Desperate for help with my biting basenji

  • My basenji is a mix but I would say 90 percent basenji. She is beautiful and we love her. We are a family of five. We have 3 older children (11 and 14) and have waited a long time since we had to put our beagle of 15 years down to get a dog. We were determined to rescue or adopt in lieu of getting something in particular. I ran across a girl in my area that had an 8 week old puppy she needed to rehome. She said she thought it was a beagle/Chihuahua mix. I did tons of research on that breed and determined it would work for our family. We are extremely busy; my husband and I both work and the kids have busy schedules but we have so much love to give a dog when we are at home so we decided to take the plunge. This dog was one of the cutest puppies I have ever laid my eyes on. It didn't take long once this puppy began to grow for us to determine that this was by no means a Chihuahua beagle mix. After a few vaccinations with the vet and getting an obedience trainer, we determined what we had was a Basenji.

    We have had biting problems with her from the beginning. My research and advice from the dog trainer and the vet said to not allow the biting (yelp loudly, "ouch", turn your back, clamp her muzzle and say firmly "NO BITE" etc. etc. etc.) all the ways you read about but none of that worked. I was so happy when her baby teeth fell out because I thought "finally, we can stop suffering from those razor sharp punctures to our skin." But guess what? Now that those baby teeth are gone, it's just big teeth biting all of us. And also… hurts and it hurts really badly. She will bite the kids more than she bites us but make no mistake, she always has that mouth open. She bit one of my children last week because he took away something she was chewing on she wasn't supposed to have. She has also been aggressive when the kids have had friends over to the house. It worries me sick. I am literally almost sick about all of this because I don't know what to do. We get so frustrated with it. She has torn clothes, ripped holes.............the damage with a puppy is to be expected to some degree but we have plenty. She has gnawed chairs, coffee table, ripped the carpet............if you take your eyes off of this dog, she is destroying something and that is no exaggeration. What people say is true; you have to have a crate. We have a crate and a big dog pen in the yard. Everything I have read about basenjis is true of ours. The good and the bad. I have never seen a dog run like that; we love to watch her run and just be free but if you don't have a fence, where is she supposed to do that? And if she doesn't get to do that enough, what you have is a bored aggressive dog. We walk her several times a day; it's not enough.
    We are not the kind of people that get dogs and then get rid of them. She has been spayed and micro-chipped; she is our baby. She sleeps with us; such a precious sound sleeper and sometimes when she sleeps in her crate, i go to get her out and she lazily stretches her arms and is so sweet and precious. She lays in the sun and closes her eyes and you can tell she loves that. She can have some absolutely sweet and precious moments. In the right context, she will gently take a treat right out of my mouth and would never hurt me. But the fact of the matter is, meaning to or not, she is hurting us and it happens often. Not to mention that when I try to take her for walks, if she sees a squirrel, I have literally thought I was going to get whiplash she has pulled so hard on the leash. I have a huge leash burn on my right arm where she tried to get to a squirrel and I was caught off guard and it ran across my arm.

    She is also a huge flight risk. When people say don't let them off of their leash, they mean it. She has darted out of our garage several times and we are so fearful she is going to get hit by a car. Our subdivision isn't overly busy but there is NO CATCHING her. She's too fast and too smart. You have to get her back with a treat or something and that's while you are holding your breath and praying it will work.

    I don't know if I have explained this well enough but I am in this forum because I am extremely concerned and quite frankly at the end of my rope on this situation. I don't know what to do but I do know I can't continue this for the duration of this dogs life. I cannot. Any advice that is constructive and positive would be appreciated. Please, no judging because you will never find a more loving and devoted family to a dog; however, had I known she was a basenji puppy and had read the characteristics, I never would have gotten one. She wasn't the right dog for the time we have and our resources. I don't know what to do. If we could just get her to stop biting.............................

