Fearful pup

No, assuming backyard breeder since there were no contracts, chip, tattoo, breeder contact info, vet history ect...
person I got him from was told he’d never seen a vet, no vaccine history ect (and they didn’t take him either giving him his first shot himself)

Before I got him he’d never seen a vet, judging by his reaction to grass possibly never saw that (concrete possibly IF he’s ever been outside) never been walked on leash, spent his time locked in a laundry room and prior to that was apparently kept gated in a 5th floor apartment kitchen...doubt he got much socialization with visitors...

And judging by the length of his nails when I got him I’m not sure if they have EVER been clipped...
His first owner got him at 6 weeks, sold him at 10 weeks, 2nd owner kept him just about 3 weeks before deciding he was “too much” and “not what he expected” (he thought he’d be like his last dog who was a jack russel x chihuahua)...
I’ve had him just about 3 1/2 weeks, in that Time he’s proven to be incredibly smart and eager to learn...(he’s picked up sit down off spin, paw, sit pretty, leave it and is doing well with potty training) just realy struggling with those sudden bouts of extreme fear sending him bolting for cover or leaving him crying...
He gets so stressed that even if he can’t run he’s too stressed to take treats and just cry’s...

I spend so much time outdoors in the summer that id want him to join me for (especially given he stresses when alone too) but he’s so uncomfortable outdoors he’d be miserable right now....

You sound like you may be up to the job, he sounds fearful which may well be because of his prior experiences. A thunder shirt might help and is at least worth trying.

Exercise will help but obviously sounds like you will need to limit and be careful with it. A short leash and let him know that you lead and are in control.

“It breaks my heart to see him suddenly look so terrified”

Don’t let it, he will feed off your emotion. If you anticipate something it will likely happen and you will have a feedback loop. I know it’s very easy to say this and much harder to achieve it.

The treats will work but not when he is in a high state of anxiety or excitement. When they are like that the #1 thing that helps is distraction.

The longer you have him, the more he will look to you for leadership and trust you. It’s likely to take a while.

last edited by Dagodingo

@wyldepaws Just to add, when I got my current basenji he was a return. The prior owner said he was aggressive lol, nothing could be further from the truth.

However looking back he did have some problems, he doesn’t like loud noises although that has become better with time. He was nine months when I got him and is six years old now. It took time with the nail clipping as he would panic and struggle. I lay him on his back in a chair on my left side / lap. Then I do them with a Dremmel on low speed, he doesn’t like it but he doesn’t freak out. When he gets agitated, which is usually the third paw, I take a break and talk to him calmly / soothing, but I don’t let him go. He also knows a special food reward is coming after they are done. In fact he licks my face sometimes which distracts him lol. We have got to the stage where he doesn’t like it but it’s not a big deal anymore.

When he freaked about a loud noise I would ignore it and try to distract him. Also I would speak in a curious voice or happy voice to him and laugh, which helped. It’s counter intuitive I know but it lets him know that I am not worried about things. The less I reacted and made it no big deal, the more tolerant he became to noise.

A really good way to gauge the fear is the eyes and ears. If he is very fearful his pupils will be dilated and be huge, the ears will be back or down.

It is good that he reacts by running away, some dogs react with aggression and that is far harder to deal with.

Somehow, you are going to have to bolster his confidence - A great deal of the time YOU spend outdoors will have to be spent with him. Lying in the grass and playing, or just stroking him until he gets used to it, walking with him, to start with on a short lead and then on a longer one while you encourage him to sniff and explore.

Watch his eyes and try to avoid the situations which cause him most fear. Gentle voice encouragement all the time - but also watch the fur along his back, when that rises - diffuse the situation immediately.

Time, and effort on your part, and you'll convince him he is safe with you and can really relax and enjoy life.

Good luck.

last edited by Zande

Thanks guys, his responce is never to bristle...
Just cry and or run so my usual responce is to just tell him to “let’s go” in an upbeat tone and keep moving rather than to let him focus on whatever’s got him spooked when we’re walking
Loud rumbling vehicles and seeing people at any distance on walks tend to get him into stop and then spook mode...

