How we got through the first years of "whacko dog" and some tips for you

  • When our cockapoo died after 15 years, my wife wanted a lap dog so I saw an advertisement in craigslist for chihuahua puppies, and even though I do not particularly care for them, my wife was delighted when I brought home this litlle 4 lb 8 week old "chihuahua"!! Right away we noticed that this was a strange dog. It was scared of it's own shadow, it would not make a sound, it would not eat, it would tear up anything it could get it;s razor sharp teeth on and of course it would pop in the house no matter how we tried to house break it. Little by little the dog, now christened "Harry", started to look "not like a "chihuahua" and gained weight so quickly that I was beginning to think that he had a secret stash of cookies hidden somewhere because he certainly wasn't eating anything we gave him. Oh and the lady that sold him to us on craigslist disappeared!! HA!! Harry would not eat, would not let us touch him, would not come into a room if anything was moved out of it's original place, (such as a chair, or ottoman, or wall clock...seriously). Sometimes he would just sit and stare and no amount of calling to him or screaming at him affected him at all. After research we figured out that Harry was "not" a chihuahua but a basenji or a basenji mix...heavy on the basenji. (We also determined he is a bit autistic...and I am not I think maybe some of the people reading this may have a slightly autistic dog also!) So to boil it down: he chewed everything except food. he pooped everywhere except outside. he was standoffish. could not hug him. scared of everything. acted autistic. He doesn't like other people or other animals. he loves to butt bump and sit on you, especially your head (which sucks since he is about 27 lbs), and loves to burrow under covers or anything he can burrow under.
    My wife was at her wits end with him and I was at my wits end with her. She wanted to get rid of him but I figured we should give him a chance or that is to say 100 chances. Well, what I finally figured out was that Harry was first of all "really smart". If i showed him a trick or showed him how to do something, he would do it right off. I also figured out he responded to being spoken to in a very specific way. You couldn't yell or scream or raise your voice at him. That did absolutely nothing. But...if you sat next to him and spoke to him like you were speaking to a little child and let him know how disappointed you were that he just pooped on the floor and that he needs to poop outside because it isn't nice and it upsets daddy.....well then Harry doesn't poop in the house anymore. What we found out was that (as I mentioned earlier) if there was anything changed outside the doggy door then Harry doesn't want to go outside, or should I say he is scared to go outside, and will poop inside. Even after 4 years, he will still do this once in awhile when something outside scares him, such as a tree branch that fell in the backyard, or when I moved a plastic yard chair and forgot to put it back in it's original spot. He always goes up to the doggy door and scours the backyard before he goes out. He will never just go straight out without looking and usually wants me to take him out. He will go to the doggy door, look out, turn around and look at me saying, gonna take me out?,, so then I will get up and he will start jumping up and down with excitement. (btw: he is about 26-28 lbs). We finally got his diet down to duck jerky and peanut butter, and iced tea and an occasional ensure drink. He sometimes eats old dried out chicken but it "has" to be 3-4 days old and dry a a bone. We have tried to get him to eat everything and anything and it boils down to that stuff. (once in a while he will surprise us and take a bite of something we are eating but he will only eat one bite and then once again he is disinterested. (it's so funny watching my wife and I squealing with delight when Harry tries something new as if he was a baby taking his first step or speaking his first word!! Ha!!)
    Anyway, this might work for some, might not for others:
    -talk to your basenji like you would talk with a child. Not baby doggy talk, but be sincere, empathetic and calm. (i would say, "Harry, I am dissapointed that you pooped in the house")
    -don't move stuff around whether it is in your house or outside, and if you do, put it back where it was at.
    -don't let his/her standoffishness hurt your feelings. that is how they are and it is not personal
    -they need love
    Harry went from a destructive , poopy, crazy, scared dog to a scared, smart and loving dog who I have got to admit...everyday is a challenge but fun and wouldn't change the last 4 years!!

  • ps. not sure if this will help anyone, but it did make me feel better getting it off my chest!!

