Training The Dingoes at The Bundaberg Zoo

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The dingoes at the Bundaberg Zoo are now over 2 years old! I first started working with them when they were just four months old and currently see them regularly. They have learned a lot in our time together and so have I.

A question I get asked a lot is whether dingoes are trainable like a domestic dog. Some people think or have heard that dingoes can’t be trained at all. But they definitely can!

It’s not quite the same as training a domestic dog. There are a few differences. The main way to explain it is that a dog is more motivated to work for a person, even if the reward is only attention or praise and nothing else. Whereas if you try that with a dingo, they have to be in the mood, see the point of the exercise or have something in it for them that they think is really worth the effort. Whether the reward is worth their effort depends on the day they’re having!

In this way, it’s a bit like training a cat. If he doesn’t want to listen to you, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. If you try to force the issue, the dingo could hold it against you for a long time, just like a cat would.

Despite this, dingoes are incredibly intelligent and can definitely be trained. We started out teaching obedience skills like sit, down, leash manners, and placement training. In the beginning, the dingoes were hit and miss with their motivation levels. We used food rewards and they had to be really hungry and skip breakfast to want to put in much effort.

Over time, a couple of things happened that dramatically improved the dingoes motivation levels for training and these lessons can be applied to our pet dogs as well.

  1. The dingoes’ daily food intake was reduced as they were being a little over-fed
  2. We trained more variety of exercises to keep it interesting and challenging for them. We added in fun tricks as well as obedience skills

Over time, the dingoes became much more food driven and enjoyed the process of training, finding the process rewarding in itself and working for lower value food rewards.

This also provides an important lesson for training our domestic dogs – teach them to love the process and through fun training, ingrain in them that you as their owner/trainer are highly valuable. Because of our history of fun, engaging training, the dingoes have associated me as very high value, even if I don’t have food on me now. They see me enter the zoo and are rearing to go (It’s nice to feel so loved!)

You can see Kupali (meaning little brother) and Lowana (meaning girl) on the table in the park on one of their training walks here. I often get asked about the gear they are wearing. By law when taken out they need two points of contact so the lead is attached to both the anti slip martingale collar and the EzyDog Harness (I love this brand of harness and also use them myself)

Some of the tricks and skills the dingoes are working on now include wave (they love to perform this one), high five, sit, down, stationing training, leave it command and play dead.

Another thing we work on are any fearful behaviours that come up such as Kupali’s fear of soccer or volley balls that came about after someone threw a soccer ball over the fence into the enclosure. Kupali is quite sensitive to scary things and novel items. The training is progressing really well and Kupali is overcoming his fear and even wanting to play with the ball!

The history of rewards and training him to offer behaviours really helped him with getting over this fear.

If you have any questions you’d like answered about the dingoes, feel free to get in touch and I’ll see what I can do in another blog post.

Here’s a short video I took way back when training was only new to the dingoes

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. dingo simon

    Gidday to the writer.
    Yes I understand your training ethics.
    I have always considered a dingo to be a wild animal , not a domestic dog, and having lived with and bred cattle dogs for over 35 years and dingoes 18 years training can be familiar but if the dingo doesn’t want to do it , it wont.
    I only teach mine about 5 commands and that’s it and prefer to get inside their head and understand how they think due to their high intelligence. I believe they have ESP and mental telepathy, and they can scan us like a CT scanner or Ultra sound.
    We have a lot to learn from them and have to do everything we can to improve their survival.
    Where about did you get your dingoes from?
    Hooroo

    Simon
    http://www.durongdingosanctuaryqld.com.au/

    Reply
    • Tenille

      Gidday Dingo Simon! Thanks for commenting on my blog post 🙂
      I don’t own these dingoes – These two belong to the local Bundaberg Zoo and I visit to train them for manners and for mental stimulation for them. They came from a breeding program down in Victoria.
      They sure can read people well, can’t they. Your sanctuary looks great.

      Tenille
      Dog Matters

      Reply
      • dingo simon

        Gidday Tenille
        Thanks, we all try in our own individual ways to make things interesting for dingoes.
        The dingoes look as if they came from Lyn Watsons Dingo discovery Centre, she has some very beautiful dingoes.
        Keep up the good work, we need more talented people out there working with dingoes.
        Hooroo
        Simon

        Reply
        • Tenille

          Yes that’s the one 🙂
          I’m very lucky to be able to work with them 🙂

          Reply

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