In the yard I just try and ignore his freak out moments and then make happy fun time when hes “brave”

So it’s good to know that I’m generallybon the right track using the “act confident” and “don’t reinforce the fear” stuff

I just wasn’t sure given how unique the breed is if I should be taking different steps compared to working with other breeds

@wyldepaws Sounds like you have a good grasp of things. Keeping moving forwards is a great tactic. What you describe is typical of some Basenjis, they just need to build confidence over time.

Plus some things spook out every basenji on occasion. It’s the “what the heck is that” moment. My first Basenji was supremely confident and very rarely spooked. However one day we parked the car down the side of the house / in the back yard because of driveway maintenance. I let him out and he immediately stopped and stiffened, didn’t like it at all lol. He then stealthy crept slowly across the garden watching it very closely.

I got some garden stands for growing tomatoes one time and assembled them in the kitchen. My second Basenji came racing around the corner, skidded to a stop when she saw them and shot off lol.

They are very clever and observant dogs and notice even small changes.

@wyldepaws
It's always good to read about dogs with issues getting into the right home. 🙂 You are most certainly doing things right.

So this is a 3rd home and a lot of continual changes. The goal is to make experiences positive. I suggest one thing at a time, building on what you are already doing. I wouldn't wait for a noise to be over to cheerfully say "good noise" so he knows it's the bark/car/other loud noises that you like, not their stopping.

  1. Start SLOW, break it down. First is the collar/halter issues. It helps if you have a harness that needs minimal fussing with-- over his head, legs in, snap shut. If you have someone to help, pick him up and do it so he can't fight much. If not, don't bother with treats... use praise and a very matter-of-fact tone. I would spend 3 or 4 days putting it on him, "GOOD BOY".. take it off. Do it every hour or 2. He'll eventually get bored of the energy expenditure and accept the reality.

2, Since being outside is important for you, and it's good for him, that might be a good place to start teaching him that you are the giver of good stuff.

At what point does he stress about outside? Once you are out the door, or going to it?

If he's anticipating and stresses once you put a leash on him, put a leash on and walk around the house. Sit in different rooms, pet, up talk, after no more than 10 mins, treat and let go.
Do this until he's comfortable, then have a chair near the door and make that your final stop.

Once comfortable with that, open the door and look out with him. Next step is sitting a chair outside. Then sitting the chair in the grass outside. Treats and praise. Next walk him to the road, come back, sit in the chair, pet and praise, go in and remove the harness. Slowly extend the distance.

Note on nails... Dremels are great, but I'd start with one toe at a time. If you do one every few hours, you can get one paw done the first day; 2nd day do 2 nails each time. By the 3rd day the nails will be done. Soon you'll be able to do all of them at once. Or not. Sadly there are some dogs for whom doing nails is a fight to the death. If all else fails, just pay the vet's office to do them, or cut holes in a pillow case like they do cats, drop him in it and hold in air so he can't move and do one foot at a time.

@wyldepaws it’s worth a thought too that he has been bounced around a bit. So in his mind he may well believe he will be somewhere else soon. Once he realizes that he is with you for keeps, he will trust you more.

Mine was with the breeder, then the purchaser, then the co breeder because of logistics. Then at nine months he came with me. I know he was upset and anxious when we picked him up from the co breeder. We stopped at a rest area shortly after picking him up so he could see the co breeder was not there anymore. It took some time for him to realize and adjust, which is an anxious time for them.

When introducing a new dog to the house, the existing dog is usually not too bothered. It’s “hey a play date” lol. Then a few days later it hits them that the new dog is here to stay, so you have to be aware and cautious for a while. The more time goes past and the more he bonds with you, the less anxious he should be.

Thank you for helping this boy! Sounds like you are headed in the right direction with him.

Here are some tricks I've picked up from fostering a feral pack and around 200 basenjis from different backgrounds:

Webmaster harnesses (ruffwear.com) are very secure - a trim basenji with a definite waistline can't pop out of this one.

