unpredictable behaviour

I too have a similar issue with my 3.5 year old Basenji, Jax. He has bit people, normally strangers to him, and left a good mark. He's even gone as far as walking up to someone squatting down who started petting him, then when they started to get up he bit their hand. Any stranger that comes up and puts their hand out to sniff will get bit, so I always tell everyone to ignore him. But just recently he started something kind of new. We were outside talking to our neighbor, who was ignoring him. Jax was on a leash and after about 5 minutes he decided to lunge at him and try and bite him. Luckily I'm on guard at all times and was able to pull his leash so he missed. I'm at a loss; he's super good with us and our family, never any issues.
He was also raised going to a doggy daycare, which we've weened down to 1 day a week. Just last week they said he's been acting aggressive toward some of the other dogs and ask he not come back. My heart is just broken and I don't know where to go from here.
I know this isn't a reply to your post, Debi, but I want you to know you're not alone and I'm hoping someone can help us together. I would love to know where we should go from here; I want him to be a social dog and felt like I socialized him well since he was a puppy. Just confused why he's turning out this way.

Wow. This isn't a reply, but a cry for help as well. My B is a little over 1.5 years old, and about 4 months ago started the EXACT SAME behavior! It started with him jumping up on people with the small nip (easiest to deter). Then when someone bends down to pet him, and he approaches + accepts on his terms, as they pull away/stand/bend up, he quickly and out of nowhere will bite the very hand that was just getting him! It hasn't been hard enough to draw blood, but definitely leave a mark. Then the most recent is out of nowhere, without warning like the others, if someone walks within reach while on the leash, he will lunge and try to bite them. A man was walking the opposite way on the left side of the sidewalk, I was on the right side, and Massimo was on my right, sniffing/walking in the grass. As the guy passed us and without any indication, he darted over and grabbed the guys leg. Then last week he actually got one of the maintenance guys in my building who he has met/interacted with on multiple occasions while he just walked passed us while at the mailboxes. The majority of the individuals this has happened to have been male, but women aren't excluded either. Otherwise, he is normally very sweet, affectionate, loves to play, super friendly, and loves meeting new people and, for the most part, other dogs. Although this behavior is embarrassing, what really concerns me though is that for obvious reasons it leaves a bad taste in people's mouths, and people love to talk, in turn causing people and their dogs to avoid Massi which breaks my heart. Please help!

I have not experienced this myself, but it sounds like the male hormones are kicking in, and they have the need to protect you. i have the experience of them urinating on someone while I have been talking to for a while, and they are indicating to me that they need to move one, as this is boring for them.

They only seem to be "serious" about protection when it is somebody they dislike. Some people, like us, will not engage with people they like, and some they will engage with because they are not sure about them, or for the Bs to just dislike them and negatively engage with them.

The answer is to socialise them more! Take them to a obedience training to get them used to people and pets (you hardly call other dogs, than Basenjis, real dogs). You and yours will get more familiar with your B, and learn what is good and what is not good. You will also learn more about yourself, and how to live with a companion, and what "can' make them do some of the things that make these quirky guys so interesting.

I do have an 8yo who has overcome his desire to be king-pin and bashing up his litter sister, but it has taken awhile. Good luck with your socialisation, and perserverance, from both you and your furry kid.

I suspect there are multiple reasons but I can only speak to my 2 yr old female who seemed to do this when wanting attention from us or the grandkids, she loves all of us, so I knew it was not aggression, and almost always done on a dash as if to say "come on I am ready to play". It became a priority to break this, so I made it a huge deal during training to let her know this made me unhappy. It has taken about 6 months of "no bite" sternly spoken and then ignoring her until she settled down. Then she would crawl over to me and lick my hand... Which would get her lots of praise and treats. This is much trickier when out on a walk or when past experiences with some people have been positive. Maybe there is a reaction of smells from other animals being on detected. I do understand that my dog craves a routine. I try to stick to a pattern she understands. Unpredictable activity causes her anxiety.

@redial

Len has the right of it to some extent but you need to find some kind of group where the trainer has experience of Basenjis. Remember, they are not as other dogs in the way they react to training. General socialising is probably better than formal teaching in a group, although this is a good idea too, so long as the trainer knows and understands Basenjis.

It occurs to me that in the cases of nipping, biting and even leaving marks, the Basenji has been allowed to become the Alpha - to get the upper hand. This is never a good idea !

It could be they just don't like the person they are biting or it could be attention seeking.

Somehow you have to get through to them that this is not acceptable behaviour. A sharp, and immediate, tap on the muzzle with a firm 'NO !' Use voice to express your displeasure (just as you do to praise them when they are good). And having told them 'NO' - that is it - end of game, end of attention. You turn away from them and let them learn that this sort of behaviour turns you right off them. In the end, they will learn. Withdrawal of your attention following each biting episode and a a vocal admonishment should finally get through to them that you will not tolerate it.

Aggression towards other dogs can be 'time of year' - again, you need a trainer who knows Basenjis.

I have never experienced any form of biting in my pack. But then, with a pack it is more than ever important to establish ME as the Alpha. However, you should try to gain that status !

Good luck !

@zande
Is it also a good idea to separate him from the group when he bites, like putting him in a room where he can still see us, but can no longer be among us? If so, how long do you think he should be in this time out?
I do know there are no Basenji trainers in our area, much less many Basenji's.
He currently sleeps in our bed, which I love to snuggle with him. But now I'm wondering if this is contributing to him taking on the Alpha role. Can you give me more tips on showing him I'm the Alpha?
I do know his biting is not for attention, it's usually something about that person he doesn't like. Strangest thing I've ever seen.
Any advice is much appreciated!

