Basenji rarely responds to vocal commands.


  • With lots of B's, the circumstances rule whether or not they will come when called - if things are sort of placid, mine will come at least back to my area if not actually to me, when I call and clap my hands. BUT, if they are involved in play with a new dog or after a squirrel in the dog park, they will not return until their present activity is over with. Most B's need to be on leash if not in a dog park. PS - treats don't mean a thing to mine if they are otherwise engaged in doing their thing.


  • @Shaye's:

    PS - treats don't mean a thing to mine if they are otherwise engaged in doing their thing.

    Or if they are upset or stressed. My vet has tried a couple of times to make friends with my guy using treats. No way! And this is a dog that never, ever turns down food! But he hates being at the vet's so in that environment food does not interest him. He is cooperative but just wants the whole experience to be over, thank you very much!

    If you are going to use a special "emergency" recall, you really need to practice it often enough that it doesn't extinguish, but not so often that it is commonplace. And you need to initially get the behaviour solidly on cue, so it is habit and they react, rather than think. A fine balance, IMO. Basenjis are perfectly capable of a reliable recall, but it takes a bit of doing to convince them it is in their best interest. 🙂


  • Hi Fran,
    I passed it on to my wife, as she came up with the idea.
    Apart from all the knowledge that is out there (thanks to you all), it seems very important to let your intuition do its work as well, as dog and master are both unique individuals and unique as a pack. Lela and Binti are our first dogs ever, and they are teaching us a lot every day…


  • Wow, for some reason I stopped getting emails when ppl replied to this thread!
    Im glad this set off to such a productive discussion!

    Well, here's an awesome little update:

    Princess Zelda has become accustomed to my voice and my commands! When she's in the yard, anywhere in the house, exploring within the gated complex just outside my girlfriend's apartment, or in a small park off-leash, she will usually come back to me the first time I call her! If we have just gotten outside and she hasn't had her fill of sniffing and eyeballing her surroundings, she generally wont come running, but she will stop dead in her tracks, turn 90?, and continue looking around. Im absolutely ecstatic that my 2 year old female Basenji / Red Heeler is so dang smart!

    My GF and I went camping recently and we brought out furry friends (she has a 4-5 month old beautiful brindle pit / lab mix). I bought a metal corkscrew stake and a wire tether to keep her close at the campsite, and she constantly wrapped herself up comically to a point where she would just give up and lie down, lol. When we went on walks, however, I brought a 30 foot non-retractable leash to drag behind her (so i could step on it and verbally recall her when she got too far away) and she learned almost INSTANTLY how far she could go before I made her come back. After about 3-5 times, she began responding to my voice alone!

    So yeah, there you have it! She's doing absolutely great and learning so quickly! She has quickly become the dog of my dreams, and has completely given up her home-alone chewing habits, so I no longer have to keep her locked up in my room when I'm at work. (it probably helps now that I have a roommate with a 2 year old Blue Heeler).

    The only problem I seem to need to deal with now is her habit of pulling cat poo out of the litter box and leaving it on my new rug! :-0


  • Good luck on the litter box… you will never train that out of her... and really you should put it someplace she can't get into it... as it is undigested food, covered or rolled around in kitty litter... not good for the digestive system.... but you are not alone in that department... all dogs go for kitty poop!


  • I'm so glad I found this post! My husband had a nasty scare tonight with our 11 month old Congo. He wiggled out of his collar while on a skateboard ride along a fairly busy road and was doing a crazy "demon run" (insane speed in a wide circle with tongue flapping in the breeze) across the road. It took 20 min to catch him with the help of a neighbour. Congo was almost hit 3 times as he crossed the road. Chris was actually already trying to figure out how to tell me that Congo had died. So scary! We've been trying to find a way to break into his mind when he's on a run like that but he gets in a zone and we haven't found a good way to do that. Food and attention aren't attractions to him outside. He comes well in the home but the lure of the open space is more than we can crack. He also tries to treat a recall like a game. If he comes he'll only get within 5 or 6 feet from us and then wait for us to walk closer to him. That approach is then the signal for a game of chase. Great fun! :s

    So again, thank you for this post and all these ideas to help us save our crazy dogs life. Tomorrow we're going to invest in a dog whistle, borrow a shock/vibration collar (not spending $75+ if he won't respond) and try to find a 30' drag leash to attach to him.


  • @congosworld:

    Tomorrow we're going to invest in a dog whistle, borrow a shock/vibration collar (not spending $75+ if he won't respond) and try to find a 30' drag leash to attach to him.

    A good remote collar will run you more than $75. You need one that has a good range of settings and that will work well from a distance. Please learn how to use that collar before you cause your problem to get worse. It takes a little time and knowledge to get a dog to respond correctly to the collar. Find someone who will teach you or do some reading on the subject before you damage your relationship with your dog.

