Carolina Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

The Carolina Dog (Swamp Dog, Native Dog, Old Yeller Dog, Ol’ Yaller, Yellow Dog, Native American Dog, Southern Aboriginal Dog) or American Dingo (American Pariah, American Pariah Dog, Dixie Dingo, Southern Dingo) is an ancient landrace dog or a pariah dog that originated more than 10.000 years ago in East Asia. According to some DNA studies, this breed is actually a direct descendant of the original Asian Pariah Dogs, whose ancestors were the Asian wolves. So, this is definitely one of the oldest and most primitive dogs in the world. Based on its appearance, many experts believed that the American Pariah is the close relative of the Australian Dingo and the New Guinea Singing Dog, but a new study of this breed’s mDNA haplotypes confirmed that there is no direct genetic relationship between them. However, another, more recent genetic study confirmed that the breed definitely originated in East Asia, so there’s still a possibility that these three landraces are somehow related. With all that being said, you probably wonder, how this breed ended up in the North America then? Well, this happened some 8.000 years ago when the primitive Paleolithic men reached America through the Bearing Strait crossing. Their pariah dogs accompanied them at this long and perilous journey that led them through West America all the way down to the Southeast of the continent. The American Dingo is actually the direct descendant of these dogs, together with the Basketmaker Dog and the Kentucky Shell Heap Dog, which are now extinct unfortunately.

That’s why the Carolina Dog is considered the oldest breed in the North America today. Also, this is the first domesticated dog in this part of the world, which was evidenced by the mummified remains of dogs with similar bone structure from the period of the Indian Basket Maker culture. So, there is no doubt that the American Native Dogs inhabited this continent long before the arrival of the first Europeans. The Indians bred them for herding, guarding and hunting, however, some of these dogs ended up strayed in the wild. Since they were always living on the edge of the wild, capable to take care of themselves, they easily adapted to this feral way of life and have survived on their own to this very day. In the 1970s, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, a biology professor at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Lab, discovered these dogs in the most isolated, remote parts in South Carolina and Georgia. There they lived for centuries in isolation, which actually saved them from interbreeding with domestic dogs. That’s why their genetic purity remained almost intact after all this time. Today, they are precious for the better understanding of the entire canine strain (an ongoing scientific hypothesis). Until now, the Carolina Dog is not recognized by the FCI, not even by the AKC, though there is a pending application for inclusion into the FSS (Foundation Stock Service) program, which suggests that it might be accepted soon. The breed is, on the other hand, recognized by the UKC and ARBA.

Swamp Dog In The Wild

Today, the wild Carolina Dogs can be found only in the remote areas of the Savannah River basin (South Carolina and Georgia), especially in the large blackwater swamps, characterized by the bald cypress and longleaf pines. That’s why this breed is also known as the Swamp Dog. In the wild, the American Dingoes often live in small packs, but can live sole as well. It is an interesting thing that they use their tails to communicate and signal each other, especially during the hunt. They often hunt cooperatively in small packs. These dogs feed on small and medium-sized mammals (shrews, raccoons, and mice) and reptiles. They have extremely sharp senses and can easily locate prey from long distances. The Carolina Dog hunting technique based on pouncing is similar to a fox, but it depends on the type of prey. For some unknown reason, these dogs, especially females, dig small snout pits in certain areas from September through February. Also, females often dig dens in which they give birth. They sometimes come into three successive estrus cycles, while other times have seasonal reproductive cycles. This probably depends on the need for quick breeding, especially if puppies are under threat of some disease. After the females gave birth to a litter, males usually stay with them, which is something other domesticated dogs hardly ever do. In other words, both parents take care of their pups. Unfortunately, the population of wild Carolina Dogs is declining rapidly due to continuous domestication, interbreeding with domesticated dogs, and coyotes, who settled in this area in recent times.

Domesticated Carolina Dog Personality And Temperament

The American Pariah is a very hardy and agile dog that is quite reminiscent of the Australian Dingo.

Strong, agile and handsome!

