Does anyone out there use a muzzle for their basenji? Griffin is a good dog 99% of the time. However, he does have his moments. Today, my mother-in-law took him out for a walk and a young girl riding her bike got too close and he bit her shoe, which then made her fall and then he bit her arm. This is the 2nd time he bit someone in our neighborhood. The first was just a little nip, but this one was deeper. Both times he was on a leash. But, something startled him and he reacted by biting whatever was closest to him. I don't want this to happen again and I think I'll feel better if we used a muzzle when we go on walks. Does anyone have any suggestions? I feel horrible about this.
I think many of the big box shops (petsmart, petco, etc) carry them.
Honestly I think I'd call around to training centers and see if there is a Fiesty Fido class, or better still, a Control Unleashed class. I'd start here:
Get the book, contact Leslie and ask if she knows any classes near you. What you said in you post sounds like classic Over Threshold with a high prey drive dog. CU will help you understand you pup better AND give you suggestions on how to cope and counter-condition. Please do this before a 3rd incident.
Could also try a head halter/gentle leader so you can control the head better - redirecting the dogs head away from the stimulus.
Managing it is the most impportant tool you have; you should know the triggers and what to avoid and then work on redirection while the triggers go by.
A muzzle, while a good tool, can also be misconstrued by others to eqaute to an agressive dog which could back fire and have serious repercussions should someone want to remove the dog from the neighborhood. Best to work with a behaviorist so you can show the neighbors you are taking his issues seriously.
I hope you will consider finding a class to take him to like Agile mentioned or a behaviorist. Behaviors like this can be lessened and possibly eliminated. BAT (behavior adjustment training) can likely work for this too. Grisha Stewart's book is really good and explains clearly how to do setups yourself.
But management of some sort is definitely important in the meantime.
Going to add one alarm in here. Escalating the attack, both from the first to the 2nd, and from shoe to deep bite, is a very bad sign. It needs to be addressed before it gets even worse. The nice thing with dogs who have bitten several times but been very mild and used minimal force to stop/get what they wanted, they typically continue that pattern. Dogs who start escalating are showing a far more serious pattern.
A total vetting to make sure he is okay, and then a behaviorist. I am not aware of many classes that want or accept dogs that bite. I would try to get individual help before doing a group thing.
While I agree with Congomama about how people react to a muzzle, I am fairly sure your dog biting that child is now known and if you aren't sued, you are one lucky person. This dog should not be in public without a muzzle, so whether you simply stop taking him around anyone until you get this behavior sorted, or you muzzle him, taking him out once you know he bites legally opens you to major problems and ethically I don't think you have a choice. While he's not big enough to kill a child, he certainly hurt her, traumatized her and could set of her fearing/hating dogs. You do not want to knowingly expose another child to that danger. And if you have to hang a sign on him that says "I eat rocks if not muzzled" go ahead, but again – I suspect your dog's rep is pretty well known now.