Weaned too early, no contact with dam

A snapping example - we leash her to go outside. Unleashing her is normally simple. Sometimes she will bite or snap at us while we try to remove the leash. Then she will follow upstairs nipping at our feet, or clothes, tearing them in the process.
There does not seem to be a trigger we can figure out.
Our last dog was a smooth fox terrier - almost basenji like. Highly intelligent and independent.
This basenji is often in our lap, and is very loving normally. She has learned many things, like sit, lay down, stand, wait.... She will actually play fetch and drop the toy for us to throw again. We can take food and chew things out of her mouth with little issue.
We are hoping for some specific tips to replace what the dam did not instill in her. She does not have any manners. She will bite harder each time until she draws blood. No noise we make seems to make her understand it hurts. She does not seem concerned that we are in pain.
As the example shows, she is usually great, but something in her mind snaps where she will not allow any contact, and will attack. If this was every time, we could try to find a cause, but the randomness of the breakdown is very confusing. Nothing changes, same leash, same location, etc.
Our trainer seems familiar, but how do yo know? She could google their traits just like I can. She seems very skilled. But she and our vet both agree being without the mother is incredibly damaging.

“Nothing changes, same leash, same location, etc.” What changes is her state of mind. The scenario you describe has three possibilities.

  1. She is in a fearful or aggressive state of mind when you go to take the leash off. To alter that you have to first learn to recognize and understand the signs she is in that state of mind.
  2. She is in a playful state of mind and considers this fun. In which case, if you then go up the stairs and make yelping noises, she may consider it a great game.
  3. She considers herself the leader and you the easy push over that she can manipulate.

Which it is, I don’t know without seeing it in person. No other possibilities spring to mind.

Basenjis are an unusual breed, but more importantly they range from easy going to incredibly challenging.

I would start with at least five miles of walks each day, short leash and with you in full control. Preferably at least three walks, morning noon and evening.

Dagodingo has the nub. A tired Basenji, is a good Basenji. Do not exercise her though, to the extent she is bone weary - it is not good for a pup to undergo forced exercise. Exercise frequently should do it, then she will used to giving up the check chain, without biting.
A person I know sometimes chastises her pups by grabbing each side of their neck and vigourously, but carefully, shake them with a NO in their face. Just like her mother would do.
Good luck.

@takoda said in Weaned too early, no contact with dam:

'Breeder' stated she did not know how long before she weaned the puppies.

You put 'breeder' in quotation marks. Indeed a 'breeder' not a real knowledgeable breeder. More like a puppy farmer.

Yes to exercise, but not too much. A pup should only get gentle exercise until the bones and muscles are firmed up.

Try ignoring her when she is having a hissy fit. Sometimes it is only attention seeking. I like Redial's suggestion of chastising her like her dam would have done. You aare going to have to reinforce good behaviour (mostly with voice and cuddles but also with (rare) treats) and let her know you are unimpressed by biting and that that will get her nothing, not even attention.

Try to find a trainer who has experience with Basenjis - Google can give you generalities but experience is better than reading.

last edited by Zande

Don't allow the biting. When she does it, make her stop. A gentle but firm "bear hug" to restrain her should work. If she struggles and tries to bite, hold on until she quits it, then release with praise. She may immediately bite again. Repeat until she gives it up. Her mother would not allow biting to go on, neither should you. It is unacceptable, and she needs to know that. In my experience, "yelping" or indicating pain vocally encourages the behaviour in some dogs. Think "squeaky toy"!

Considering what happened to her at such an early age, it is entirely possible that there was some brain damage and you may never know the triggers.... as a rule and as a breeder in the breed for 30+ years, typically Basenji's do not have what many refer to as a runt only give more indication to a "puppy farmer/BYB/Puppy Mill".

Thank you ALL so much. By not having a mother, she missed out on critical training, even protection from attacks by the litter. I had a litter at home once, and the mother would remove the runt to feed her separately.
We are sure this damaged her.
The day we picked her up when we put on the collar was scary. The attack by the other 4 was vicious and she was dragged through the pen.
We do not believe she ever left the pen until we took her home at 9 weeks.
This runt was 5.2 pounds at 8.5 weeks.
We do not have the tools or the emotional strength to solve this, and the breeder found another home for her. In 62 years, both of us have loved our furry friends to the last day, and this is the most devastating decision we have ever made.
This forum helped us quite a lot in making the decision to get a Basenji, but we did not know the history of this little girl and the parents. Had we known of the c-section, the 11 year old sire with a tick born disease, with no mother or socialization we probably would have backed out. This is incredibly painful, and we pray the next family can help her.
Thanks to everyone here for trying so hard to help us. You did help us make this decision.
You can see the size of their heads, we got the small one.

@takoda Frankly I think you have made the right choice, even though I can appreciate it is a hard choice. The “breeder” is not a reputable breeder, which is why due diligence is everything when choosing a Basenji, or any animal.

Don’t let it put you off and if you want a good dog my advice is find a good breeder and look for a 1-2 year old.

I find it ironic that 1-2 year old dogs are sometimes looked at as “used” and are usually a little cheaper. No potty training or accidents, past the chewing destructive stage, already have their personality so you can decide if they will be a good fit in your home. Not to mention all the first shots done and usually much more socially stable.

In reality, I would much rather pay twice the price for a one year old. And they are easier to find.

