Basenji rarely responds to vocal commands.


  • I adopted a 1 year old Basenji/Red Healer female about 2 months ago form a local shelter. From what they could tell, she was a stray when they found her.

    House training her was a breeze (unless I take her to someone else's home) and when she's indoors, she is an absolute charmer. She comes when called from across the house, she responds when I mention treats, bed, out, or walk. The problem now is when she is outside. No matter how much I try and train her to look at me when I call her name, if she is more than 5 feet away from me, she acts like im not even there, until she is done exploring whatever sound or smell she is attracted to.

    Were currently taking a basic obedience class, and the instructor has been trying to give us a bit of special attention tailored to her attention span and independent nature. Even with the training at hand, Zelda will still wander off when she gets the chance off-leash.

    Imagine it is kind of like having a child at a park, who walks away from you, starts following another couple, and denies that you are his/her parent.

    I was wondering if anyone here has experience with any training techniques or games they have had luck with in the past with training a Basenji to listen more often. I'm currently trying to tackle her chewing habits, 'come' command, 'leave it' command (on leash), as well as many other basic behavioral disciplines, so its getting frustrating when I try to let her have fun and run in an open field (she is SO fast!) and she just begins ignoring me.

    Also, IDK if its relevant, but many times when I have her outside off-leash, she has ZERO interest in treats of any type, even chicken!


  • Sounds like a typical Basenji to me! I think most on this forum will respond that you really can't trust a Basenji off leash. There are a few of us with off leash dogs, but in most cases that is because we have either a relatively secure area to let them run, or have a particularly biddable dog, or have found a method that works for us.

    If you are talking about getting your dog's attention in a secure off leash area, you can perhaps work with a long line and build a conditioned response to your command. Still, she will know when the leash comes off! Yes, it's tough when they don't respond to food rewards! Is there something else she may find more salient?

    I will just add, it is possible to condition a response indoors and hopefully transfer it outside by very gradually adding distractions. Basenjis are very quick to catch on to what you want, they just aren't as interested in pleasing you as in pleasing themselves!


  • sounds pretty normal to me too. Two months is not really that long to develop a strong bond.

    the more you practice calling her outside and her not coming, the harder it is going to be to stop that behavior pattern. sounds like she needs to be on leash outside, especially if you don't have a securely fenced area.

    What sort of things have you tried? I got a great amount of value in doing the Whiplash turns as outlined in Control Unleashed. Also the Gimme a Break will be helpful.

    Also, what sort of treats have you tried? Liverwurst? Bacon? Meatballs? Sardines? Cat food? etc. Playing with another dog? And some of it will depend on what she's doing while she's outside. I've never been able to call my basenjis off rabbit mid-chase. (Not even Digital the brindlewonderkid with his 30+ titles.) but you CAN use that. I have been known to join in the bunny chase. Of course I severely hinder this "hunt", but I run along after my pups while they chase the bunnies on their long line. Eventually the bunnies go through the fence and I can reel the dog back to me and we talk about how fun that was while I feed the pup treats for being next to me.


  • Generally, the treats she's most interested in are hotdog weiners, and string cheese. Sometimes whens she's too playful to care abotu even those, I reward her with a game of tug, which she will often be glad to join in on.

    Yeah I understand that with the short amount of time I've had her, it would be hard to have established a strong enough bond. I just wanted to make sure that her behavior wasn't unheard of in the Basenji world, and wanted to know if there was a way to work around it, or if it was something I would just have to live with.

    Thanks for the advice thus far, and please keep it coming. For now, I'll just work with her in the back yard off the leash and only call her name when Im positive that she'll look at me when I call her. Maybe if i hammer on it for long enough, she'll respond in other places.


  • Oh! And make sure you call, reward and let her go back to doing whatever. So that call, reward, end of playtime is NOT the norm.

    Selective deafness is way normal in basenjis. How do you know when your basenji goes deaf, because they still ignore you has been a running joke in my house for a couple of years now. (I have two geriatric basenjis at my house. One, Digital, really is quite deaf. no, really.)


  • How do you know when your Basenji goes deaf? When he ignores the sound of kibble being dropped in his dish! 🙂


  • @eeeefarm:

    How do you know when your Basenji goes deaf? When he ignores the sound of kibble being dropped in his dish! 🙂

    Not so much, Digital was never very food motivated. Certainly not by kibble! He still gets insulted if I use kibble as a "treat". Even when he was in the show ring and I'd have bait, he'd look at it like "Meh, I had steak yesterday."


  • Maybe I've been lucky (or unlucky, depends on how you view it) but all of my Basenjis have been quite keen on anything edible and of course on many things that aren't. Never had one turn their nose up at dog food, although they have all agreed people food is better!


  • @eeeefarm:

    Maybe I've been lucky (or unlucky, depends on how you view it) but all of my Basenjis have been quite keen on anything edible and of course on many things that aren't. Never had one turn their nose up at dog food, although they have all agreed people food is better!

