New Guinea Singing Dog Breed Info And Characteristics

The New Guinea Singing Dog (New Guinea Wild Dog, New Guinea Highland Dog, Singing Dog) or Hallstrom Dog (Canis Lupus Hallstromi) is an ancient landrace dog originating from, as its name suggests, the island of New Guinea. This is probably the oldest and most primitive breed of dog in existence. Experts estimated that the NGSD strain is approximately 30.000 years old, which is why they are nicknamed Stone Age Dogs. But first dogs were probably brought to New Guinea by humans about 6.000 years ago (according to some experts, it happened even earlier, 10-20.000 years ago). As a proof for this theory, scientists found a tooth of a Singer in the lowlands of Papua (eastern half of the island), estimated to be more than 5.500 years old. This is in fact the oldest of all fossil remains of this canine species. The NGSD probably descended from ancient Pariah dogs from Southeast Asia that were actually domesticated Asian wolves. The breed has remained literally unchanged from its ancestors, which is why it is often considered a living fossil.

This dog is in fact the closest relative of the Dingo, which is why it is often called the New Guinea Dingo. Indeed, these two landrace dogs are quite similar in behavior and appearance, except the NGSD is noticeably smaller (about one third). However, this dog has several unique genetic mutations that are not found in the Dingo. This is the reason scientists believe that Singing Dogs are actually older than Dingoes. Another close relative of this canine is the Formosan Mountain Dog (Taiwan Dog). The Singing Dog was discovered for the first time back in 1897 by Charles Walter De Vis, who had captured and described one of these dogs from Mount Scratchley. However, the breed was not brought to the attention of the scientific community until the 1950s, when it finally reached wider audience. In 1956, two Singers (male and female) were captured in Lavanni Valley and sent to the Southern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea. They were given to Sir Edward Hallstrom, founder of the animal study center in Nondugi, who had brought them to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney in 1957.

The New Guinea Sinding Dog‘s Latin name, Canis Hallstromi, was given in honor of this man. A year later, Ellis Troughton, Australian zoologist and mammalogist, had examined these two NGSDs and classified them as a distinct species. However, in 1969, they were reclassified as a feral subspecies of the domesticated dog (Canis Familiaris Dingo), the same classification as the Dingo. The classification was subsequently changed again into Canis Lupus Hallstromi. Offsprings of a pair of Singing Dogs from Taronga Zoo were later distributed to Europe and North America. Unfortunately, the majority of NGSDs from North America and Europe today descended in some way from this pair, which is why their gene pool is quite small. Even though the new blood was brought in with a few new dogs captured back in 1970s-80s, the future of the breed is still uncertain. The good thing is that the efforts to save it are still ongoing. The New Guinea Singing Dog is not recognized by the FCI, not even provisionally. However, the breed is recognized by the UKC, ACA, NKC, etc.

New Guinea Dingo In The Wild

Up until recently, it was thought that the New Guinea Singing Dog is extinct in the wild. However, in 2012, Tom Hewitt, Director of the Adventure Alternative Borneo tour group took a picture of a wild NGSD on the Puncak Mandala Mountain in West New Guinea. That was the major breakthrough in the scientific community since the last known (and the only) photograph of a wild Singer was the one made 23 years before that. This gave new hope for the breed that was practically destined to extinction. However, this also proves how hard it is to find and study these dogs. This is the reason very little is known in general about the life of NGSDs in the wild. Tim Flannery, in his short report on these dogs from 1988, described them as extremely shy and outstandingly canny. They usually live in pairs or small groups, but they do not form permanent packs. It is interesting that bitches are more dominant than males. Singing Dogs are very territorial and are pretty hostile with unfamiliar dogs of the same sex. They usually search for food alone and are highly mobile. Singers prey on small rodents, birds and marsupials, such as wallabies, cuscuses, etc. However, they’re reported eating fruits as well as being scavengers. These dogs often use several well-hidden places in their territory for resting, but never stay too long in one place. Females, like it is the case with all other Dingo-like dogs (Basenji), come into heat once a year (twice in captivity). The litter size usually varies between 1-6 puppies.

