• Hello everyone. I came across this forum while searching for Basenji rescue information. I am new to this breed of dog and have found our little foster dog to be quite a challenge?that is, unlike any other dog I have ever encountered. A dog, much like a cat! In fact that?s how I discovered she was a Basenji, by googling ?dogs that clean themselves like a cat.? Let me give you a little background on how Little Lita has entered our lives.

    My sweet Dalmatian/Spaniel mix Cocoa passed away quite unexpectedly on Dec. 8th, and, needless to say, I have been devastated. Cocoa was my constant companion, my shadow, and she lived to please me?I trained Cocoa using shunning as a tool and it worked fabulously. She only had to bolt out of the front door after a walking dog and his master ONCE to get the picture. The next time the screen door popped open while she was barking at a walking dog, she didn?t make a move. Cocoa LOVED attention, ignoring her for bad behavior worked like a charm?quick and effective.

    Only 4 days after Cocoa passed I decided to foster a dog from a local rescue shelter. I was told she was a Terrier mix, and Lita is listed as that on her petfinder page. She is definitely a mixed Basenji, as her tail is not curly, but she has the wrinkled brow, white chest and feet and the independent, aloof attitude, along with the HIGH, HIGH energy characteristic of Basenjis.

    I was told at the shelter that Lita was originally rescued at 6 mos. from a home in GA that had over 20 pups. She was adopted out from the shelter I am fostering through at 7 months. She was returned (called a bounceback) to the same shelter on Dec 9th because the person responsible?an 8 yr old boy according to the mother?would no longer care for her. (Nice lesson, huh? Just taught that kid dogs are disposable.) Lita is now 2 yrs old and was very hand shy at first. I had the impression she was hit?a lot. She was very anxious at first and fearful of ALL the new noises inside and outside our home. It seems, too that she really isn?t used to affection, and it seems she is only interested in food.

    I have been very sensitive to poor Lita?s anxieties and have been allowing her to become accustomed to us and our friends on her terms. She does warm up to friends quickly if she is ignored and allowed to approach and sniff when she is ready. But, petting is still a no-no for most guests?she?ll run away and bark if they try. Even with us, if she doesn?t want petted she?ll just back away. I?ve never encountered such an independent dog who seems to only tolerate any affection.

    Anyhow, please don't hate me because I?m pretty sure this is not the right breed for me, but I am worried about poor Lita being adopted out to another home. I hate to see her get comfy here?only to get shipped away to another home where she has to learn trust all over again. I wish in my state of over-whelming grief, I would have stopped to think more. I thought fostering a needy dog would help me overcome my grief sooner and benefit the doggy, too.

    Can anybody tell me, would a dog like Lita, with a questionable beginning and subsequent fostering, adjust well to another transition? I feel so terrible for not wanting to keep her at this point, but am torn about causing her more anxiety. Thanks for any response. I think this forum may be helpful to us. You all seem very knowledgeable about this breed.

  • Sorry about all the question marks–they don't show up as ? in my word document-just copied and pasted without proof-reading once pasted.

  • @new2basenjis:

    Sorry about all the question marks–they don't show up as ? in my word document-just copied and pasted without proof-reading once pasted.

    I've had the same problem when copy/pasting from a word processor.

    Do you know about BRAT? (Basenji Rescue & Transport). Might be good to contact them and see what they say about your girl. Basenjis certainly aren't for everyone, and can be quite difficult, but they grow on you. I appreciate your concern about her suffering more anxiety with yet another move. It isn't easy for a dog to be bounced around, and I think it may be harder for a Basenji. Although they aren't always quick to show it, they do get quite attached to "their" human. And yes, it does sound like she has been hit, which may be why she is so insecure about affection…..


  • Bless you heart for opening your home to a dog in need. I think it is admirable that you were trying to have something good come out of your loss and grief. My sincerest condolences for the passing of your beloved Cocoa.

    Basenjis are quite different from most dogs. Primitive breeds have quirks that seem strange to many dog lovers.

    Do not mistake her shyness for dislike or disinterest though. Like eeeefarm mentioned basenjis get quite attached to you. She will always want to know where you are and what you are up to once she settles in.

    I have a few suggestions that you can try to see if she will come out of her shell for you a bit more.

    Go sit with her in a quiet room when you have some time. Sit on the floor with her and allow her to approach you. Have some treats with you and gently touch her when she allows it giving her a treat when she allows contact. Try to see if you can teach her that being touched can be pleasurable.

    When touching her try to never reach over her head or pat her on the head…most dogs find this threatening (something a lot of people to not know). Instead reach at her slowly from underneath her chin to scratch the ears or even just stroke her chest lightly.

    If you can get her to sit with you stroke her using long, slow motions along her back and body. Praising her quietly and even treating her when she settles with you.

    It sounds very much like she did not have the opportunity to get socialized very well when she was a puppy which is probably one of the issues you are encountering.

    If you take your time and work with her you may yet find that you will bring her out of her shell into your world 🙂 Patience and baby steps and she will show you the other side of the basenji...the one that has caused all of us here to love these dogs so much.

  • It it sounds like Lita didn't get alot of socialization during her critical development periods and you are seeing some of the after effects of that. She most likely didn't experience different environments in her first 16-20 weeks with new sights and sounds and didn't develop the coping skills that well socialized dogs did. Coming from a situation with 20+ dogs, she also probably didn't get much human contact so probably doesn't associate people with good things happening.

