Dog Behaviorist/Trainer needed

@dagodingo said in Dog Behaviorist/Trainer needed:

Start with a visit to the vet, explain the problem and have a full blood panel with thyroid before anything.

Dagodingo has the right of it.

Go to the Vet - first port of call. Make absolutely sure there is nothing wrong which is causing your Basenji to turn crabby. Once you have eliminated any/all possibilities of 'discomfort' - loss of hearing, sight, something affecting general well being - then ask yourself if there have been any changes to lifestyle. Someone new in the household, someone lacking in the household.

It can be quite a small thing, but it could upset the equilibrium especially in an elderly Basenji.

But then reply to some of the questions -

@dagodingo said in Dog Behaviorist/Trainer needed:

How old is the dog? Male or female? Were there any signs of aggression prior to this? How long have you had the dog?

so this forum can start to suggest things other than trainers - at the moment these seem to me to be inappropriate

@dagodingo he’s a 2 year old male. He was not aggressive at all the first year. In the beginning of this year we moved and then shorty after his best dog friend that we would see almost every day died. A few months later we got a new puppy. There is not one single moment I can recall he became aggressive. It has been a progressing problem throughout this year. It started with growling at people and then he decided that he hates the neighbors dog and growls at him every time he sees him but will eventually warm up and play with him. Most recently he has started snapping at people. Never me and actually I’m almost never around when he escalates.He has had his health tested a couple of months ago and everything was normal. I was hoping to find someone with Basenji experience to help me.

A new puppy is frequently a trigger for aggressive behavior. The reason might depend on whom the aggression is directed towards. The puppy? Threats to the puppy? Acute general unhappiness?

To some extent the reason doesn't matter. You don't want an overly aggressive dog. He can of course be trained, assuming there isn't a biological issue. It's all about reinforcement. If he gives you behaviors you want he gets rewarded. If he doesn't he doesn't.

While this is how it works, the trick is how to implement this. A good trainer should be able to show you how to implement this. I'm not a trainer but this will involve rewarding/treating when he's not aggressive and withholding when he is. Here's a funny video of how a bad dog trainer would go about getting a behavior you don't want -- lots of yelling and pulling leading to exactly the behavior you don't want.

The point here is that I've seen a lot of owners do some variation of this. Not as extreme but along these lines.

@boonesmom said in Dog Behaviorist/Trainer needed:

@dagodingo he’s a 2 year old male. He was not aggressive at all the first year. In the beginning of this year we moved and then shorty after his best dog friend that we would see almost every day died. A few months later we got a new puppy.

He has had a lot of changes in his life at a time when he is maturing. 18 months to 2 years is typically the age when dogs start to show intolerance or aggression to other dogs if they are going to, and the major changes in his life may have exacerbated this. Snapping at people is more worrisome than growling at other dogs. You say you usually are not around when this happens. Do you know the circumstances, or is it random? Resource guarding is a frequent reason for dogs becoming aggressive to humans. Regardless, this needs to be addressed before it escalates to biting. There is likely a trigger for the behaviour and you need to discover what it is.

Poor boy. Dogs pine over the loss of a buddy, Basenjis are no different - my Hoover is a very lonely little girl since she lost her half-brother and soulmate back in July. Additionally the new puppy will have caused more upheaval and change.

His aggression is not good, but it is very understandable and you have to figure out what triggers it in particular. And then try to avoid situation which don't help and reinforce good behaviour.

Above all, never let him become jealous of the new puppy.

@boonesmom said in Dog Behaviorist/Trainer needed:

I am just trying to say that I need help

Perhaps you should return to the trainer you had the first time. Explain that you are not seeing any improvement and that you would like some advice (or a refresher class). You have already paid them once... if you aren't seeing any results then (I would think) advice should be free and a refresher class should either be free (or come at a steep discount).

