unpredictable behaviour

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.


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.

My declan was a bad biter. He was a foster no one wanted so was slated to be put to sleep.
This is what I did
Declan at one point stood up on the arm of the couch and as i walked by made growls and movements like he was going to bite, I found an object in the room just like cesar with tennis racquet, I was very calm and simply used the object as part of my hand/arm keeping it between us and moved forward, He attacked it, bit it, over and over and when their was a lull i challenged him again by moving forward this went on until he jumped from the couch and went under a table, i simply moved into his space again, he bit a few more times then ran outside. All of this was done with no anger, no speaking, nothing. When i got outside all i saw was two ears and eyes peeking at me from the stairs he was standing on. I welcomed him over and that was that.I think he realized that he wasn't going to get his way by biting, as he always had in the past. I had another foster with a sense of humor he liked to nip peoples clothing, and see the reaction. I think you need to get some help, get a tennis racket, give to some one willing to help, when your dog lunges and bites let him bite the racket as much as he wants, then step forward into his space with the raquet and let him bite it as much as wants, then have the person with the racket move into his space, continue until your dog relinquishes the fight and backs down. Just a suggestion it worked for me

there was a couple that was using the command dominant type of training to make their dog stop doing what they didn't like. the more they did it, the more aggressive the dog became, until he started biting every one and everything. he was given up because he became so aggressive. there are ways to let your basenji know what you want, they are stubborn and really don't care what you want or don't want, and no amount of force will make it better. I had a basenji for 10 years totally sweet dog, yet when a friend of my mothers rolled up a newspaper to teach my dog how to behave? she bit him clean through his hand.

@debi said in unpredictable behaviour:

I can't determine when he would do it

Easiest solution I can think of:
When you pause your walk to chat with someone, loosen the leash so that it lays on the ground and put your foot on it. Your pup won't notice it initially, but they will not be able to get close enough to jump or nip the other person. If this becomes habit for you, your dog will learn that they have to remain next to you when you stop and they will automatically either sit or lay down next to you.

This is also a great "trick" when you are in line at a pet(food) store. Your dog won't have his nose in all those chew treats they charge $3-$5/each for, LOL.

@elbrant I use the "foot on leash" also. Since they are already down, I wonder if they are rolling their eyes at me... but they stay down and they don't resist.

Main thing to remember is that any good trainer will not even try to train the dog. He/she should train YOU to train (and understand and read) the Basenji. The trainer needs to know Basenjis, yes. But don't expect them to perform miracles unless you work hard to learn !

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