How did you get your basenji to walk off leash?
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    If successful, please explain how you trained your basenji to walk off leash. My girl is approaching 8 months and I would like to teach her while she is still young.

    I know it is hard and maybe not possible for some basenjis but I am willing to put the time and effort in.

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  • You will need access to a safely fenced area, preferably one large enough that your dog is not aware of the fence! I would start with teaching a recall with no distractions, initially from a short distance and once the dog gets the idea, from further away. You need a long line (not a flexi lead) and lots of patience. Reward the right behaviour, correct (by using the line) the wrong behaviour. Try to make coming when called automatic. When (if) you get 100% compliance on a long line, try dropping the line, and if still successful try taking it off (in a safe location). Of course, reward for correct responses, including at first those you compel with the line. Move to intermittent rewards once the response is fairly consistent. You can build enthusiasm by making a game of it. "Hide & seek" is a good one. If there is anywhere you can hide while he is distracted, it's a good strategy. When he starts looking for you, perhaps getting anxious, he will be glad when you call him and should hurry to find you.

    Then add distractions.......and really good rewards when the response is correct. In theory this works with most dogs, but Basenjis can be challenging. I have had two that were consistently good with recalls. I have had three that were not.

    One thing to emphasize: do not ask for a recall when you are uncertain you will get it, and when you have no means of enforcing your request. In that situation, use a word other than your "normal" recall word, e.g. "here" instead of "come". A recall should never be optional. If the dog ignores you, you need to go get him and bring him to you. You do not want this to degenerate into a chasing game! Don't teach the dog to ignore you! Do reward him in some way when he has complied, even if you had to physically bring him to you. At the very least, he should receive praise. The reward always happens when he comes to you, even if it is just acknowledgement that he has done the right thing. Food rewards should become intermittent. You don't want a dog that tunes you out when he knows you don't have food on you.

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  • Never had a Basenji I could-they wont come back.
    We did take one to a Beach with miles of sand and let him go. He came back eventually when he got cold.

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    I took my first purebred basenji to basic then advanced obedience. Worked with her and she even did hospital visits. She was the only one I succeeded with!

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    I have had 5 Basenji's. My first two could not go off leash ever! They would take off instantly. My other 3 have all had great success going off leash. Step one - find a fenced in off leash park. Take them there and get them used to running with other dogs. Get them trained to coming to you when they call by giving them lots of treats when they respond the way you want. Step two - try going off leash somewhere very far from roads with a friend who has a dog with very reliable recall. Your dog will most likely stick with the other dog and come when they come. Once you are comfortable there you can start walking your dog off leash. I do not recommend ever having your dog off leash near a road as there is always the chance your basenji will chase a bird or squirrel and get hit by a car.

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  • K

    Great advice from eeeefarm!
    Ours are fine offleash in a safe area, and all basenji's I ever encountered (dozens) can go offleash. We started the first day we took Lela out as a small pup.
    I also practice by hiding behind a bush or tree and let them find out they can't see me any more: they will run as fast as they can to get to me, very sweet.And I found out by accident that the freezer bags I use to carry treats make a lot of noise they can hear at a great distance. So most of my recalls are simply taking the bag out of my pocket - they come running.
    I try to use my voice as little as possible, more body language. When they see me, and I kneel, they come to me. Takes patience, but it's a lot of fun to see how they develop and grow into maturity. Lela really changed around 2,5 years - from always running away to much closer to me and more responsive.

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  • @kenlenuiuc said in How did you get your basenji to walk off leash?:

    If successful, please explain how you trained your basenji to walk off leash. My girl is approaching 8 months and I would like to teach her while she is still young.

    I know it is hard and maybe not possible for some basenjis but I am willing to put the time and effort in.

    I am and will never be a proponent of off-leash. A million and one things could happen that having a leash on would make the difference between your dog living or dying. If your dog is well leash trained to heel, then you can start with dropping the leash inside an enclosed area and work on it. It isn't that hard to teach a dog to walk off leash. It is impossible to make it within light'years of the safety of having that leash attached.

