Nipping

Our sweet girl Nala has twice nipped my children and made them cry today alone. It's basically if they get between her and another dog when we are out walking, she is aggressive to other dogs on leash while walking but I couldn't possibly let her off leash as she has no recall whatsoever and will run and run and run which won't end well. I'm unsure at which point I need to start worrying, it's not nice that she hurts the girls although I know there is no malice intended and she just knows what she wants but I find it impossible to train my basenji, she will also nip me if another dog is present and it's so painful. I let her off at the beach but she basically just chases other dogs relentlessly and it becomes embarrassing. My children are 5 and 9 and we adore our Nala but this is starting to get us down. I'm starting to wish we had listened to our breeder when she tried to put us off.

How old is she?
Why didn’t you listen to your breeder? Why did you want a Basenji?

It's called "transferred aggression", and is common if a dog can't get to what it would really like to attack. Teach your children to stay out of range when you approach another dog!! Take charge with your leash and don't allow her to get close enough to you or your kids to bite anyone. Yes, you can do some training to try to sort this, but in the meantime just don't allow it to happen. If you can't manage that with a leash, get a muzzle and make her wear it when you walk. If she really nails somebody you may lose her because there are laws against biting dogs. (my boy had dog aggression issues and if the offending animal came close to us I had to be careful of this very thing.....and my two female Basenjis would attack each other if another dog approached when I was walking and barked at them, so I know about the issue first hand)

It is not just Basenjis that can have this problem. Fortunately they are not big dogs! In the longer term, talk to a trainer and/or animal behaviourist. In my case I didn't often encounter situations that triggered this behaviour, but if it's an every day occurrence you should see what is possible to improve your dog's attitude.

@2baroos she is 16 month old and my first dog. I didn't listen to my breeder because I thought we could manage and I'm sure we will find a solution. We chose a Basenji because we fell in love with the breed, we love her and she entertains us everyday, I know the problem is down to my lack of experience and time but all I wanted is some advice I'm finding other Basenji owners very judgemental and as a result hard to find help.

@eeeefarm thank you for your helpful advice...I'm am going to look into an animal behaviourist and in the meantime consider a muzzle, I'll be honest I'm not entirely comfortable at this idea but it may be better than the alternative. Thanks again.

It does sound like displaced aggression. Can’t get to what she wants so she lashes out. One of my dogs got his foot stuck in a gate and paniced. While I was trying to help him he snapped at me. He wasn’t mad at me but scared/frustrated at the situation. I’m not new to basenjis either, it’s something I’ve had to work with him on. He’s 3 now and much better. How is she in the house? Is it just an issue with other dogs? If she were my dog I’d work on some foundation training and hold off on walks with the kids. It is my experience that many basenjis don’t really care to be friends with every dog they meet. She does need to learn to walk passed them with out reacting, but don’t expect her to like them and want to play.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your breeder was right to be apprehensive as basenjis are not an easy breed. They take an owner who will keep them in check and one that has a sense of humor. I do think the whole “not a first time dog” is stupid. How many labs must one own before they can have the breed they want??

I agree that you should work with a trainer, especially since you are new to dogs. Perhaps one that could come to your house and see her in her element. I also hope your breeder is helping you. It is their duty to help their puppy buyers though this.

Please don’t hesitate to keep posting here and asking for guidance!!

@crazysenji thank you so much for your helpful none judgemental reply....I appreciate this very much indeed. She's fantastic in the house and adores my girls, we love her to bits, they really are a fantastic breed.....outside help is a must I feel so I will research this asap....thank you again really.

My basenji is also aggressive on a leash and it really is her only negative trait. When we first got her, she was very angry (we were not her first house) and she tried to show us she was top dog. She nipped me a few times when she didn't want to do something and ended up in her crate immediately. Now she will put her mouth on my hand as a way of playing or expressing her displeasure but she never bites. As for walking, I have her on an 8ft leash so she can explore once he hit the trails but it is retractable so when we are in the city I keep it short and her close. She has on occasion tried to nip me to get me to drop the leash. I do react quite strongly when it happens. I scoop her up and hold her snout shut and (without blocking her nose of course) tell her no very sternly. I will stand there until she stops squirming. If she tries pulling again when I put her down, I scoop her up again right away and will either stand and wait or carry her and walk until she settles again. When I can put her down and she behaves, then I give her tons of praise and let her know we are still friends. She really dislikes being reprimanded and responds more strongly to praise. I find she very rarely nips now. She will still try and pull towards another dog to attack but I keep her back and give a firm no. I also let the other dog owners know she is not friendly on a leash and ask them to keep their dog away. Having said all this, she is fine at the dog park. She will run and play to her hearts content. I just have to watch her around fluffy white dogs. This is my first basenji and quite frankly she is like no other dog I have ever met. Being a newbie isn't a detriment!

