Welcome to the Dhole Conservation Fund – Captive Dhole page
Two existing manuals exist to help with dhole care they are linked below. This page is more to show you a different side of the dhole outside of the measurements and diets:
EAZA – Best Practice Guideline Dhole
AZA – Large Canid (Canidae) Care Manual
First off, I feel the need to say this: DHOLES ARE WILD ANIMALS! That being said they should be treated as such. They make terrible pets and like most wild animals never tame down. I’ve worked with them in captivity for years and I can tell you they never become tame. They required specialty veterinary care that only a zoological facility can provide. A single dhole eats between 1 to 3kg of meat per day, and although not picky they do need to have a balanced diet.
Why are you here?
If you were given a link to this page, it was probably because you expressed interest in housing dholes at your zoological institution and now you want more information. The above guilds give a lot of information on the nitty-gritty of dholes and their care, especially the EAZA guide. We just wanted to highlight some of the aspects of dhole care and display that aren’t listed, both the good and the not-so-good.
So first off why dhole? Take a look at our main site to see the challenges facing dholes, the main issue is the lack of knowledge of dholes. This lack of knowledge isn’t just biological information but simply the fact people don’t know they exist. People can’t save them if they never knew they existed. That’s where zoos come in. Often the first encounter for people to see animals, dholes could benefit from some zoo exposure.
Like wolves, to make a dhole exhibit best suited for viewing and animal comfort give them some high ground. Dholes are curious but can be shy. When given somewhere they can get above people they often like watching people as they come to a go. They love to wade and swim; the water doesn’t have to be deep as they will lay in water that is only a few inches deep. Bushes are your friend. Put them towards the front and they will often sleep under them, often quite close to viewing.
These guys are so much fun. They have the intelligence of a coyote, with the boldness of an African wild dog but the respect of a wolf. Confused? If you haven’t worked with each of those species, I can understand the confusion. They are fast learners, that are willing to work with you but you can work free contact with a single or small group with two or more people. So, for keeper talks, you can have one keeper working with the animal while the other gives a talk to the guest. Dholes learn station quickly and pick up on hand signals well. I have trained many dholes to move from different furniture in their exhibits. These can be logs, rocks to hills, they can even climb trees; all to show off their physical fitness. I’ve also trained a fun tug-o-war behavior that gets the dholes to engage their whole body. Training for health care is also possible. Crating, a stand-up behavior, open mouth (mouth exam and for oral liquid meds) along with squeeze training all are possible with dholes.
They love to explore and they see through their nose and their stomach; so, smells and foods are all welcome with dholes. If an African wild dog or wolf can have it, chances are dholes will love it!
You want a canine, but not a wolf or coyote. You’re looking at African wild dogs, but the outside temp at your place gets cold, it even snows. You’d need heating for wild dogs and that would be hard for you. Well, maybe dholes are the answer! If you got room for wild dogs, you got room for dholes and the best part no heat required. A nice insulted den with hay works great. They put on a thick winter coat and even then, I still see them out curled up in the snow. What about heat? The desert might not be best for them, but if they have water, they can dunk in they can do pretty well in most warm/hot climates.
The Not so great
- There are some bad sides to dholes. They only live about 10 to 14 years in captivity; however, it does seem to be a healthy life.
- They are a canine which means they take a while to adjust to a new place and like routine, so when things change it might take some time for them to adjust.
- You get as much as you put into them. If you leave them alone and don’t work with them, they often become shy and recluse, if you work with them every day, they become bold and eager to explore.
- They are social! One dhole is never good so that is something to think about with management. But also, being social means they might come up with nips and bites from time to time. They like to go for the ears. They do heal quickly and social bonds often heal quickly. Pack dynamics can be hard to manage, but not harder than other pack canines.
- Limited genetics. Right now, the US population has limited numbers so importing is needed.
- They aren’t “flashy” or “big”. With a rusty red color and only being about 50lbs they aren’t the biggest canine and won’t win a busty pageant against African Wild Dog but boy do they have great personalities. They have fun vocals you won’t hear from other dogs and often love to do “pep” rallies when they think something fun is about to happen.
- Can’t be in mixed-species exhibits… well they shouldn’t. Dholes don’t play well with others.
That’s most of the bad but one of the biggest ones I didn’t want to put in a bullet point as it's an important one. They are considered an Injurious Species to learn more about that and the Lacy Act you can visit: https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-50/chapter-I/subchapter-B/part-16
This would mean a special permit would be needed to have dholes. We don’t know why they are listed. They can’t hybridize with native wildlife and are no more of an escape or ecological risk than African wild dogs, bush dogs, or any other canine. When we reached out to regulators no one knows why only the dhole was listed on the Lacy Act, they were added at the start. They are highly unlikely to be removed.
There's so much More!
Feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions. Because this is a public page (yes not listed but people can still find it) we didn’t list some sensitive info you might find important. Feel free to reach out. Chelsea@dholes.org