Use of behavioural cues and indicators of cohesiveness
Observation and behavioural monitoring of wild dogs when bonding in bomas is important to determine (i) readiness of groups to be united (if initially being held separately), (ii) readiness of new pack to be released and (iii) to step in to avoid fatalities if aggression should occur. McCreery (2000) found that behavioural interactions in wild dogs give an indication of the relative strength of social bonds within the pack. A number of behavioural cues can, thus, be used to indicate a group’s cohesiveness.
Distance to partitioning fence and frequency of ‘hoo-calls’
If initially being held separately in adjacent bomas the mean distance of each group of dogs to the partitioning fence and the frequency of hoo-calls in each group can be used as an indication of the relative strength of the social bond between the respective groups. If groups spend an increasing amount of time at the partitioning fence, and hence close to the neighbouring group, an increase in interest and readiness to bond is implied (Potgieter et al. unpublished, b). Similarly, a reduction in ‘hoo-calls’ (the long distance communication vocalization typically heard when dogs are first released into unfamiliar territory) may indicate a decrease in the need to communicate with familiar individuals and readiness to unite with unfamiliar conspecifics (Potgieter et al. unpublished, b). Together these behavioural cues may provide observers with important signs as to the readiness of groups for bonding.
Spatial resting locations
McCreery (2000) found that ‘‘relative strength of social bonds, and hence the degree of social integration, is reflected in the resting patterns of newly formed wild dog packs’’. She suggested that if social bonds have strengthened between the male and female groups sufficiently for them to function as a cohesive pack once released one would expect to observe the sexes interacting and resting together more frequently in the boma. Observation and recording of spatial resting locations, thus, an important aspect to determining a artificially bonded packs’ readiness to be released.