• Let me preface this that my dog is a shelter dog we have had for 9 months and he is almost 2 years old. He is a mix, but he has that the Basenji look and behavioral qualities. He has the size, markings, the curled tail, yodels and doesn't bark often, loves to chase squirrels, energetic, learns quickly but can be stubborn to obey, etc....

    In the last 9 months he has nipped 4 people and recently bit a person and broke the skin and left a wound. He is the sweetest dog...almost a lap dog. He is great with kids and 99% of the people he meets. You would never guess he had this behavior in him.

    The people he nipped:

    • 3 were sales guys going door to door....1 approached us in the front yard, 2 came to the door where he slipped out and tagged them
    • 1 was a female neighbor he has met before just coming back from a run
    • 1 was a teenager running up to the neighbors door

    The person he bit:

    • was just walking by in public, but approached him from his backside. My 9 year old him on a leash.

    So can anybody shed some light on this type of behavior from a Basenji perspective? I know, it might be the other part of him or something from his youth, but i thought I would start here.

    We love our dog and he is a family dog, but it sucks having to be so alert especially when my kids are manning the leash.
    He seems to really respect my wife and I. We think he thinks my 12 year old is his brother because he likes to growl and mouth him (trying to break him of that) very aggressively but never bites down on him. My 9 year old gets no respect....he typically just ignores most of his request. We say he tolerates him : ).

    Any insight before we see a behaviorist (per the vet) is appreciated.


  • MN Basenjis

    My Basenji, Finnegan.. When he was younger was like that.. He just needs more time hanging out with people. They are shy as you know. Sometimes confidence and they just don't know what to do in situations. They just panic.. I always have treats near and have it ready near the door. The new person can hand them out at dog level. Your doggie just take time, a rescue.. Heck it's scary for this breed.

  • MN Basenjis

    I meant to say lacking confidence...
    And you need to have talk with your kiddo. Have treats in your own pocket on a walk.Then sit in the park, and talk to your little kiddo.

  • I've had dogs bite people but it was usually a really stupid move on the person's part. Once a friend's son, who we told to be careful around the dogs, pounded on a male when he was fast asleep. The dog shot straight up in the air and latched on to his hand, before figuring out where he was and who he was biting and released.

    You might have different issues. The sales/strangers seems protective. The runners might be a herding instinct. I've had friends who had dogs which nipped people running. Wasn't an intent to injure. Not being there and seeing the action makes it hard to tell.

    Never had one who would affirmatively go after someone. Haven't seen others do this either. The aggressive behavior is always when they are startled or feel trapped or threatened. I'm sure that one suggestion will be to see if you can have strangers give him treats so he associates them as being a trusted food source.

    That said, I would make sure the dog didn't slip out when the door was open. That you can control.

  • Ouch. First bite and the dog should have been allowed out only with an adult and with a muzzle. That he has bitten 5 times and someone hasn't sued you, or the local authorities label him a dangerous dog. Homeowner cancellation or massive increase is also a concern.

    For now, I agree with Don... end the door rush. Before you open a door, he's either crated, leashed, or locked in another room with the door closed.
    Walks only with a muzzle on, with an adult holding the leash.

    Ignoring your youngest? Make him the one and only giver of food, treats etc. Make him do tricks for said food. Tell him to sit, wait however long it takes. He keeps ignoring... put the food up; try again next meal time. It won't take long for him to see your child as worthy of obeying. Once that's down good, start letting the older child do part of the feeding. If you let him loose in a yard, the kids control that also.

    As to why he's doing it--- no idea without evaluating the dog. Could be fear, could be protection, could be a lot of things. Could be vision or hearing. Could be thyroid causing aggression. Ask your vet to check for these. If his health is fine, then it may be maturity hitting and showing adult characteristics that you need to quickly fade as possible. Sit in the park and let people run by tossing a treat. Let them start further back, move closer.

    And see the behaviorist.

    Oh, and share pictures. )) As for the other part of him, a DNA test might help.

  • I adopted my guy when he was 1 1/2 and believe me he was a problem. He is however, the true Basenji African not American decent. It took alot of trials and learning on my part for gaining his trust and letting him know I was in charge! Listen, he attack me more times than I care to recall, and have the scars to show for it. Here are some clues I have learned along the way for most Basenji's...food is really important..no wheat, corn or soy at all...many Basenji's are highly allergic and they actually get a very pink tummy on their under side, and treats are the same. Some meats are too high in protein, for my boy I get organic white chicken breast and cook them in the oven and use in his dry food. The dry food i use is called Wild Feast Grain Free. No grains, soy, wheat or oats! Yep...my boy has not always been the most friendly guy you would meet, but now as he has gotten older, now 11, he is/has been a great boy! Personally I believe it takes special humans to have a Basenji...no other like them!

  • take him to an obedience class. For you and him. You will get to know him more, and what he (wants) to do for you. It will help in the socialisation, and meeting new people and dogs. Keep going and you will have a friend for life.

  • Agree with Debra. To add: our Lela has the same issues to a lesser extent. Recently we took her to a holostic therapist who looked at her from a TCM-perspective (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and without knowing the dog or the question, she nailed the issue instantly. TCM works with the elements - Lela is a Water-dog (basic emotion = fear); if Water is out of balance, the element that is supported by Water, Wood, becomes weaker. The Wood emotion is anger. Add both, and you get a 'fear biter'. To a certain extent you can compensate the issue with sensible behaviour (see reply Debra).

  • It's very frightening when your dog bites someone. Trust me I know. We got our Bolt at 6.5 years old. A return to the breeder for 'bone aggression'. I'm not a trainer, or animal behaorialist, but we have been dealing with a biting dog as well. Things I've learned. I walk the dog for the most part. I should also interject, I am alpha, but when we got the dog, I was grieving the loss of my beloved 16.5 y/o boy, and I was not acting like an alpha. This led to some confusion for the poor dog. Bolt and I bonded, however, it led to some very interesting behavior. He would not let my husband get into bed. We sorted this out when Bolt was made to get out of bed when my husband came into the room. My husband then invited the dog into bed with us and then given a few obedience commands, with treats. We thought everything was under control until we went to our summer camp. We quickly discovered he didn't like other dogs, besides our mellow female. We had his thyroid checked with Jean Dodds, DMV. They do a thyroid specific to your dog breed. Not the problem it seems. Clearly I was in over my head and required more research. Found that Bolt resource guarded me. This is a very specific behavior. No one can approach me when the dog is near me, or if he thinks they mean harm to me, ANYONE.That means NO ONE can approach me when I'm walking the dog. I use my feet to gently guide Bolt behind my legs, so I am between the person and the dog. I tell people not the pet the dog. I try to be aware of my surrounds, i.e., people, dogs, kids on bikes, etc. The thing that we have learned though, he reacts to things usually with a bite. So we just don't trust him with anyone but our immediate family. If someone comes to visit, I have treats by the door so the dog associates, good things happen when people come.. But you may need to crate the dog as someone suggested, or put him in another room. If this is resource guarding, there are some great articles on the Internet. Please keep us posted.

  • Thanks everybody for the insight. Still can’t believe our sweet little dog that curls up with us, has it in him to bite somebody. The more I read, the more I believe that this is fear related founded or not. Our vet recommended a behaviorist, so we might go that route. We did already do some formal training, but that was just a Petsmart class. It was more for the benefit of our kids but he was in a unusual social environment and did so well....better than all the dogs In the class.

    We will keep working on this.


    • J

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