Horrible experience moving with a basenji

My boyfriend and I just moved with our one and a half year old basenji, Finn, and he is having a hard time adjusting to us leaving him in our new place. We've only left him alone here for more than five minutes once and it went HORRIBLY, worse than I ever could have imagined. We don't crate him when we leave because Finn has proven to be an uncrateable dog. At our last house, we worked with him for 6 months on getting him used to a crate and tried everything but he just never stopped screaming. So finally we threw our hands up and let him have free reign of the house, with bedroom doors closed, which he did remarkably well with except for a few mishaps in the beginning with an old, already ripped couch.

He seemed to be adjusting to the move alright. He's been very calm inside our new apartment and likes to chew his bones in the cozy spot we set up for him in the living room. In the beginning, he got very upset any time either of us left, even if just to go get something from the car, but that seemed understandable because I know this has been a stressful and confusing time for him. After being here for four days, I decided to leave him to go to the store. It was evening and he was already very tired out from the dog park, so I thought he'd be fine. I left him with a frozen peanut butter kong to keep him occupied and only planned to be gone for an hour. When I got home, I immediately heard the blood curdling screaming from the stairs. I ran inside and found that he had pushed open the door I had closed that separates the living room from the rest of the house and was in the kitchen up on his hind legs with his collar caught on the electrical cord for our refrigerator. I later realized he had chewed the cord a little bit trying to free himself and must have gotten shocked! He had pooped on the floor beneath him and it was smeared all over him. He hadn't chewed anything in the house but there were things scattered and out of place near all the windows and in the weird corner where he had gotten stuck which makes me think he was running around frantically to each window trying to find a way out. Once I got him free, he ran immediately outside to the porch and refused to come back inside so I took him for a long walk to calm him down and then let him hang out on the porch while I cleaned up the mess. After about an hour, with some coaxing and petting and treats, I got him to come back inside. He paced around and whined a little at first but was okay after a little while. I have no way of knowing how long he was stuck there. I talked to all of our neighbors but none of them had heard anything. I'm SO thankful he is okay but am worried that this was a traumatic enough experience for him that now it's going to be a very long time before we can leave him alone in here.

It's been a few days since that happend and I am TERRIFIED to try leaving him again but, of course, eventually I'll have to. Of course now I'll be taking his collar off whenever I leave him alone. Fortunately I haven't started a new job yet where we've moved to so I have some time to work with him before we have to leave him for longer periods of time. Just today I've started leaving for 5 minutes at a time, going downstairs and waiting in the driveway and then coming right back. So far, no mishaps, but he certainly doesn't like it. Eventually I'll start trying it for ten.

Does anyone have any advice for us in this situation?

I find it really helps to keep basenji's in pairs. I would adopt a year or older female. It will keep him company and ease the stress of being alone. The other great thing about adopting a young dog is you will know what you are getting and you will not have to go through puppy training. We recently adopted a three year old that could not be crated. We went through a month of hell, but he and our girl now get along great.

Also every time you leave you should give you dog treats to make it a positive experience. Just my opinion and has worked for us.

OMG - How horrible for Finn. Poor baby. Hopefully he's settled down and you're doing okay with leaving him. I haven't had many problems with leaving my dogs at home, but it's been many, many years since I've just had one dog. I do think it helps to have more than one dog, but sometimes you just can't do that. And you have to ad the right sort of dog. You have to have a dog that Finn will like; you have to have a dog that doesn't have separation anxiety and won't learn separation anxiety from Finn; you have to have a dog that you and you boyfriend want. It does not have to be another basenji. So it's not really as easy as "just adding another dog". Hopefully someone will have some wonderful advice, but the best I can give is this booklet:

http://www.amazon.com/Ill-Home-Soon-Separation-Anxiety/dp/1891767054

And I don't know how I missed this post last month. Sorry this reply is so late. Please let us know how things are going now. And you may want to get Finn microchipped if he's going to be collarless. (my dogs are collarless, so i'm not disagreeing with that)