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  • I agree with Debra that you can never guarantee a dog will be safe off leash. OTOH, you really can't guarantee they will be safe on a leash! Stuff happens. In the event of equipment failure or a fumble that causes you to drop the leash, or a slip and fall, or for that matter an accidental door opening at your house and the dog getting out, you are better off with a dog that is familiar with being loose. Those that are never off leash seem to delight in playing "keep away". Those that are used to being untethered will usually react calmly and be far easier to control. I have had "senior moments" when I opened the door before putting on collar and leash, and my boy who was entirely used to being out off leash would calmly come back when I said "Perry, we forgot something".

    Off leash, to me, depends on the owner, the dog, and the circumstances. I would not say "never". I would say use good judgement and don't take anything for granted, including thinking that a leash is a no fail solution. Dogs have been hit by cars while firmly attached to a leash (particularly to a flexi)!

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  • K

    Agree again with eeeefarm - in the Netherlands we are blessed (not all parts, though) with safe areas. Try and imagine being a B and never be able to run and play freely...

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  • For what it's worth, my first Basenji, Val, in our unfenced backyard in the city of Toronto, without benefit of leash or even collar!
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    And Val enjoying a romp in the fields where I boarded my horse at that time:

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    My girl Lady in the snow out cross country skiing when I lived in North Bay:

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    So it can be done. Val was 99% reliable (except for the time she stole a chicken from a farm we were passing and wanted to bring it back with her! She brought the chicken to me.....alive and unhurt......but didn't want to leave without it. I had to carry her horseback for a mile to dissuade her). Lady was good out in the bush, but I would not have trusted her near a road. I used to walk Val off leash in the city! She was trained to stay off the road, and even a squirrel wouldn't tempt her to cross it. But that was a long time ago. Perhaps modern Basenjis are less "biddable".

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    I had a Basenji that was trustworthy off leash, I didn't specifically train her that way, she just was that way. She was a rescue that passed away a few years ago. So I guess SOME Basenjis are like that, but I'd say it's few and far between.
    -Joanne

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  • @kjdonkers said in How did you get your basenji to walk off leash?:

    Agree again with eeeefarm - in the Netherlands we are blessed (not all parts, though) with safe areas. Try and imagine being a B and never be able to run and play freely...

    We have plenty of enclosed places to run and play freely. I also have taken mine to a friends large farm, but none of my basenji's off lead there, though on 100 ft lines. My rotties and chows.. fine at the farm. I am blessed with a large fenced yard for general play free time.

    As for the Netherlands, you have a great many wonderful things we lack. You are lucky to be there!

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  • @eeeefarm said in How did you get your basenji to walk off leash?:

    I agree with Debra that you can never guarantee a dog will be safe off leash. OTOH, you really can't guarantee they will be safe on a leash! ...
    Off leash, to me, depends on the owner, the dog, and the circumstances. I would not say "never". I would say use good judgement and don't take anything for granted, including thinking that a leash is a no fail solution. Dogs have been hit by cars while firmly attached to a leash (particularly to a flexi)!

    I have heard people justify no seat belts for the same reason. They talk about the exceedingly rare "trapped in burning car" scenario... ignoring all the overwhelming research and statistics. I just can't stand to see that used as some rationale for making off-leash as a reasonable safe alternative. No one said you can guarantee safe on a leash... a pack of dogs can attack you, you could trip and drop the leash, have a heart attack, or simply not be informed enough to have good secure leash/collar (btw, I hate flexis!). But most the time, if you have a line on your dog, you have massively increased the chances that in case of some emergency or prey drive kicking in-- you got it. Just not having a leash on your dog to not have one simply makes no sense to me.

    Have I heard of a dog killed on leash.. yes. But I have heard of 1000 x more dogs lost off leash. I see postings regularly on the rescue sites. To me, my dogs lives are not worth off leash anywhere where there is anything but the most limited traffic. Even then... I have heard of no one camping whose dog got lost/killed who hiked with a leash. The number of people who have lost dogs without is many. What people do with their dogs is their own right... legally they are just property. But I take as much care of my dogs safety as I did my child when she was young. That's just me.

