Help! Not sure about a trainer to help with a kid-nipping basenji
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    Hello,
    My basenji is about to turn four and almost a year ago we disrupted her life by bringing home a baby girl, then moving to two different states within a couple of months, and completely changing her routine. Lia (the basenji) has been great with the baby, but she is becoming increasingly aggressive with other young children. We live in north west arkansas and received a recommendation for a trainer but he is pricey and has only worked with a basenji once before. I'm worried that someone unfamiliar with breed may cause more harm than good. Do you have any advice?

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  • First Basenji's

    Can you possibly ask the trainer some questions about his methods for aggression? (aversion, positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning and desensitizing), Go to his website too. What about a free, no obligation eval of your Lia, why the aggressive now, fear based etc…. Any trainer that can't make time for you before taking any money may not be who you need. You are the one doing the hiring so you should feel comfortable with him. Though basenji's are unique, they do have different personalities like any breed, but they are dogs and aggression may manifest for a number of reasons. Be an informed owner....PS: if he has worked(how???) with b's before, he is one up than most.....

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  • Yes, ask a lot of questions.
    I tried a trainer that said she worked with a few basenjis before and she did clicker training so I thought she would be good.
    However, she did all her training in the tiny reception room of a vet hospital (after hours). There was absolutely no room to move with the dogs (there were 6 in the class and when I took it there was a sheep dog and a great dane as well) so how she expected us to work on come and heeling etc was beyond me. Not to mention that the reception room had piles of dog food and other treats that acted as huge distractions. And she talked way too much - not only did my basenji get bored I did too. We were reprimanded several times for not paying attention and for not accomplishing the day's goals in class. I quit halfway through.
    So ask not only about his methods but where he trains and whether he trains for general obedience, competitive obedience, hunting, agility, and/or good canine citizen.
    You might also check out your local humane society. The one here in Minnesota offers all kinds of training classes.

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  • @poopydog:

    …...recommendation for a trainer but he is pricey and has only worked with a basenji once before. I'm worried that someone unfamiliar with breed may cause more harm than good. Do you have any advice?

    At least he has had some experience with the breed. Ask him how he got on with that dog, and if possible talk to the dog's owners. People who are happy with results are usually glad to pass on their experiences. As for pricey, does he offer any guarantees? Pricey and good is fine, pricey with unsatisfactory results is quite another matter….

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  • @Buddys:

    Can you possibly ask the trainer some questions about his methods for aggression? (aversion, positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning and desensitizing), Go to his website too. What about a free, no obligation eval of your Lia, why the aggressive now, fear based etc…. Any trainer that can't make time for you before taking any money may not be who you need. You are the one doing the hiring so you should feel comfortable with him. Though basenji's are unique, they do have different personalities like any breed, but they are dogs and aggression may manifest for a number of reasons. Be an informed owner....PS: if he has worked(how???) with b's before, he is one up than most.....

    I agree with all of this, except…it is unlikely that you will be able to find a good trainter that will do a free, no obligation eval. Perhaps a reasonable trainer would charge a small fee for a short meeting, but trainers and particularly behaviorists couldn't and shouldn't be expected to give their valuable time for free. You wouldn't expect to take your dog to the vet when there is a problem, and receive a free evaluation before you decide if you want to do treatment, right? Time is valuable! That being said, I will often do a phone consultation with someone, and tell them whether or not I think I can help them...and outline exactly what we would work on to improve the problems they are having. That way, they can see if they think my training methods, and our personalities would mesh well.

    Having worked with a Basenji is not a requirement for doing good work with a Basenji. But understanding how dogs like Basenjis think IS. If he uses force or punishment to train, this is not the kind of trainer you want.

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  • Is she nipping at adults as well? Could this be some form of resource guarding (your child)? She might be feeling she needs to 'take care' of the family in order to keep some form of consistency in the home. Just a thought.

