Need good advice on serious topic:
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  • Twice since getting Oakley I have had the same issue with him and it's in my opinion, twice too much. Oakley stole a piece of bread from the garbage about a month and a half ago, and as I went to take it away he growled at me with head down, teeth snaring and even lunged at me. I was so shocked and even a little hurt because I never thought he would try to bite me. Again, this week he managed to tip my gate and get into the trash, this time stealing a roll.. He immediately growled an showed his teeth at me as I was approaching. I managed to tell him no firmly but when that didn't work, I resorted to asking him if he wanted to eat, immediately his ears went up and he let me take the roll. I understand guarding, especially when it's something he isn't supposed to have but this behavior is unacceptable and I need good advice on what to do in these situations and how to get him to learn not to behave this way.
    As I said it's only happened twice, and only when he has stolen food. I can put my hands in his bowl and touch him, never even thought anything of taking a treat from him. I wouldn't label him typically food agressive, especially not with treats or toys.
    Now that I'm posting this I should mention he gets snarky about edible chew bones and when you do pet him while eating he stops as if to posture he isn't 100% ok with it, although he lets you do it without objection or agression. I feel that since the lunging incident he has exhibited some uncomfortability regarding edible objects and people. I need and want to correct this so I have to worry less about someOne getting hurt if they try to retrieve something from him, especially kids. While he has little contact with small children and I obviously can't trust him alone with kids I would like to feel more confident in my dog. I feel I should be able to take just about anything from him without fear of retaliation, unfortunately, I know right now that if it comes out of the garbage it'll be a fight to win it back!

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  • On a lighter note: he may just be mad he's eating grain free, hence all the bread stealing!!

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  • You need serious work on the "Leave it" command. Based on taking but giving something better in return. Example, he as a chew bone, use the "Leave it" command and show him something much better (piece of meat, better treat). when you give him that treat, take the one that he had at the same time, reward with praise.

    Notice in your comments about what happened, that is exactly what you did…. you asked him to "trade" with you with "do you want to eat?" and that took his attention from the stolen item to you as the pack leader. Hopefully when you got the item, you did reward him.

    That item that he stole is now a prized possession to him.. be it food or something else... to win the battle (meaning to get the item from him) you need to make the "trade". They pretty quickly understand this game and that if they give up what they have, what they get in exchange is better.

    This is what I do with my girls and I can pretty much take everything away from them...

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  • I know I am on the "wrong" side of this discussion, but I have never allowed stealing to go unchallenged, and I don't trade, either. I just remove whatever from the dog immediately and verbally chastise him/her. IMHO, stealing is totally different from taking something the dog has been "legally" given, and for that I will trade…...e.g. a bone or chewy is getting to a size where it could pose a choking hazard.

    Of course he knows you want to take the object from him.....and not give it back......which is why he is challenging you, unlike with his "legal" food, which he knows from experience you are not going to swipe. If the dog understands he is doing wrong, taking back what he has stolen shouldn't pose a problem if he respects you. Mine are usually worried enough about being caught in the act not to argue, because they know there are repercussions to stealing.

    What you do to remedy this situation will depend on your relationship with your dog and your level of confidence. Trading will work, no question, and is likely the safer route to go. But Basenjis aren't stupid, and they can easily learn that stealing will pay off, one way or the other. My way avoids this potential problem and works for me. Your mileage may vary. ;)

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  • I will not get into a war of wits…. to each their own, but not my way of training. If I can catch them in the act of stealing they will get a quick correction and if they then leave it on their own, a reward, which can be just a praise or pat....

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  • I've actually never had this sort of problem with any of my dogs (growling at me while I'm trying to get something out of their mouth). I'm not sure why. Maybe a better thing to say would be I haven't had this problem yet. One thing I have done a LOT of with Zest is retrieving. She is rewarded (treat!) for playing fetch with me about 95% of the time. I use fetch for a reward in agility training and she's treated for retrieving. So she is often bringing me something, spitting it out at my feet and getting a yummy reward. When she was a bit younger, she'd bring me all sorts of "interesting" prizes to turn in for a treat (1/2 dead rabbits, meat wrappers, the ball the malinois didn't retrieve, etc). And, yes, if I had a treat on me, she got a treat for bringing me something. Somehow I think it's related.

