Wild Dog Conservation
July 26, 2017

Painted Dog Pups begin to emerge in Zululand!

Painted Dog pups are beginning to emerge from their dens across the country! African Wild Dogs (also known as Painted Dogs) are an intelligent and social species that live in packs. Pack numbers can vary from just a few dogs to large packs numbering around 30 individuals, which they use to their advantage during hunting.[caption id="attachment_15146" align="aligncenter" width="640"]

Wild Dog pup. Photo by Bronwen Kelly

Painted Dog pup. Photo by Bronwen Kelly[/caption]


Painted Dogs have evolved a cooperative breeding strategy which means that only the Alpha female and the Alpha male reproduce. The rest of the pack assists with rearing the pups (a form of cooperative breeding termed “kin selection”). On rare occasions the beta female may also bear Painted Dog pups, but often these will not survive as the pack invests its resources in the Alpha pair’s offspring.

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[caption id="attachment_15147" align="aligncenter" width="960"]

Painted Dog pups emerge from the den. Photo by Megan Hudson

Painted Dog pups emerge from the den. Photo by Megan Hudson[/caption]


Painted Dog pups are born during a three-month “denning season” - generally from May to August. During this time the mother gives birth to her pups in an old hole or burrow created by other burrowing species and which the pack may adapt to suit their needs.[caption id="attachment_15149" align="aligncenter" width="660"]

Photo by Hal Brindley

One of a litter of Painted Dog pups. Photo by Hal Brindley[/caption]The den offers warmth and protection to the vulnerable Painted Dog pups. Wild dog litter sizes depend on the size of the pack and the age of the breeding female, but on average between 6 and 10 pups are born in a litter. Not all Painted Dog pups survive - owing to factors such as predation and resource limitations.[caption id="attachment_15148" align="aligncenter" width="960"]

Wild Dogs moving den sites. Photo by Axel Primmer

Wild Dogs moving den sites. Photo by Axel Primmer[/caption]During the course of the denning season and when the pups are capable of moving with the pack, very often a secondary den site is selected. The original den site will have become flea-ridden and smelly - making it more obvious to predators, so moving dens is driven by increasing the odds of survival for Painted Dog pups.

After roughly 8 weeks the young pups begin to emerge from the den for short periods and this is often when Wildlife ACT monitors and volunteers are able to see the pups for the first time.Painted Dogs are one of many species we work with, and to be able to see something as special as this, really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

>> Come and volunteer with Wildlife ACT and see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.

Wildlife ACT was awarded second place in Africa (and first in South Africa) for Best for Habitat & Species Conservation at the African Responsible Tourism Awards 2017.

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FURTHER READINGIf you are interested in learning more about Wild dog den selection or reproductive behaviour of African Wild Dogs, the following articles may be of interest:

  • Davies, Andrew et al. (2016) “Den site selection, pack composition, and reproductive success in endangered African wild dogs.” Behavioral Ecology 00(00), 1-11.
  • Van Den Berghe, F. et al. (2012) “Reproduction in the endangered African wild dog: Basic physiology, reproductive suppression and possible benefits of artificial insemination.” Animal Reproduction Science 133, 1– 9.