Basenji Aggression Overall

So, here I am at 2:30am feeling like a shitty owner as I crate my basenji. I am truly at loss for what to do and I am hoping that I can get some answers–even ones I hate to read. Nova (my basenji) is just a week or so shy of turning 2 years old. I would love nothing more than to throw her a little party and celebrate, but I’m afraid with recent behavior I’m unsure.
I understand that I will get grief for my pairing, but I need to assure you this aggressive behavior I’m seeing is quite recent and NOT normal for Nova. So, Nova practically grew up with a kitten. She would bathe Olive (my calico), cuddle her and eat right beside her. Modern day Milos & Otis. Then, January of this year (‘19), I happened to come across a chihuahua puppy. Once again, Nova played supermom to Xena (my chihuahua) in every way.
I made a large move this summer, mid July to be exact, and ever since there have been slight issues with Nova. She’s became territorial in the sense that if she sees my neighbors dog (a sweet rottweiler), she will charge at the screen door and growl. I’ve even tried keeping her on a leash to prevent the thrashing, but she still tugs at the leash. I’ve attempted crating but that seems useless as for when I finally let her out, she’s driven to run to the screen to see if she can spot the other dog.
It’s literally came down to using chicken as a distraction to calm her. Which is fine, except for other behaviors. Of course my chihuahua barks, my chihuahua growls and all that loveliness. And since having her, Nova has began to growl. At first, I was tolerant of growling because I never had a reason to worry. Dogs growl to communicate, everyone knows that.
Except in the last 3 months, Nova has began acting on it. Today alone, she’s growled and went after Olive 3 times. I was asleep in my bed when my sister (16 y/o) woke me up saying that Nova growled and bit her when my sister caught her in the trash. Then, Nova found her way back into my bed (me being still half asleep and not even thinking to crate her) only to shoot up and begin growling at my cat upon her joining us nearly twenty minutes later as she does nearly every night.
I immediately knew that I couldn’t leave her out of her crate if I am going to go back to sleep. I can’t risk an altercation. So, I crated her. Olive walked over to her, checking up on Nova. As soon as she got within a foot of the cage, Nova began to growl and her stripe went up. Olive stopped in her tracks and got really low and moved away from the crate and back towards me.
Last night, I had to separate my chihuahua and basenji when Nova started growling out of nowhere and snapped at Xena. I have no idea what to do. I am noting that this is Xena’s first heat cycle and this one seems to be affecting Nova greatly, too, as she dripped blood for the first time when walking through the house.
Nova has been iffy about whether she’ll eat or not, mainly nibbling here and there at her food. The other day she just sulked around the house with these eyes that looked so lost. And the last week (which has been the most recent slam of any aggression), she has climbed onto my bed, sat next to me and just stared at me. She’s never done this before.
She’s laid down with me, but this past week she hasn’t laid, she’s just sitting there and staring at me and I can’t figure out what I feel as if I’m missing. I can sit here and rack up what could simply be excuses, but I want to cover all bases. Is there noted aggression in unspayed / unneutered basenjis? Could this play apart? Should I have her seen by a vet? Are obedience classes even an option (she doesn’t like new people, she tends to keep distance and hide)? It came down to her growling at Olive last night as I prepared dinner and when I yelled Nova’s name, she became over submissive and came up to me with eyes squinted, ears down as she laid down and rolled onto her back, blinking like crazy.
So, I have Nova crated and intend to keep her so for the remainder of the night to prevent any further instances between her and my chihuahua or her and any of my cats. Any opinions on the route of overnight crating? I currently have her crate in my room, is that okay? I hate having to worry about something breaking out and literally moving the rest of the animals around based off of Nova.
I feel like this is so many steps back as I have been working in new tricks and on leash tugging with her this past month or so and she’s done so well. She’s been picking up in the department of training, until this happened again. This past week has just put a damper over all the work we’ve been putting in.
Nova has never been like this, I almost feel as if something’s wrong because she’s always been a cuddly and sweet girl with my chihuahua and cats. The most she did was chase and groom, but she never attacked. Any opinions and ideas would be greatly appreciated. My schedule is about to pick up where I’m not home in evenings between 6-8 during the week and I hate to have her crated then, too, if I can’t get anywhere with her.

last edited by madisbasenji1

You have put Nova through massive changes, plus she has massive hormone changes. It's no unusual at all for intact bitches to fight, get territorial, etc.

IMO, far better to crate for a couple of months until things settle down than have an actual fight from which their relationship may never recover. Yes, keep the crate in your room at night, but give her yummy treats, a special toy etc so she does not see it as being punished. Talk pleasantly to her, up voice "crate time" and work on being calm with her. Exercise her a lot.

When this is over, work a LOT on socialization. Biting is a quick route to being sued and dog put down. If she will bite your little sister, she is liable to seriously bite a stranger.

Work a lot on obedience... learning down/stay (I can tell Moose, our Samoyed, "timeout" from anywhere in the house and he immediately comes to lie next to me or even under my chair.), leave it, etc are critical.
http://www.clickerlessons.com/index.htm

Because of her age, I am guessing she is maturing and testing her position in your pack. All the recent changes may have made her unsure of herself and exacerbated the problem. But dogs in this age range (not just Basenjis) may start to show aggression to other dogs or other animals even if they haven't in the past. She is also showing resource guarding (biting your sister over the trash), which to me says that she doesn't acknowledge your sister as an authority figure. Does she defer to you, or has she growled at you over resources, e.g. food items? The other contributing factor is Xena's heat cycle. Is Nova also coming into heat or had her cycle or do you know? Hormones are likely part of this, and I agree with Debra it's important not to let things escalate. Exercise and maybe a dose of "nothing in life is free" might be useful.