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  • I'd like to know more about the "increasingly aggressive with other children" reference as well. What type of aggression (jumping on, nipping, growling?) and under what circumstances? And was this dog previously exposed to many children, or is this a new thing now that you have a little one of your own? The solution may be to modify the behavior of the children, which may remove the problem all together. (I would never trust young children alone with a dog, in any case. Been there, done that, was lucky my girl was extremely tolerant!)

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    Thank you for all of the responses. I am meeting the trainer at the training site for an eval. I appreciate the suggested questions.
    Lia was great with kids before the baby. Now she nips at kids, mostly under 8 hrs old and mostly girls, if they try to come near her. She is still friendly with older children and adults.
    I'll let everyone know how the eval goes. I am really happy I found this forum. Thank you!

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  • @poopydog:

    Now she nips at kids, mostly under 8 hrs old and mostly girls, if they try to come near her. She is still friendly with older children and adults.

    Cheap & dirty solution: tell the kids to stay away from the dog. Let her approach them, if she is so inclined. Educating children not to approach dogs that aren't their own family pet is a "good thing", and may prevent an incident with someone else's dog as a bonus. :) If I were to guess, I would surmise something has occurred with a child of that age that you missed, and she is now associating little ones with something unpleasant. Pure speculation on my part, but little kids do stupid things that are painful to animals…..

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  • Agree with eeefarm, just yesterday a girl around 7 saw Oakley and I walking and she ran at us and i just knew this wasn't going to be good. I'm still working on not letting Oakley jump up and this sort of excited running towards him was going to cause that behavior. I stopped and asked Oakley to sit by my side. I felt rude telling her to slow down because there was no adult around ( you never know what kids will tell their parents). I also knew that aside from bad behavior that he wouldn't react aggressively. When she got to us she didn't even ask to pet him but threw her hand right over his head to pet hm- he looked at her like " mom, what's her problem?" luckily the paret came over and took her child,meanwhile the other girl walked up to me, asked to pet my dog and then proceeded to ask me how he liked to be pet. I was very impressed and thought this couldn't be a child from the same family.
    Sometimes its easy to see the signs of children doing the wrong thing and sometimes it isn't, either way, some dogs can really react afterwards

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  • @eeeefarm:

    Cheap & dirty solution: tell the kids to stay away from the dog. Let her approach them, if she is so inclined. ..

    Except that if you blink, and a child gets near and gets bit, you and your dog pay the price. Absolutely they need to keep this dog away from children, muzzled or on a leash if they have to be near them, until they get this solved. But aggression to children is a danger forever in our society. They have a baby who will soon BE that age, who will have friends over, who will simply make your approach undoable.

    IF the issue is a child has been mean or frightened her, the fix is a bit easier but takes time. Solicit friends, neighbors and countrymen to lend you their children. Take your dog outside on a leash or inside a fence, or leashed inside. Have children drop by, toss a treat– that's it, toss a treat. Go on. No other contact. You do this for a couple of weeks even and you will see a big change as you train the dog's automatic response to children to be one of "TREATS! GOOD CHILD!" Then and only then, do you work on letting the dog approach a sitting child who tosses a treat, still no petting. After the dog safely gets treats that way, then consider allow the dog to be pet. These need to be children you trust to be trees and not respond other than treats, not to squeal, etc.

    After a while you can take the dog out to parks near kids, keep with you but give treats and praise for calm behaviors or ignoring running excited kids.

    IOW you have to totally retrain the response to kids. Talk with your trainer about this method. I am willing to bet they will tell you it is a great support for anything they are doing.

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  • I'm uncomfortable with the idea of encouraging the dog to think of kids as treat dispensers. This can lead to unintended consequences. Reprogramming the dog to like kids works until it doesn't. There is no substitute for proper, vigilant, adult supervision…...and teaching kids how to act around animals is a big part of the solution. At least this dog has signaled her discomfort with children of a certain age, which is resulting in more vigilance. The real horror story is the dog that was always great with kids......right up until that nasty bite. Happens more often than you think. (because kids are cruel to dogs, and adults don't always pay attention)

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  • First Basenji's

    @Quercus:

    I agree with all of this, except…it is unlikely that you will be able to find a good trainter that will do a free, no obligation eval. Perhaps a reasonable trainer would charge a small fee for a short meeting, but trainers and particularly behaviorists couldn't and shouldn't be expected to give their valuable time for free. You wouldn't expect to take your dog to the vet when there is a problem, and receive a free evaluation before you decide if you want to do treatment, right? Time is valuable! That being said, I will often do a phone consultation with someone, and tell them whether or not I think I can help them...and outline exactly what we would work on to improve the problems they are having. That way, they can see if they think my training methods, and our personalities would mesh well.