The Carolina Dog is hardy, lively and gentle, but is quite shy and suspicious like every wild animal. The breed is also known as very brave, intelligent, resourceful, cunning, aloof, independent, quiet, adaptable, responsive, and eager to please its master once properly trained. The ancestors of the breed were used as working dogsherders and hunters – but today the American Dingo is mostly bred as a companion. Even though this is a very primitive dog that retains many characteristics of other wild canines, his pack-oriented nature is the reason he can be such a nice family pet. Of course, it will greatly depend on the way you treat your dog, but in the right hands he will be a pet to admire. As companions, these dogs are very loyal, devoted and affectionate. Usually, they will create strong bonds with all family members. They enjoy company and will gladly join you in your daily routines. However, it will be necessary for all members of the household to have higher ranking in the hierarchy of the pack. Indeed, to have an obedient, devoted and respectful Carolina Dog, every family member will have to be a pack leader. If not, this dog will just ignore their commands and do things on his own, which is unacceptable. That’s why it is mandatory that all family members get involved during the obedience training.

You probably didn’t expect to hear this about a semi-feral canine, but the Carolina Dog is truly an excellent playmate for children, doesn’t matter how old they are. Ok, toddlers should be supervised in the company of every dog, this one included, but at least you won’t have to worry he will intentionally hurt them. Naturally, it will require some time for this dog to get used to your kid(s), which is why it’s very important for him to grow up with them. However, when that finally happens, your children will get a great companion ready to play with them at any given time. Indeed, the American Dingo is a very cheerful, playful and lively dog by nature, who will often wholeheartedly join your kids in their games and activities. He is quite social pet that needs a lot of attention, which is something he will have in abundance surrounded by children. To make things even better, this dog can be quite gentle and cuddly at times, like a cat – so young’uns will have an ideal pet to share quite moments with. Though the Carolina Dog is usually very tolerant and can withstand any kind of children’s handling, it would be necessary that you teach your kids how to treat a dog nicely, with respect and understanding. Also, an early socialization is certainly required for every Native Dog to get used to all kids, not just those in the family.

The Carolina Dog is naturally not warm and/or outgoing to people that do not belong to his “human pack”. In fact, he is downright shy, reserved and suspicious with strangers, especially in the puppyhood. Usually, the Native Dog will warn you with loud bark whenever somebody comes near or at your property. So, we can assume that he can be a reliable watchdog – not the best but still good. However, he is definitely not a guard dog in any way. Naturally, the Dixie Dingo is not at all aggressive with humans, neither is he eager to oppose them, even if they enter the owner’s property. In fact, he will rather stay at distance and bark until his owner arrives. Fortunately, this is rather quiet breed, which is not prone to obsessive barking if treated the right way – never ignore your dog, dedicate as much time as possible to him! The bad thing about the Carolina Dog is that he can easily become too shy or timid with unknown people, or too agitated by strange things, which is something you should definitely prevent as soon as possible. That’s why the early socialization with people of all ages, as well as with all kinds of sounds, surroundings and situations, is a mandatory thing for this breed. The social activity will help your dog easily get accustomed to all things that might annoy him, which will be of great benefit to his mental health.

As a result of “clean” natural selection, the Carolina Dog is more a wild canine species than just another domestic breed. This dog definitely knows how to survive in nature on his own, and is always eager to hunt down some nice prey. In other words, he is a natural born predator with strong hunting instincts, which does not bode well for small non-canine pets. Indeed, cats, rabbits, hamsters, or guinea pigs will all be in a grave danger close to this dog. He will chase them at sight and will gladly kill them if possible. However, once an American Dingo is properly introduced to other pets at an early age, he can easily get used to them. That’s why it’s very important that you raise your dog with other pets, as well as to train him to ignore them. But keep in mind that even this approach won’t work for some dogs when it comes to hamsters or rabbits. So, it would be best that you keep them out of a dog’s reach. Fortunately, the situation is much better in the case of other dogs. The American Dingo tends to get along with them quite nicely, especially if they are raised together. This dog usually won’t be dominant or aggressive with them. In fact, he will be quite submissive in the company of older or bigger dogs. However, some toy breeds might trigger his hunting instincts, which is definitely something that should be corrected with an early socialization program.

In the 1970s, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, a biology professor at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab, discovered Carolina Dogs in the most isolated, remote parts in South Carolina and Georgia.

Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin with his Carolina Dogs

American Dingo Training

Like every semi-domesticated canine, the Carolina Dog is rather challenging to train. This is a primitive dog in every sense, which means that he is rather independent and stubborn by nature. So, it’s perfectly clear that the American Pariah is not recommended for novice owners, with little or no experience in working with dogs. However, that is not to say that this is some breed with low IQ. Far from it! It is quite intelligent, resourceful and thoughtful, capable to easily solve all kinds of problems on its own. After all, life in the wilderness has taught the Carolina Dog to be self-sufficient. So, the only real problem would actually be to find a way to get your dog motivated for the training so that he understands that all of it is for his own good. To overcome this, you will have to respect a few important rules. Start with the training as soon as you bring your dog home. It is necessary for you to be a pack leader with gentle hand. You will have to be consistent, firm and thorough, but extremely patient, calm and respectful. You should always avoid harsh or cruel methods (shouting, bullying, etc.) while working with this dog. These can have serious consequences to your dog’s mental health. Recommended are the positive reinforcement techniques with lots of praise and treats. Lessons should be short (30 min) and interesting, but never repetitive.

Other Characteristics And Traits

Main Carolina Dog characteristics are intelligence, agility, strength, high stamina, athleticism, resourcefulness, independence, stubbornness, timidity, alertness, loyalty, calmness, boldness, tenacity, and playfulness. This is a very hardy and agile dog that can be literally active all day long. So, it is perfectly clear that he will require a good amount of daily exercise to stay healthy in every way. That’s why this breed is in the first place recommended for active people who like to spend a lot of time outdoors. It would be desirable to take your Carolina Dog for a long walk, hike or jog once a day at least. However, that usually won’t be enough. You should also play some games with him whenever you can, such as play with toys, fetch game or find the treat. It is always a good thing that you stimulate your dog mentally with toys. This way he will get a much needed attention and you will definitely have some fun too. On top of that, it would be nice that you have some large, securely fenced area at hand to let your dog out to play and run around. The American Dingo is a type of dog that likes to do things on his own, and this way he’ll get plenty of space and freedom for that. Remember, it is mandatory that you exercise your Carolina Dog as much as possible because if bored, he can develop some serious behavior issues, such as the separation anxiety, chewing, digging, etc.

Dixie Dingoes enjoy swimming a lot!

This swamp is sooo nice :)

When it comes to the ideal living conditions for the Carolina Dog, we always have to remember that this is still a semi-feral breed, which shares a lot of traits with other wild canines. Among them is the need for freedom, or better to say the need for open space. That’s why this dog is certainly not recommended for owners who live in apartments or urban homes without a yard. Of course, it would be possible to keep this dog in such living place, but it will require a great deal of daily exercise, a lot more than usual, which I’m sure would be too much for some people. Being so independent and active, the American Dingo will always be happier with some open space to run and play. In other words, he is best suited for a farm or a suburban house with huge, fenced courtyard with lots of green. Also, it would be a great thing if there is some natural environment close by your home, especially the river. In case you didn’t know, these dogs love to swim very much, like all other swamp animals. So, it would definitely suit your dog well. However, it should be said that, with proper training and good exercise, the Carolina Dog can be an outstanding house pet too. In fact, it would be recommended that you keep your dog indoors during the night, to stay with his family. He is naturally very clean, he likes to take care of himself, has no doggy odour, and is relatively easy to housebreak with good crate training. And even when your dog do the do outside, he will cover his droppings with soil, which says a lot how clean and careful these dogs actually are.

The Carolina Dog should be also kept indoors during the winter months as much as possible, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere. This breed originates from the American far south, which has a humid subtropical climate. So, it is understandable that these dogs are not used to cold weather. Another reason why you should sometimes keep your American Pariah indoors and close to his family is that he is an incredible escape artist. Indeed, if bored or neglected, he will probably try to break free. If there is any weakness in your fence, be sure he will use it. This dog is a skilled digger, a good climber, and a high jumper. So, it would be necessary that you have at least 6-feet high fence (wall) around your yard, that is stuck deep into the ground. Fortunately, unlike some other primitive (pariah) breeds, the Carolina Dog is usually not in the mood to break free at any cost, especially if he is treated and exercised properly. However, that doesn’t mean he won’t escape if he smells or senses something interesting outside the courtyard. You can never know what can draw his attention. That’s why it is mandatory that you never leave your Carolina Dog unsupervised for long! Also, if you have some garden in your yard, it would be wise that you enclose it with a strong and high fence. This dog is a passionate digger, who will probably exercise his skills through those “ugly” flowers and vegetables :)

