How to deal with Level 1 snaps?

I tried to search the forum for earlier threads, but didn't find much specific enough, so here goes.
Lela, our 2,5 year old, is a very social, playful thing, but she is starting to show this behaviour:
when she finds herself

  • in a new situation with a lot of new impressions,
  • or with a lot of people/children around her,
  • or with us but approached from above,
  • or outside off leash and busy with other things
    she is likely to deliver a Level 1 snap to a hand approaching from above (no contact between teeth and skin).
    She gives no growl or other warning.
    My questions:
  • what may cause this behaviour (fear, dominance, sensory overload?)
  • how to correct properly?
  • how to explain to other people?
    Thanks for your input.
    Here a video of our morning walk today (finally spring!); Lela is the first to appear before camera (naturally)

From what you describe, she gets overwhelmed and doesn't know how else to defend herself against this uncomfortable situation. There were probably warning signs (turning her head away, licking her chops…) that she gave that were too subtle to be picked up the previous times she was put in the similar circumstances, and she's learned that a minor bite was the best way to escape the situation or the people that make her uncomfortable.

The best thing to do is to identify and avoid these situations. You've done a good job identifying what seems to trigger her bites, and the best is to reintroduce these situations VERY slowly, making sure she remains comfortable in the process. For instance, rather than dragging her into a group of loud people, have a couple of people a few feet away and get closer slowly, trying to keep Lela's attention on you ('watch me', or asking her to sit), praising her and giving her little treats when she remains calm. If she gets too nervous or uncomfortable, back away from the source of her worry and try again more slowly.

If you somehow find yourself in a situation where it happens again, don't punish her. Take her away from the problem immediately and calmly; if it is indeed anxiety (and it sounds like it is), then adding negative consequences to her action will in her head link that situation to a painful experience ('loud crowd = slap, so I should defend myself').

Hope that helps?

Since this is a "new" behaviour, I am wondering if something happened to make her leery of hands descending from above? Regardless, you have to take it seriously and be vigilant about allowing her to encounter the situations that trigger this.

Since it happens with you "when approached from above", this is something you could work on to desensitize her. (carefully and gradually). The aim would be to reward when she doesn't react, and ignore or at most verbally admonish when she does. "Guess you blew that. No treat for you! Want to try again?" If you go this route, don't overdo it. A little success will build her confidence. Practicing until she is sick of it will not.

I am curious about her "approached from above" trigger. Under what circumstances? When she is comfortable and doesn't want to be bugged, or just anytime at all?? This partially sounds to me like overload (crowds, new situations), but some aspects might indicate she just does not want to be disturbed when she is focused on something.

Explaining to others is always problematic, e.g. hard to teach a dog not to jump on people for attention when he is instantly rewarded by said people with patting and kind words! It isn't helpful when they say "Oh, I don't mind". (note to self, people don't like to be told "stop f***ing up my training!!)

Have you had the thyroid checked? Full panel, since this is a according to you a new behavior?…. and I have found many times we have missed suttle behavior changes over a short period of time... so please review in your mind if this is really something new

Thanks all of you! Very helpful.
We think we may have missed some cues that Lela doesn't like certain things or situations. Binti is so easy and cuddly that we may have assumed the same for Lela. And as she can appear a little stoic at times, we may easily have misinterpreted that.
It seems she is triggered most when she is either focused or in a new situation. Yesterday we were at my nephew's house for the first time, with his sister present, whom they both know, and she had no problem at all, even with touches to her head.
We will definitely work with the practice suggested.

First Basenji's

are you 100% positive that she is not loosing her sense of sight or sound? you can test the hearing by clapping while she is turned 180 degrees from you and watch for reaction (I know sometimes 'they' hear but don't respond while in annubus (sp)? or statue sitting…..but you know your girl. And for sight, maybe come around slowly with an object and see how far in her peripheral vision she sees it (dogs see 270 degrees while we only see 180). Just a thought. otherwise, the thoughts above are all good advice!

I'm happy to tell you that Lela (as Binti) sees, hears and smells everything. And I have a strong feeling that they have a 6th sense also - they can sense big friend Kiko the Akita coming when she is too far away to be heard of seen or smelled.

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