Sound sensitivity
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  • First Basenji's

    Just wondering what the range of everyone else's experience here is with sound sensitivity and their B's.

    Ever since we adopted her, we've noticed that Bowpi is very sensitive to all kinds of sharp hitting or clicking sounds. She doesn't exactly freak out, but she's pretty quick to leave the room if anyone is clapping, slapping their knee, play-fighting, or basically anything that resembles hitting. She did streak out of the room once when I was swatting a fly, even though I wasn't even swatting in her direction. She also bolted away from an area of a park once when we suddenly stumbled across a group kendo practice (Japanese martial arts with sticks). There's a baseball field by our house, and Bowpi will pull really hard if we're walking by and they happen to be practice batting.

    Her unease with these kinds of things kind of makes sense to me, but she's also really sensitive to even lighter noises like the sound of nail clippers (human clippers, that is – she can't stand to be in the same room as anyone clipping their nails) and the sound of my camera shutter, which sadly makes it difficult to get pictures of her at ease around my noisy DSLR.


    Conservation of energy (She may look comfy, but I can tell she's starting to get uncomfortable in this shot)

    FWIW, she's okay with loud music, traffic, general city sounds… and she didn't seem unusually freaked out over the Fourth of July, especially when she was home. It's very specific types of noises in close proximity that she doesn't like.

    I'm not sure that I can desensitize her to these kinds of sounds, especially since she goes from calm to OVER THRESHOLD in just an instant. Mostly we just avoid doing the things that we know will distress her. My boyfriend wonders if her extreme sensitivity to "hitting" actions and noises suggests that she was in a violent home before us -- not that she was abused, but that maybe there were other similarly disturbing things going on around her. I don't know if that's a fair extrapolation. We know very little about her previous home, other than there were some personal dynamics that led up to her rehoming. Could it just be "a basenji thing"?

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  • Hard to know how some phobias begin. Sometimes one incident when they are at a sensitive stage in their development as puppies is enough to cause a future problem. Is it the sound, per se, that she objects to? If you for instance made the gesture of hitting or slapping without the noise, would that bother her? My guy isn't thrilled by my DSLR either, but it has more to do with the flash. He isn't frightened by it, but is annoyed, so once he hears the camera clicking he tends to close his eyes…....it's sometimes hard to get a good picture.

    I had a boy who was scared sh*tless (literally) of the vacuum cleaner. We have a central vac, and he would freak when I turned it on. It took a while, but I started just attaching the hose (which he associated with the noise) before I fed him. I worked up to using the vacuum in another room as far away as he needed, while he ate. Gradually I brought things closer to him, and eventually I could place his food bowl in the middle of the vacuum coil with it turned on while he ate his supper. If it is the sound, specifically, that she objects to, you might try using the sound to herald good things, such as mealtime. I would start by making the sound she hates in a distant room just before feeding her......if she is too nervous, you will have to cease the sound while she eats, but I would move toward pairing it with dinner. Gradually (very gradually) move the sound closer, with the goal of using it as a "dinner bell", and hopefully having her look forward to it as a "good thing". At least, that is how I would proceed.....

    If it is the gestures, rather than the sound, I think she has either been hit or watched someone else be hit. That is the only conclusion I can draw......and it may be harder to desensitize her if that is the case.

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  • What a cute picture!
    Although not as sensitive as Bowpi, I have noticed similar reactions in my girl. If we go to the park when the little leagues are playing and she hears the aluminum bats, she will stop and then suddenly turn around and semi-run. At first when I didn't realize what was happening, she could get behind me so fast that she nearly slipped out of her leash/harness! She doesn't like any sharp noise and even doesnt' like crowds of people/kids making a lot of noise. But since she just turns the other way and doesn't freak-out, I'm not concerned about it.
    You might just try giving her a lot of hugs and soothing sounds to show her you're there to protect her. Maybe even treat her so that she focuses on you and not the noise.

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  • @wizard:

    You might just try giving her a lot of hugs and soothing sounds to show her you're there to protect her. Maybe even treat her so that she focuses on you and not the noise.

    I agree with treats, but not hugs or soothing. It is likely to make her even more anxious, as it makes her feel you are concerned about the sound too. Better to be "matter of fact" about the whole thing. Distraction is good, however…..

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  • Digital the brindlewonderkid started being bothered by some sounds when he started loosing his hearing. He hates the noise of a coke can being opened. He was fine with it a few years ago.