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  • also, i want to add that Harry was crate trained for a while and also exhibited the nasty and infamous basenji chewing up anything not nailed down. We would take him with us in the car when we had to go somewhere like the grocery store or our doctor appt etc., but Harry positively hated to be in a moving vehicle and constantly proved it by puking in the car every time. Every time!! We would make it as comfortable as possible but it would not matter. We started leaving him in his cage but felt so bad about that because we were afrais that if there was a fire he would be trapped so we decided to leave him in the den room the next time we had to go out together. I talked with Harry the night before and told him that tomorrow daddy and mommy had to go bye bye. Man! His ears shot down and he looked like someone had just told him he was a bad boy! I said, "No Harry, you don't have to go, you can stay here." The next day before we left, I sat down with Harry and told him that mommy and daddy were going to the doctor and we would be back and that Harry could stay right here on the couch. we left, came back about 4 hours later fully expecting to find firewood and cotton batting everywhere but all we found was Harry peacefully sitting on the couch and happy as all get out that we were now home. So basenjis can learn not to least Harry has learned. We have left him several times since and he has behaved like a gentlman. Like I said earlier...Harry responds well to sitting down and talking with him rationally.

  • Have you ever tried Stella and Chewy's Dehydrated Raw Diet on Harry? It is a very balanced diet and healthy for a Basenji with lots of protein. Now, you would have to dampen it for him, but I think it is worth a try and it comes in lots of flavors. We have found that our Basenji understands WAY more than you would think and if we tell her what is going to happen, she is usually good with it. And finally, the being startled by ANYTHING out of place is a Basenji thing....if it is in a new place, it is something to be suspicious of. Walking up to the "new thing" with your dog helps...they are very pack oriented, so if the pack is going to investigate, then they figure it is OK to go along, but they will still be wary.

  • You've obviously had a very difficult time these past years. He was obviously not socialised at all and obviously came from an irresponsible breeder. Adding to the fact that you didn't understand him at first probably made matters worse. This is a warning to others not to buy a Basenji 'off the cuff' but to contact a reputable breeder who will have reared her puppies correctly and socialised them well. It sounds as though his fear of outside stems from being confined since babyhood. No wonder the person who sold him to you disappeared!

    In my opinion, it would be better to feed him a more balanced diet. It is never a good idea to encourage Basenjis to eat your food. Mine are fed on raw meat, including some organ meat, and a good organic mixer biscuit. Have you tried to feed him raw? Far better than "everything and anything". Some foods make dogs hyper.

    Best wishes for the future with him. You obviously love him very much.

  • Harold - I got a good chuckle on your Basenji post. I could relate to a lot of your comments. Your baby is lucky to have you as a Basenji parent! I'd love to see a photo of him!

  • Wow, I thought I had a difficult first year! I am so proud of you for being Harry's human hero and giving him many chances. I have read much information about basenjis and I had never heard about not moving furniture. That actually explains a few things to me.
    I have recently thrown my dog for a loop by providing respite to a dog who's owner is in the hospital. It has taken 6 days but they are finally playing rather than just sniffing each other rediculously.

  • Try Harry on some Raw Beef Brisket Bones (RBBB) for his teeth and general diet. One about 50mm (about 2 inches) will keep him quiet but interested, without any residue to come hurtling through a window when mowing. I have to order mine from a local butcher who will cut them to size. Good luck.

  • Harold, I was remiss not to acknowledge your sticking it out and caring for the dog. That is, as others pointed out, wonderful. You also went from really awful training (yelling is not good for any breed) to adjusting to what the dog needs... many people don't have the ability to do that. You tried to understand what he needed, what he responded to, and care for his needs. I deleted my post because it was truly harsh and uncalled for.

    Please do not compare autism to animal behaviors. What you have isn't at all like autism. You have a very fearful and reactive dog. Autism is not some strict set of behaviors, and people with autism do not deserve to be treated like they cannot understand or have emotions. We could very well have autistic members here, and most certainly have members with children or family with autism.

    Allowing the dog to eat what limited food you have allowed is going to kill him. It is utterly unhealthy. In all situations, someone gets trained. It's good he trained you to stop yelling. Not good he's trained you to give him such a horrific diet. I admit to often allowing my dogs to have leeway about a lot of things... so yes 🙂 I sometimes get trained. But other things you have to stand firm on. Healthy nutrition is one of them.

    Tea is toxic to dogs. Small amounts aren't dangerous, but why give a little of what it not good.

    For some really positive training, and easy to understand, obedience lessons are on the left, and problem areas on the right.

    I have a dog that gets diarrhea no matter how little of raw that I feed, and thus far, no research actually supports raw as being better for dogs than quality cooked. But I have used Stella's for dogs and most of them love it. If that doesn't work, pick a good quality kibble, add a little warm water, and do tough love. Put the food down... in 15 minutes put it up. Evening, try again. No snacks, no giving in. Most dogs will not starve themselves to death. Obviously if after 3 or 4 days your dog is eating NOTHING, you may have to try adding something to it. You could put a spoon of peanut butter in hot water and soak the kibble, or grind up a small piece of the duck jerky, soak it then mix with the kibble.

