New to the basenji world, need HELP!


  • Hi there,

    I just got my basenji puppy Watson about a week ago. He is about 5 months. The first thing we did was get him into a obedience class. I work with him every day at least twice a day on obedience exercises and we do attention and name games on walks. It helps immensely when I have to work with him in the naughty moments.

    When he grabs something inappropriate to chew on or play with I go and exchange with him for an appropriate toy after giving verbal correction…if he gives up the "bad" toy he gets something better.

    I agree with the "if they teach you nothing else it will be to pick up after yourself" comment. One of the best ways to safeguard the pup and your things is to try and ensure to keep things you do not want him to have out of reach (which what I already learned is harder than it seems with a basenji 🙂 ).

    Spending a large part of his day in a crate means that your guy stores up a lot of energy... I think the best thing to do when you get home is to get him out for a long walk or play some games with him to alleviate his boredom and dissipate some of the energy.

    He is a puppy...and a tired puppy is a good puppy.


  • All good advice above.


  • @Moth:

    When he grabs something inappropriate to chew on or play with I go and exchange with him for an appropriate toy after giving verbal correction…if he gives up the "bad" toy he gets something better.

    I agree with the "if they teach you nothing else it will be to pick up after yourself" comment. One of the best ways to safeguard the pup and your things is to try and ensure to keep things you do not want him to have out of reach (which what I already learned is harder than it seems with a basenji 🙂 ).

    Spending a large part of his day in a crate means that your guy stores up a lot of energy... I think the best thing to do when you get home is to get him out for a long walk or play some games with him to alleviate his boredom and dissipate some of the energy.

    He is a puppy...and a tired puppy is a good puppy.

    Good suggestions. The only one I wonder about is giving him a 'good' toy when he leaves a 'bad' one alone. Yes, you need to distract when they are with something they are not allowed to be with, but I wonder if your basenji is going to catch on to this pattern and use it to his advantage. Just a thought.


  • @Kipawa:

    Good suggestions. The only one I wonder about is giving him a 'good' toy when he leaves a 'bad' one alone. Yes, you need to distract when they are with something they are not allowed to be with, but I wonder if your basenji is going to catch on to this pattern and use it to his advantage. Just a thought.

    It is usually a toy from his current toy rotation…not something new, I try to make it more exciting than what he has his eye on that he shouldn't have by engaging in play and praise. Should I be doing something different?


  • @Kipawa:

    Good suggestions. The only one I wonder about is giving him a 'good' toy when he leaves a 'bad' one alone. Yes, you need to distract when they are with something they are not allowed to be with, but I wonder if your basenji is going to catch on to this pattern and use it to his advantage. Just a thought.

    I've often exchanged up with Z when she was younger. As a result, she has brought me all sorts of "treasures" in hopes of getting a cookie. In one case she brought a meat wrapper that blew into the yard and in another very memorable event she brought me a 1/2 dead rabbit (well, twice actually).

    Sadly, in other news, several basenjis later and I still haven't learned to pick up after myself. And yes, my basenjis leave my stuff alone. Please don't come over to my house un-announced. :o


  • I definitely trade "up", particularly while teaching trade. You're actually supposed to start teaching trade with something they are hardly interested in at all (like a cardboard tube) and trade it for something great.

    You WANT them to think they're tricking you 🙂 Later "trade" becomes nicely ingrained.


  • Excellent… He likes to trade for toys or for treats 😉


  • A bored dog is a destructive dog. Tire him out so when you do leave him he will sleep.

    No means nothing to a basenji, or at least they can view it as a challenge or confrontation at times. Don't leave it to them for when they need to go potty. Do it immediately before & after his crating. Also they can only hold it so long.

    Positive reward training works best.


  • @tanza:

    IMO, he is in a crate too much. If you have to crate him during the day then he should be out at night. So you should consider letting him sleep with you.

    I totally agree with that advice. Since he is good all night, it would make him very happy (and you too by extension) to let him sleep with you. I cannot comment on the chewing problem, except that it sounds very much like he is frustrated by being crated so much. We give ours Dentastix and other treats which are specificallly made to take a long time to chew through to satisfy that need; although the destructive side stopped for us when we got our first Basenji a companion. Neither of them are crated. Just sayin'


  • @red:

    he has SEVERAL toys of all differents types and yet still finds a pencil or underwear or chair to chew on…

    Manage his environment better. If he's getting pencils, etc, it is because you left them within reach. Of course he's interested! He's only been alive 16 weeks. THE WORLD is interesting!! Just take the offending item gently (I always thank my dog for finding such neat things!) and offer him a "legal" toy instead. Praise, praise, praise!

    the only time he is sweet is when he is tired meaning he also chews on ME.

