First day, foundation work– also anyone do bridge and target training?
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  • Hello all!
    We brought our pup home today, she's a pretty little tricolor, five months old today-ish. I went out to visit the breeder for a few hours, separated and crated her, then on the way home stopped to do our first foundational work. There's a quiet, fenced-in park near our house, with a (second) fenced-in baseball diamond inside, so that was a perfect stop. My trainer recommended I wait thirty days to start "formal" training, so in the meantime we're doing simple, fun foundational work… mostly just in the way of "naming" objects and behaviors.
    She hasn't had any real leash work to speak of, so I did a simple tie-out exercise about an hour before we left the breeder to get her acclimated to the idea of a line restraint without fighting with me about it. She squirmed for about ten seconds then settled right down and went to work combing the ground with her teentsy snout ;0). I watched her for another ten or fifteen minutes, but she never did struggle with the collar again, so I figured that was that, went and released her, gave her a good scruffle, a release command, and she followed me back up to the house. I crated her while visiting with her breeder, then we went home with a stop in the park.

    She was hesitant to come out of the crate and car, so I named the "wait" behavior when she checked her forward motion, and "look" ("mira") when she checked things out (alerted ears, sniffing). When she decided to come out, I named "let's go" as she started forward. She hopped out, I picked her up, and carried her out to the middle of the baseball diamond.
    I had her wearing a soft martingale and dragging a very light line. I set her down and dropped the line, petted her, then just stood back and let her check out the open world. I walked about ten feet away and let her take a good, long look, then when she turned and looked for me, patted my leg, gave her a cheerful "let's go" and started walking away. I had a moment of quiet panic, and then she launched herself at me. I named "here" and caught her with a "jackpot" reward of happy petting, and then we set off to explore the baseball diamond.

    She was wonderful! About a third of the time she was in immaculate heel position, so I named and rewarded that. Named and rewarded good following. There were a few perfect distractions, enough to catch her eye, but not so near or tempting that she really went for them. Whenever something caught her attention I named "mira", let her take a good look, then ran off in the other direction, naming/rewarding her for following. She really stuck right up close to me, so much so that I only got one chance to name a recall. We wandered around the baseball diamond for about fifteen minutes, then I picked her up and carried her back out to the car.

    Has anyone messed with this stuff before? I dabbled in it with my first dog, but this is the first time I'll be practicing it in an organized way. It was fun! She seemed delighted with the whole experience and all I did was name the things she was doing enthusiastically, and reward her with petting and play.

    We'll keep doing this in fenced areas for about a month. I'll start teaching her the formal bridge/target stuff about then and may introduce her to running rabbits maybe July or August. I think she is going to be a world of fun to handle. She seems like a thinker. She is my first Basenji (first primitive type dog, too). I ....know.... this perfect responsiveness may not even last until tomorrow, but I could not have asked for a more ideal first outing!!!

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  • Welcome to the wonderful world of basenji ownership! They are like no other breed you will ever own and I love them dearly. What's your girls name and who is her breeder? A lot the basenjis owned by forum members are related in some way and it's fun to see who's who!

    The most important thing I've learned when training a basenji is to keep the sessions brief, fun and consistent. If you try to do too much at once they get bored and loose focus. I do classes with mine once a week and then brief 5-10 minute sessions throughout the day keeping it as upbeat and fun as possible. I agree with your trainer that you should wait to do any real training until she is comfortable with you and your house. Never too early to learn your name and some recall though! Recall is not easy for a B because if something moves, they will chase it! Also it's SUPER important to get her used to being handled. The vet tech in me LOVES when owners teach their dogs to be handled and to stand still for nails trims and exams.

    Good luck with your girl and keep up the good work!

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  • And to add, recall is great… but 50/50 for a Basenji, remember that they are bred to be a hunting dog and that they chase what they see... so that recall depends on how focused they are on what they are interested it... NEVER assume that they are trained for recall, you will be disappointed every time...IMO

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  • My guess is that unless you have a super great personality, that beautiful recall will only last so long (just enough to lure you in) and one day it will get to that point where figure out that THEY get to make the choice. And it's just anybody's guess what they will do….as Pat emphasizes. My dog 'had' an absolutely beautiful recall [which we constantly worked on] up until he was 2+ years, then it failed miserably and I won't be making that mistake twice!

