Carolina Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Carolina Dog

The Carolina dog, also known as the American Dingo, the Southern Aboriginal Dog and the more colloquial, “Ol’ Yaller” is an ancient breed that bears a strong resemblance to the Dingo. Their roots are with wild dogs that roamed the American South, primarily South Carolina and Georgia, where they fended for themselves and through natural selection, evolved into versatile and sturdy dogs that could survive the region’s swamps and forests. Not much has been written about the Carolina Dog prior to the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Though over the last several decades they have been bred domestically, researchers are still learning about these dogs through DNA and behavioral research. Despite their undomesticated background, Carolina Dogs are bred today to be human companions. They are gentle by nature and respond well to consistent training. This breed is meant for the outdoors, and they thrive in families with multiple dogs. They love being outside and dislike being penned up for long periods of time. Carolina Dogs are highly intelligent and once basic training has been mastered, they excel in many activities, including agility.

Carolina Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level3/5
Apartment Friendly1/5
Barking Tendencies4/5
Cat Friendly1/5
Child Friendly2/5
Dog Friendly2/5
Exercise Need5/5
Grooming Needs4/5
Health Issues2/5

Carolina Dog Breed – History and Health

History & Background

The Carolina Dog is unique in that it is an ancient breed that has only recently begun to be studied and understood. Their genetics have been linked to Asian breeds, leading many researchers to believe that they accompanied migrants across the Bering land mass over 8,000 years ago. Recent DNA testing from the University of South Carolina College of Science and Mathematics also links the Carolina Dog to the Australian Dingo, which may account for its distinct Dingo-like appearance. Canines resembling the Carolina Dog can be found in paintings depicting scenes from early European Settlements in the Southeast region of the United States, however, not much was known or written about them until the early 20th Century because Carolina Dogs were not a domesticated breed. They lived wild in the swamps and forests of South Carolina and Georgia for thousands of years.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the Carolina Dog began to be studied. Dr. I Lehr Brisbin, Jr. of the University of Georgia discovered packs of dogs in isolated swampy regions of the Southeast while he was conducting studies for the Georgia Savannah River Ecology Lab. It was through his discovery that researchers began to learn more about this unique, wild breed. His family took in a stray Carolina Dog and Brisbin, along with several others interested breeders and scientists, began to study the feral dogs in the area and determined they were their own, unique breed.

To this day there are still free-range Carolina Dogs in the Southeast, but thanks to the efforts of Brisbin and several breeders in the region, there are now domestic breeding programs for Carolina Dogs and they are beloved as loyal and gentle human companions.

Given the growth of those domestic breeding programs and development in the forests where they live, the feral Carolina Dog population is dwindling. Researchers believe that as Carolina Dogs were pushed out of the wild and closer to towns with domestic dog populations, many fell victim to diseases for which they had developed no natural immunity in the wild. There is also some speculation that as the coyote population grew in the Southeast, they overtook many populations of Carolina Dogs. Some breeders and enthusiasts fear that the wild population will be decimated over the next several decades.


The Carolina Dog has survived and thrived in the wild for thousands of years and through natural selection and careful domestic breeding, they have developed into a healthy, hardy breed. There are no documented inherited diseases among Carolina Dogs as of yet. However, this could change, given the narrow gene pool available for breeding programs.

Typically, companion Carolina Dogs are subject to health issues that are common among most domesticated breeds including:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Luxating Patella
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Cataracts
  • Cancer
  • Demodicosis (Mange)

Carolina Dog Breed – Temperament & Personality


The Carolina Dog is truly a pack animal that bonds tightly to the people and dogs in his own family. They can be aloof or even nervous around strangers, but they are not an aggressive breed. Early and frequent socialization can ensure a Carolina Dog learns to adjust to new people without being fearful. They are very alert dogs and are well-known for being reliable watchdogs.

Their pack nature allows them to form tight bonds with other household dogs, and Carolina Dogs do well in homes with other canine friends to play with. However, they should not be raised in homes with cats or other small animals. They still maintain a strong prey drive and owners who live on lots of land receive frequent “gifts” from their Carolina Dog in the form of dead rodents. Families who enjoy the outdoors and who can live with a dog that likes to exert its independence will get along well with a Carolina Dog.