    Hooray! You want him to chew on you! You have 2 weeks left to develop his ABI (acquired bite inhibition - how hard he bites when he bites). After 18wks of age, ABI is "set" for the most part. A dog MUST be allowed to bite humans if it is supposed to learn to do so gently and about 9 out of 10 dogs will, at some point, put it's teeth on a human for some reason. Knowing how to do so using minimal jaw force is a learned skill. If your puppy's bite hurts, YELP and get up and leave for 15 seconds. When you come back, if he doesn't bite more softly, YELP and end the play session. Over the next two weeks expect softer and softer bites.

    Once our puppy is 18wks old, that is the time to start teaching him, you know, really, you shouldn't bite. If he puts his mouth on you or your clothes just tell him (in a normal tone), "Too bad" and leave the area. Play time is over. Too bad, so sad.

    Also i am crate training him. At night… no problem sleeps well through the night, no noise or yodel or howl. but during work hours i have to crate him up too 6 hours.. [snip] but when i get home he has peed more then once in his crate and then shreds his sheet.

    That is too much crate time for a 16wk old puppy. Average ability to "hold it" is 15min per week of age. That means your puppy should not be crated (during the day, night is different) more than 4hrs. You need to have a long term confinement area that includes a puppy toilet.

    See Before You Get Your Puppy for more info.

    Get into Puppy PreSchool right away with a qualified trainer ASAP. This is all normal puppy stuff. 🙂


  • Great post, Andrea.


  • i agree with the biting you part that Andrea mentions, we done this heaps with Hope when she was a pup and now she is the best to play with as she mouths so gently!

    its their way of playing, Hope loves it when we play rough with her and we can still play rough with her cos she knows her boundaries. I know plenty of dogs that their human hasnt taught about mouthing and now have issues when the dog does play and gets too aggressive with the mouthing, yet doesnt know he is doing wrong.

    p.s. if i rouse on Hope when shes doing something naughty - its a big game. I find using "ahh" at a grumble works best, otherwise we go B500 lets play! (this was when she was a pup, now we just need to go 'ah' and she'll quit it). Also neat trick - if you can read your basenji's body language and know what they are about to do something naughty - beat them to it (example: hope goes to scratch at door, i know shes going to by her body language, i say ah and she veers off and she knows EXACTLY what i meant). I guess this just comes when you get to know you B 🙂


  • Andrea.
    Are you the GREAT trainer I know??


  • I didn't start with a pup as young as yours but my last one was definitely a chewer. The "lower levels" of every room were cleared of puppy-no-nos and old sheets and afghans were on every couch and chair for a good year. Interactive toys stuffed with treats or frozen yogurt/peanutbutter/kibble or frozen uncooked soup bones helped with boredom while I had to be gone. In fact, if you can work it, I would suggest trying to get the dog used to being alone in longer and longer increments (I had to arrange some vacation time to make this work but it was worth it). I'm gone to work 9-10 hours and she is loose in the house without any problem. The toy trade worked well (I also used this a a means of being able to take away bones or other food without the dog getting snarly - a handy skill) as did posititve reinforcement training - ANY TIME good behavior occurred a treat came out, whether in official training time or not (you can cut treats in smaller bits if worried about too many treats being fed).
    Consistency consistency consistency and practice practice practice.
    And do enroll in an obedience class or two but check out the instructor and method. Positive reinforcement training (especially with clickers) works wonders with basenjis. Bypass instructors that have the philosophy of "by next week your dog should …" or you'll find yourself discouraged as dogs that aren't bred to please humans (like labs, retrievers, aussies are) take longer to train.


  • @Kipawa:

    Good suggestions. The only one I wonder about is giving him a 'good' toy when he leaves a 'bad' one alone. Yes, you need to distract when they are with something they are not allowed to be with, but I wonder if your basenji is going to catch on to this pattern and use it to his advantage. Just a thought.

    I agree, "trading" works great with basenjis, so whenever he grabs or chew whatever he is not supposed, try to give him one of his toys, like a Kong stuffed with a treat or a little peanut butter, he will love it.
    He is 16 weeks and chewing is just a stage that will end with proper techinques. I went through the same and I thought that it would never change, but it did. You just need LOTS of patience and if you could try to live him if possible less time in the crate, or compensate it with mind games and physical activity.