    But, don't get me wrong…recalls are essential just not trustworthy.

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  • @tanza and Timesthemyth: Oh, I know it! This beautiful responsiveness is nearly entirely due to the combination of her being a baby and me being the only familiar object in her world. It'll wear off at some point, maybe tomorrow ;0).
    She will never in her life be purposely off-lead in town outside the fenced areas, so the recall practice is more a hopeful safety measure than anything. I am not certain that there is such a thing as a dog with a foolproof-100%-trustworthy recall. Unless something goes terribly awry, I will be training her as a rabbit/falconry dog and hunting her routinely though, so am hoping that putting prey drive in a working context will help with self-control off the job.

    @CrazySenji: thanks for the warm welcome! She is from Sarah and James at Nocturnal. She is by their Cairo dog, out of an outside bitch. She was a breeding prospect, but is maturing with a bit of a hip-high topline and has some minor cosmetic issues (her markings make her front angles look really steep, ears are a bit wide-set), so they placed her as a pet with us.
    We haven't settled on a name yet. We have been going back and forth between "Pixel", " Sprite ", and "Widget", with brief flirtations with " Jenga" and "Cricket"! Are there any strong naming opinions/conventions in the Basenji world? ;0)

    PS: "Stand for exam" was the FIRST thing I "named" for her! I've done the nose-to tail routine on her on every breeder visit, but also we practice naming and handling specific body parts in different moments all day long! Have you seen the bridge and target stuff that teaches body part ID? Really neat stuff. I grew up in a vet hospital and am a bit of a maniac about instilling vet manners–if a dog won't stand for routine work, you will be in real trouble in critical care situations. I've had thankfully few occasions to test the good nature and thorough training, but it has happened--my dad once had to do an unsedated emergency spinal tap on my big dog and was blown away by how compliant he was. Big cheers to you for spreading that excellent advice!

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  • @mixie:

    I grew up in a vet hospital and am a bit of a maniac about instilling vet manners–if a dog won't stand for routine work, you will be in real trouble in critical care situations. I've had thankfully few occasions to test the good nature and thorough training, but it has happened--my dad once had to do an unsedated emergency spinal tap on my big dog and was blown away by how compliant he was. Big cheers to you for spreading that excellent advice!

    Manners are great, but if the dog is in pain you are dealing with a potentially different animal. I've had Basenjis that were stoic…..helping them when they were hurting wasn't difficult......and I've also had the ones that go nuts when in pain, trying to bite anything and anyone that comes close. My show girl, Tamu, was like that. But I agree, every dog should learn to behave when at the vet for routine matters. My niece is a vet, and she tells stories of some of the dogs that come in totally out of the owner's control and a danger to themselves and everybody who has to deal with them!

    I will be interested in how you make out with your girl. I've had a number of dogs with 100% reliable recall, and one of them was even a Basenji, but it certainly is harder with some breeds than others. My Border Collie was rock solid, as was our family Sheltie and a number of other dogs I've worked with, including a Greyhound. Never say "never", but even with extreme distractions these dogs always responded when called.

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  • Rats! Dreaded double post!

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  • @eeeefarm:

    Manners are great, but if the dog is in pain you are dealing with a potentially different animal. I've had Basenjis that were stoic…..helping them when they were hurting wasn't difficult......and I've also had the ones that go nuts when in pain, trying to bite anything and anyone that comes close. My show girl, Tamu, was like that.

    Oh, definitely. For me, part of the whole process is teaching emotional self-regulation, too– teaching to recognize a state of mental calm and self-rewarding for relaxing into stressful situations. That was actually how I found B&T training, the "perception modification" work seems to help them learn to flip that mental switch. Layering that with manners work and building distractions, stressors, etc., will hopefully build you an animal that has the tools not to panic in emergencies. But that thing about 100% reliability is always the catch.
    Me, personally, I think there are very few dogs who would not break for anything on planet earth. My big dog sat calmly for a spinal tap, but might not have for a more extensive surgical procedure. However, he having had the success with the spinal tap, I would predict a higher likelihood of success with the next more stressful/painful experience. Same with recall work. I have known dogs with massive drive who were proofed through every conceivable distraction (and a whole lot of inconceivable ones), and demonstrated extreme reliability in highly novel situations, but they are certainly autonomous beings even so, and I would hazard a guess that every dog has a breaking point somewhere when he could decide that the alternative motivation outweighs his motivation to work as requested. It may be a high enough threshold that you never encounter it in the real world, but I would guess it's there. My job is just to keep coming up with novel ways to challenge the threshold =).