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  • T

    it's odd that you guys are talking about this, because i have always thought it was odd that suki has NO sensitivity to loud or unusual noises. she just kind of calmly looks over at you, like 'what's that? never mind, i don't care.' and then she goes back to whatever she's doing. it's not hearing loss, as i've tried a million things, and she can hear them all, but just isn't phased by them. i had always wondered if that was an odd basenji trait, but i'm seeing here that it's not. every other dog i've known would be startled or have some kind of shocked reaction, but suki is super cool about any kind of noise.

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  • Diggie was always fine with everything until he started loosing his hearing. And he's been everywhere. Went to dogshows before I got him (10 months old) and was going to shows (conformation, agility, coursing trials) and nursing homes for the entire time I've had him. (Still goes to the nursing home once a month and was very keen on doing agility when one of the local clubs had a Run for Glory for the retired dogs earlier this year) He'll be 15 in December.

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  • I have had dogs very sensitive to sounds, not others. Cara is one that has some mild issues. If I yell to my husband in the living room, her eyes get huge. Boom outside, she startles easily. But she is fairly timid. Yet, let the neighbor's dog bark, she is all ferocious boofing at them and telling them to shut up. Neighbor slam door or car door, eyes bug out. I ignore it. She has, over time, gotten better. She isn't wild about thunder either, but has gotten much better about it also. She gets the bug-eyed look, watches to see if it bothers me, then settles down.

    I do, btw, encourage her BOOF at the dogs. I figure it is a way to let her know good behavior, so I chastise them with her and say "NO BOOFING DOGGIES! YOU DON'T BOOF RIGHT!" She appreciates my approval. :)

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  • First Basenji's

    A Coke can being opened… that's not one I would have thought to disturb a dog!

    And yanow, I guess I sort of had that kind of counter-conditioning in mind with the camera, because I do have a lot of pictures of her eating food. laugh I haven't really tried any kind of counter-conditioning with baseball bats or sticks, those other types of sounds I mentioned. When we do encounter the noise on our walks, she's so quick to go over threshold that she passes the point of being willing to accept treats. So avoidance just seems easier to me. We don't really have a vacuum to worry about either, with all hardwood floors, though we do have one rug that gets a good beating from time to time -- and yes, Bowpi makes sure to stay inside, far, far away from the noise when that happens. It really does seem to be the sound that upsets her, not the gesture.

    I'll never know exactly why she dislikes these sounds as much as she does, but I'm inclined not to assume too much about her past -- it's just how she is, and as long as she's not in a constant state of agitation or scared enough to hurt herself or others, I'll accept it. For example, both Bowpi and my Shiba are VERY quick to duck away from strangers who try to pet their head. We've raised our Shiba since he was a puppy, and he just DOES NOT let a stranger pet him on top of his head, especially if they're moving fairly quickly. Once he gets to know you though, or if you greet him at the house, he'll let you touch him all around his face, no problem. Some strangers who have never been able to see that side of Bowdu have asked if he was abused in the past, and I usually just try to explain that it has more to do with the breed's "aloof" reputation. Okay, maybe not enough early socialization as well, but certainly not abuse.

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  • @curlytails:

    For example, both Bowpi and my Shiba are VERY quick to duck away from strangers who try to pet their head. We've raised our Shiba since he was a puppy, and he just DOES NOT let a stranger pet him on top of his head, especially if they're moving fairly quickly. Once he gets to know you though, or if you greet him at the house, he'll let you touch him all around his face, no problem. Some strangers who have never been able to see that side of Bowdu have asked if he was abused in the past, and I usually just try to explain that it has more to do with the breed's "aloof" reputation. Okay, maybe not enough early socialization as well, but certainly not abuse.

    I haven't met many Basenjis who don't mind a stranger touching them on first acquaintance. My theory is that they just consider it "forward" and rude! All of my Basenjis have wanted to make the first approach, but once they have decided the stranger is O.K. they will get very comfortable and usually choose to sit with them, hoping for attention and a new hand to scratch and rub. :)

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  • Oddest here was the tv. My old tv died, got a new one. SOMETHING about the noise it made when it clicked on scared my chow. Not once, but for probably 2 yrs. None of the other dogs reacted (well except my Rottie who could turn the old tv on with her nose and watch when she wanted to-- which was often; new one she couldn't get on :) HURRAH no more waking up in the middle of the night scared by the sound of some infomercial )

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  • @tlish:

    it's odd that you guys are talking about this, because i have always thought it was odd that suki has NO sensitivity to loud or unusual noises. she just kind of calmly looks over at you, like 'what's that? never mind, i don't care.' and then she goes back to whatever she's doing. it's not hearing loss, as i've tried a million things, and she can hear them all, but just isn't phased by them. i had always wondered if that was an odd basenji trait, but i'm seeing here that it's not. every other dog i've known would be startled or have some kind of shocked reaction, but suki is super cool about any kind of noise.

