Carolina Dog: Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Carolina Dog in grass

 TyMaloney / Getty Images

Carolina dogs have swept the internet, gaining in popularity and fame. They are also known as “American dingoes” or “Dixie dingoes” because of their resemblance to the famous Australian dingo. But rather than being from the land down under, this breed is actually descended from wild dogs found in the United States.

A relatively new breed to domestication, Carolina dogs are known for being extremely loyal companions to the humans they bond with. They have a strong pack mentality, so being close to their family unit is a must for these athletic, energetic pets.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting   

Height: 18 to 20 inches

Weight: 30 to 55 pounds

Coat and Color: Short, dense coat in tan, yellow, black, red, or a combination of these colors 

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Characteristics of the Carolina Dog

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Carolina Dog

The Carolina dog is thought to have come to the United States by means of passage through the Bering Strait when merchants came from Asia to North America. Through the years, individual dogs escaped, becoming feral and gradually migrating towards the southeastern United States. Today, the breed has become known as the Carolina dog.

Descendants of these dogs that started life in the far north reaches of the North American continent can still be found living wild in Georgia and South Carolina, typically among pine forests or near swamps.

Their DNA contains traits from the very base of the canine family tree, meaning the Carolina dog is a very primitive breed and may resemble the type and appearance of some of the earliest canines. Remains of Carolina dogs have even been found in ancient Native American burial sites, suggesting that these dogs were kept as pets during these long-ago times.

The breed was rediscovered in the 1970s by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, who gave them the name “Carolina dog." Since 1996 they have been a registered breed by the UKC, or United Kennel Club. They are not officially recognized by the AKC as of yet. However, in 2017 they were listed in the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service, which is an indicator that the breed is working towards official recognition.

Carolina Dog Care

Because of their wild origins, these dogs have an intense pack mentality. This not only lends itself toward other dogs but to humans as well. As a result, these pets don't do well with a solitary life.

The Carolina dog is wary of strangers and is naturally shy, but once they bond with their human they are very loyal. Many people say that they make wonderful, loving, devoted friends. They love large family units and play very well with kids and other pets, especially if introduced at a young age.

Keep in mind that these dogs have a strong prey drive, however, so you will want to keep watch on them around smaller animals and pets.

Though Carolina dogs are independent, they do not handle isolation well. Remember that you are his or her pack now, and a pack sticks together.

If you are looking into adopting a Carolina dog, give serious thought as to how much time you will be with your pup. An isolated Carolina dog is a sad one. Dogs that are left alone for long periods of time may struggle with boredom or stress, which often manifests itself in destructive or disruptive behaviors and separation anxiety.

Despite their athletic appearance, this breed isn't known for having excessively high energy. However, they most definitely require regular exercise and are best suited for a home with a yard to play in and room to run. Daily walks are a must to keep your Carolina dog healthy and happy.

They are also very intelligent, and may sometimes have a stubborn streak. However, they also have a willingness to please, meaning they respond well to training with positive reinforcement. Because of their agile frame and high intelligence, Carolina dogs often excel at competitive agility sports and hunting.

This breed has a suspicious nature when confronted with unfamiliar faces, making it an excellent guard dog. Despite this fact, these pups are not known to bark often. They are protective, but not aggressive—which adds to their appeal as a family pet. While they are not overly affectionate, they are extremely loyal and playful.

These dogs are also known for being clean and actually wash much as cats do. The Carolina dog, however, sheds a lot, particularly during seasonal changes. In colder months, these dogs will grow in a thicker, warmer coat. When warmer weather rolls around, they’ll shed this. As a result, this breed is typically not a great choice for allergy-sensitive people.

Because of shedding and coat changes, be sure to regularly bathe and brush this breed. Their changing coats enable them to adapt to most climates, whether cold or hot. Still, they need to live indoors and should not be left outside. Not only will this be harsh on your pup when it comes to climate, but remember that these dogs are very attached to their pack. Leaving them outside could make them isolated and depressed.

Carolina dog on white background
The pointy ears, alert expression, and short, dense coat, and long tail are trademarks of the breed  Adogslifephoto / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Carolina dogs are quite healthy and are not prone to having any particular diseases or health problems. It has been found that some are sensitive to ivermectin (used for treating mites and intestinal parasites), however, so talk with your veterinarian before giving them this type of medication.

Diet and Nutrition

The Carolina dog’s diet should closely resemble what they would eat in the wild. Giving them high quality or homemade food would be best. If overfed, these dogs can struggle with obesity. Therefore, be sure not to overfeed them or give them too many treats.

Ask your veterinarian for specific food requirements for your dog and its lifestyle. Each may be different depending on weight, size, and age.

Pros
  • Loyal attachment to adults and children alike

  • Known for being clean and almost cat-like in grooming habits

  • An excellent watchdog, but without aggressive tendencies

Cons
  • They do not do well in isolation or when separated from their pack

  • They have a strong prey drive, so they may not be suited for households with smaller animals

  • Heavy shedders, especially at the change of season

Where to Adopt or Buy a Carolina Dog

This breed may be more common in your area than you realize. If you are searching for a Carolina dog to call your own, be sure to always check your local adoption and rescue agencies. Some may not even realize that they have Carolina dogs since many are mistaken for mutts or unknown mixes. If you are searching for accurately identified Carolina dogs or strong Carolina dog mixes, be sure to check out the clubs, breeders, and rescues listed below.

A fantastic place to start is at the Saving Carolina Dogs Rescue and Adoption Network. Here, they list all Carolina dogs they are working with that need rescuing from shelters. Each of these pups has a loving foster family and are available in different areas across the U.S. If there are no Carolina dogs listed near you, be sure to contact and research your local rescues.

Some good resources to start with include:

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The Carolina dog may just be the epitome of a man’s best friend: loyal, playful, protective, and always up for an adventure. As you contemplate getting a dog, be sure to put careful research into the breed you select.

Though the Carolina dog makes a wonderful companion, it is not a dog for everyone. Be sure you can give them the time, attention, and exercise they need. Remember that these dogs need to be with their packs and that they need time and attention for training and exercise. Be sure to talk with breeders or others who have Carolina dogs to get a feel for what it is really like to live with one. With careful research, whatever pup you chose will no doubt be your next best friend.

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