    Briefly, you should start with a long line and teach your dog the correct response to a very low level of stimulation (the lowest he can perceive). Teach him by using the long line that as soon as he comes back to you the sensation goes away. Work with him on the line until the briefest sensation brings him reliably right back. Then find an enclosed area and work with him there off leash. Put it on cue. If you have been using "come" and he has learned to ignore it, choose another word. Or use the dog whistle, but that is more appropriate when he is at a distance. Make sure he is absolutely solid and then try him with distractions until you are sure he will respond no matter what is going on. Yes, you may have to "turn up the volume" when there are distractions, but take it right back down to "working level" as soon as you have his attention. Note that most dogs get "collar wise" and he will know he can safely ignore you if the collar is off. (that said, a dog used to being loose and used to coming when called will respond appropriately without the collar, in absence of a major distraction. If you have trained your dog properly, he knows his actions control the collar, and you will seldom need to use it.)

    This is a very brief overview of how to use such a collar. Please do yourself and your dog a favour and learn it properly from a trainer, or you may do more harm than good.


  • @congosworld:

    Food and attention aren't attractions to him outside. He comes well in the home but the lure of the open space is more than we can crack. He also tries to treat a recall like a game. If he comes he'll only get within 5 or 6 feet from us and then wait for us to walk closer to him. That approach is then the signal for a game of chase. Great fun! .

    What food do you use when you are outside? You need a higher value reward outside then you can get away with indoors with low distractions. It may be that for outside work you need roast chicken, microwaved hotdogs, cheese, or some other high value treat. Once you have found a high value reward that gets his attention outside, you can start working with him at a park on a long line. You can get a 30' check line from places like Regal Connection, http://www.regalconnection.com/check_cords.htm

    If you have already started name response inside, you can move the game outside. Even on his 6' leash while you are outside if he is investigating something call his name, if he turn his head to you click and treat. Make sure to deliver the treat close to you so he has to come in close enough that you can put a hand on him. Practice lots and also don't use his name if when he is bad or when you want him to do something he doesn't like. You want that name to mean really good things are going to happen so I better come running. Once you have the long line practice name response while working on the long line so he has the choice to be further away. Reward him for name response and also reward him if he chooses to stay next to you. You want him to know that choosing to stay near you pays well so that if he does get loose he is more likely to stick close by rather than taking off. The third thing you want to teach him is Grab Me, Feed Me. Offer him food with one hand and as he eats the food start with grabbing his collar. Make sure he has to get in close to you to eat, while you grab the collar. When he is good with you grabbing the collar then start gently grabbing his scruff, a leg, and other random parts while feeding him. If he is loose, people are likely to just grab whatever they can get a hold of so you want him to know that being grabbed isn't a bad thing. You also want to reinforce coming in close so you can grab him.


  • Thanks for the replies! We intend to get training with the collar. Our local pet store is great with that sort of thing. The owners do a lot of one on one and know most of the pets personally. They will see me around town and ask about that new food we put Congo on or if he liked his new toy. They were out of the vibrating collar when I went to check so we'll work with other methods of training until the order comes in.

    We were out at a BBQ this evening and Congo did great on recall for the first 90 minutes or so and then got bored and started exploring. Once he did that, he stopped following commands. We've made the decision that when we go to an outdoor country event (many of our friends have large acreages or farms) he gets an hour to an hour and a half (if he's behaving) off leash and then he gets put on a staked line somewhere close to the action but far enough away that he isn't getting into trouble. He's too curious and too fast for us to let him roam.

    Once Congo is exploring a new place or tired of doing what we ask, food is not a reward. We've used everything from bacon to steak to dog treats to kibble. Even if he happens to come when we call, he'll ignore the food and look at us with disdain. :p His primary motivation is movement.

    We're taking all these suggestions to heart and we'll see how we can tweak them to suit our B's personality. Thanks again for the help. We really appreciate it!


  • @congosworld:

    Once Congo is exploring a new place or tired of doing what we ask, food is not a reward. We've used everything from bacon to steak to dog treats to kibble. Even if he happens to come when we call, he'll ignore the food and look at us with disdain. :p His primary motivation is movement.

    One of the things I have noticed by reading this forum is that many people don't know how to do positive or "reward based" training very well. You are trying to condition the response, not feed the dog. Failure to move to an intermittent reward system can result in failure of the training to "stick". What keeps people at slot machines? Wondering if the next time will be the "payoff"! Works with dogs, too! And it isn't just about how salient the food is, although that helps with early training. Anything can become boring or "less desirable" than freedom as it becomes commonplace. There is more value in something that is rarely available, so if you want really yummy treats to have an impact, use them sparingly. (I believe this is the foundation for the "really reliable recall")

    I would add, don't "wear out" the dog by picking at him all the time. If you are at a social gathering, it might make sense to give him a short run, then confine him while you socialize rather than letting him wander around and constantly having to call him back. Then when you have time to give him your undivided attention, give him another opportunity to enjoy his freedom, possibly as a reward for obeying a few commands before you release him. The worst thing you can do is allow him to think that obedience is "optional". It is just too easy to teach a dog he doesn't have to be bothered when he doesn't want to, even if that isn't your intent.

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