I think you are going about it the right way, leaving for very short periods of time initially. I realize you may have solved your problem by now, but I have found giving a treat that takes some time to consume (as you tried to do with the Kong, and I do with a roller ball) can eventually result in a dog that looks forward to your leaving, if not welcoming a long absence. I like putting the treat in a place where it is visible but unobtainable, to build anticipation. By the time you are ready to go out, the dog is impatient for you to get gone so he can have that treat! Gradually increasing the time you are absent should result in a dog that is comfortable when you are away. With a new location, there is always a risk that the dog feels he is being abandoned, so waiting until he has a good comfort level with his new home is your best bet. IMO, if your dog is apprehensive (velcro dog!), it is worth hiring a "hound sitter" if you must be away in the early days after a move, especially if your dog is not comfortable in a crate. 🙂

Wow that must have been scary, hope he is a lot better now. Shame he can't be crated it is such a great aid.

Jolanda and Kaiser

I'm so sorry to hear this. It sounds just horrible for poor Finn!

I would revisit the crate training, though. A good trainer or behaviorist can help desensitize him. Even if you have to use a covered X-pen, it gives you some way to contain him for his safety and your sanity.

@ownedbyspencer:

I'm so sorry to hear this. It sounds just horrible for poor Finn!

I would revisit the crate training, though. A good trainer or behaviorist can help desensitize him. Even if you have to use a covered X-pen, it gives you some way to contain him for his safety and your sanity.

Xpen is a great idea! a happy in between crate and left loose in the house.

Thanks for the responses!

It has been five months since our move and we are still struggling with separation anxiety. After a couple months we resorted to putting him on medication, which has seemed to help but I do worry about it just kind of covering up the problem and not really getting to the root of it. I talked with my vet about re-introducing the crate but we both decided it would just add more stress to an already stressful situation for Finn. Fortunately we found a great doggie day care place and he's doing well there.

Admittedly, I am probably not doing everything I could at the moment to help him get better. After the first couple months of trying many things without much success (and with the stress of starting a new job and adapting to a new schedule) I just sort of got stuck in the habit of taking him to daycare when I go to work, using medication for quick trips to the grocery store and such, and relying on family members when we both need to be away from home for longer periods of time. Now that we're all used to our new schedules, I'm trying to work with him more so we can get him off meds and I can have a social life again.

About once a month or so I decide it's time to start looking for another dog but then I seem to always talk myself out of it. I do want another one. And Finn is such a playful, social dog, I think it could be really good for him. But I keep realizing what I really want is the perfect dog and the perfect match and I'm just not sure yet whether this is the best time to take on another dog that might have any number of problems of his own. It's so tempting though.

I'm so glad you're still around! And that things are normalized, even if it is not a perfect situation. Maybe now is the time to gradually introduce leaving him in the house for a few minutes at a time since you've been there for a while and he may now realized that this place is home.

I'd suggest that you offer to foster another dog. This is a nice way to test run and see if another dog helps and if you even want another dog. If you know what breed you want, you may talk to breeders about a retired or "washed out" show dog. These dogs are usually house/crate/leash trained.

Two B's is much less work than one… We have 2 and we can leave them uncrated in the house for hours - after a good walk, that is.
I hope medication won't be necessary any time soon, there must be a natural way to help him settle.
Maybe some intuitive work? (see the Book 'Ask your animal - http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Your-Animal-Behavioral-Communication/dp/1577316096/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383908514&sr=8-1&keywords=ask+your+animal)
Bach remedies and/or essential oils may help also.
All the best!

First Basenji's

Uzie's first week with us was very stressful, and I quickly realized that his bonding to my older female made the transition very smooth. He came with separation anxiety and had I not had my two here already, I would have gotten another 'pal' for him for company. Worth looking into. Kudos to you for the daycare while you are at work!!!!!!

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