampy regions. He took in a stray Carolina Dog as did several scientists and breeders to study them further. He noted because of the remoteness of their habitat the dog had not mixed with other dogs. It was also observed that the bone structure was almost the same as dog bone remains found in Native American burial sites that were dated thousands of years old. This is because the Native Americans also used them for various tasks like hunting small game and herding as well as keeping them as companions.

New Lease on Life

There are still wild Carolina Dogs, but there are also several breeders working on domestic breeding programs for the dog too. In the wild most of them stay away from populated areas and stick to places that are only sparsely settled. However interestingly around Atlanta's wooded land even though there are highways and industrial plants, there are a number of Carolina Dog populations. However because the amount of unpopulated and undeveloped land is rapidly dwindling the wild population numbers are on the decrease. As they do not have the natural immunity to the diseases that are in populated areas, as they have to get closer, they die. There is some concern that the wild population will actually have a staggering drop in numbers in the next few decades. The American Rare Breed Association and the United Kennel Club recognize the breed and they are a member of the AKC Foundation Stock Service, but it does not have full recognition from them.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium sized dog weighing 30 to 44 pounds and standing 17 to 20 inches tall. It is muscular but very slender and graceful with long legs and large paws. Its thick tail hangs low or is shaped like a fish hook and the necks are strong leading down to narrow chests. They are somewhat similar in appearance to a small Dingo with a tucked up belly, straight back and squared proportions. Its coat is usually smooth and short, but thick with an undercoat that is dense during the colder season, and its skin is tight. Common colors are reddish ginger, fawn, tan, black, piebald and then some white markings are possible on the chest, muzzle, tip of the tail and toes. Puppies can be born with a melanistic mask but this often fades as it grows its adult coat.

The Carolina Dog has a wedge shaped head with a long pointed muzzle, powerful jaws, black lips and a black nose with wide nostrils. Its ears are quite a distinctive part of its looks, they are very long, erect, slender and pointed at the tips. The dog can turn them each individually around giving them great hearing. Its almond shaped eyes are usually lined in black and are a dark brown to mid to dark orange color.


The Inner Carolina Dog


These dogs are great family dogs but they do need early and good socialization first. They tend to be aloof around strangers though, keep in mind in the wild they would avoid people rather than be aggressive towards them. It can be vocal, almost talking to you and it does have a tendency to howl. It is intelligent, resourceful and self sufficient so can be independent, willful and stubborn. It needs experienced owners who are clear pack leaders. While it still has many of its wild qualities it can be a loving, devoted and protective pet. It will want to spend time with its family and will not like being left alone, in fact it can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long.

Being shy it will take time for it to warm to strangers but it will soften. It is hard working and very energetic and active. It needs far more time outside and being stimulated than most other dogs. It is surprisingly adaptable but if it has not had good socialization from a young age most will not like too much handling. It is loyal, gentle and especially protective of its own family pack. It will be happy going on a hunt with you for small game and it also has strong herding instincts. It is very alert and will let you know if there is an intruder, and it will also likely act to defend you and its home.

Living with a Carolina Dog

What will training look like?

Again the fact that Carolina Dog is a primitive breed has an impact here, it is still more wild than domesticated and that means training in terms of obedience is especially challenging and required experience, patience and commitment. It is a very intelligent dog, but it is independent, it has its own onions and instincts so handling needs be firm, consistent and made clear that you are the pack leader. Training and socialization needs to be started very young. Make it clear what its place is in the family pack. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on it, keep sessions engaging, positive and do more shorter ones than less frequent longer ones. Use rewards that are something these dogs respond to. Once basic obedience is done things will get easier of you chose to train further. Socialization means exposing it to different places, people, sounds, situations and animals so it learns appropriate behavior and responses. The good new is because of its cleanly nature and intelligence it is easy to house break, so at least that should go more easily and quicker success. Also it is worth mentioning this is not a dog to use crate training with.

How active is the Carolina Dog?