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  • Pat, I did reward him with his kibble as soon as I picked up the roll. Eeefarm, the very first time Oakley stole food I immediately went to just take it ( all confidence as I didn't expect a problem) however Oakley broke skin when one of his canines went through my palm, I was so shocked my reaction was immediately to pick him up to get him away from the possessed item, even then he lunged at my face. He didnt mean it, and you could tell he wasn't purposely aiming to latch on but whatever his intentions, it happened and I own it. This was the only time him and I have ever gone through that. This is why I can't use your advice, but I do appreciate it and hopefully we will get to a place ( if stealing food takes place) where I can take something like that from him without putting us both in danger. I will definitely start making "trading" a big routine in the house. Currently we do a fair amount of retrieving where he willingly likes to chase an object and hand it back to me. I think my biggest question in all of this is what's the likeliness I can curb this behavior, I don't want to think four years down the road, if I have a toddler and Oakley can't be more trustworthy. I will certainly make it work for the household and am 100% willing to do what I have to. Also, I would try my hardest not to set him up to fail, such as giving nylabone edibles with children around in case they'd try to grab it. I just hope this is a behavior that can be reliably modified and redirected for future instances, mainly for security of others before myself

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  • @Chealsie508:

    I should mention he gets snarky about edible chew bones and when you do pet him while eating he stops as if to posture he isn't 100% ok with it

    I used to give rawhides once upon a time, and I found that when they got to the "gooey" stage the girls would get quite possessive about them…....with each other, and not happy to give them up to me, either. I would trade for them because I had given them to the dog. After one of my girls got a piece of rawhide stuck just prior to its entry into her stomach I decided that treat was out. We narrowly avoided surgery in that case. But in any event I think it is better not to give things they get overly possessive about. A couple of times there were snarks between the girls that could have escalated, and I certainly didn't want that.

    A little anecdote about stealing. A long time ago, while I was away, my husband was eating his dinner......a pork chop......when I telephoned him. He got up to answer the phone, and of course the little opportunist noticed the chop on his plate. When he went back to his dinner, chop and dog were missing. He found both in her crate. He reported that she did indeed have the temerity to growl when he removed the chop, but at that point he was "growling" louder than she was! That girl was an awful thief if you turned your back, and she just loved to drink out of anyone's cup if they were foolish enough to place it within easy reach. Never did cure her of that, but she never bit anyone over food. She would go away grumbling (doggy swearing) when she was discovered and her "loot" reclaimed by its rightful owner, however.

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  • Thanks for your story, it very well could be that Oakley doesn't respect me enough not to just growl but take no action, and that would be my fault as I haven't always been at 100% strength with him. I take ownership that this is probably caused by a lack of something I disnt provide. Overall he is a great dog, very attached and loving, never lived with cats but to my surprise loves them, generally good and tolerant of children and their unruly running, screaming and tugging, very obedient in commands ( sit,paw, target touching, lay down, roll over… "Go get it", not great at stay or leave it. Leave it seems to be more like chase and then when you catch me I may drop it! To me the problem lies in that he is extremely smart and innovative, his fortitude for figuring out how to get what he wants is extraordinary.. And he will plan days in advance for the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately for me, basenjis "resourcefulness as I call it, was my main attraction to the breed". Also he will let you poke,prod,pull on him while sleeping, never even the hint of surprise or shock to being touched in that sense.

    Everyone I know says the same thing to describe Oakley- complex!
    That says it all, he is a complex goob!

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    @eeeefarm:

    That girl was an awful thief if you turned your back, and she just loved to drink out of anyone's cup if they were foolish enough to place it within easy reach. Never did cure her of that, but she never bit anyone over food. She would go away grumbling (doggy swearing) when she was discovered and her "loot" reclaimed by its rightful owner, however.

    that's suki's behavior, exactly!