@takoda - Again as a breeder, I would not consider that pup what you refer to as a runt, could be she was conceived later than the others depending on how many times the bitch was bred. Could be that because of the sibs, she was not getting enough food.... But in the end you will never know. In all honesty I would not let the original so called breeder take her back to place, but again in the end it is your choice and agree that if I knew the circumstances I would have declined also. Instead of giving her back to the breeder, have you considered BRAT?

I'm sorry about all you are going through with the puppy. A good breeder will give advice for the life of the pup and will accept a puppy back at any time. If you decide to relinquish the pup, then by all means - contact your breeder first. ( It may even be a contractual obligation on your part.)

We did our best in evaluating, even read many posts by this breeder here. She is very knowledgeable, thoughtful and intelligent and we respected her. That is why we do not want to out her here.
There were life reasons why the c-section was done that we understood, even though we disapprove.
Since it was c-section, they all were born the same time, so the much smaller size is anyone's guess, perhaps the conception date?
I say runt only to describe what is clearly a much smaller dog.

When we got home we learned her eating habits were odd. She grabbed all she could fit in her mouth and find a quiet space to eat alone. We think she had to do that because the much larger pups must have harassed her. They certainly did while we visited.
She is going directly to a new home, found by the breeder. We have a contract, and even with all of the lies and deceit we are honest people. Except for the contract we would have contacted brat.
We do not know what our future holds in respect to a furry friend. Now is not the time to decide anything, but the idea of an older dog is possible.
Again, We thank everyone for the tips and comments. This is a powerful forum.

@takoda I was wondering how are you putting the collar on her. Are you reaching over her head to buckle the collar and put the leash on. Some basenjis get very nervous when a person leans over them and then goes over top of their head. It is a very dominate posture to our breed. You might want to try attaching the leash to the collar first then have her come to you while you are sitting and then come up with the collar from the front underneath her neck and put the collar on that way because she might feel a little more secure. To me this sound like a normal puppy. Some of them no matter how they are raised can be fearful at this age. On like other breeds Basenjis go through a lot more fear periods then other dog. This is what has kept them alive in the jungle for so long. You have to realize for a little basenji puppy if they are going to get eaten from something bigger it will be coming in and grabbing them by the back or neck before killing them. So I hope this explains a little on why your puppy is acting the way she is. The Basenji is still a primitive breed and not like other dogs, so in training you need to take this into consideration.

As I said previously, it is terrific how this community makes every attempt to help. It is with a broken heart that we are returning this puppy.
As to the leash - 90% of the time this puppy is delightful. She pees 16 times a day at 3 months old. Maybe a handful of times she aggressively attacks our hands while unleashing. I walk her outside, take her to the second step upstairs for a better reach to the leash and do the same thing every time. If it was every time or the majority I would agree it is a defensive mindset. It is a small part of the time she just snaps.
Yesterday we were sitting on our deck. She went over under my wife's chair and sat calmly. She then reached up to bite the inside of her leg, and chased her around the deck trying to continue the biting. This should not be normal behavior and is not acceptable in our lives.

Hello, this is such a sad situation, both for you and the little Basenji girl. Let me tell you, it takes special people to have a Basenji...my story was that rescued my boy from a Basenji rescue, he was 1 1/2 years old, seemed pretty normal until I got him home. I had another Basenji at the time, from the same rescue. The behavior you describe is almost identical to my boy...oMG it took 2 years to turn this little guys head around to trusting me or anything/or anyone! It was like a switch would flip on and he became a lethal weapon!! I did learn that sometimes the food we give our B's is not correct for them and I had to test different "grain free" foods on him. I now found a great freeze dry food by Dr. Marty's, on line only and quite expensive. Anyways, all my patience has been a huge reward! My other girl passed away 1 1/2 years ago at 18...and now I have only my boy, he is now 11yrs, and OMG what a great boy he is...but it did not come easy for me and he attack and bit me so many times. So...as others have said, these kids come with their own set of rules...it is our responsibility to help them figure things out if they are going to be a house companion. I am so sorry you could not find the right trainer ( i am one) that could have been familiar with this breed...I truly hope this little girl finds a home soon. 🙂

Thank you so much.
I know everyone knows how devastating it is to send a beautiful creature back. She is impossible to say goodbye to and impossible to keep.
Comments like this help quite a lot. You helped us make the right choice. We are not trainers and we are not equipped for the probably long and hard process to help her.
it is so sad that even this process of return can be made hard.


I totally agree with you regarding this breeder - something has gone badly wrong when a litter terrifies its sibling, The fact that it was small does not mean that the rest will gang up on it. In those circumstances I would not even have the pup leave home unless it was to a very experienced Basenji owner and I would have been in constant touch.

It is very hard to let this puppy go and I do sympathise with you, Takoda but I would never let it go back to its breeder, contract or no contract. I obviously have no experience with BRAT, but from what I have learnt from others, they would have been an excellent choice. A puppy should never be willingly passed from hand to hand like this. If this puppy were my own I couldn't be more worried than I am now.

I deleted my original post bc I did not want anything to interfere with the transfer of the puppy back to the breeder. Now that I know the breeder, out of respect to both parties, I will say only this, though I have a lot to say through the experience as a breeder of thirty plus year.... There are two sides to every story, before jumping to conclusions based upon one side, please, do your homework, find out who the breeder is, and give the breeder the opportunity to rectify the situation. BRAT is for rescue, a responsible breeder will take their puppy back as this one has.

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