In 2012, Tom Hewitt, Director of the Adventure Alternative Borneo tour group took a picture of a wild NGSD on the Puncak Mandala Mountain in West New Guinea.

Latest photograph (just the second one) of a wild Singer! photo © Tom Hewitt, 2012

Singing Dogs Relationship With Native Humans

The New Guinea Singing Dogs have long been known to sometimes live around native human settlements. Even though they are usually shy and reserved with humans, often avoiding any contact, some of these dogs intentionally took up residence with the villagers in search for food, especially in the lowlands of the island. However, many of them never looked at humans as their masters, but were rather independent with their own things. However, there were evidenced cases of native tribes using NGSDs as hunting companions, which just proves that some of them were actually successfully domesticated. Singing Dogs have also found its place in the local myths and legends as the spirits of the dead or bringers of fire and speech. Unfortunately, some of these tribes have, on the other hand, reportedly caught and killed many of these dogs for consumption. Their numbers further declined with the arrival of foreign domesticated dogs. Singers started interbreeding with these newly arrived dogs, thus disturbing the breed’s purity. The native villagers soon afterwards lost their interest in the New Guinea Singing Dog because these new domesticated dogs and crossbreeds were larger and much easier to train. Also, unlike NGSDs, these new dogs didn’t have the penchant to hunt chickens, which became the usual source of food for native humans. Today, Singing Dogs (if there are any in the wilderness) can probably be found only in the highlands of New Guinea.

Domesticated New Guinea Singing Dog Temperament And Personality

The New Guinea Singing Dog is an intelligent, gentle and lively dog that is very agile, energetic and flexible.

How handsome and cute I am :)

The New Guinea Singing Dog is an intelligent, gentle and lively dog that is best known after its amazing vocal skills, hence such name. He is very canny, resourceful, cheerful, independent, hardy, curious, affectionate, and very friendly with humans. In the past, these dogs have been sporadically used as hunting dogs by native people of New Guinea, but today all dogs in captivity are just companions. Indeed, the New Guinea Dingo can truly be a wonderful family companion, but only if treated well, with respect. Once used to all family members, this dog will always look to spend as much time as possible with them, and will enjoy their company very much. He will usually seek attention and will do all sorts of crazy things to make you happy, but sometimes he will just lie close to you and be calm and gentle like some kitty. However, you have to be aware that this is a wild dog by nature, who will never fully submit to a human. You can think of the New Guinea Singing Dog more as a cat, then a dog. Truly, if you intend to master this buddy, know that all of your attempts will probably end up in failure. This is, first and foremost, an independent canine able to care for itself and to survive on its own.

So, in general, the New Guinea Singing Dog is not recommended as a house pet, especially not for families with children. Well, families with older children could probably get along nicely with this dog, but only if they raise him with their kids. On top of that, it would be necessary to put your NGSD through extensive socialization with people of different ages. Now you probably wonder, why is that so, when this is such a friendly and cheerful dog? Truth be told, Singer is indeed such a dog, but there is always his wild side that cannot be tamed nor understood completely. NGSD will never attack or hurt your child intentionally, that is not in his nature. However, he will neither tolerate any kind of abuse, nor will he allow a child (especially, small one) to do as it’s pleased with him. This is a dog with the mind of his own that is not eager to please anybody, especially not a child. So, in the best case scenario, Singing Dog will just move away from your child and ignore it, but sometimes he will act instinctively and will try to protect himself. This can, of course, end up badly, which is why it is very important that you always observe your kids while playing with a NGSD, doesn’t matter what.

