My basenji is showing aggression towards certain people, sometimes dogs too
First Basenji's

I have a 20 month old male basenji. I am working with his breeders to obtain his championship in conformation showing so he is still "in-tacked". In July he started showing some aggression towards a very close friend of mine. At first I thought it was a one time thing, that maybe he (my friend) had unknowingly sent an unintended message that made my benji feel threatened. When I firmly told my benji to stop he did. I thought it was the end of it, i was wrong, it was just the beginning. but not long after I received reports from him and my mom that when he had stopped by the house on several different occasions while i was at work, that benji had repeatedly acted out to him via snarling, growling almost a roaring noise, hair on end and even some snapping. It seemed that no matter how he approached benji it set him off, and actually even if he didn't approach but simply ignored and or backed off that it made no difference to benji. My friend is very much a dog person, most dogs he comes in contact with love him instantly, he has a black lab of his own that is possibly the best behaved lab i have ever met. I wondered at first if it was merely a dominance issue because at the time benji was really just coming of age. That theory was busted with a capital 'B' when one day while at work I got a very disturbing call from another friend of mine. She was in tears because he scared her so bad and she didn't (still doesn't know what set him off) she had stopped by the house to visit with my mom. When she arrived benji greeted her and was as happy as always to see her; she greeted him in return, he even sat in her lap for a while that day. after she had been there for well over an hour chatting with my mom, actually helping her shuck corn for dinner that night. She walked across the kitchen and bent down to get a plastic bag from the drawer, benji stood in the door way relaxed one second and the next he was snarling barring his teeth and striking at her (no bit has ever made contact thus far).
this has been an on going pattern: the first friend benji can't seem to even stand the sight of (at this point in time literally the sight of him sets benji into attack mode) The second friend he happily greets and loves on one minute and the next he's "grumping" fiercely at her. By now she is terrified of him.
I have spoken to his breeders about it. they are at as much of a loss as I am. none of their other dogs including his litter-mates have had any such issues. The only commonalities between both friends that I can find is they both own dogs of their own, and they are both my friends. But several of my other friends own dogs and benji has never acted out against them. Both of these friends like all my others have been around and interacted peacefully with benji since I brought him home at the age of 9 weeks. Benji has never acted like this to myself, my boyfriend or either of my parents. He loves to meet and greet new people. I have always taken him everywhere with me since i got him. taken him on vacations, countless trips to petco, petsmart, and tractor supply, not to mention the meeting of countless new people and dogs in dog parks, dog shows and general walks down the street. The only other issue (started at the same time as the above noted issue) that has occurred and also seems to be getting worse is his ability to peacefully meet new dogs… in August after winning his second major in a row I took him to petco to celebrate and to let him pick out a new toy. (the only thing he loves more then me coming home with a surprise new toy or bone for him, is getting to go and pick it out himself) I've never been so embarrassed before in my life... while in the store we passed by another dog owner and their dog, a bichon and at first benji approached like always happy and excited to meet a new friend, the bichon was timid at first and benji was pushy and overwhelming as usual but they were both okay. did the nose to nose sniff, then did the nose to butt sniff they are both relaxed with some tail wagging going on. I'm talking calmly with the owner and then WHAM! benji is going after that poor little bichon like he was trained in a dog fighting (which is not the case, I can't stand the thought of dog fighting). No one was hurt thankfully and I apologized to the owner a million times. we ended up leaving the store without a toy or bone because every time we were in an aisle and that bichon walked by one of the ends he would start growling and his hair would stand on end, and the bichon would cower and hide behind the owner... and ever since then he has been dominate, aggressive and over powering to any and all other dogs we walk by... it makes going for walks very stressful cause i'm always worried about running into another dog now, especially one that's big enough to pull away from its owner. the big dogs dislike benji's attitude and it's obvious in their body language that if it's a fight benji wants they'll be happy to give it to him...

I'm really hoping that someone has or knows anything that could help or make sense of the drastic change (that despite my efforts seems to only be getting worse) in his temperament and behavior???? I would really like to make sense of it and start working on a remedy before it escalates. My biggest fear at this point is he is going to start being aggressive to any and everyone and not just a select few.

Given his age and the dog aggression, I think this might be a "coming of age" thing. Are both friends that he objects to owners of male dogs? I would have his thyroid checked, for sure. You might also consider whether the show ring is worth holding off neutering. Something you can discuss with his breeder. What do you do when he becomes aggressive? For sure, you need to watch him carefully. Dogs seldom act like this without any warning signs, but those can be subtle.

I agree it could be the 'I'm a teenager' phase. However, have you talked with your breeder about this? I know times when I have suggested something to one of my puppy people and they have ignored my and gone off to some other advice first. Your breeder knows your line and your dog and will know if any other dog in that litter has turned aggressive. They are the one to go to first. I would also ask the question, is the dog getting enough social interaction at this particular time? Sometimes, even walking the same route can become tedious for a Basenji (or any dog) and they will act out because they are bored with the same old routine. Also, if he has decided that you are 'his' property (that would include anyone on the end of the leash or in 'his' world, he may be becoming over protective. If you find that is the case, I would have to take the stand that he may need a little bit of separation from you. By that I mean that he may need to be shown he is lower on the level than you are and would mean no sleeping on the bed, keeping off the furniture, crating if you can't trust him, etc. I had a little bit of aggression with my male when he was growing up and as soon as he learned I wasn't going to put up with his 'protection', that I could take care of myself, he calmed down. But I also caught on the first time the growl came out.