    I also know with my non-basenjis, I took risks with them loose on my friend's farm. But I had worked them from puppy hood on solid recall and I accepted the risks. Like you said, depends on dog and owner. They liked to hang with the horses, check out the pond, sometimes take a swim. But at home, I don't go from house to car without one on. That's just me. And while I have had Larry let dogs out, none have been an issue to get back in, whether with simply calling, or getting in car and saying "let's go", or a treat. But my heart stopped every time it ever happened. It has been a decade since any dog here got out because eventually we got Larry trained. :)

    Nothing is fail safe. But like the Arabs say, trust in G-d but tie your camel. :)

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  • What I find interesting is the change in attitude to dogs on leashes. When I grew up, there were no leash laws where I lived. There was a law that said a dog unleashed must be on its own property or "under the control of the owner". Dogs could not legally "run at large", although many did. As a teenager I used to walk and train dogs for people. I would often have four or five dogs with me, some or all off leash. I trained them never to cross roads except when at heel, and I had close to 100% compliance. The "untrustworthy" were only allowed off leash in the parks, but I had a core group consisting of a GSD crossbred, a Sheltie, a Golden, and a Greyhound that were solid off leash anywhere. I carried a leash or two but seldom used them. Of course I was more cautious near busy roads, but I had zero incidents with those four over the space of several years.

    At that time, many people walked their dogs off leash, and many left them loose on their properties all day long. We knew the "neighbourhood" dogs, as we would meet them on our walks daily. Not all would stay strictly within their property lines (our Sheltie did), but generally would only stray a few doors away before turning back home. I heard of few hit by car incidents, and only one with a dog I actually knew. This was in the late 1950's. Times have definitely changed! (there were no "stoop & scoop" laws then, either)

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  • The issue as I see it is not how they might react to other dogs or people but whether they will be distracted by creatures and give chase. One of the most common ways to lose a basenji in a metro area is for him/her to be hit by a car while chasing a squirrel or rabbit. A super reliable recall is absolutely necessary.
    Another aspect of training for off-leash is to teach them the same way you would teach loose-leash walking or walking with attention on you. They can look away briefly but must always return attention on you. Lots of treats for this initially. I also act as their advocate and pay attention to possible distractions while walking so that I can redirect their attention to me if necessary ahead of time. In the city I would never let my dogs off leash except in fenced areas.

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  • @eeeefarm said in How did you get your basenji to walk off leash?:

    What I find interesting is the change in attitude to dogs on leashes.

    At that time, many people walked their dogs off leash, and many left them loose on their properties all day long.

    First, and probably foremost, you're a excellent owner. We disagree on a lot of training things (like e-collars) but you are uber responsible.

    On the "in the old days"... I see parents talk about not how they roved the neighborhood or all over small towns and how safe. But I also worked with women over the age of 70 who had been sexually assaulted as children and never reported it. I am not sure kids were massively safer in the good old days except for the fact that back then, your neighbors DID look after your kids... they'd scold them or call you without being fearful of being called meddling... because it was about caring. We've lost that. As for dogs, yep... we're similar aged and I remember my grandmother's farm and the fairly steady stream of new farm dogs because they got killed by wild life/snakes etc or roving dogs. It was business as usual. Dog disappeared or dead-- get another one. I know many still feel that way. Rather have to dogs run free and happy and dead young than "cooped up." Our value for dogs as companions has dramatically changed, and our view of our responsibility for them. We always had cats and dogs who were allowed out, and like you, most stayed on the property. But I remember 3 dogs who didn't (one small, probably stolen) and cats didn't live long. We just took that as the norm. Obviously I have look back at that and am horrified. (Though there was an Irish setter who would NOT stay on his property and if the owners weren't there, he followed me about a mile to my house when I walked home from school. His owners laughed, would come get him when they got home if he didn't go back. I thought that was kewl back then but not so much then.) But my experience, and I lived in a very small town then, and a smallish one now, is very different. Then and now, dead dogs and cats on the road are incredibly common.

    The litmus test is research statistics. Cats who are even allowed out a few hours a day loose have dramatically decreased life spans. I haven't bothered to look about dogs, though a look at shelters should be enough to prove that dogs loose are often dogs lost. The number with electric fence collars demonstrates how ineffective even that is if prey drive kicks in. (for the record, your dog your choice. Loose cats however have an almost unimaginable impact on wildlife, so it IS my business if your cat runs loose.)

    Yep, times have definitely changed.

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