  • @harold said in How we got through the first years of "whacko dog" and some tips for you:

    Thank you for sticking with your pup.... however, many of the things that you describe can be for any pup, not just a Basenji. If you got your pup from a responsible breeder I would think you would not have had many of these issues? Not sure why you are thinking this is a Basenji? Can you post pictures? And I would further guess that he was not 8wks old with the development you are describing. Sounds like he was way younger than that... especially since he came from a craigslist advertisement. Responsible breeders do not sell puppies on craigslist

  • Thanks everyone for the replies: first let me say that we tried every food training trick in the book. Putting food down for approx: 15 to 20 minutes and the picking it up if he hadn't touched it. He would not eat the food. Not even after 3 days. So after a few times doing that and trying every dog food we could find from raw meat to cooked meat to the highest priced dog food to the cheapest we could not get Harry to eat anything except what I mentioned in my post. This was over a period of months.He will go for days and not eat "anything "put before him. Finally we gave in. Yes I know it sounds crazy and irresponsible but we have wasted more food on Harry than we have bought for our own consumption.Harry is not consistent in what he decides to eat. He might decide to eat "A" 3 days in a row and then on the fourth day, he won't go near it. Then he will eat "B" and do that for a day and not again for 3 weeks. Then "A" again for a day and then "C" and the nothing tickles his fancy. Believe me we have done everything but force food down his throat. Also, we never yelled at Harry because of him pooping in the house or anything. What I was trying to say is he will go into these ...I don't know what to call them...fits or something where he will sit down and look at a specific spot on the wall and just stare and nothing affects him. You can scream t the top of your lungs, bang cymbals right next to his head, but he doesn't hear you or see you. It is as though he is not there. This will go on for about 3 to 5 minutes and then "boop" he just snaps out of it and goes about his business as though nothing happened. Which is also why I mentioned autism which is recognized in dogs, as he exhibits many traits such as the one above, not responding to his name, not wanting to cuddle, has to have things orderly like food and toys, and much more strange behavior. Please do not feel I am denigrating anyone with autism. Now I am pushing 60 years old and I have owned dogs all of my life. All of my dogs have been well trained by me and all have had long lives. Harry is the weirdest, strangest, craziest, goofiest dog I have ever had the pleasure of living with. And..he loves taking baths...or at least he is very cool letting me bath him and doesn't give me a hard time. But try to clip his nails and he will rip through the muzzle to bite your face. Anyway.... thanks all for the tips. I will look up the Stellas and see if he will try it.

  • @harold Your Harry has Separation Anxiety. That is part of the Breed profile. RAW food is bad for Dogs because they are Omnivores. Unless you raise your own Bovine and slaughter it yourself the Flesh from those animals is full of Steroids to make them grow fatter. When my little girl had Cancer at the age of 12 I had to Tumor removed and fed her Vegetarian Dog Food. She ate everything except Raisins and Milk Chocolate. She knew not to eat that stuff. I had her until she was 16 years old. Kudos for getting through it all!

  • @harold said in How we got through the first years of "whacko dog" and some tips for you:

    autism which is recognized in dogs

    Harold, it isn't recognized in dogs. It is theorized, but predominately find it is other issues, bad training, fear, anxiety, OCD etc.

    Nothing you described in your dog doesn't fit other issues. (( So to boil it down: he chewed everything except food. he pooped everywhere except outside. he was standoffish. could not hug him. scared of everything. acted autistic. )) He acted like a totally untrained, fearful, unsocialized puppy. Your home-diagnosis of "autistic" when you have almost no background in canine evaluation and behaviorism doesn't equal your dog really being autistic.

    Your dog staring is more like a seizure, btw.

    If your choice is to feed food that is unhealthy. But you could also soak kibble and spoon feed him. It isn't hard, taked 3 or 4 mins to give 10 spoons of mushed dog food. Do twice a day. Or ask the vet for appetite stimulants so he eats. For me, I couldn't bear to give my dog junk that would eventually affect his health.

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  • @debradownsouth I too do research and dogs are Omnivores. As I said unless you raise the Bovine yourself and slaughter it yourself then there are not any steroids or antibiotics in the Flesh. Have you not seen that the overuse of antibiotics due to use in Farm Animals is causing a massive problem because we are becoming Immune to these Drugs. The FDA has a Rule about using antibiotics to feed Livestock but they made it VOLUNTARY.

    I would not feed Raw anything for that reason. Farmed Salmon us not good because investigations have shown Algae Blooms which is a sign of improper maintenance of the Tanks.

