Living with New Guinea Singing Dogs is a challenge but can be very rewarding. Owning a Singing Dog is not suited to many people as NGSDs are very independent, more similar to a cat than a domestic dog breed in some ways. Although they are affectionate and attached to their owners, they do not seek the level of ‘approval’ from their human companions as do domestic dogs. This contributes to the challenge of training a Singer.
NGSDs are very inquisitive and also adept at problem solving. Therefore, cabinets in kitchens and elsewhere may need “child-proof” locks installed.
Singers also are skilled climbers as the bottom left photo shows. Although some singers may be more talented than others in this ability, (or the motivation to attempt it) this behavior suggests the need to insure that there are no climbable trees next to their fence!
One can speculate that the climbing behavior and the preference for a higher elevation perch may be related to the NGSDs behaviors that were adapted for the habitat they normally live in. In New Guinea these canids reside in mountain ranges reaching great heights (the tallest peak towers over 16,000 ft.) and therefore it is likely that good climbing skills and use of natural perches to scan their territory for prey is a useful trait.
A few additional curious behaviors of Singers include teeth brushing, intention licking and the perplexing head toss. Often these three behaviors are witnesses more frequently in younger Singers (under 5 years or so).
Teeth brushing is a fascinating behavior to watch. The Singer, often after a meal while ‘relaxing’, will use its nails in a scraping manner across the teeth near the gumline (no dental floss needed!)
Intention licking (a somewhat baffling behavior) occurs when a Singer is restrained behind a gate or a window that it would like to ‘remove.’ The Singer will continually lick at the ‘barrier’ , though this has never been seen to produce the desired effect!
The head toss (photo on left) is probably one of the behaviors that is most age-oriented and is often not seen after about 3 yrs. old. The head toss is first an extension of the head followed by at least a partial rotation of the singer’s head, but may encompass a full 360 degrees rotation! This is quite impressive and signifies annoyance or frustration as it is often seen when a young singer is either confined or out on lead.
Singers are very prey driven. They will go after any smaller dog, cat or critters in the wild, including birds, rodents and snakes. This prey drive also makes it imperative to have very secure fencing (discussed below) and vigilance about closing gates, doors etc. Singers must be walked on a secure leash at all times when outside their fenced yard or kennel. Recall of a loose singer is extremely difficult, particularly if the singer spots squirrels or other prey. Singers embrace their freedom if loose and will quickly disappear at a very fast pace.