    Having worked with a Basenji is not a requirement for doing good work with a Basenji. But understanding how dogs like Basenjis think IS. If he uses force or punishment to train, this is not the kind of trainer you want.

    appreciate your insight, however, doing a 'free' eval allows the trainer to view the dog's body language. most of the time an owner is not as observant (info from a phone conversation for example) as a good trainer should be concerning the reason for the behavior, the before and after scenario etc. Also, the time should not be wasted as it is an opportunity for the prospective client to meet and greet the trainer as well to make a decision, et all. Time is not wasted because a good trainer will be observing dog/owner relationship, etc. I never waste my time!

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  • First Basenji's

    "There is no substitute for proper, vigilant, adult supervision…...and teaching kids how to act around animals is a big part of the solution."

    SO VERY TRUE!!!!

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  • @eeeefarm:

    I'm uncomfortable with the idea of encouraging the dog to think of kids as treat dispensers. This can lead to unintended consequences. Reprogramming the dog to like kids works until it doesn't. There is no substitute for proper, vigilant, adult supervision…...and teaching kids how to act around animals is a big part of the solution

    Please show me where you think I indicated that adult supervision and teaching kids respect and right behavior wasn't part of the solution. Find me a post in the years I have been on this board where I EVER didn't put proper ownership/training/responsibility at the top of the issue.

    However, while you are free to think "treat dispenser" is bad– I could show you a billion sites where treat/food dispenser is precisely the basis for much training of dogs where food is controlled and given by those with positive connection. What unintended consequences? Unless you have some idiot allowing the dog to TAKE food from the child, there are none. And again, No MATTER HOW DILIGENT, IF YOU DON"T READJUST THIS DOG'S RESPONSE TO CHILDREN AND YOU BLINK, JUST BLINK, and your chances of that nasty bite go up astronomically. Your advice to simply keep kids away is the one that won't work and keeps the risks highest with a dog in a home WITH A CHILD who will reach that age.

    But please don't pretend I suggested any training is a substitute or INSTEAD of "proper, vigilant, adult supervision." But I do wonder if you have children because most parents on earth know that no matter how vigilant, things happen. Retraining this dog to LIKE that age child gives you a buffer for those situations.

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  • @DebraDownSouth:

    Please show me where you think I indicated that adult supervision and teaching kids respect and right behavior wasn't part of the solution. Find me a post in the years I have been on this board where I EVER didn't put proper ownership/training/responsibility at the top of the issue.

    Never said you indicated that. Just that your priorities might not match up with mine. Different strokes. However, I have seen the unfortunate results of teaching a dog that it is just fine to accept treats "for breathing". If you must use this method to train your dog to like kids, make sure the dog has to do something for the reward. I have seen perfectly nice dogs turn into little "entitlement" machines that expect to be fed for doing nothing. Something like garbage dump bears. And they don't like it when the goodies aren't forthcoming.

    Yes, I totally agree stuff happens with kids…..and dogs.....and it doesn't take much time. If you are lucky, the consequences of a lapse of attention won't be serious. But never, ever trust that your dog is "kid proof". No such thing, in my books. You can be lulled into carelessness if you believe that.

    I could also state the obvious and mention that there is a huge difference in most dogs attitude towards members of their family....child growing up.....vs visitor.

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  • @eeeefarm:

    Never said you indicated that. Just that your priorities might not match up with mine. Different strokes. However, I have seen the unfortunate results of teaching a dog that it is just fine to accept treats "for breathing". If you must use this method to train your dog to like kids, make sure the dog has to do something for the reward. I have seen perfectly nice dogs turn into little "entitlement" machines that expect to be fed for doing nothing. Something like garbage dump bears. And they don't like it when the goodies aren't forthcoming.