It is understandable that the New Guinea Singing Dog makes a poor watchdog and guard dog. He simply doesn’t have that sense of belonging, that feeling to treat any uninvited guest as an intruder. To him, humans are probably just some large animals passing by that are mostly irrelevant, except those from his family, which are nice because they feed him :) So, the Singing Dog will never have or understand the need to be watchful or protective of the owner’s property when it comes to strangers. However, this dog, like every other wild animal, truly is reserved, aloof and suspicious with unknown humans, but will never try to oppose them – not at all aggressive with humans. He will rather stay away from them, or in some cases, he will just curiously approach them and get a sniff. In fact, the New Guinea Singing Dog can easily become friendly with every stranger, especially if that person has a tasty treat for him :) Besides, Singer will never sound the alarm if the stranger approaches or enters your property, even though he can produce all sorts of weird vocalisations, from yelping to barking. However, keep in mind that he can be prone to obsessive “howling and singing” if bored, which can be really annoying for your neighbors.

The New Guinea Singing Dog is maybe friendly and nice to strangers, but that is certainly not the case with other pets and dogs. These canines are often called New Guinea Wild Dogs for a reason. They are truly wild at heart, which means that they are more than capable to survive and feed on their own. Even a domesticated Singer is still a semi-feral dog with lots of traits that are common to other wild canines. Among them is certainly its strong predatory instinct, which in combination with its keen senses of smell, sight and hearing, makes this canine extremely dangerous for the smaller animals in particular. Indeed, Hallstrom Dog will instinctively hunt down every cat, rabbit, hamster, or guinea pig, as soon as he spots them. It is simply in his blood and all these animals will always be too tempting for him. So, if you already own some of these pets, it would be wise to avoid this breed because there is no guarantee that they will ever be safe with a Singing Dog around, doesn’t matter what you do. These dogs do not even like to play with other animals, dogs included. In fact, they are very territorial and straight down aggressive with other dogs, especially those of the same sex. So, you will have to socialize your New Guinea Singing Dog with other dogs at an early age.

NGSDs explore large territories in search of food, which is why they are highly mobile and tenacious.

Something smells nice in this direction :)

Hallstrom Dog Training

To clear some things straight away, the New Guinea Dingo training will be anything but easy. Indeed, teaching this dog anything can be a really challenging task, doesn’t matter how experienced you are as an owner. This has nothing to do with him being dumb or something similar. No! In fact, this is an incredibly smart and thoughtful dog with good memory, which can quite easily comprehend and learn every command. However, that will greatly depend on your ability to deal with his wild side. You see, every NGSD will usually perform on his own terms, even if that means to completely ignore his owner. So, if he doesn’t see some benefit for himself in the training, he will probably lose his interest in it quickly. That’s why this dog is not recommended for everybody, especially not for the first time dog owners. Singing Dog definitely demands a very experienced owner, the one who knows how to establish himself as a dominant and authoritative leader with gentle hand. On top of that, his owner will have to be determined, focused and thorough, with the ability to understand the dog’s instincts and feelings (to literally read his mind). Of course, positive reinforcement methods will work best with Singing Dog and lessons will have to be short, interesting and constant.

Other Characteristics And Traits

Main New Guinea Singing Dog characteristics are high intelligence, resourcefulness, boldness, alertness, tenacity, independence, stubbornness, curiosity, cheerfulness, playfulness, agility, endurance, athleticism, and flexibility. This is a very active and energetic dog that can be on the move all day long. In the wild these dogs are known to explore large territories in search of food, which is why they are highly mobile and tenacious. So, it is perfectly clear that the Singer requires a lot of daily exercise to stay healthy in every way. For that reason, this breed of dog is best suited for very active and outdoorsy people, who often like to venture out in the nature. You should take your dog for a long walk, hike or jog once or even twice a day. However, keep in mind that while outdoors, it is not recommended letting your Singer off-leash. This dog can never be fully trusted, which is not that surprising considering this is the domesticated wild animal. Apart from daily walk or jog, you will have to play with your NGSD in an enclosed area as often as you can. This way you will not only keep your dog healthy, but you will also be able to keep an eye on him almost all the time, which is very important as you will see later in the article.

Singing Dog's eyes glow with green when reflecting low light in the dark.