Essentially, your goal is to have the trainer observe how you handle the dog and how the dog reacts when other dogs approach, ideally, in a public place -- not in the trainer's work area and not at your home or in a place where your dog is used to. You want to recreate the circumstances when the unwanted behavior occurs in an unstaged, natural encounter. The trainer should be able to assist you in correcting how you engage and communicate with your dog during future encounters. After that, it's practice and repitition.

@boonesmom Two years is a time when they are reaching full maturity, so it is not unusual to have problems with them challenging at that age. When you say you are not around when it happens, that is a good sign. Many do not have the correct authority and understanding of dog body language / posture. It suggests the dog respects your authority.

Some dogs can be difficult, others can become more difficult as they mature past two. Usually by 7-8 they become more easy going, although not always. Dogs have a pack mentality, changes make a difference to their structure. The more you keep to a routine and structure, the better they usually respond.

The other possibility is that the dog doesn’t have enough exercise / mental stimulation. Basenjis are one of the geniuses of the dog world. Without enough mental stimulation and walks they can become bored, which can lead to aggression / frustration.

If there is someone else with basenjis in your area, they might be able to help. I doubt most trainers / behaviorist would help to be honest. Also, walking the dog for at least 3-5 miles a day over three or four walks and keeping a good structure to the day might solve the problems.

Assuming you have eliminated a health issue ...

Teach him the "Look At Me" trick. If you have a training center nearby (maybe one that is hosting an agility trial or obedience trial or one that will let you watch a class) go and just sit with him, away from the other participants, and watch the other dog students. The second he looks at another dog, toss a treat in front of his face. If he is very aggressive you will need to start with him in a crate. Keep him in the crate and toss the treat in whenever another dog comes near or when he notices another dog. Do this several times; pretty soon he will start glancing at the other dog and then looking at you for more treats on his own. This is what you want; reward it. Soon you will stop rewarding for looking at the other dog and only reward when he looks back at you. He will catch on that it's okay to look at another dog but he must focus on you if he wants a treat and you must treat him generously for this.

I have a male that was attacked several times and became very "my space" protective/aggressive. It took awhile (and the Fenzi classes I mentioned previously) but he is now fairly calm after working through this.

@dagodingo said in Dog Behaviorist/Trainer needed:

walking the dog for at least 3-5 miles a day over three or four walks and keeping a good structure to the day might solve the problems.

Awesome advice! I have increased the distance(s) that I walk "doodle" over the past several months. She was a good dog before, now she's advancing to "amazing!" No more lunging at the squirrels, geese, heron, and rabbits in the area. "With me" (aka heel for Game of Thrones fans) is spot on in or out of the house. "Leave it" applies to stinky things I don't want her to roll in, other dogs, fire ants, chicken bones, etc., etc. "Wait" is a dead stop in her tracks. If I stop moving she does, too. I'm impresed with the changes. (LOL, guess I wanted to brag a bit...)

Such good advice!

@elbrant With my first B (who educated me on the art of the basenji lol), I did not initially give him enough walks. It really didn’t do either of us any good lol. A tired basenji is a good basenji rings true and also a tired basenji is a happy content basenji 🙂

It also does the humans a lot of good to get out in nature and walk, both mentally and physically. Good long walks and mental stimulation are probably the easiest fix for most problems.

One thing that is also important is to get past the “master” phase / idea. Many dogs adore their owners as their master and just want to please their owners. I think the crucial stage with a basenji comes somewhere around the two year stage, where I reach a “special understanding” with them.

There is this bond and understanding where they start to trust and understand that I am the ultimate master of them, but without trying to quash their unique spirits. So on the big stuff they have to trust me, but they can still get away with the small stuff. It’s really hard to explain that to people who have not experienced that as new owners. If they get past that difficult stage they will be hooked, but it isn’t always easy to believe that you will get past it and some just don’t want to put that much effort into them.

I remember my first basenji and wondering why I had such a strange and crazy dog. Which then made me read and research what was “wrong” with him lol.

last edited by Dagodingo

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