    But you are not rewarding the dog "for breathing". You are rewarding the dog for doing something that makes it uncomfortable. Once the dog is comfortable being around kids then you can add criteria for earning a reward but if just being near the child makes it want distance withholding the reward until it does an additional behavior will only increase the anxiety.

    @eeeefarm:

    Yes, I totally agree stuff happens with kids…..and dogs.....and it doesn't take much time. If you are lucky, the consequences of a lapse of attention won't be serious. But never, ever trust that your dog is "kid proof". No such thing, in my books. You can be lulled into carelessness if you believe that.

    But your advice was basically manage the situation so they never encounter kids and then hope for getting lucky if they do. This is bad advice. Managing situations to avoid the problem is good but training for situations when management fails is also necessary or chances are you won't get lucky.

    For a dog that is really uncomfortable around small children, I would start treating for being in the presence of kids at a distance. Treats coming from the owner. You want the presence of kids to be a predictor that good things are going to happen.

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  • @eeeefarm:

    However, I have seen the unfortunate results of teaching a dog that it is just fine to accept treats "for breathing". If you must use this method to train your dog to like kids, make sure the dog has to do something for the reward. I have seen perfectly nice dogs turn into little "entitlement" machines that expect to be fed for doing nothing. Something like garbage dump bears. And they don't like it when the goodies aren't forthcoming.

    That's not "rewarding for breathing" it is textbook classical conditioning and de-sensitization. You have to de-sensitize a dog to what stresses it before you can ask it to perform behaviors and move on to counter-conditioning. I don't think I've seen an example through various methods I'm familiar with (Control Unleashed, Click to Calm, BAT, etc.) where you don't do both de-sensitization and counter-conditioning. You won't get as far just asking it to perform behaviors when it is under stress.

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  • O.K. what we have here is a failure to communicate. I was objecting to the idea of having kids walk past tossing treats. Yes, you can condition an animal to tolerate whatever stresses them by beginning at their comfort level…...but the reward should come from the trainer, not some stranger, big or small. Expecting and being encouraged to take food from a stranger is not a road I want to go down with my dog. (although it is difficult to train a dog to avoid taking treats from strangers, it's a good idea to discourage rather than encourage the practice. Poisoning doesn't have to be deliberate.) My approach would be to take some time with the dog at a distance from, say, a schoolyard. Work a "look at that" game into it. Eventually......and very slowly......get the dog comfortable in a setting where children may approach and even do something abrupt and potentially threatening, which will take a lot of work and patience, and even then.......don't expect miracles if a child does something that causes pain to the dog.

    No procedure and no dog is "foolproof". Keep an eye on things when dogs and kids are interacting. I'm not suggesting you keep the dog away from children at all times, only that you be aware of what is going on. With any dog, whether it has issues which are not yet resolved or not, do not let the kids force themselves on the dog.

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  • Though I don't want my dog poisoned, teaching them to avoid taking treats from strangers isn't the way to go. If your dog gets loose, then you want it to be willing to go towards strangers helping to catch it and often those strangers will use treats or some other lure reward.

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  • Cheap & dirty solution: tell the kids to stay away from the dog. Let her approach them, if she is so inclined. Educating children not to approach dogs that aren't their own family pet is a "good thing", and may prevent an incident with someone else's dog as a bonus.

    I was writing a long response and stopped myself. Everyone can read the thread– can see you seem not to comprehend how truly powerful conditioning positive responses works. But it is obvious that anything I write you will jump on and that when others agree with me, you will backpedal. Your original post, not a word about reconditioning, now putting in your own version of it. Glad you made some move at least. But having kids produce treats works. Once the dog is happy to see kids, you take the next steps. Note i told the OP to talk to the trainer. I am not there. And while I have worked with many aggressive dog issues, only someone watching this dog will know the real situation and needs. In the meantime, simply making children a positive situation goes a long way.

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