Boo! I can be scary too :)

However, I am sure some of you won’t always be able to exercise your New Guinea Singing Dog, which is why it is necessary that you have a large courtyard. This dog is just meant to be kept in large, open spaces, where it can run and play freely. That’s why the NGSD is in the first place recommended for owners who live on a ranch/farm, or in the house with a large courtyard in suburban or countryside area. Ideally, your home should be surrounded by nature, with a forest, mountain or a river close by. This way you will be able to take your Singing Dog out for a walk and let him off-leash sometime. However, even then you should never leave your dog out of sight because he can instantly switch to his hunting mode and disappear like ever other wild predator. Anyway, now you are probably aware that the New Guinea Singing Dog is mostly not suitable as an indoor pet. That is not to say you cannot keep your Singer inside your house. Of course you can since this canine likes to take care of itself and has no doggy odor. NGSD might prove a bit challenging to housebreak, but it’s manageable. However, you will have to exercise him even more than usual, and you’ll also have to observe him all the time, which might be really tiring for some.

The one thing in particular you should never allow yourself as an owner of a New Guinea Singing Dog is to forget (ignore) him! This is a very curious dog that is more than eager to explore and investigate his surroundings (read. your neighborhood). So, if you ignore him or forget to exercise him, be sure he will find a way to have some fun of his own, even if that means to get himself in trouble. New Guinea Dingo is truly an outstanding escape artist. Many centuries of life in the jungles of its native land have made this species more than capable to deal with every terrain, even if that means climbing a tree or a cliff. This dog is extremely flexible and can easily squeeze through narrow openings, almost like a cat. That is wherever he can push his head through because it is the widest part of his body. Also, some muscles and certain bones of the NGSD are put together a bit differently in comparison to other dogs, which is why he is so flexible. On top of that, Singing Dog is an excellent climber, digger as well as a jumper, so he can easily overcome various obstacles. That’s why, if you wish to buy an NGSD and save him from trouble, I suggest you keep him in a well-secured enclosure. This often means a 6-feet high fencing around your property, without any kind of opening, that is put deep into the ground.

Singing Dog Health

The usual lifespan of a New Guinea Singing Dog is quite long since it varies around 15-20 years. This is a very healthy and sturdy breed with only a handful of health issues that are more or less common to all other canines. Among the most evidenced health problems in NGSDs are hypothyroidism, certain digestive problems and allergies, but even those are quite rare in general. However, due to extremely small numbers of these dogs in captivity, the breed’s gene pool is quite small today, which can definitely carry the risks of the inherent diseases for the future generations of Singers. Even more worrying is the fact that almost all of Singing Dogs in captivity had descended, in one way or another, from a pair of dogs from Taronga Zoo in Sidney. There were already alarmingly many cases of cryptorchidism in NGSDs back in 1970s, but that was reduced through breeding with a “new” pair of dogs caught in Irin Yaya in 1976. This just proves how uncertain is the future of this rare breed. That’s why it is very important to breed New Guinea Singing Dogs carefully to avoid any inherent diseases. This way only we will be able to preserve genetic diversity of the breed for as long as possible.

New Guinea Highland Dog Physical Characteristics And Appearance

Singers have four carnassials that are much sharper and larger than those in other domesticated dogs.

Just brushed my teeth :)

The New Guinea Singing Dog is a fox-like, smaller medium-sized dog of rectangular shape – it is visibly longer that tall at the withers. It looks like a cross between the Dingo and the Basenji with relatively short legs. The NGSD has the muscular, compact and well-defined body covered with the short to medium double plush coat, which is weather resistant and self cleaning. As usual, the undercoat is dense and soft and the topcoat is straight and stiff. The hair is typically longer on the tail, neck, chest, and the back of hind legs. This dog is quite hardy and adaptable, so he can equally well withstand warm as well as cold weather conditions. NGSD is a low maintenance dog with minimal grooming requirements because he likes to often take care of himself. So, you will only have to occasionally brush your Singer and that’s it. During shedding periods, you will have to brush him once a day. Main New Guinea Singing Dog colors are tan, black, white, and the various shades of red. The usual color pattern in these dogs is predominant red (brown), tan and black with white markings on the chest, stomach, tip of tail, feet, and underneath the chin. Some dogs can also have white markings on the muzzle, face and neck. The most common are the red colored dogs.