    Thanks for the nice feedback, I am really interested to see how this all plays out--I have wanted to train a primitive-type hunting dog for yeaaaaaaars. I have had to put falconry practice on hold for work stuff, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to try building the canine half of the team over the next couple years!

    Day 2:
    We had a big first morning. I'm not supposed to be doing "formal" training, but in order for us to go out to the park for a scamper, she had to go back into the travel crate, which she definitely did not want to do. So we played a game with desensitizing her to going in and out of the crate. It turns out she is not terribly food-motivated even when really hungry, so that did not go as quickly as I would have liked. But it did work well enough to get her in and out the door, and we'll work more on it later today.

    Anyway we went to a different park this morning, also double-fenced. We had pretty much the same experience as yesterday, though her following radius was definitely larger. She seemed to feel more confident about ranging five or six feet to either side, and letting me get farther ahead before running to catch up. One thing that was really fun to see was her demonstrating all the tools she has in her kit, so to speak. She does that "periscoping" thing that podencos do, standing up to get a better visual on something. She also quarters the field naturally, tracks, etc. and certainly has ample pretty drive. I am guessing the hardest part will be motivating her to keep playing along with these "boring" bonding games until I can put those hunting tools into a working context and show her when and where to use them... Hopefully BEFORE she gets self-rewarded for trying them out inappropriately ;0). I am not at all confident in my timing skills, and much of the marking behavior stuff is rusty for me so... hopefully I don't screw it up too badly.

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  • @mixie:

    Me, personally, I think there are very few dogs who would not break for anything on planet earth….....I have known dogs with massive drive who were proofed through every conceivable distraction (and a whole lot of inconceivable ones), and demonstrated extreme reliability in highly novel situations, but they are certainly autonomous beings even so, and I would hazard a guess that every dog has a breaking point somewhere when he could decide that the alternative motivation outweighs his motivation to work as requested.

    I think the very best dogs "disobey" when their reasoning tells them it is the right course of action. Example: my Border Collie was an outdoor dog. He was not normally allowed in the house, nor did he attempt to go in when the door was opened. One day, a man came to the farmhouse and asked to use the telephone…...had a breakdown on the road, he said. I replied, "sure" and opened the door. Unbidden, my Border Collie came right in with us, breaking the rule about not being in the house. He stood beside me while the guy made his phone call and left. He did not attempt to enter the house after that day, even when we went in or out with company that he didn't know. I have always believed that he sensed something about that man, and reacted to a perceived threat to me which was strong enough to make him ignore the "no house" rule.

    My past experience with Basenjis tells me that especially when in an unfamiliar place they like to keep tabs on where you are. I used to take one of my girls to the woods, where she was reliable about sticking around. She would go exploring, but never range far, frequently checking back to see where I was. (I like to make it a game of hide and seek if the dog is busy sniffing. I step out of sight, to sharpen up that desire to touch base with me. Usually works pretty well, and the dog gets into the "game" and enjoys seeking me out, by tracking if necessary.)

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  • @eeeefarm:

    I think the very best dogs "disobey" when their reasoning tells them it is the right course of action.

    Yes! That's the ultimate grail–a dog with the confidence to use the physical and behavioral tools he has, and the good sense to apply them when both beneficial and not specifically ordered. Good boy, BC!
    I would like her to be able to work out of eyesight from me, and to do that reliably I will need to figure out how to communicate that we get to chase more bunnies if she lets me tell her where to hunt, when to enter the brush, etc. When she has put a few miles on and knows the ropes, it'll become her job to strategically break the rules based on her much keener skills than mine. Eventually I hope to be able to teach her to break the rules when it also benefits the hawk.

    I say this like I have the confidence to pull it off. I know how to motivate a hawk to aim for these goals, but this little squiggle-tail is a whole lot smarter than a hawk and probably me. ;0)
    I love the hide and seek game idea!!! I will be adding on woodsy terrain in a couple weeks and will definitely play that game with her, thanks!

