The New Guinea singing dog, Canis hallstromi (syn. Canis lupus dingo), also known as the New Guinea highland wild dog, is named for its unique vocalization. Some experts have referred to it as a wild dog but others disagree. Little is known about New Guinea singing dogs in the wild and until 2016 there were only two confirmed photographs of wild sightings in the last century. Captive-bred New Guinea Singing Dogs often serve as companion dogs.
Some research and circumstantial evidence suggests that the historic range of the New Guinea singing dog once extended across the whole of New Guinea and was later reduced to the highlands by various pressures. Today the range of the New Guinea singing dog is limited to the mountainous terrain of the central segment of the New Guinea Highlands, an extensive mountain range running from East to West across the island.
Within its limited range, the ecological tolerance of the New Guinea singing dog is varied and includes beech forest; mossy forest; sub-alpine coniferous forest; and alpine grasslands between 2,500 and 4,700 meters in elevation.
In the wild, reports suggest that New Guinea singing dogs prey on small to mid-sized marsupials and rodents, such as the ring-tailed opossum, cuscus, and tree kangaroo; birds; and fruits.
It’s easy to distinguish Mouse from the rest of our Singing Dogs; he’s darker and stockier than our other Singers, with wide shoulders and a brownie-colored snout. Though Mouse may appear tough, he’s a shy boy who takes a while to warm up to people. When visitors approach his space, he stands back for a while, trying to figure them out. He’ll even circle in place as if he can’t determine whether or not he wants to socialize, and then his love of people finally gives way—he’ll edge over for attention and treats, squeaking his trademark high-pitched bark.
Our smallest, daintiest singing dog, Tsumi, is a bit of a shy princess. Around the people she knows best, she earns her her full name, Tsunami, being the embodiment of a wave of enthusiasm and energetic affection. She loves presents, including cardboard tubes doused in natural scents like cinnamon and peppermint. Other than fawning over treats, one of Tsumi’s favorite activities is sunbathing on a platform, so it’s not unusual to see her during a tour. She is very fond of her companion, Mouse, and they often play chase in the cool evenings and early mornings. She sometimes uses her high, soft voice to sing along with her neighbor, Samara. In more mischievous moments, Tsumi also likes to entertain herself by digging holes in the soft dirt of her enclosure.
Sweetness arrived at the Center in July 2016 with a name that fits her gregarious personality and friendly demeanor. We’d been working with two New Guinea Singing Dog conservation groups to locate just the right companion for Marlin. The conservation groups suggested Sweetness because they thought her exuberant nature would be a good fit for outgoing Marlin and their central location along our tour program. Once introduced, Sweetness and Marlin bonded quickly…but attention and treats are still cause for negotiation.
By singing dog standards, Marlin is super handsome…and he knows it! While generally a pretty laid-back guy, Marlin has no problem making plenty of noise when he thinks he deserves more attention from any two-legged animals in the area. In quieter moments, Marlin enjoys watching people and will almost always make an appearance for tour groups. Marlin’s favorite food is chicken, which he did not eat at his previous home. He also enjoys scent, but not just the usual perfumes, herbs, or spices. Instead, Marlin prefers to rub on his caregivers, especially in the summers when they are good and sweaty!
A strong-willed and independent girl, Samara absolutely loves to see and be seen. She will often sing out to people that she knows, doing her best to entreat them to come over and spend some time with her. Samara seems fascinated by her male singing dog neighbors, Marlin and Mouse, who live with other ladies in nearby enclosures. Both boys also enjoy interacting with people, so we aren’t sure if Samara thinks they are handsome (which they are) or whether she is jealous of their visitors! When she isn’t entertaining her friends and fans, Samara enjoys sunbathing on the highest platform available, pouncing on birds that wander into her enclosure, and taking strolls with her roommate, Spaulding Dog.