Activity Requirements

Carolina Dogs are extremely active and thrive outdoors. Because they have only been domesticated in the last few decades, they retain their natural desire to roam and explore. This trait makes them ideal for people who enjoy hiking, camping and jogging. It is essential that a Carolina Dog receive several hours of exercise per day to help avoid behavioral issues. They are not well-suited for apartment or city life and they should not be crated, as they dislike closed spaces and cannot tolerate confinement for long periods of time.


Carolina Dogs maintain some of their primitive, independent nature and they are notoriously difficult to train. While they form strong bonds with their people, they don’t particularly aim to please. It takes a lot of time, patience and consistency to work with a Carolina Dog. However, this is an intelligent breed that picks up quickly on new concepts. The trick is to keep the dog interested and to provide rewards that stimulate them to continue – a belly rub and exclamations of “good dog” just won’t cut it. When basic obedience has been mastered, Carolina Dogs can quickly advance to learning tricks and participating in sports like agility.

Behavioral Traits

Carolina Dogs have an independent nature, and while they will cuddle and play with the family, they like to do things on their own time and in their own way. They can be a bit nervous around new people and without proper socialization they can develop fearful tendencies and timid personalities.

Despite their independent nature, they truly do bond with their human family members and dislike being left alone for long periods of time. Separation anxiety can be a common problem, which can lead to excessive barking, destructive chewing and other behavioral issues. A Carolina Dog should never be crated and they are ideally suited for suburban or rural homes with a big yard and lots of people and dogs to play with.

Carolina Dog Breed – Appearance & Grooming


The Carolina Dog is a primitive breed that strongly resembles the Dingo in appearance. The head is triangular in shape with a tapered muzzle and strong jaw. The muzzle is usually the same length as the skull and the nose is black with wide nostrils. A Carolina Dog’s erect ears face the front and are extremely expressive. The eyes are almond shaped and dark brown; Carolina Dogs often look like they are deep in thought. The breed is muscular but slender in build with square proportions, but they can sometimes be somewhat longer in length than height.

The tail of the Carolina Dog is quite unique. While in motion, a Carolina Dog’s tail is carried in a way that makes it look a bit like a pump handle. They rarely hold their tail slack; it is either at full attention when alert or tucked when the dog is experiencing nervousness or feeling distressed. The brush of the tail should be thick on the underside and the bottom of the tail should be lighter in color than the tail’s end.

Size And Weight

Carolina Dogs are medium in size. Breed standards range between 17 ¾ inches and 19 5/8 inches at the withers but it is common to find dogs that are up to three inches taller or shorter in either direction. Their weight typically spans between 30 and 44 pounds and males are usually larger than females, though the differential is not nearly as pronounced as it is in other breeds.

Carolina Dogs are slender and no matter how healthy the dog may be, the ribs are often visible. This is a normal and acceptable trait and should be no cause for alarm if the dog is properly proportioned and is receiving proper nutrition and exercise.

Coat and Color

The United Kennel Club’s preferred color for the Carolina dog is ginger red with buff markings around the shoulders and muzzle. However, these dogs come in a variety of colors including white with spots, tan, beige, yellow, orange, and red sable. They shed lightly throughout the year and heavily in the fall and spring months when their coat adapts to the outdoor temperature. Carolina Dogs have short and smooth hair on their head, ears and front legs and they have somewhat longer guard hairs on their back, withers and neck.

Grooming Needs

Carolina Dogs should be brushed once a week unless they are shedding their winter or summer coat. During these periods, they may need to be brushed daily to control flyaway hair around the house. They do not need to be professionally bathed; most dogs are receptive to a home bath when necessary. The frequency will vary from dog to dog. Those that enjoy exploring the outdoors and digging in the dirt will need to be bathed more frequently than others.

Carolina Dogs are typically quite healthy and are not as prone to ear infections as other breeds, but ears should be checked regularly for wax buildup. Their teeth should also be kept clean and gums kept healthy with regular brushing.

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