    Oh, that's very fortunate. Zest! the superstar in training will do anything for any sort of food. And it does make training sooooo much easier. We've been known to put a little bacon grease on the dogs' kibble on the weekend on occasion. Digital would roll the kibble around in his mouth, then spit it out when he'd gotten all the grease off. Now on the weekends he won't touch his kibble until we put scrambled eggs on it. He's 15, so we happily humor him. (He's my dog and I'll spoil him if I want to!) 😉


  • @agilebasenji:

    He's 15, so we happily humor him. (He's my dog and I'll spoil him if I want to!) 😉

    I am a firm believer in giving the old ones whatever their heart desires, as long as it isn't too bad for them! At the moment I have a relatively young Basenji…....Perry is 8......but my oldest was high side of 16, and we humoured her a lot. I do find the appetite starts to go as age creeps up and teeth deteriorate. I am also dealing with old horses at the moment. One will be 35 in April, another turns 30 this year. They mostly get whatever they want!


  • @eeeefarm:

    How do you know when your Basenji goes deaf? When he ignores the sound of kibble being dropped in his dish! 🙂

    Mine would be…When they ignore the sound of refrigerator door opening...lol.


  • When Spencer ignores, "Wanna go for a walk?!!!," "Wanna go for a ride?!!!" or "Wanna treat?!!!," something is wrong.

    Some people say it's the excited, high-pitched voice. So I tried, "Wanna pill?!!!" You can probably imagine the look of total disdain I got.


  • Basenjis = selective hearing. 😃

    Kipawa can be off leash in very safe areas like dike trails, but his recall isn't stellar. I would call it 'okay'. I try not to give the 'come' command more than 3 times, because if it isn't working by then, you need to go back to the drawing board. I am blessed by the fact that for some reason, even if Kipawa is playing with a dog 50 yards away, he always looks to see if I am still there. If he sees that I have turned my back and am walking in the opposite direction, he comes running to me. I totally agree that when teaching recall, your basenji needs to know that coming back to you does not mean the end of play or good things. So practice calling, treating and loving for something well done (returning) ad then releasing him/her to be allowed to go back to the fun activity.


  • I trained 5 years ago to come to a sports whistle, in the house, with 'very good' treats. Did that for 2 days and on the third tried them outside and they responded the first time. Within a half hour they knew how far they had to go to make me blow the whistle so they could run back to me and get a goodie! Who trained who? Took 20 minutes to train 5 basenjis, and 30 minutes for them to train me.

    As for how to know when they are actually deaf? Don't hear the fridge opening or the treat bag rustling!


  • @Kipawa:

    So practice calling, treating and loving for something well done (returning) ad then releasing him/her to be allowed to go back to the fun activity.

    I had been doing this. Now, when I CAN get her to come, she runs back in my direction, but just keeps running right past me, lol…


  • Then she doesn't get the treat unless she stops and is within reach. Now that she knows checking in is something that pays, raise the criteria for payment just make sure that once she has stopped on gotten the treat she is released back to play more often than not so coming when called is not a predictor for the fun to stop.

  • First Basenji's

    _I was wondering if anyone here has experience with any training techniques or games they have had luck with in the past with training a Basenji to listen more often. I'm currently trying to tackle her chewing habits, 'come' command, 'leave it' command (on leash), as well as many other basic behavioral disciplines, so its getting frustrating when I try to let her have fun and run in an open field (she is SO fast!) and she just begins ignoring me.

    Also, IDK if its relevant, but many times when I have her outside off-leash, she has ZERO interest in treats of any type, even chicken!_

    I wanted to pretend that I was smarter than the B, so when I call and he does not come, I start yelling " oh boy, look at this, let's go THIS WAY!!!!" It does work while on a walk so it does not really sound like I called a recall…..

    Then, the sound of a whistle means High Value Reward-so make sure that when you associate the sound of the whistle for a recall make it a good treat(cooked hamburger or chix or whatever....) So if Uzie is outside, out of the fence, and not in my sight, even an acre away.... or his interest is minor ( not if he is playing with the neighbor's dog.....) He comes running full speed forward to me, (it may even take 5minutes) and so it works, it was quickly learned too! I reinforce it while on a walk on a trail that I do not have to worry about him running off into traffic, if he goes ahead of me and Hershey and Candi (his pack mates), I blow the whistle, and he tears down the trail and gets a kibble. This is just my two cents.....try it..!

    PS: all the above are great inputs as well!


  • I want to add to Ivoss' excellent advice that it is good to insist on contact…..preferably holding on to her collar.....before giving the treat and releasing the dog. You don't need a dog that learns to pull away once the treat is received. I would make this momentary initially, working up to a collar hold, perhaps attaching a leash, then treating and releasing. I would also work on teaching her that there is another treat available if she waits a moment after the release. This tactic works well with horses as well as dogs, and I practice it religiously to have well mannered animals that don't yank your arm off anticipating freedom. 🙂


  • I have to admit, when I read the title of this thread, my first thought was , "Yeah, and your point is???"<giggle>

    Seriously, you've gotten some excellent advice, keep us updated on what works for you!

    Terry</giggle>


  • @eeeefarm:

    I would make this momentary initially, working up to a collar hold, perhaps attaching a leash, then treating and releasing. I would also work on teaching her that there is another treat available if she waits a moment after the release.

    Wonderful advice! That seems like it would work incredibly! Thank you so much!

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