  • Sorry I didn't see this post before. I see you have been active on the other thread on this subject. Biting isn't an easy thing to deal with, particularly once it has become habitual. There are some good suggestions on the other thread. I would reiterate that this is something you can't let slide. Is the biting primarily when you take something away from her or prevent her from doing something she wants to do, or is it random? Absolutely you should not play with her in any way that encourages biting. No chasing games with the kids. Perhaps let her drag a leash inside so that you can immediately get control of her if she gets rough. All play should stop if she bites. "No" is a word she should understand. Use it and remove her from whatever she is biting. No exceptions, be consistent. Simply do not allow her to continue biting, either by restraining her with a leash or bear hugging her until she quits it. Reward for good behaviour certainly, but be careful you don't inadvertently reward her for being bad. If she gets what she wants by biting she will continue to do it.

    Oh, and about that leash burn…....are you by any chance using a flexi lead? They are dangerous and I don't recommend them. I use a six foot leather leash (be aware she can bite through it) that is soft to handle. If you want to use a longer leash for training, a soft rope of an appropriate length with knots in it at various points is a good option. It sounds like she needs to work on her leash manners! (pulling should never get her where she wants to go. I walk backward if my boy pulls, so he gets further away from what interests him, not closer. When the leash is slack, we proceed forward).

    Again, sorry your post was not answered. It did not show up in "new posts" for me.

  • Hello,
    This is what I posted earliers this week on another biting post. Maybe you already saw it, but I repeat it here all the same. Maybe you find something of value. (This post didn't show up on my 'new post' list)

    I have a mixed bag of questions for you on things that we found are valuable around biting/destroying and behaviour in general - there may be one cause, but very likely there are more than one:

    • If you walk him, does he get time to explore the world with his senses, especially the nose? Easily excitable breeds like basenjis need to work their brains to become tired. Walking or running is not enough. If on leash, our B's are allowed to sniff around as much as they like. They never destroy anything, and we do not crate them ever, not at night and not when we are away. We make sure they get a great walk in the morning to see them through the day.

    • On the walks, does he get the opportunity to socialize and play with other dogs? No better teachers-of-good-dog-manners than dogs. 10 minutes of playing is enough to wear them out. Our Lela didn't bite a lot, but misbehaved around the house of a mature akita bitch - not for long! She has been deeply respectful of this dog since.

    • Does he get strong chews? Chewing is a deep, instinctual need, is good for the teeth AND it is a great total body work out. Maybe he needs to chew every day to satisfy his need and release energy.

    • What would happen if you and him were in a room and you didn't throw toys around for him to chase but instead you were to sit very still on the floor, without moving, without judgment, without a sound? Basenjis have incredibly open senses, the less these are excited the beter the behaviour. And the less you judge or have emotions, the quieter the dog. Basenjis are excellent 'energy readers': if I a give a command with all kinds of thoughts or doubts attached ('they won't obey, what will happen if…'), nothing happens. When I give a command withOUT any thoughts, and from an open heart, it always works. The sweeter my voice (as if talking to a baby), the better it goes. If I should name one thing that my B's have taught me, it is this: being in the moment, loving, no thinking.

    • Have you considered some sort of class? Like mantracking, agility. It is important for a dog to do stuff with the pack leader, it's the best way of bonding and to them it's 'work'. Dogs are 'work animals' and are at their best when they can do what they were meant to do. I do mantracking with Binti and she takes it VERY seriously, and she is dead tired after an hour of class. And you become a strong team together.

    • Speaking of the pack leader: do you really feel deep down inside you ARE his master? And your partner? And if so, do you project that sense in a calm way? Lela was our first dog ever, and we really had to learn to be the pack leader and to let her know in an appropriate manner. When Lela was in her biting-to-see-who's-boss phase, she usually went for my wife who was less secure back then. She hardly ever tested me. To be clear: it's not a muscle thing, it's conviction from within.

    • How about a visit to a dog communicator? Someone who relates to an animal on an energy level - maybe your pup is trying to tell you something that is not easily understood. We did this for both Lela and Binti and we were astonished at what we heard. Lots of useful insights.

