Have you got wild dogs?

Detecting the presence of wild dogs and their impacts:

It is common for wild dogs to be present in an area but go unnoticed or unrecognised. No matter what colour a free-roaming dog is, if it is not your dog it should be considered a wild dog. There are several indicators that suggest that wild dogs might be present in an area.

Read through the indicators listed in the table, and follow the exercise outlined.
WDFS2_TableAre wild dogs present in my area?
WDFS2_Table2Using the indicators described in the table above, complete the following exercise:

  1. Circle each of the indicators you have observed for your area.
  2.  Add up your scores separately for each category.
  3. Locate your chances of wild dogs being present in the table at right.

Ask your neighbours to complete the exercise as well. If you think you have wild dogs, talk to your local pest animal authority.

Distinguishing between wild dog, fox, cat and quoll tracks:
The presence of wild dogs is often discovered by seeing their tracks in the soil, but sometimes the tracks of other species look similar to those of wild dogs (see Figure 1). Wind, rain, organic matter in the soil and other factors can make it difficult to accurately identify some tracks or determine how fresh they are.

The average size of wild dog footprints also changes throughout the  year as pups become active and begin wandering around. For  example, in late spring and early summer, some wild dog footprints (of pups) can be as small as those of foxes and it can be hard to tell  them apart. By autumn and winter, all wild dog prints are usually  much larger than foxes’ prints (Figure 1).

The front foot length of adult wild dogs (excluding nails) is usually  greater than 6 cm. When wild dogs, foxes and cats walk, their front  foot hits the ground first and their back foot print usually lands  nearby (see Figure 2).

Footprints01 Footprints02
Figure 1: Relative size and shape of wild dog, fox, quoll and cat prints. Figure 2: Usual foot print placement for wild dogs, foxes and cats

 In good track-reading conditions in sand, silt, or mud:

  • dog prints are usually larger and rounder, foxes’ prints are smaller  and more elongated, and cats’ prints are small and very  round
  • dog toe nails usually point out straight, fox nails point inwards,  and cats have no toe nail marks
  • the back foot usually partly overlaps the front foot for dogs,  mostly overlaps for foxes, and almost completely overlaps for  cats
  • the front foot of quolls shows all five toes (wild dogs, foxes and  cats only show four).

Further information:
For more information to help identify tracks and other signs of wild  dogs and other animals see the book Tracks, Scats and Other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals (2004), by Barbara Triggs.

If you suspect that you have wild dogs in your area, talk to your  neighbours and your local pest animal control authority.


PestSmart Factsheet: Have you got wild dogs? (470 kb PDF)



Author Invasive Animals CRC
Year 2012
Publisher Invasive Animals CRC
Pages 2 pp
ISBN/ISSN PestSmart code: WDFS2