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  • O.K. you posted while I was typing. I get that, and agree with you. Don't do what I do under the circumstances, it wouldn't be wise. Practice "leave it" for sure, and get him used to giving things up to you. The problem is that he may well latch on to something that is more salient to him than whatever you can offer to replace it, so working on making it a habit to give up whatever he has is a good idea…....if it's on cue you will have less difficulty, although some dogs definitely have their priorities, and I do worry about the possibility of inadvertently setting up a "chain". i.e. stealing something sets up the opportunity of trading it for something better.

    I sympathize, as it is unnerving to have a dog growl at you or snap when it is unexpected. Doesn't do great things for your confidence, and it's a shock if it is a dog you know and thought trustworthy.

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  • @Chealsie508:

    Overall he is a great dog, very attached and loving, never lived with cats but to my surprise loves them, generally good and tolerant of children and their unruly running, screaming and tugging, very obedient in commands ( sit,paw, target touching, lay down, roll over… "Go get it", not great at stay or leave it. Leave it seems to be more like chase and then when you catch me I may drop it!

    O.K. how is he at retrieving? Good thing to work on, since it involves bringing something and surrendering it to you, and of course you can reward with food and lavish praise. I also like the method of teaching "leave it" as laid out in "Control Unleashed", although I haven't tried it. I'm sure it would yield good results and I think quite a few forum members have practiced this with success.

    Basenjis are not like any other breed I have worked with, in that I find even those that are very compliant most of the time will stand on their dignity if you offend them. Sometimes over food, but more often over their "comfy place". They dislike being disturbed more than most dogs, and I think a lot of unfortunate happenings start from a relatively minor incident and build when they find snarking gets them their way. I have suffered very few bites over the years, but it is unsettling when it happens. My current boy will snark if he is very comfortable and someone tries to move him. My husband just laughs at him and picks him up, and he never bites. Mostly I try to avoid a situation that results in confrontation, but if it comes to that I will restrain him and read him the riot act, and he has never bitten under those circumstances, but definitely will if he is in pain…...e.g. if his feet are painful from cold. (he screams as if someone was killing him, while trying to hold up all feet at once, but when you try to rescue him he will bite as if he doesn't realize the cause of his pain.)

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  • I don't agree that dogs understand "stealing" is bad or wrong any more than peeing in the house. They learn they get in trouble, or you teach them where you want them to go. They don't go outside because they think it is wrong to pee on the carpet, they go because you get them into a learned habit to do so. Food guarding is a normal behavior. We teach them not to, or they comprehend we are the food controllers, but I would rather have food aggression than any other type because it IS controllable and trainable.

    The leave it command is wonderful, but you need to work on it with a variety of objects, not desirable food, and get it SOLID before food. I also think treating a dog is simply good common dog sense. FOOD they understand, so why not reward good behavior.

    You must step back and reteach that food, ALL food, is under your control. K9Deb (Debbi McKean) has a very good article on it:
    http://k9deb.com/foodguar.htm

    Additionally, Mary's site helps with leave it command. http://www.clickerlessons.com/

    You want to deal with things in a way where you do NOT get bitten. If that means you leash the dog while working with food, do so. But I promise you, being food aggressive doesn't mean your dog is bad, unhinged or on the verge of Cujoism. I have worked with dogs who starved on the streets and were highly aggressive about food because, well, they'd have starved otherwise. Even these adult dogs with little relationship to me learned by obedience training, food training, and the leave it command.

    I do have to say though, I teach "look at me" even before leave it. (use a shorter word– such as FOCUS or whatever) Usually if you teach a dog to make eye contact, you help break the current obsession (that roll) and give it a moment to focus on you, realize it won't be hurt, be able to comply with the next command.

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  • Eeefarm, Oakley is very good at retrieving, he keeps at it and doesn't lose interest quickly. I try to keep it controlled but fun so all I ask is that he sits before I throw it, and very rarely does he not bring it back to me. In fact he will keep nudging it to me if I don't pick it up in his idea of " quick enough". It's always been a good bonding activity with us and he will retrieve a variety of objects. I am lucky to at least be able to say Oakley is as close to 100% trustworthy regarding comfy place disruption anger. I heard that basenjis in general have this behavior and fr day one I worked on getting him used to touch while sleeping, I pill his ears, open his mouth, play with his gums, rub up his legs and in between his paws, he has no reaction to suddenly being touched when in a deep sleep, he is very comfortable with knowing that being touched is a good thing while sleeping.