    Most of the women in my family are Nurses. I took the route my late Father did. I went to Law School at NYU. I follow the USDA and the DOI because I despise what they are doing to our Animals. USDA has scrubbed its site so there is not a single reference to Horses being Slaughtered in Mexico or Canada. How you could be so lax as to advise feeding RAW Meat is beyond me.

  • Harry's attitude to his food - first eating and then refusing is very similar to my Basenji who has kidney failure - I'm not saying that he has actual kidney disease but other health matters could cause him to be fussy. Have you consulted your vet about his eating habits? I appreciate that you might have already done this and there is no health problem. I hope not anyway.

  • @antigone I note what you say about feeding Basenjis raw and beg to differ. Obviously to each his own and if you believe that meat is dangerous that is your choice. Being omnivores certainly doesn't preclude them from eating their meat raw. I 'm sure that Debra like me is experienced in giving her Basenji raw meat.
    I've owned and bred Basenjis for more than 40 years and fostered them for many, many more. I have always fed them a raw diet (including raw eggs)and have had very few health problems. I am careful to research what I buy. Being a natural primitive breed I am of the strong opinion that they should be fed naturally.
    I'm concerned that people who read what you post take it as fact and feel extremely worried and guilty.

  • my vet has advised the starve until he eats diet which was tried...and why he eats what he eats now. he will not eat if you attempt to force food in his mouth...which has been tried also.

    From petmd:
    Has Autism been Diagnosed in Dogs?
    As early as 1966, veterinarians were talking about the occurrence of autism-like symptoms in dogs. More recently, a presentation at the 2015 American College of Veterinary Behaviorists reported on investigations into tail chasing behavior in Bull Terriers and a possible link to autism

    and please stop talking about autism like it is something that shouldn't be spoken of in public. there is nothing wrong with me saying i think my dog has autism. That is like me not being able to talk about my dog being blind because there might be a sight impaired person reading the Basenji Forum. There is actually no definitive laboratory tests to prove someone (a human or dog) has autism but rather it is through a subjective diagnosis is made based on the examination of behavioral characteristics. They are people like every other people. They just have autism No, I am not saying dogs and people are the same, but the behavioral characteristics can be looked at to compare and see if the dog exhibits signs of autism and not just bad training and fear. As I have stated earlier, I have been a dog owner since I was a child and am now almost 60 years old. Harry is the only dog that I have not been able to train within 30 days. He has been with us 4 years and still exhibits the same traits he did when we first got him except for he has chilled a bit, but the things he does are just too strange. After 4 years you think he would become normalized to my wife's and my routine. I'm just sayin!

  • @harold said in How we got through the first years of "whacko dog" and some tips for you:

    my vet has advised the starve until he eats diet which was tried...and why he eats what he eats now. he will not eat if you attempt to force food in his mouth...which has been tried also.

    You need a new vet.

    From petmd: blah blah blah... <

    As I said, talked about, not diagnosed, period. Not one single study, not one authoritative research calling it "autism". It's a response to people saying "they act like"... and THEN vets/behaviorists pointing out hat the behaviors are better defined as OCD and other issues. You aren't a behaviorist, so lumping your dogs behavior into "autistic" with severe behavior issues is derogatory... that kind of labeling is something the Autistic groups have tried to fight for a very long time. It is derogatory and dehumanizing.

    and please stop talking about autism like it is something that shouldn't be spoken of in public.<

    There is nothing wrong with talking about autism. There is something wrong with someone taking bad behaviors in a dog and calling them autistic. Fighting stereotypes is the opposite of what you did. But go ahead,

    As I have stated earlier, I have been a dog owner since I was a child and am now almost 60 years old. Harry is the only dog that I have not been able to train within 30 days. <

    Actually, you said you went 15 years with no dog, just your wife's bird. You also talked about yelling at the dog. ( You couldn't yell or scream or raise your voice at him.) You also said you got a dog from craig's list ... and took a mixed dog as a chihuahua. IF you had taken that poor baby to a vet immediately, they'd have known if 8 weeks old or, as you probably guessed right, considerably younger. So owning dogs can be like chewing gum, the more you do it doesn't necessarily confer any type of expertise or even much common sense. Who knows how a person with real experience may have made the dog much more secure, using calming signals, widening exposure to new things. You can't fix a fearful temperament, but a knowledgeable dog owner can improve it tremendously.

    Biting isn't uncommon with puppies taken from their litter too young. Fearful behavior is generally genetic. Not knowing how to train a dog who is fearful often feeds into their fears and makes them worse. But whatever.

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