  • MENTAL STIMULATION! Anubis was the SAME way when he was younger. Chew chew chew on EVERYTHING. And I agree about him needing to be out of the crate more. When Anubis was crated too much he was ULTRA destructive…even to his crate! You can see some bent bars on the door and sides...its crazy! He'd throw a fit and shred his bedding and sometimes urinate. I started taking him for longer walks and to the dog park more. I also got him some "puzzle toys". Some of them you put treats in and the dog has to move it a certain way to get the treat to come out and such. Anubis' favorite one is when I put peanut butter inside a KONG toy. He has to work hard and concentrate on getting the peanut butter out of it. He LOVES IT!


  • @sharronhurlbut:

    Andrea.
    Are you the GREAT trainer I know??

    Ha ha! I suppose so! 🙂 Thanks for the kind words, Sharron.


  • Andrea, great post. I have taught many dogs bite inhibition at a much older age, though… only thing you wrote I don't heartily agree with.

    I do remember my first basenji experience though. I have trained and worked with dogs my entire adult life. So imagine my surprise when squeaking caused her to bite MORE, lol. Change of tactics. Life offers us so many opportunities to learn new things. 🙂


  • Debra - I'd be interested to know the method you use to teach bite inhbition in older dogs (do you mean adults as well?).

    I find that the best teachers of bite inhibiton are the parents and siblings whenin the nest. I reinforce this as Andrea advises - my pups leave here with bite inhibition but I have had to take an adult back who does seem to have 'lost' his bite inhibtion in his previous home. We are working on it and he seems very gentle with us but I won't even consider rehoming him until I've managed to ensure he is bite inhibited with everyone.

    I believe it's the tone of the 'squeak' that makes the difference. It may be that your Basenji who bit harder mistook it for a 'fear' squeak if you understand what I mean.


  • Patty, in reality, mouthy adults learn much the way of puppies. By mouthy I don't mean aggressive, but simply using their mouth to play bite. Yipping, ignoring, or holding mouth closed and teach the "close your mouth" command in that order. Many stop with the yip and ignore. Some you just have to teach the close command before they get it.

    I totally agree learning with the litter and mom are the very best. In fact, although we rarely have information on adult rescues in rehab, I would bet many were taken young from the litter. Many of the pet owners I have worked with absolutely got puppies taken too young from the mom. It's the cycle… irresponsible breeders placing too young, owners who don't know enough to find good breeders and also don't know how to teach bite inhibition. But some of course are orphaned pups or from shelters. I am glad some states make placing before 8 weeks illegal, but sadly all the owner has to do is lie about the age.

    With adults, in your situation, I would tend to teach "close your mouth" as opposed to just a soft mouth, btw. Your dog had bite inhibition, just needs to relearn it.

    Long ago Kathy Diamond Davis and I discussed the issue with my OWN Rottie who simply could not, would not, keep her mouth off her family (no one else). Excited? Wrapped her mouth around a body part. Never the slightest bit of tooth pressure. Her soft mouth was fine for us, but what if she, a 90 pound dog, did it to someone else, even without hurting them? Anyway, Kathy's method worked for her most of the time if we saw her getting revved up and used the "CLOSE IT" command.
    http://www.worldclassgsd.com/behavior_tips/biting.htm

    Kathy is a friend, and you can contact her if you have issues, just tell her I sent you. LOL, I like the hard dogs, but Kathy is super with fearful and timid ones. She also helped save a raving maniac Lhasa that I couldn't bear to put down (severe abuse) but also wasn't happy getting mauled by. When upset, Hannah would charge and bite. Kathy said "get a laundry basket, drop it on her mid charge and give her time to think about it without the fear of you trying to physically stop her." It was miraculous. In about 5 times, the charging stopped with a command, eventually didn't even begin. We placed her with a friend where she got to live out her life in peace.

    I will never take another Lhasa, btw. 6 mos of prozac to get her over fear of night, almost a year before she was ready to place even in a protected environment that could absolutely assure no child would ever be near her. I won't bore with details beyond that but the rescue group that asked me to rehab her is still apologizing. (they didn't admit til after I took her that Hannah was short for "hannibell Lecter.") And yes, normally such a dog would have been put to sleep by me in a flash, but her history and her incredible sweetness at other times made it so hard. Even my vet who wanted me to put her down, when she was hospitalized for 2 wks for an eye infection (in her adoption home by then) admitted she was very glad I didn't. 🙂

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