To get the feral ones used to collars and having collars and harnesses put on them, I introduced them at mealtime. I started out very slow - just draping a rope or leash over their necks when they were eating. They were very food-motivated, though there were a few who I had to start with even more slowly - just leaving a rope or leash next to their food dish while they ate. As they became more comfortable, I would put more on for each meal until they were finally wearing harnesses without a fuss.

To get them used to their nails being done, I used scissor-type clippers with a gentle curve. I let them stand with all four paws on the ground and clipped just the tip of one nail at a time without holding the paw. I would do just one or two at a time with a treat in one hand. They are so easily handled now - I can hold paws without any objection.

Many in the feral pack were too terrified to leave our property, even with other pals along to comfort them. For them, I carried them around for our first 'walks' off of the property, not making a big deal that they were in the safety of my arms - we were just going from point A to point B. After a time or two, they were not trying to hide their heads under my arm. I would then set them down on the ground at the halfway point to have them walk back, not making a big deal if they were mostly crouching.

I've never pressured them with visitors, letting them see I am (and the rest of the pack is) comfortable with visitors or strangers. While I didn't force visitors on them, I also didn't leave access to places like underneath furniture. They did have safe, out of the way spaces where they could go, just not places that left them completely invisible. When walking, I try to make a point of saying hello to people or dogs we see so that the fearful ones will see I'm not afraid of someone approaching. Those fearful of visitors or strangers eventually see by example (mine or the pack) that other humans or dogs aren't bad. Barking dogs were a bit more of a challenge for me to set a good example (I like our non-barkers!), so I tried to compensate by taking in and letting out deep breaths, yawning or talking - "there are those noisy guys who talk too much."

Dear friends, I so enjoyed reading this conversation and I learned so much. I’m a beginner, (adopted my first at 12 weeks after he was rejected by his first owner and sent back to the breeder on an airplane. He was said to be too aggressive). He has had some issues with aggression but certainly not too bad. Now we have adopted a 5 year old female who had had puppies twice. She is more fearful and nervous. My heart goes out to you for giving your boy a new start in a forever home, and I love you for all the care and attention you are giving him to help him through these early fearful times. Those of you who gave advice are helping me me as well with new ideas for my little girl. They certainly are a breed of their own and I appreciate hearing from people who understand that and know what they’re doing. Thanks to you all.

Thanks guys, im much more confident that I’m on the right path with him thanks to all your input.

We had a vaccine visit yesterday and this vet thinks based on tooth detention he may actually be closer to only 14 weeks which would mean he was separated from momma as young as 4 weeks which realy sucks...(but also means we have a bigger socilization window) and he was scared but even the vet said given how obviously scared he was he did very well...no bite, no growl, no bristling, and he commented that he realy was showing a lot of trust in me, a lot of checking in/watching me and as we stood talking he sat/lay quietly watching rather than trying to bolt or hide.

We’ve definatly got a way to go but I’m sure he can overcome all of this.

Outside his problems only kick in once he hears something that spooks him, he’ll go out without a problem, even play in the yard...it’s just if he hears something that is a sudden change of attitude...
If we’re going out for a walk he’ll go out without an issue walk a little spook a little walk a little spook a little...
Loud sounds again or if he sees a person reals spooks him though...

@wyldepaws Sounds like you are doing a great job. So long as he makes steady slow progress, you don’t need to worry unless he shows signs of aggression or doesn’t improve over time.

@wyldepaws - When I brought home my Franie (at 9wks from her co-breeder) she freaked when she heard the neighbors dog bark.... she had never heard dogs barking. The home she was born and raised in was in a selcluded area and no dogs around. Also it was in Chicago so with that weather, not too much outdoor time. Took her a bit to get used to it, each day was better and then she didn't care at all... good thing... LOL, she is a show dog so hears much barking at shows.

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We both thank everyone for continued input and encouragement!

@wyldepaws - What a sweetie....

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