The New Guinea Singing Dog has a typical wedge-shaped head quite reminiscent of the Shiba Inu. The skull is fairly broad and tapering muzzle is narrow. The rounded nose is black or dark brown and the lips are tight and black. The teeth meet is a scissors bite. Like Dingoes, NGSDs have four carnassials that are much sharper and larger than those in other domesticated dogs. The small, almond-shaped eyes with black eye rims are highly reflective, so that they glow with green when reflecting low light in the dark. They range in color from dark fawn to dark brown. The erect, pointed ears are highly movable and carried slightly forwards. The neck is a bit longer and muscular. The chest is narrow and fairly deep (reaching the elbows). The stomach is nicely tucked up and the loins are strong and well-muscled. The back is slightly curved and strong. The long and bushy tail is usually carried low, or in the form of a sickle atop the back. The forelegs are straight and firm. The hind legs are well-boned, muscular and very powerful. The cat-like feet have hard pads and arched toes. Singing Dogs have incredibly flexible limbs and spine, so that they can toss their head 360° as well as spread their legs sideways to 90°, just like the Norwegian Lundehund.

New Guinea Singing Dog Size And Weight

– Height between 14 and 18 inches (36-46 cm)
– Weight between 22 and 32 pounds (10-14,5 kg)
– Height between 12 and 16 inches (30-40 cm)
– Weight between 18 and 28 pounds (8-13 kg)

New Guinea Wild Dog is truly a magnificent singer, a true phantom of the opera, who can produce all kinds of unique vocalisations, including whines, yelps, howls, barks, screams.

Yeah, your song is heartwarming :)

Magnificent Singer

The Singing Dog Of New Guinea is not without a reason called like that. He is truly a magnificent singer, a true phantom of the opera, who can produce all kinds of unique vocalisations, including whines, yelps, howls, barks, screams. And oh boy oh boy does he deliver! He can literally mimic every known canine vocalisation to perfection, but with his own trademark. So, we can safely say that its unique voice is the signature quality of this breed. And what’s best, this dog is not at all shy to sing you a song or two, especially if there is another NGSD (or several of them) close by to sing along :) The most famous howl of a New Guinea Dingo is similar to a wolf howl, but it is quite distinctive and acoustic. This howl is characterized by a high pitched, single note in varying frequencies that starts very sharp and slowly reaches its crescendo in even higher frequencies. So, if there are few of these dogs in one area, they will all sing in a bit different pitches, which will give you the impression of a real doggy choir because their voices are usually very synchronized. How cool is that? Well, not that much for some people to whom it might sound quite creepy. Anyhow, this is something you have to experience, and I’m sure many of you will find it really amusing.

Rarest Dog Breed In The World

So, as you can clearly see, the New Guinea Singing Dog is truly a special and unique breed that is definitely not for everyone. Indeed, this is not an ordinary breed of dog, but a domesticated wild dog with many traits that are quite uncommon in other modern dogs, such as the ability to survive on its own, cat-like personality and flexibility, free will, hunting drive of a wild predator, incredible climbing skills, etc. On top of that, this dog is very primitive, independent, canny, inquisitive, stubborn, and is not always in the mood to follow his owner’s leads. That’s why it can prove pretty challenging to properly train and control him, which is something many dog owners will find quite distracting. However, I am sure there are some of you (myself included) that are always looking for that special something. If you are one of these, then you should definitely try to buy this canine. Unfortunately, like all other unique things, the New Guinea Singing Dog is extremely rare. In fact, this is probably the rarest breed in the world, with only around 100 domesticated specimens in the world. So, it’s needless to say that finding one could be a really challenging task. However, if you are still eager to have a NGSD of your own, I suggest you visit the NGSDCS website and find all the info you need. And, of course, I wish you all the luck in finding (and owning) this precious dog.