American Pariah Health

The life expectancy of a Carolina Dog is around 12-15 years. Judging by its lifespan, it is perfectly clear that this is generally a healthy breed with no inherited or congenital diseases evidenced so far. In fact, these dogs are not even prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, as well as eye, ear and skin problems, which are more or less common in almost all other domesticated breeds. Of course, this doesn’t mean that American Dingoes are completely immune to all possible health issues. Like all other dog breeds, they should be extensively vaccinated against distemper and treated against all sorts of parasites, both internal (worms, tapeworms, heartworms) and external (fleas, ticks, fleas, mites). That’s why it is mandatory that you buy a Carolina Dog puppy from a reputable breeder, one who can provide you with necessary health clearances for both of a puppy’s parents. The breeder should also provide you with all certificates that a puppy was properly vaccinated and treated against parasites. Though there are no major health concerns in this breed, these dogs are still living beings of flesh and bone, which means that they could suffer from certain unwanted conditions. Doesn’t matter which dog you have, you should always supervise him and look for any unusual signs in his behavior, motion, etc. If there is something suspicious, take your dog to Vet immediately.

Native Dog Physical Characteristics And Appearance

Wild Carolina Dogs are excellent hunters that usual hunt in small packs.

I think there is some tasty mouse :)

The Carolina Dog is a medium-sized dog of rectangular shape – slightly longer than tall at the withers. This is a typical pariah/feral type of dog, which was developed by natural selection to live and survive in the wilderness on its own. The Dixie Dingo has the compact and muscular body, covered with a short, double coat. The very similar coat can be found on other feral dogs, such as the Indian Pariah Dog or the Australian Dingo. Naturally, the undercoat is dense and soft and the topcoat is straight and coarse. The hair is longer down the topline and on the tail. However, the length and density of the hair can vary depending on the type of climate where the dog lives. Of course, the coat of the dogs living in the northern hemisphere is often longer and thicker than that found in the dogs of subtropical regions. The coat is self-cleaning with low grooming requirements. Occasional brushing and bathing will do fine. Main Carolina Dog colors are cream, fawn, red, white, tan, black. The most common are ginger-colored dogs, ranging from cream to red. The color is usually paler on the shoulders and muzzle, with white markings on cheeks, feet and tip of tail. Other acceptable color patterns are the black and tan (with white markings) as well as the piebald (predominant white/cream color with black, tan or red spots). Puppies are usually born with a melanistic mask, which often fades as they grow up.

The Carolina Dog has a typical wedge-shaped head with the moderately-rounded, broad skull and the long, tapering muzzle with strong jaws. The muzzle is usually longer than the skull. The teeth are rather large. They meet in a level or scissors bite. The large nose is usually black, but can be lighter in cream or white dogs. The tight-fitting lips and eye rims are black. The dark, almond-shaped eyes are set obliquely, with a distinct furrow between them. They have an intelligent, yet alert expression. The rather large, erect ears are set high and wide, and pointed slightly forward. They are highly mobile and have rounded tips. It is recommended that you inspect your dog’s eyes and ears from time to time. The neck is quite long and strong. The well-developed chest is moderately narrow and deep. The back is straight and relatively long. The stomach is well tucked-up and the loins are thick and well-muscled. The moderate, brushy tail is usually carried low or tucked between the legs. However, when the dog is excited it is carried slightly above the back line in the form of a fish hook or a sickle. The forelegs are straight and well muscled. The hind legs are very powerful, strong and well angled. The relatively small feet have hard padded toes and sharp nails. They should be trimmed from time to time. With such strong legs, it is no wonder the Carolina Dog is capable to easily cope with the harshest of terrains.

Carolina Dog Size And Weight

– Height between 20 and 24 inches (51-61 cm)
– Weight between 40 and 60 pounds (18-27 kg)
– Height between 17 and 21 inches (43-53 cm)
– Weight between 30 and 50 pounds (13,5-22,5 kg)

The American Dingo is a very cheerful, playful and lively dog by nature, who will often wholeheartedly join your kids in their games and activities.

Know some interesting games boss? :)

Potential Hunting Dog

There is no doubt that unlike many other wild canines, the Carolina Dog, when treated with great attention, respect and understanding, makes a wonderful family pet. However, when properly socialized and well trained in obedience, this canine can also be a good working dog. Indeed, the breed is known after its intelligence, high stamina, great athleticism, resourcefulness, strong prey drive, keen senses, all of which can prove useful in some way. It is generally known that the ancestors of this breed had been used by Indians as working dogs. Their main duties back in time were hunting, herding and guarding. So, there is definitely a working potential in these dogs ready to be put to use. Though it’s hard to imagine them as herders or guardians today, their hunting prowess cannot be neglected. The Carolina Dogs have been for long free-roaming canines capable to hunt and feed on their own. So, there’s no doubt that they possess outstanding hunting instincts and skills. The American Dingoes can easily work in any terrain (swamp, river, forest, mountain), they can track the game over long distances thanks to their sharp senses, and they are brave enough to confront even the most dangerous game, especially when in a pack. On top of that, when trained properly, they can be excellent retrievers with good recall. So, as you can see, the breed is quite suitable as a hunting dog, but only in skilled hands. Another interesting thing about these dogs is that, with good training and exercise, they can actually compete in agility and obedience trials.