It is indeed a transference issue and other breeds are also prone to it. please don't blame yourself for not being 'put off'. Until the issue is resolved please make sure your children are out of her reach when she meets another dog. Does she nip you as well under the same circumstances? Quite possibly so. I've had some Basenjis which had the sweetest temperament and not aggressive to other dogs and yet have had them turn on each other if they're leashed and unable to reach their goal (a prey animal for example) so don't blame Nala. Under those circumstances I make sure that they are held apart from each other. I'm a bit wary of muzzles because in some ways it can make them worse but if you think it will set your mind at rest use one if you think best. As a matter of interest I prefer an owner who has never had a dog before because they don't come with preconceived ideas as to how a Basenji should behave or be handled. I hope you get her to a point where you can really enjoy her in every way.

@_neekko_ We just got our first besenji, not our first dog, and she is extremely nippy. she is 13 weeks old and is extremely stubborn. I'm sorry that you find other basenji owners judgemental that can be very hard when looking for help. Wish you the best of luck!

My advise would be that your dog isn't dog friendly and that's ok. You have to accept that and work with it. An off leash dog beach is not where she belongs if she doesn't like other dogs. It isn't fair to the other people and other dogs to have her there, and it doesn't sound like she likes it very much either.
Definitely get a trainer to work on leash agression, but for now try to avoid situations that set her off. Try to walk in areas with fewer dogs, and teach your children to give her space when she's agitated.
Give other dogs a wide berth, or reverse your course when you see other dogs so you're not putting her over her tolerance threshold every time you go out. Stay at a more manageable distance, and stay calm and out of her way if she does react.
If you start to freak out she's going to freak out more. If you try to calm and reassure her she's probably interpreting this as you telling her that her current behavior is exactly what you want her to do. I'd just avoid putting her in that situation to begin with and ignore her if she does begin to react until you get a professional in to assess the behavior and tell you what your next step should be.

I would also suggest that you take you take her to a trainer. I took my basenji to Doggie School 12 years ago when she was 6 months old.- which was great. We did "meet and greets" and other activities with other dogs on leash and it was extremely helpful. My basenji did great at dog school and I found the whole experience to be benneficial to dog and owner. We never had any issues walking her until about 4 years ago. My husband was walking our basenji on leash and as he came around a building, another dog - a big black lab (not on leash) brutally attacked our dog. Since that encounter, my basenji was traumatized and is now "on guard and ready to attack" with other dogs. If I now encounter another dog while walking my basenji, I either pick her up or cross the street. She is still very friendly with other people but is in "defense mode" with other dogs. Since your dog is still young, a professional trainer would be best. Patience along with positive reinforcement and consistency goes a long way with basenjis.

@_neekko_ I had the same problem with my Dog. I would walk her on leash & harness to prevent her from getting free. This was for HER protection as people would let their dogs run free despite the Leash Law. I would see a bigger dog coming toward us and I would scoop her up and hold her against my chest as the big dog would jump on me and I would fall holding my Dog. You just have to be one step ahead of her. Basenjis are pack animals and as she grows older she will be protecting your kids instead of aggressing against them. I have no doubt that you have a good Dog you just have to watch her and your kids. I do not believe in any form of Behaviorism. Behaviorists are Psychologists who were not smart enough to get into Med School and become Psychiatrists. Sorry, but behaviorism is a 'pseudo-science' where the subject is basically manipulated and forced into submission. Very dangerous for Animals, especially Dogs and Horses.

@antigone
Agree with your comment on "behaviorist"!

@ember-the-basenji
What is it about white fluffy dogs my Basenji doesn’t like them either

hello and thanks for sharing with us. I think that the issue is a general, putting boundaries for the dog. I recommend you will start with the basics, which are teaching the word 'no', 'sit', 'come', and crate training(!!!)
There are a lot of lectures on the internet and books. I could have recommended a lecture series, a book which I found by accident and helped me a lot and some toys, but from my past experience, people are sometimes paranoid and accused me of advertising, even I have totally no interest in getting any benefit, whatsoever from my dogs or experience. It was much better to train the dog earlier, but nothing is too late, just little more difficult and require longer time.
from the other side, you took a responsibility when bringing a dog, and should take responsibility for the not-best start. The good thing that training a dog is easy! you need to be patient and consistent. Very consistent. A no is a no. once she will know that, things will be easier. Btw - the training of no, and when you put a boundary never have 'discounts'. I would have recommended not to start on difficult issues, but just pick someplace, a room or a bed to practice it on her. its not so 'personal' and difficult behavior 'no' to her.

last edited by mshilo

@_neekko_ You need to research and read and research and read again and again. Basenji's are so special you cannot compare them with any other breed. You need to be at least half a smart as they are and two steps ahead and understanding this will help you. My George is 7 now and He's been in the family since he was 10 months old. I was lucky to have another dog, labrador, lurcher who taught George manners and socialising and as Hector was a gentle dog this helped. but even now recall can be difficult as George is such a foody I have to bribe him to come back but if he's found food...no way. Picnics are a nightmare as he will see & smell one from the moment we get to the park & before he gets out of the car. With this in mind I have to scan the park first before I let him off the lead, if I let him off. Hector passed last September and George has become closer to me and life is easier but I still keep learning all I can. You may find your Basenji hard work to start with but believe me eventually you'll have the most wonderful, loving, amusing, crazy dog ever. Good luck