    Kipawa is the same - the only noise that 'bothers' him is me opening up a treat jar.

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  • @DebraDownSouth:

    Oddest here was the tv. My old tv died, got a new one. SOMETHING about the noise it made when it clicked on scared my chow. Not once, but for probably 2 yrs. None of the other dogs reacted (well except my Rottie who could turn the old tv on with her nose and watch when she wanted to-- which was often; new one she couldn't get on :) HURRAH no more waking up in the middle of the night scared by the sound of some infomercial )

    My sister's blue chow hates the noise Cesar Millan makes - that 'chtttt' sound he uses to get a dogs' attention.

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  • ?

    Sonny has very keen hearing…I don't know if it's enhanced due to the loss of his eye sight and they say the other senses kick it up a notch...The vacuum has absolutely bothered him since he was a puppy. He starts whinning when he hears it rolled out of the closet before it's even plugged in :eek: the door bell causes me a rather funny problem..when Sonny hear's a door bell he goes running to the door very excited to see who it is. He will wake from a dead sleep to the sound of the doorbell & go running..The problem comes when I fall asleep with the TV on in bed and at 3AM a doorbell will ring on the TV and Sonny will bolt out from under the covers and run to the door. He is always so disappointed there is no one there to see him! :D

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  • None of mine are bothered by any sorts of loud noises - gunshots, fireworks, cars, motorcycles, vacuum. The vacuum actually triggers play in my basenjis - they LOVE the vacuum and they love to run after it and pounce on it - yes it takes a while to vacuum a room in my house. I've actually tried vacuuming Ruby & Aaliyah with the hose and they just stood there and seemed to enjoy it. I used to pet sit a JRT that LOVED to be vacuumed. Anyway, I think part of it is how much they are exposed to loud noises when they were pups. In my case, I know with all 4 of mine, the breeders had them out running around when they vacuumed. Also, with Aaliyah and Ozzy who I got as pups, I took them into downtown Portland from 12 weeks on - there they were exposed to sirens, loud trucks, motorcycles, etc. I also took them to a friends ski house from 12 weeks on and there were fireworks every weekend that we would go to watch. I can't honestly think of any noise that gets them.

    That said, opening the fridge brings them all running so they do "react" to that noise…lol

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  • Mine is just a puppy yet, but I haven't noticed that he reacts on any kind of sound, loud or low. We've had some thunderstorms lately, and he couldn't care less. But when he DOES wake up, is when he hear that I go into the kitchen, and into the fridge or freezer to prepare his food. WROOM, he says, and it takes less than a second, and he sit and wait outside the kitchen door. ;)

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  • This is a funny thread.

    Kananga, somehow, knows when I'm getting a call from the front door (when a visitor is arriving). It will ring my cell (vibrate only) and he will pace and whine knowing someone is on their way up.

    Here's the weird thing. He will not do this when I'm simply getting a call (same vibrate alert). Somehow he has learned to distinguish calls without any sort of clue if it's a phone call from the front door or just a regular call. I'm thinking maybe he can pick up on my reaction somehow (6th sense) that I know it's a visitor arriving. Very strange, but impressive.

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  • Tana could seemingly care less about noises, nothing seems to bother her, not even a shotgun being fired about 50 feet away a couple weeks ago. She was more interested in wanting the varmint two of my other dogs had put up a tree- which is what I was shooting at ;) As skittish as she was when we adopted her from BRAT (she was a puppymill dog) she really has turned out to be very laid back about a lot of situations :)

    Jibini on the other hand, is weird. As a pup he didn't seem bothered by much- growing up in Florida he was accustomed to thunderstorms but when he was 6 or 7 he suddenly started getting a bit nervous/agitated by the sound of thunder….mostly pacing and whining. And now at age 11 he's not nearly as bothered by them as he was a couple years ago; he may whine and pace for a few minutes but is usually content to snuggle under a blanket and sleep it out. Fireworks definitely bother him and that started a couple years before the thunder anxiety. He isn't thrilled about gunfire either. But other loud noises don't bother him- when I drove a truck he was exposed to a lot of noisy situations- I could walk him through a busy truck shop and not even an impact wrench going off 10 feet behind him made him flinch.

    I guess some dogs are pretty selective about which noises they'll react to- I know I've seen hunting dogs who were scared to death of thunder and certain other types of loud noises, but absolutely steady to gunfire.

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