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  • Day 3:
    Went back to the first park. There were a dozen or people on a walking track around the outside fencing, and they made for good distractions. We got in three or four excellent returns and a lot of great "follow-on" action. We finished that romp, and I picked her up, carried her out of the fenced area toward the car. Some sourpuss saw us and came over, I asked her if she would be interested in petting her, that we are practicing manners and socializing, and she told me that there should be signs up saying "no dogs" (there are actually two "dogs welcome in fenced areas signs"). I thanked her and let her know that I had asked permission several days ago, but she would not let it go. In a lovely "thanks, Universe" moment, the city director of parks maintenance happened to pull in right then, Crankypants flagged him down and tried to get us kicked out, and tiny B. and I had the pleasure of hearing him explain to her that dogs are welcome in fenced areas. He then come over to us, was nothing but compliments for the pup, and told us where all the best parks are for off-lead work =). I think it's a law here that public "play areas" must be fenced, so there are a bunch of good places to go.

    Got home, crated her for a bit, then fed her breakfast in the form of crate desensitizing. She got a "good girl" for putting her head in, praise and petting for head and shoulders, a piece of food for up to her ribcage, and jackpot for the one time she put her whole body in, turned around, and laid down. It wasn't a focused training session, just a game that was available. I also fed her for sitting calmly in front of me. Between interacting with the crate and offering sits, she also wandered around exploring the room and I had fun naming for her all the hunting behaviors she has.

    She is really fun to watch operate. Compared to our Dogo, she is incredibly observant. He lives through his nose. She has her eyes on everything that moves, and her ears and nose on everything that doesn't.

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  • Is anyone interested in following along? I don't want to be a dweebo and keep posting updates if no one else is into this stuff ;0).
    Attached are photos marking sit ("te", pinching motion) and look ("mira", two-fingers pointing in a V), recall ("aqui/hierr", palm up w fingers snapping in), a beautiful spontaneous point ("whoa"), and both dogs offering a nice "watch it" at our weird neighbor ;0)
    attachment_p_171584_0_scout-sit-profile-m.jpg
    attachment_p_171584_1_scout-recall-m.jpg
    attachment_p_171584_2_scout-point-m.jpg
    attachment_p_171584_3_scout-and-simon-1-m.jpg

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  • @mixie:

    Is anyone interested in following along? I don't want to be a dweebo and keep posting updates if no one else is into this stuff ;0).

    I'm following and I am sure there are others. I'll chime in if I have a comment, but otherwise rest assured I will read your posts. Training is an interest of mine. (and for those who don't enjoy it, bear in mind you are always teaching your dog something, for good or bad, every time you interact with him or her!)

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  • Cheers! Well, we've settled into about three days a week at the ballfield/parks, one out at the farm, and three doing "parkour" walks. I think it was about day five that she was really ready to move on from the off-lead stuff in the baseball diamond. Once she kind of figured out the process, she would settle into either a neat heel, or quartering either in front of me or to the left about fifteen feet out, or occasionally "offering" what I am cheerfully naming a "long send" ("va") for something particularly interesting further out.
    I started switching it up, moving into the playground/concession/bleacher area and playing hide & seek per your game, which was great. The setup is perfect; triple-fenced, never locked, and always deserted before about 7:30. So off-lead attention stuff with hide & seek, plus naming/rewarding exploration/urban agility behaviors: jump over (hup), jump on (up), stand up on your hinds and check this thing out without putting your front feet on it ("ay mira"), check this thing out & climb if you need to ("check it out"), recalls, follow-on, look here/there, go in, go under, go around, turning right and left (gee/haw), etc.

    Her language acquisition seems incredibly fast, compliance rate exactly what I'd expect– based on an immediate calculation of personal reward =). She is a little timid, but I don't think constitutionally so, more like I'm exposing her to a ton of new situations and concepts and allowing her to do a lot of her own decision-making about "how" to work. She seems very game, but thoughtfully so and willing to engage stuff that startles her at first. She seems to really like sign language paired with the verbal cues.