@_neekko_ said in Nipping:

Our sweet girl Nala has twice nipped my children and made them cry today alone. It's basically if they get between her and another dog when we are out walking, she is aggressive to other dogs on leash while walking but I couldn't possibly let her off leash as she has no recall whatsoever and will run and run and run which won't end well. I'm unsure at which point I need to start worrying, it's not nice that she hurts the girls although I know there is no malice intended and she just knows what she wants but I find it impossible to train my basenji, she will also nip me if another dog is present and it's so painful. I let her off at the beach but she basically just chases other dogs relentlessly and it becomes embarrassing. My children are 5 and 9 and we adore our Nala but this is starting to get us down. I'm starting to wish we had listened to our breeder when she tried to put us off.

Okay, so without being there to witness it, no one can say for sure it's transferred aggression, but I'd bet on it. As eeeefarm said, teach your children to stay out of her zone. That keeps them safe. A muzzle keeps other dogs safe.. or people who might get in the bite zone.

Basenjis are often dog aggressive. You didn't cause it, but the breeder should have made sure you understood. If any blame, it goes on the breeder for placing a puppy with a first time owner she felt she needed to try to dissuade. She was the one responsible for her puppies, she didn't have to let you have her, and that's on her.

I disagree with several posters who say basenjis are different from any other breed. Nah. They have common quirks, but nothing about them isn't also common in a lot of other breeds. Almost every breed has a general collection of behaviors that are unique package... but the individual ones, no. Dog aggression, animal aggression, same sex aggression, opposite sex aggression, it isn't uncommon. You just learn how to manage it so everyone is safe.

You are trying to get help, and you aren't making excuses. Yep I'm judging you... my verdict is you are a person trying your best. (( hugs ))

Your children are old enough to get involved with training. There are millions of books, videos and articles. I like Mary's because she is so clear and easy, and most things you need to address are there. Working on obedience will improve your dog's confidence, and your children's relationship with her. Teaching her a "leave it" or "look at me" command, working on it several times a day for a few minutes until you have a 100 percent response. Work through all the lessons away from other animals.

http://www.clickerlessons.com/index.htm Note, basic obedience on the left... issues on the right. Mary is wonderful, you can write her for help if anything on her page isn't clear.

Teaching your dog to wear a muzzle isn't on her page, so hopefully someone here has instructions. Here in Israel, muzzling for public transportation is usually required and we use nice comfortable basket muzzles. If you can get a trainer to help you find and fit one for your dog, or if someone here with more experience can recommend, hopefully they will. I know that my basenji can come out of ANY muzzle we have used, even the vet's office muzzles, if she wants to and I'm not paying attention.

Karen Pryor's page is probably excellent but I am sure there are better ones that are more to the point.
https://clickertraining.com/muzzles

@_neekko_ My girl nips occasionally, deliberately, but without malice... in the same way as she's scratching an itch and gets too close to the skin. Sometimes it bruises - and it would be really alarming for a child to go through that. I just say "ouch!" and rub the spot. She's done this 3 or 4 times. It's been quite a while since the last time. It would probably be difficult for a young child to be able to control their reaction, but if you can teach her by reacting (calmly and without much ado) that it's not fun for you... maybe it would help train her to stop. Maybe?

That said, I get that you think the nips are a reaction to outside stimuli... my only advise on that is for you to practice walking her (alone) with confidence and control. Focus on acheiving successful solo walks. If nothing else, it will give you a chance to observe your dogs reactions. Maybe your dog is stressed out because she perceives danger for your children and she feels like she has to protect them. (If the kids aren't there, is she still acting the same way?) Maybe your dog is anxious because of bad interactions with other dogs. (Is she still having issues even when it's just you and her?) Give her a lot of positive reinforcement (treats and praise) each time she passes a dog without a negative reaction.

Last idea: help your girls mend any anxiety they may have regarding the nips... smear a dab of peanut butter on the palm of their hands and offer the treat (one at a time). While your dog is slobbering all over your girls, get them to tell her what a good girl she is and give her lots of belly rubs after the gigglefest subsides.

I hope we get to hear more about what you tried and how it worked. 🙂

@ceecee My Dog packed with older well-trained dogs for a full month when I took my vacation. Basenjis indeed are special and require a ton of patience. I knew they were House Destructive but my little homewrecker chewed on everything. I was on the Telephone and she was laying next to my feet. All of a sudden the call was dropped. I looked down and she 'Flipped' the phone cord as if to say 'Look what I did!'. She also climbed a tree at the Horse Farm which was ok because that is what they do when being used for Hunting. She was not very high up because I could climb up there with her. She did not want to come down and it took a group of us to bribe her with treats!

She was never in any danger, she climbed the Bookcases in my Home but I got her to stop that by taking her off and saying no, She would rather die than negotiate. Food was always a motivator and she never had a hungry day in her life! It will be 4 years since I lost her and I miss her every day. I rescued 2 Senior Cats from Death Row in New York City. They came from the same home but hate each other. They are good company but they will never be a replacement for my dog.

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