Behaviourally effective communication and engagement in the management of wild dogs


Changing behaviour, and sustaining these changes over time, is difficult. Educating the public about the negative impacts of wild dogs and providing information about control strategies is rarely enough to initiate and sustain practice change. Best practice community engagement requires a combination of practical ‘soft skills’ for facilitating dialogue and designing equitable processes, with in-depth understanding of the factors that prevent landholders from adopting best practices for managing wild dogs on their propertiesThis project uses behavioural science principles to assist wild dog facilitators to understand and engage more effectively with non-participating landholders.




  1. To accelerate sustainable landholder-led participation in best practice wild dog management techniques through application of behavioural science and targeted engagement
  2. To build practitioner capacity for best practice community engagement through learning network development
  3. To identify the different audience segments for wild dog management and develop tailored and targeted engagement approaches for those segments that are not currently taking action
  4. To compare the effectiveness of these tailored and targeted approaches with existing approaches
  5. To contribute to CISS thinking about the effectiveness of face-to-face and digital engagement in facilitating the adoption of best practice wild dog management techniques
  6. To combine this knowledge of what works and with whom, to increase engagement across all targeted audience segments.

Project Leader

Dr Lynette McLeod
Project Team
  • Professor Don Hine, UNE 
  • Dr Lynette McLeod, UNE 
  • Huw Nolan, UNE 
  • Methuen Morgan, UNE 
  • Greg Mifsud, CISS 
  • Associate Professor Richard Price, CISS 
Project Partners
  • University of New England (UNE)
  • Meat and Livestock Australia Limited (MLA) 
  • Australian Wool Innovation Ltd (AWI) 
  • Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (WA DPIRD)

This project receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment


February 2021 update:

Due to difficulties procuring an adequate sample size for message evaluation from NSW for the study has been expanded to include landholders within Queensland and Victoria. These new study areas are currently being sampled.

Over 40 landowners participated in the barriers and drivers survey in WA the data is currently being analysed.

August 2020 update:

Best practice community engagement requires a combination of practical skills for facilitating dialogue and designing equitable processes, and in-depth understanding of the factors that prevent landholders from adopting best practices for managing wild dogs on their properties.

A survey of landholders has revealed that there are different wild dog management behaviour profiles, from those that are eager to participate in control efforts to non-participants. To address barriers to adoption, effective communication is key through appropriate message framing. The reporting tool WildDogScan (WDS) has commenced evaluation, with focus on increasing the uptake of WDS by landholders, and identifying any additional barriers impeding landholders ability to adopt the technology. This research will assist the WDS developers in improving their promotional, educational and support services

February 2020 update:

The landholder barrier surveys identified three profiles for reporting of wild dog sightings and impacts: Non-reporters, Potential reporters and Reporters.

  • Non-reporters tended to be landholders who had experienced issues with wild dogs in the past and not reported and were unlikely to report in the future.
  • Potential reporters were landholders who had not experienced problems with wild dogs, so had rarely reported in the past but were likely to report if an issue arose.
  • Reporters were landholders who had experienced wild dog problems and commonly reported in the past and were likely to report in the future.

Four landholder profiles were identified for participation in coordinated control activities, two of which were of interest: Non-controllers and Individual controllers.

  • Non-controllers are those who rarely conduct any control activities.
  • Individual controllers are those who mainly conduct control activities by themselves. All profiles identified various factors which influence reporting, helping to give insight into the factors influencing landholders adoption of best practice wild dog management.

August 2019 update:

Engagement with a broad audience was achieved through a keynote address at the Australian Biosecurity Symposium. Interest has been expressed in applying a behavioural approach to other topics such as Phytophthora dieback, community fox projects and biodiversity conservation.

A human research ethics application was approved allowing interviews with wild dog coordinators and other key stakeholders to progress. Rural landholders were surveyed from VIC, QLD and NSW. Survey results and discussion with stakeholders identified four key behaviours to target in the next step of the project. Engagement and communications interventions tailored to each of the identified landholder segments, including evaluation strategies will be co-developed with stakeholders.

Negotiations are underway to include a ‘behaviour change’ masterclass in outreach sessions in the upcoming Australasian Vertebrate Pest Conference. Development of another landholder survey to explore COM-B barriers and drivers of selected key behaviours is underway. Data from this survey will inform the next research phase of determining leverage points for behaviour change and designing relevant interventions.

February 2019 update: 

Stakeholder interviews were conducted to identify key landholder behaviours associated with wild dog management. These stakeholders were a mixture of wild dog coordinators, researchers and personnel from organisations involved in wild dog management from across Australia. They were contacted a second time to rate the impact of each of the identified key behaviours to further assist in the behaviour selection process. 

Completion of the interviews have identified 17 key behaviours for wild dog management. 

Commencement of the rural landholder survey using an online questionnaire will help further understand these behaviours so that appropriate engagement tactics (behaviourally effective) can be utilised.


Scientific publications:

  • Hine DW, McLeod LJ and Please PM (2020) ‘Understanding why peri-urban residents do not report wild dog impacts: an audience segmentation approach’, Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 25(4):355–371
  • Lynette J. McLeod & Donald W. Hine (2023) Wild dog management: understanding rural landholders’ willingness to participate in coordinated control programs, Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, DOI:
  • McLeod L and Hine D (2019) ‘Using audience segmentation to understand nonparticipation in invasive mammal management in Australia’, Environmental Management, 64(2):213–229
  • McLeod JL, Hine WD and Driver BA (2019) ‘Change the humans first: Principles for improving the management of free-roaming cats’, Animals, 9(8):555.