Is She Too Old Too Train?
First Basenji's

I'm new and I have a question regarding the training age for a Basenji. We got her when she was 4 mos. old and we've had her for 9 mos. now and even with me being home with her, she is still chewing everything! We talked to some trainers about what we could do and they gave some advice on distraction, but she is oblivious to anything we try. I was under the impression the chewing should've stopped by now and we're very disappointed. She gets into everything. I have to wonder if it's due to the fact that when we got her, she'd been crated all day & night? I don't know. We love her so much because she can be very sweet, but she's destructive. I read someone else's post about the digging and we have that problem too. She's very smart! Any suggestions would be most grateful!

I'm a first time B owner as well, so can only go on my own experiences with Loki and other dogs I've owned or dogsat for, but I also wanted to bump this post up so other members could see and respond.

She is definitely not too old to train. Dogs of any age can still learn, however it can take more effort and diligence, For example, my aunt has a rescue Bloodhound whom she brought home when he was about 4 yrs old. This dog had never been in a house and had been abused by the man who owned him. At 12+ yrs now, he just retired from doing K-9 Search and Rescue and he is just a huge teddy bear despite his 4 yrs of neglect and abuse. He does not live in the house as he was terrified every time they took him in and never could adjust, but he's a good example of what dogs of all ages can overcome and learn.

Loki will be 1 on the 29th. He still chews and I don't expect him to stop anytime soon. Our solution is to have a lot of chew toys! There are times we have Nylabones and antlers in just about every room of the house. In fact, I just remembered I need to order more bully sticks 😉 I used to sleep with a Nylabone under my pillow because if he woke up early in the morning he would lay there and chew on the sheets, so I kept one close to stick in his mouth whenever that started. We also try to keep him tired out which involves daily walks, weekly dog park trips, and quite a few play sessions during the day. If he is bored, he will literally look for trouble. He also likes to dig when bored and our solution to that is simply no unsupervised outside time. Now that he's older we've begun letting him out without us being in the yard with him, but if he digs, in he goes and it's back to being supervised. We also indulge his destructive desires by keeping the boxes from any packages we get, tossing treats in them, and letting him get them out. He even gets some newspaper and empty envelopes sometimes. As a result, he assumes all boxes that come in are his to destroy, but I'd much rather have that than him ripping clothes or eating shoes.

How much exercise and crate time is she getting? What does she have that she is allowed to chew on? And what are you doing to distract her when she starts to chew? Hopefully some of the other more experienced B owners will see this thread and pitch in now. Sorry for the very long reply, but I figured I'd give you examples of my own experiences and what works for us.

Definitely not too old to train! It sounds like she needs some structure in her life….....a routine that she becomes familiar with. And lots of kind but firm discipline. What kind of training, if any, have you done with her? You talk about distraction re: the chewing. What do you mean, exactly? If she knows a few basic commands, you can ask her to obey one of them when she starts inappropriate chewing, e.g. ask her to sit, ask her to down, ask her to go to her "place" (a mat or bed or crate), whatever. And reward her for doing so. Basenjis need mental exercise as well as physical exercise. I would do some intensive training with her, and make sure she is in a secure area when I can not supervise. You might look into clicker training. It works well with Basenjis and they enjoy trying to figure out what action will result in a reward. 🙂

You mentioned on your other thread that you had another dog. Is he well trained? What methods did you use with him? (not all training methods are equally successful with Basenjis)

You made mention that she was crated day and night? Who did you get her from? and why was she crated day and night? Responsible breeders do not do this, puppies need to be raised as part of the family, so that certainly could be a reason. You mentioned that you spoke with trainers, what ideas did they give you to use? What have you tried?…. I agree that Basenjis need both mental and physical exercise... a tired Basenji is a good Basenji... Digging were, indoors/outdoors and if outdoors is this unsupervised with you in the house? When she is with you in the house, do you keep a constant eye on what she is doing... because for sure, unless sleeping, if being very quiet, they are most likely up to no good! And you need to make sure that everything is up out of reach... they are not going to respect that items on the floor or in easy reach are yours, if it is there, it is free game! Glasses were a favorite of my girls when puppies and if I didn't push the chair to my desk in, you can be sure they were up there stealing and then destroying my glasses. It was a favorite. Distraction is what is needed along with good things she can chew... the puzzle toys are a good distraction along with lots of chew toys. I use jumbo size bully sticks for chewing... last a long time and satisfy the need to chew.

Basenjis often are destructive if unsupervised their whole lives. Sayblee stopped by the time she was THREE (and for her, unsupervised meant if you turned your back, btw!). Arwen has never learned to leave the trash cans alone and she is 9. Cara has never been destructive other than her stuffed toys, BUT she is crated when we aren't home as is Arwen. No matter what the saying, no dog is too old to train. But you do need to be realistic about what you want, and if any dog isn't getting enough exercise and play and attention, the ability to avoid bored behaviors such as digging and chewing go down the drain.

I know it was probably sheer luck, but Bitty was aseriously destructive until she was three, when we adopted MrBaroo. He has never destroyed anything except for destuffing toys. After he came into the house Bitty has only one time chewed on something she wasn't supposed to have. Karin says that having a little brother to bully, lol, aleviated the destructiveness.

No she is not too old to train. She is still a young dog and young dogs chew. My 10 1/2 month old will chew almost anything if not given good outlets for his energy.

One way to help increase the amount of mental stimulation she gets and give her an outlet for appropriate chewing and extra energy is to stop feeding her from a bowl and start feeding her from Kongs and other food dispensing toys. You can also set some of her daily ration aside to use as rewards for calm behavior. The stark contrast between the more work to get food from the Kongs and toys and the easy to get food from paying attention to you and being calm should help to make her more responsive to your training efforts as there will be more motivation to figure out how to get the easy food.

She is not too old to train, but even saying that, she is a basenji, and no matter the age, a bored basenji will find things to entertain herself, often things we would prefer she not touch. A companion helps, but even so, given temptation a basenji will usually go for it. Think "baby-proof" your house with a baby who can climb, leap, dig and chew. As said above by others, toys which present a challenge will also help.

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