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  • Debra, thanks for the articles, I'll certainly read them. I appreciate the consoling words about food aggression, first time it happened it felt like the end of the world! I absolutely need to work harder at the leave it command and then treating, he isn't very good at it as I described. I'll need to build up my expectations as you said, I can't expect him to leave a valuable stolen item before I can expect him to leave a sock alone. Good point about the looking too, we don't always have great eye contact as I find he always looks at my hands; which is the bad part about teaching him target touching my hands as his first command! I'm also thinking of maybe sitting next to him while he eats, because although his outbursts only come from stolen foods, he isn't entirely comfortable with me petting him while eating, he would prefer I stand across the room but in the same room! He doesn't growl or show displeasure but he shows the slightest stiffness and stops eating, as if to wait for me to finish petting him. That says to me that he would prefer I just leave him alone, and I want that to be curbed before developing into an issue. Appreciate all the advice.. Gives me a lot of tools

    On a side note: I really need to get Control Unleashed! I keep saying I'm going to but this time I really will

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  • When he brings it back does he give it to you readily? I find it interesting that he enjoys retrieving. It isn't usually a favourite activity for Basenjis, and all of mine had to be taught except for my current boy, who would bring back his plush toys. I subsequently taught him to retrieve objects he doesn't prefer to carry, and to deliver them into my hand, rather than dropping them. (somehow I don't think I could persuade him to retrieve a food item without eating it, but that would be an interesting challenge!)

    Could Oakley's snarkiness when caught stealing be because he is anticipating a correction, or do you feel it is all about wanting to keep the food?

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  • @Chealsie508:

    we don't always have great eye contact as I find he always looks at my hands; which is the bad part about teaching him target touching my hands as his first command!

    Do you clicker train? Easy, peasy to teach eye contact. Just wait till he looks at you, then click/treat. Rinse, repeat. Did it with mine in about 5 minutes and put it on cue. My cue is "eyes" rather than something that takes longer to say. :)

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  • I too was shocked Oakley liked to retrieve as I heard its uncommon in the breed, since day one he would chase balls, plush toys, sticks, and bring them back to me and give them to my hand… He also does the feet drop but I see his wheels turning that say " if I hand it to her then she will throw it faster"! Needless to say he also has his goober moments where he retrieves but stops short of me and plops down with the object.
    Oakleys behavior is BOTH his anticipation of a correction and not wanting to give up his stolen good! I can't even say it's one more than the other; it's a total 50:50

    Yes, we are a 100% clicker train household, he responds very well to this method

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  • @Chealsie508:

    Oakleys behavior is BOTH his anticipation of a correction and not wanting to give up his stolen good! I can't even say it's one more than the other; it's a total 50:50

    Yes, we are a 100% clicker train household, he responds very well to this method

    If it's anticipation of a correction, then absolutely go with what Debra and others have been suggesting. What I do with mine will likely make it worse. It's not a game you want to play if you're not certain of winning. I make no bones about being a bit "old school" in some things, I started with dogs a long time ago and I use what works for me. I also use all the tools in the bag, and I love the clicker for teaching new behavior. It works faster than anything else.

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  • I do hope eventually I will be able to just take a forbidden object because he is not territorial nor guarding with anything else, toys, treats, kibble, vegetables, even cheese and meat that I give him, he's so spoiled I even hold his apples for him so they dont roll around my floor! At the very least I'd like to be able to predict reactions in the future to know whether taking or trading is necessary. I do understand what yOu mean when you say, basenjis can catch onto stealing as a means to get a good trade

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  • Do you play It's Yer Choice with him? I start mine with the way the video shows with them earning their treats by just showing enough to control to let me give them the treat without them moving toward the treat but as we advance I add eye contact versus focusing on the treats as a criteria for earning them.

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