    You can help Lita learn that people are sources of good things by hand feeding her. At, first, start with just hand feeding, when she gets comfortable eating her meals that way, start touching her while she eats, place you hand on a body part and as long as you are touching her she gets to eat, remove the hand and the food stops. Then progress to actually holding a part like her foot while she eats so that she starts associating touch with good things happening, this will really help for vet care and grooming. When you can't hand feed her, use food puzzle toys so that she gets some mental stimulation to help with some of the excess energy. A Kong Wobbler, regular Kong, Treat Stik, Busy Buddy, or one of the many others will help them burn some mental energy.

    You may also want to see if there is a good positive reinforcement instructor in your area and if they offer discounts for foster homes. They will help you build your tool kit and better the communication between you and Lita.

  • Thank you both so much for your responses. I don't have much time today to respond; my son has a basketball tournament all day today and I'll be gone until this evening. Luckily, my daughter will be home with Lita today so she won't spend all day in the crate.

    I will look into the basenji rescue organization when I have more time, and moth, thank you so much for your condolences for my Cocoa. I am still in tears at times, I miss her so much. She was my first experience as an adult owned by a pet. She was fantastic.

    Anyway, I'll check back later, I'm running late. I have more to say about Lita, too. She is really sweet, just VERY shy.

  • Welcome to the Basenji Forum, and like the others, I'm sorry to hear about Cocoa… I lost my 1.5 yr old girl last September, Zeba, when she was hit by a car, and I still am not "over" her... like you said, we humans were owned by our pets. 🙂

    Thank you, as well, for opening your home to Lita. While you haven't really given yourself time to mourn Cocoa, I'd say that it's safe to assume that the two dog breeds are completely different.

    If you take time to read the pages found here on the forum, it's very true that basenjis are very intelligent dogs, and you'll read pages and pages of basenji antics. They aren't being naughty, per se, they are just being "b's", lol. I don't think I've ever seen a basenji on Cesar Milan's TV shows, because using his techniques and tactics will not work with basenjis. If Lita's last owner subscribed to the "COME! I'm the human, you must be submissive to me!" attitude, and when that didn't work, resorted to hitting... well, that's the effect you'll see in Lita's fear of people.

    It takes time and patience to help Lita.... and commitment from you and your family. I will tell you that if you allow Lita to wiggle into your heart, she will be there forever... we have two other basenji girls, Lola and Becca, and we've had Lola for 1.5 years and Becca for 1 year. I think it's safe to say that they are truly feeling like we are THEIR pack, and that they aren't going to be bounced anywhere anytime soon.

    Hearts and Roos to you- Patty

  • If you teach her trust and love with humans, she carries that learning to a new home. While I think all dogs have some adjustments going into a new home, kindness from a foster home beats being in a shelter until a permanent home is found.

  • Lita has been having a good day today! She woke me up at about 4 am whimpering in her crate, something she hadn't done before. I let her out and, without turning on any lights, she went outside and pee-pee'd outside, came back in went in her crate-with a treat waiting in it–and went back to sleep. My alarm sounded at 7 am and she bounced onto my bed, tail wagging and happy as can be! I must not have latched in correctly in the dark, but she didn't try to get out until she heard the alarm.

    After breakfast, potty, and some play she laid down and got a belly and chest rub. While she was still I lifted her onto my body and she relaxed there for a while for more rubs. My daughter informed me that while I was away at yet another basketball tournament, she curled up voluntarily on her lap and took a nap. I think she's warming up to us. 🙂

    Thanks everyone for all your advice and kind words. Time, patience, and lots of love we are giving to Lita and she seems to be responding well.

  • That's excellent news! Sometimes you just need a bit of time for things to come together. Hopefully this is the start of a wonderful relationship! 🙂

  • How wonderful to hear that little Lita is adjusting 🙂

    Please keep us posted on her progress…

  • I fostered (and later adopted) a 2 y/o totally unsocialized puppy mill Basenji and the two most valuable pieces of advice were 1) Hand feed A LOT and 2) Don't force anything on the dog like picking up, "cuddling"–especially hard if you have younger kids at home.

    If you follow those two rules you'll go a long way to establishing trust and preparing Lita for her forever family. But it sounds like she may have been bounced around a bit already, so if you can keep her for a little while it might help her relax and understand that humans really ARE ok : )

  • First Basenji's


    After breakfast, potty, and some play she laid down and got a belly and chest rub. While she was still I lifted her onto my body and she relaxed there for a while for more rubs. My daughter informed me that while I was away at yet another basketball tournament, she curled up voluntarily on her lap and took a nap. I think she's warming up to us. 🙂


    Sounds like you may be warming up to her, and who knows, this may be the breed for you and you didn't know it, I didn't and now I have my second!!!!

  • What a wonderful update!

  • Here are a couple of pics of Lita. Do you guys agree that she looks like a Basenji mix?

  • The face certainly looks Basenji, other than the ears. 🙂

  • Oh, she's adorable! I love her wrinkles! 🙂

  • @eeeefarm:

    The face certainly looks Basenji, other than the ears. 🙂

    Yeah, her ears kinda remind me of a Whippet.

  • Looks like some sort of B mix. Got 4 white feet, some wrinkles on her forehead. She is a cutie! Does she bark or yodel?

  • I think Lita is well on her way to worming herself into your heart! What good news. 🙂

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