One other thing I thought of as well as it could be that it has become a game for him. If he has growled at someone and they have shown fear of him, he could think that this is something he likes to do.

Just food for thought and my opinion only.

Has he had a full veterinary work up to be sure that there is nothing going on physically? Pain can lead to aggressive behavior. If he checks out medically then you really should consult with a professional who can see him in person and work with you to develop a plan to help him with these situations.

Typically behavior such as this is not typically a "sudden" thing as much as we would like to think so. Unless there is a medical reason, I would suggest that you think back and see if you can pin point when you might have seen the first behavior and you might have just brushed it off… You say that the litter brothers/sisters do not show any of this behavior? Do you see them regularly? Do you know the owners? Have you talked to the owners of the litter brothers/sisters?

I would agree that you should seek a professional to witness the situation in person and give you possible solutions. This is of course once you have ruled out anything medical, especially and Thyroid issues.


I would agree that you should seek a professional to witness the situation in person and give you possible solutions. This is of course once you have ruled out anything medical, especially and Thyroid issues.

this is really of great importance because there may be something that is happening that you and others are missing. Of course a complete vet check is in order. Tell your vet about the behavior issues. Also I'd ask if the vet knows of any behavioral vets. Also, i'd suggest doing lots of obedience with this dog. clicker training is wonderful. also read Control Unleashed (pay close attention to the off-switch game and look at that). And google Overall's Relaxation Protocol. Start doing this yesterday. CU and the RP will help with impulse control. I don't think that is the entire problem with this dog, but it is probably part of the solution. AND I feel confident in suggesting this without even seeing the dog and it should be compatible with anything a good positive behaviorist would give you to do.

In the mean time, I'd contain him when people come over especially if you're not there. Do not think of this as punishment, but rather helping him cope with things that he is not prepared to cope with.

Arizona Basenjis

I've had some of the same issues with my Guppy. The DAY he turned 14 months he turned into Mr. Grumpy Pants. Resource guarding etc. I had it under control and then we moved across country and are staying with a friend (a friend who doesn't like dogs and is narrow-minded when it comes to behavior-her suggestion is for me to "spank" my dogs….yeah right). Guppy doesn't like my friend we are staying with (her fault) and his behavior has sort of relapsed back to Mr. Grumpy Pants. I control it as much as possible (first growl gets him kicked off the bed) but until we are all settled into our own place I suspect I will have to ride it out.

Ruling out anything physical or a sickness or something should be done first. But I have seen this in my female. There are two people (friends of ours) that she absolutely will not have anything to do with. They have two dogs of their own. They are wonderful people, will do anything for their dogs. They come to the house and she will growl and snap at them. They have never done anything to her. We have had them over for BBQ's and been sitting by the fire in the back yard. She will be wandering around but will not go near them. If they get too close to her she snaps. There is no reason for it, she just does it. Those are the only two people who she truly hates.

While I certainly understand resourse guarding, I disagree that it happens "one day". There are typically signs and most of us, many of us, miss those signs or ignore them.

Sometimes a dog takes a dislike to someone, either because of some action on their part, or just because of circumstances. I became "persona non grata" with my friend's stud dog (who had previously been fine with me) when I visited her with the smell of my newly acquired male Basenji on my clothes. Her dog was currently breeding a visiting bitch, and perhaps the smell set him off, but from that day on he did not like me. I avoided confrontation by assiduously refraining from looking him in the eyes and avoiding any other behaviour he could take exception to. He outweighed me by about ten pounds, and I wasn't about to test her control of him! 🙂 Our relationships (hers & mine, mine & his) survived, but I had no indication he had revised his opinion of me over time, although I mounted a "charm offensive" and brought him biscuits. He would take the treats from me, but barely tolerated my presence. Once a dog has made up his mind about someone, it can be difficult to change it.

I have had dogs take a dislike to someone. And that's okay. Aggression toward them is not tolerated. I can only agree with others– full vet check, thyroid check and then you need to consider talking to the other OWNERS, not just the breeder, and people who have owned from the line before-- and then consider a behavior specialist if you need it because this behavior is escalating.

I agree with previous posters your dog needs veterinary attention to make sure that ther's not a physical reason. Then all being well it's agood idea to obtain professional behaviourist help.

In my opinion you shouldn't be showing him like this - even though this aggression seems to be against certain individuals there could be a time when he takes against the judge.


In my opinion you shouldn't be showing him like this - even though this aggression seems to be against certain individuals there could be a time when he takes against the judge.

Yes, getting kicked out of the ring because your dog growls and won't stand still for the judge is very very embarrasing!! This did not happen to me with a B but the Shiba Inu we had. I was 16, it was her first show and she growled at the judge and would not stand still on the table…...I got excused from the my hometown.....and its a small little show, 175 dogs. After that show we got her spayed, as I did not want to carry on that temperment in puppies. She was a very good dog but I am glad we spayed her because she had an attitude! She was my first show dog and we did not do proper research on the breeder first. Sorry, this is getting off topic.

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