Adults typically weigh 17-36 kilograms (37-79 pounds). A tall, lean animal, it stands about 30 inches (75 cm) at the shoulder, with a head and body length averaging about 40 inches (100 cm) and a tail of 12 to 18 inches (30 – 45 cm). Animals in southern Africa are generally larger than those in eastern or western Africa.

The African Wild Dog reproduces at any time of year, although mating peaks between March and June during the second half of the rainy season. Litters ? can contain 2-19 pups, though 10 is the most usual number. The time between births is usually 12 – 14 months, though it can also be as short as 6 months if all of the previous young die. The typical gestation period is approximately 70 days. Pups are usually born in an abandoned den dug by other animals such as those of the Aardvark. Weaning takes place at about 10 weeks. The adults feed the pups by regurgitating food when they return to the Den after hunting. After 3 months, the den is abandoned and the pups begin to run with the pack. At the age of 8 – 11 months they can kill small prey, but they are not proficient until about 12 – 14 months, at which time they can fend for themselves. Pups reach sexual maturity at the age of 12 – 18 months.

Females will disperse from their birth pack at 14 – 30 months of age and join other packs that lack sexually mature females. Males typically do not leave the pack they were born to. This is the opposite situation to that in most other social mammals, where a group of related females forms the core of the pack or similar group. In the African Wild Dog, the females compete for access to males that will help to rear their offspring. In a typical pack, males outnumber females by a factor of two to one, and only the dominant female is usually able to rear pups. This unusual situation may have evolved to ensure that packs do not over-extend themselves by attempting to rear too many litters at the same time. The species is also unusual in that other members of the pack including males may be left to guard the pups whilst the mother joins the hunting group; the requirement to leave adults behind to guard the pups may decrease hunting efficiency in smaller packs.