    • How about a visit to a holistic vet or therapist? We changed from a regular vet to a holistic one and he helped us greatly with an issue that Lela has about being touched at the head. The central therapy were custom made flower remedies. The vet told us that a lot can happen in gestation and at the breeder's house, in the family dynamics, stuff that you can't train an animal out of, but needs to be addressed on an energy level. There are wonderful remedies in the USA: e.g. Alaskan and Also, he or she can check for deficiencies and for optimalization of his diet.

    • In the same vein: how about a few sessions with a practitioner in Healing Touch for Animals. I am a level 2 practitioner and it is amazing what the work can do and the information you can get through these sessions -

    All the best.

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  • I am glad things have been working, but IMO… I do not agree with using the crate as punishment.

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  • Kelly, since he still bites some, it didn't completely work. Nor is or was it your "last resort." It does risk making the crate a negative thing. LOL it's sort of like moms who say "wait til your father gets home." Obviously your dog is fine with it, but just be aware there are other methods.

    Your work on the leash, btw, is spot on. Stop, walk backwards or go the other way. 🙂 Classic way to teach any dog not to pull. So simple it makes you dizzy with wondering why people allow dogs to jerk their arms off.

    You might enjoy this site.. Mary is the ultimate positive trainer. And she makes things simple so anyone can understand. (Which is great when you have kids you want to get in on the training routine!)

    To the original poster… very frustrating that I click almost every and check for new posts.. today is first day to see this thread. (though I have been busy a few days)

  • Hi - a few thoughts in case they are helpful, although ours doesn't bite.

    For biting:
    Figure out the reasons for biting first.

    • if it is around toys/possessiveness - we gave him the toy on his bed and let him be there gnawing on his own. Then walked close by (not too close) and threw him something yummier in his view (eg a small piece of sausage that he can eat quickly) and walk away. Do this at random (though not too often) and have different people in your family do it. Soon she will associate your coming close to her and her favorite toy as something good. Progressively get closer (ie throw the sausage from closer), and then squat down, then touch on head briefly, then hand sausage to her, then move hand towards toy but don't touch it. By this time she will anticipate your coming to her when she has a toy as "yay, something more tasty coming my way". Evenutally, you should pick up the toy/bone hand her the sausage then hand back the toy/bone. Pretty soon she'll let you pick up her toy/bone without biting or thinking you are going to take it away. The key is to progress slowly in terms of distance etc, and mix up the treats (sausage, cheese, chicken).

    -if she does bite someone, then immediately isolate her in a basenji-proof room where she cant destroy things. And when letting her out, ask her to sit and be calm for a few seconds first so that she's not hysterical and she learns to watch and listen to you. There may be something else that one does for biting, so maybe others or a trainer would have good ideas.

    For pulling on walks, 2 things worked for us:

    • A gentle leader - suggested by our trainer. This means she can't control her head (if they pull forward their head moves to the side like a horses halter) and so she won't be able to forge ahead. It will give your arm/shoulder immediate relief while you work on the rest.

    • In the yard and on walks start rewarding with small treats every time she looks back at you/checks on you. At first she'll do it by chance, or if she is checking to see what you are doing, and sometimes it's a side glance. As soon as she does it - give big verbal praise and get her to come to you and give her a treat and lots of pets. She will begin to do this more often. initially treat every time she looks at you, and once she is good at it, then randomly. On walks you'll find her looking back and coming back to you more often, and as a corollary less pulling, which is a relief. We usually keep the leash in one hand and a handful of small, soft treats in the other - so you don't run out and have to keep going into your pocket to get treats. So, she'll come and nose your hand and you can pet some times, treat sometimes, etc.

    The one thing is to progress slowly, praise the right behavior and don't get impatient (count to 10, stop training or go do something else for a bit till you feel ready to try again). When doing the praise really have an excited voice and go overboard even! Our basenji really loves being praised. It takes more time perhaps than other methods, but it's long lasting because they see these behaviors as rewarding so you don't have to get into a battle of wills. And once they get the idea, they'll improve rapidly, even over one walk.

    Good luck!

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