Part Of American History

The Carolina Dog, together with the Basketmaker Dog and the Kentucky Shell Heap Dog, is native to North America. Unfortunately, the former two breeds are now extinct, which means that the Dixie Dingo is definitely the oldest of all American dog breeds today. It’s been present in this part of the world for more than 8.000 years, long before the first European colonists. There’s no doubt that this dog is truly a legit part of the American history. So, I wonder, is there any proud American who wouldn’t love to have such an inseparable part of the national history in his/her home? I doubt so! That’s why the American Dingo is so special. But let’s be honest, this is not the breed for everyone. Like all other semi-feral (pariah) dogs, the American Pariah is very primitive and independent canine that demands a lot of attention and training to get accustomed to the captive way of life. It will require a good amount of time, patience and understanding, which is why this dog is not recommended for inexperienced owners. Nonetheless, some of you are probably already eager to buy a puppy, but you have to know that it won’t be an easy task for all of you. You see, the Carolina Dog is in the group of rare dog breeds, and the price of puppies can go up to 2.000$, which definitely might be too much for some. However, if you’re looking for a unique and truly primitive dog, a real living fossil, then this is your excellent pick!

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7 thoughts on “Carolina Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

  1. Tom

    Hi guys, I’d need your help on this. I work in a local animal shelter and couple months ago somebody found this cute approx 2yo girl roaming around a local lake side, she was fit (17kgs, now is 19kg and does not gain any more) but kind of lonely nad depressed. I worked a little bit with her and she shows all the traits to be a Carolina dog but it’s impossible to tell as this breed is very rare where I live.

    She digs “nose pits”, has impossibly good tracking skills and amazing nose – finds hidden treats 100% precision, also moles, mice and other creatures. She eats soil :) and some herbs in the forest with a picky taste, always same ones. Also she hates men in general (human and dogs) and loves girls (human, female dogs are ok-ish but not too long).

    I want to adopt her and give her a proper training and diet but identification is crucial here since we know nothing about her past. Do you guys thing that could be a Carolina dog? Also the color is strange, like amstaff’s “buck skin” but I’ve seen pics online of Carolina dog in that color so not sure any more. I’ll add some pics of our dog. Thanks!

  2. Bikermom13

    Carolina Dogs are accepted by the UKC – we have several who show in my region. They are also now AKC FSS (Foundation Stock Service) as of 2017. I just completed working with a dog adopted as a Carolina Dog x. Good dogs but working dogs.

  3. Saunter

    We had a dog that was Aussie cattle dog x black lab . He looked quite a lot like the fotos of Carolina dog . King was my daughters service dog , telling her of seizures in advance . He was trained to run up the 20 stairs then across house and down about 75 times twice a day. The exercise helped him be able to think clearly. He only stopped when he was 12 , due to being old and blind. King taught daughters current service dog by being dog boss even tho smaller than the new dog.

  4. Saunter

    Might a Carolina American dingo be a good service dog for my daughter for her next SD? I’m thinking of the future. Since this is her 5th SD . Each being trained by the preceding elder dog. I encouraged. And taught trust, and inter species communication and also polite in public. She began SD at age two and is now age 32

  5. Carima Peña

    I’ve rescued a beautiful female dog from the shelter. Her previous vet paperwork states she’s a Carolina Dog (“American Dingo”). No DNA test was done, however and she certainly has EVERY characteristic. I immediately fell in love with her. She’s very intelligent and very, very fferent than other dogs. All of my pictures are too large to post! I would love to hear your thoughts on whether I should get her spayed. Thank you

  6. Robin Fishkind

    We recently adopted a rescue pup from Mississippi. We think she could be a Carolina Dog (or a mix), and would like to find out what DNA tests will check for this breed, or how we can find out more to determine if she is. She has most of the traits- both physical and personality, and we did see her mom, who also has many of the traits. We had no idea that we might be getting a somewhat feral dog as the paperwork and agency really didn’t know what the breeds were. Thank you, Robin


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