The bush dog Speothos venaticus remains one of the lesser-known Neotropical canids. To understand better the species' natural history and conservation requirements an assessment was made of its distribution and habitat use, and relevant conservation issues, in northern Brazil, using museum collections, field observations and published literature. The Parnaíba River and the Cerrado biome comprised the eastern limit of an apparently patchy distribution in northern Brazil. In addition to making use of lowland and pre-montane rainforests and savannahs, bush dogs were found in highly disturbed areas. The latter finding is unexpected and contrary to previous assumptions. Habitat loss, prey depletion and disease transmission from domestic animals appear to pose the main threats to the bush dog's long-term conservation. Although there are considerable tracts of protected areas in the region, their efficacy for bush dog conservation remains questionable.