    I am itching to start with specific bridge/target work, but promised my trainer I'd give her a month to settle in before throwing that at her. I am "training" her as far as her earning her meals with different games. I'm trying not to structure anything, but just play with her and reward helpful behaviors. Like if she wants to chase, I'll throw a stuffie and play "fetch" with a piece of her food for a return-to-hand, or different "send to place" things like "on your mat", "in your box", "in that corner", with sit/down/etc from a distance. Also nosework games, exploration games, etc.

    She is a world of fun. Very like handling exotics, and although I --REALLY-- wish I was co-training a falconry bird this year, I'm double-really glad I'm not, at least as far as being able to spend a year focusing on Scout. I am debating whether or not to enter her to rabbits, or whether it might be more useful to try varminting with her first.

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  • Sounds like you are making giant strides. They absorb it like a sponge when they're young. Learning is the easy part, with a Basenji. Getting compliance when they begin to mature and question why they should do what you ask is the hard part, IMO. ;)

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  • Oh, she is definitely questioning every request. That's why I'm not in formal training mode, and not really requesting anything yet, unless the desired behavior presents itself. One of my favorite working dog guys calls this foundation work "agreeing with everything", my bridge and target friend Kayce Cover calls it "naming" behavior. You just sort of socialize them to the world and all the situations where eventually they will be asked to work. All the behaviors I mentioned are natural behaviors, I'm just setting up situations, naming and rewarding behaviors I want to shape, for now. When I test her recognition of different signal/behavior combos, you can actually see her doing the math on what's in it for her, vs. When she doesn't recognize the word or just isn't paying attention.

    My goal for now is just to happily explore the environment, help her have positive, confidence-building experiences, and to put down a foundation of communication tools.

    She really is a whole lot like training a hawk. A tiny hunting machine who is ultimately largely uninterested in anyone's opinion ;0). My job is to get them to see me as their most useful asset and want to stick around. I see Scout learning and responding in exactly the same ways, only I have to work ten times as hard with her because Scout's much smarter than the average raptor ;0)

    ETA: sorry, I will nerd out about this stuff for days. I've been out of practice for a while and am so excited to be working with her!

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  • Hi!

    Do keep on posting your progress with your pup; I find it very interesting to read!

    Do you think this type of training would work on an older dog?

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  • I like your approach to training. I do wonder if you know about Charles Eisenmann? He "educated" the dogs that starred in "The Littlest Hobo". I have his books. Someone dedicated enough to follow his methods would create a wonderful companion! (I was fortunate enough to see Chuck and London at a demonstration, back in the day. No question in my mind that the dog knew what was being said, and could further follow a conversation and reason out how to respond.)

    http://tomhawthorn.blogspot.ca/2010/12/chuck-eisenmann-trainer-of-littlest.html

    _Eisenmann had a simple philosophy to explain his success with his animals.

    "A dog thinks just as a human does, and if you treat him as a stupid animal eventually he will act that way,” Eisenmann said. “That’s why I act positive around my dogs and treat them as friends.”_

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  • Hey, thanks! I had not heard of this fella, but now am dying to get my paws on a copy of that LP!!!

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  • @mixie:

    Hey, thanks! I had not heard of this fella, but now am dying to get my paws on a copy of that LP!!!

    The books are better. Eisenmann was unique and his dogs were unbelievable. Reporters turned from doubters into true believers.

    To quote a reporter at one press conference: " I devised a scheme to expose any trickery by Mr. Eisenmann. To do this both his voice and person had to be separated from London. Amused by the obvious motive, Chuck agreed to the scheme and left the room. From the hallway he called to London. "You do what our visitor asks you to." "London, I whispered, "Go touch the picture on the wall." He paused for a moment then with another "It’s okay," from Chuck, casually walked across the room, stood up on his hand legs and placed both his fore-paws on the picture. At that moment, the "intellectual learning" theory for dog training won another convert."

    Another example: "Eisenmann asked London what was used to open the door. The dog moved over and reached up and twisted the knob with his teeth. ‘No, what do we open it with if it is locked?’ he asked. The dog walked around the kitchen, found the keys on the sink, picked them up, and gave them to Mr. Eisenmann."

    Sorry for the slight thread hijack, but Chuck is almost like a god to me, in terms of dog training.

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  • !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Not a hijack!!!! I guess I know what my next "happy whatever to me" gift will be =). Thanks a million!

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