Carolina Dogs are very active dogs and they need very active owners, a home with space and at least a large yard, and lots of mental stimulation too. It is best as a rural dog than an urban one. This dog loves to run so needs lots of time outside somewhere safe where it can run off leash, it can also have two long walks a day on a leash, and lots of play time. It does well in agility competitions and can jump over 10 feet when from at a run! It would also like to join you for things like hikes and outdoor adventures. This dog is a digger so be prepared for the yard to get some! Make sure you do not use pesticides in your yard or have toxic plants as sometimes they eat some soil. As this dog is really not fully domesticated still they can live outside as long as it is not too cold. This dog does better in the heat. Expect it to need a few hours a day of roaming and activity for it to be happy, it does not like closed in spaces or being indoors for long periods.

Caring for the Carolina Dog

Grooming needs

Grooming and taking care of this dog is fairly easy, the coat is easy to brush and this is a clean dog. Give it a brush once or twice a week and expect there to be some hair around the home as it does shed lightly at all times. It is then heavy during seasonal shedding times when daily brushing and clean up will be needed. It will not need professional grooming and should only be bathed if it really needs it as over often can dry out its skin. Make sure you only use a shampoo made for dogs.


Brush its teeth two to three times a week for good oral care and check its ears and clean them once a week. Infection signs would include redness, discharge, irritation or a bad smell for example. Clean them with a dog ear cleanser and cotton ball, or a damp cloth making sure you never insert anything into them. Its nails will need to be clipped when they get too long making sure not to cut into the quick of the nail. This is where blood vessels and nerves are in their nails so cutting there will hurt and make it bleed.

Feeding Time

When feeding your Carolina Dog a good quality dry dog food it will eat 1½ to 2½ cups a day, split into at least two meals. How much varies somewhat though depending on your dog's size, health, age, metabolism and level of activity. Always make sure it has access to water that is kept as fresh as possible.

How is the Carolina Dog with children and other animals?

The Carolina Dog needs early socialization more than most dogs because of its wild side. If it gets that it gets on very well with children, it is playful, bonds with them, loves to be active with them and is affectionate and protective. This breed does have strong prey instincts so again socialization, early introductions and supervision should be considered when it comes to other pets. If it is raised with them it is more likely to accept them but in general it would be best to not have other pets in the home with them. Being a pack dog it likes to have other dogs around it and forms close bonds with them. It prefers to have a pack around it and having one or two other dogs gives it companionship for when you are not home.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This dog has a life span of up to 15 years and being a primitive dog does not necessarily have the same kind of health issues other domesticated dogs do. Natural selection and recent careful breeding has meant it is a hardy dog less prone to genetic health issues and able to thrive in the wild. There is the potential for recently bred companion Carolinas to develop common dog issues though such as joint dysplasia, cancer, patellar luxation, eye problems and skin problems.

Biting Statistics

In reports looking at dogs attacking people and doing bodily harm in North America in the last 35 years the Carolina Dog is not mentioned.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Carolina Dog puppy will cost you around $1000 but there are not many breeders as of yet and it is likely the decent ones will make sure you are prepared for a dog that is still so close to the wild. Avoid using backyard breeders and puppy mills, the Carolina Dog needs experienced and knowledgeable breeders. Shelters and rescues are another option for people not set on one specific type of dog, there are lots of dogs hoping for new homes that can be great companions. Adoption fees run from $50 to $400 and some medical needs are taken care of too.


There are some initial needs all dogs have. Items you will need include a carrier, bowls, bedding and such. Most dogs also need a crate but some breeders say that the crate is not a good idea for this dog. Initial items will cost around $200. When it is home you need to take it a vet for some exams, shots, micro chipping, spaying or neutering, deworming and blood tests. These will cost around $270.

There are also ongoing costs when you have a pet. Feeding it a good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $145 a year. Basic health care like shots, tick and flea prevention, check ups and pet insurance will be another $460 a year. Miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous items comes to another $230 a year. This gives a yearly estimated starting figure of $835.


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Carolina Dogs need more commitment in many areas from their owners than most other dogs. It is extremely active, will need several hours a day of activity and it is best suited to families with older children, no other pets or couples or singles. Socialization and training need to be done well and owners need to be experienced and remain in control. It can be a loyal and loving companion when raised well.

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