The biting is likely being reinforced in some way, e.g. the person leaves after the incident, which the dog may perceive as a "win". Without knowing the incentive it's hard to give advice, other than once one is aware of the possibility of this problem you must guard against it and err on the side of caution. A dog that bites may suffer the consequences, so you need to prevent it if at all possible.

I had one Basenji who developed a similar habit, but it was after my husband had become ill and we had a succession of nurses coming to the house to treat him. My dog started acting aggressively, usually when they were leaving. I think he was upset and being protective, and in his mind his actions caused them to depart. Eventually the behaviour generalized to anyone he didn't know well who visited, so I had to be alert when someone got up to leave. It was a trying time for everyone, and I am sure my emotional distress exacerbated the situation.

With a young animal and with no obvious reason for the behaviour I think you definitely need to make it clear to the dog that it is unacceptable, and unless or until he gets the message, try to prevent opportunities for an unfortunate incident. You might start by training an incompatible behaviour, e.g. teach him he must sit or lie down at a time when he might otherwise try to jump and bite.

@micmayhall

Trouble with isolating him is the time between the offence and the punishment. By the time you've put him in another room he will no longer associate cause and effect. He won't realise WHY he is being banned from your presence. Which is why I suggest a sharp tap on the muzzle, instantly, so he DOES realise why he is being chastised. That the bite lead to the tap.

eeeefarm has the right of it. He could well regard the departure of the guest as a win for him. He bit, they left. Cause and effect.

You can't just show him you're the alpha. You have to BE the alpha. You have to dominate him, not he you. Start by trying to avoid situations which could lead to biting and if he does, instantly punish him. Try and figure out what he doesn't like about the visitor - for example, mine detest the smell of cigarette smoke on hands and have violent dislikes of strong perfumes !

Watch how the person approaches the Basenji. Watch their hands. Most Basenjis prefer to make the first move, so get people to ignore the dog until he seems to be wanting to make friends. People who just start to stroke without letting the dog sniff their fingers could be asking for trouble.

I'm all for letting Basenjis be bed-dogs and I can't think that that would be causing him to assume he is the boss.

At this distance it is difficult to advise you - but be vigilant and try to figure out what he dislikes -

This behavior could also be resource guarding. We adopted a dog that had this issue. He is a great dog, he just bites. I've worked with him extensively, but just the other night my husband went to put the leash on our female to take her out and our male lunged at him as they were in the bed with me, but I had fallen asleep. As far as Bolt, our male, was concerned, he was doing his job, guarding, I was asleep, so he was protecting, I am alpha, and my husband didn't have my permission to take the female out. Of course the rauchus that ensued woke me up and things were sorted, my husband took our female out, without getting bitten, he's fast on his feet, but he knew to look for the body language that means the dog would strike out. It's very suttle, but it is there. We got him at 6 years old, he's 3/4 African, and we've had him 6 years. When he's bitten me, he's always pulled his bite, my husband has not been so lucky, or some of our other family members. When I walk him I must be very careful that if anyone approaches me, I use my feet and legs to gently keep the dog behind me and away from the person coming near me. I am alpha, and aware, not afraid, but in control of the situation, and will react accordingly in a safe manner for myself, my dog, and the person. If you are afraid, your dog will know it, and it defeats the purpose. There are some great articles on resource guarding. I would post a link, but I don't know how. Perhaps one of the other members might. It's a common behavior in basenjis as they tend to be a 1 person dog. I would also suggest giving your dog a job to help tire him out. I back packed our first male and weighted it with water bottles gradually increasing the volume as he became stronger over time. A tired basenji is a good basenji!

Totally with eeefarm. If your dog bites, especially if he breaks the skin, you could wind up in a world of legal issues.

First, get a muzzle and if you have to take him around people, use it.

Second, the very first nip should have resulted in immediate training ... one critical command is down, then stay. Once in position, you can simply put you foot on the leash. If the nipping is frustration, expect to be the target. Dogs that bite WILL bite anyone they feel needs a correction. You can now use a stern "no bite!" and ignore.

Fourth, I am always on my own on this...but I'm 62, have had Chows most of my life, bred & trained Rottweilers, and worked on rehab and aggression with private but mostly rescue dogs of a dozen plus breeds. While I owned only 3 Basenjis, I doubt my 3 are that different than other basenjis. While all breeds have a few quirks ...such as basenjis reacting to "ouch " like a squeaky toy, they aren't that different.

Personally, I lump them generally in the "obedience, rules, bah humbug. What's in it for me" group. I find the need to make the dog believe it is their idea or find the right response is very common with ancient breeds. You can be the judge of what level of craziness is shown by my owning 3 of them (chows, basenjis and samoyeds).

So, no basenji-familiar trainers? Find one that is willing to learn. They still need the basic skills. If the trainer indicates your input is worthless, get another one. Trainers train owners, not dogs. You have to be able to trust and communicate.

Fifth, biting can't be evaluated or fixed on the internet, as indicated above. We can give general suggestions. So I'll suggest a few safe ones.

Start obedience from the beginning. You need to seriously address who is in charge. But the bed is an issue only if the dog guards it.

Enlist help from people to come near so you get a lot of practice with down-stay. Eventually he will learn that you decide when to move on, and that he will get a lot of praise and a treat if he's quiet when you are ready to go.

I have some good links but no access. Fell and am confined to my recliner for a couple of more weeks. Using a kindle is frustrating.

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