The only thing I might add is that my 3 year old Basenji no longer is willingly crated and when my daughter brings her dog over we use gates to protect everyone. Her beagle rescue dog does not get along with other dogs. So we just don't take the chance. That might not work with young cats who also climb, of course .

I have had a similar issue with 2 female basenjis. It was awful as they actually got into a terrible fight and I had little to no hope of them getting along. The older spayed female tried to kill the younger puppy who came into her first heat. We kept the dogs muzzled, crated, swapped from room to room and this worked in the short term. We waited until the heat was long done and then tried to reintroduce them but no go. Finally we got the younger one spayed, waited 2 months for all the hormones to settle, keep in mind the older one was already spayed, ta da! They are now fine. Basenjis are growls as they get older, especially females, when being woken, surprised or over a high reward item but it usually is nothing. Also, my basenjis have always run at other dogs by a fence or go crazy at the window over a cat or squirrel. They have an intense prey drive or hunting instinct. I have had 6 basenjis and I have never been able to break it, the girls are always more into the hunting or chasing then my males. A baby gate keeping the dog away from the door might help. I understand your upset as I went through this myself. It took us 8 months to get everyone settled back to normal with lots of positive training.good luck!

@madisbasenji1

“So, here I am at 2:30am feeling like a shitty owner as I crate my basenji.”

Don’t, the crate is a safe place for your dog, not a punishment. Good advice with this and other things is that if you look at the crate as negative or punishment, your dog will look at it the same way. The crate is protection for the other animals and her.

“I am truly at loss for what to do and I am hoping that I can get some answers–even ones I hate to read. Nova (my basenji) is just a week or so shy of turning 2 years old. I would love nothing more than to throw her a little party and celebrate, but I’m afraid with recent behavior I’m unsure.”

At two years, they are mature and it tends to be the age that they will challenge you. Also, if you do not have a good grip of things by two, any problems you have will likely be amplified.

“I understand that I will get grief for my pairing, but I need to assure you this aggressive behavior I’m seeing is quite recent and NOT normal for Nova. So, Nova practically grew up with a kitten. She would bathe Olive (my calico), cuddle her and eat right beside her. Modern day Milos & Otis. Then, January of this year (‘19), I happened to come across a chihuahua puppy. Once again, Nova played supermom to Xena (my chihuahua) in every way.”

What was was, what is is. As a pup, mine had no problems accepting the cats we have had as playmates. Once they reach maturity the dynamic changes.

“I made a large move this summer, mid July to be exact, and ever since there have been slight issues with Nova. She’s became territorial in the sense that if she sees my neighbors dog (a sweet rottweiler), she will charge at the screen door and growl. I’ve even tried keeping her on a leash to prevent the thrashing, but she still tugs at the leash. I’ve attempted crating but that seems useless as for when I finally let her out, she’s driven to run to the screen to see if she can spot the other dog.”

Crating is not the appropriate tool to help in that situation.

“It’s literally came down to using chicken as a distraction to calm her. Which is fine, except for other behaviors. Of course my chihuahua barks, my chihuahua growls and all that loveliness. And since having her, Nova has began to growl. At first, I was tolerant of growling because I never had a reason to worry. Dogs growl to communicate, everyone knows that.”

Growling is a warning, at that stage it only takes the tiniest change in posture to provoke a full fight. Never tolerate growling, she should be told a firm “no” and you should make sure you are then in control of the situation. Having said this, now that it is escalating, you are playing catch up, so be careful.

“Except in the last 3 months, Nova has began acting on it. Today alone, she’s growled and went after Olive 3 times. I was asleep in my bed when my sister (16 y/o) woke me up saying that Nova growled and bit her when my sister caught her in the trash. Then, Nova found her way back into my bed (me being still half asleep and not even thinking to crate her) only to shoot up and begin growling at my cat upon her joining us nearly twenty minutes later as she does nearly every night.
I immediately knew that I couldn’t leave her out of her crate if I am going to go back to sleep. I can’t risk an altercation. So, I crated her. Olive walked over to her, checking up on Nova. As soon as she got within a foot of the cage, Nova began to growl and her stripe went up. Olive stopped in her tracks and got really low and moved away from the crate and back towards me.
Last night, I had to separate my chihuahua and basenji when Nova started growling out of nowhere and snapped at Xena. I have no idea what to do. I am noting that this is Xena’s first heat cycle and this one seems to be affecting Nova greatly, too, as she dripped blood for the first time when walking through the house.”

The behaviors you describe are not that unusual for a two year old basenji, she sounds dominant and frustrated to me. I can Not help you as far as a heat cycle as I have no experience there.

“Nova has been iffy about whether she’ll eat or not, mainly nibbling here and there at her food.”

Provided there is not a medical reason, so a full blood panel might help. Also provided you are not over feeding. Then I would say that meshes with her believing she is in control.

“The other day she just sulked around the house with these eyes that looked so lost. And the last week (which has been the most recent slam of any aggression), she has climbed onto my bed, sat next to me and just stared at me. She’s never done this before.

When they want something, or something is wrong with them, they will do this. If I ever forget anything such as letting them out on time, feeding late etc, they will do this. She is trying to tell you something but I don’t know what.

“She’s laid down with me, but this past week she hasn’t laid, she’s just sitting there and staring at me and I can’t figure out what I feel as if I’m missing. I can sit here and rack up what could simply be excuses, but I want to cover all bases. Is there noted aggression in unspayed / unneutered basenjis? Could this play apart? Should I have her seen by a vet? Are obedience classes even an option (she doesn’t like new people, she tends to keep distance and hide)? It came down to her growling at Olive last night as I prepared dinner and when I yelled Nova’s name, she became over submissive and came up to me with eyes squinted, ears down as she laid down and rolled onto her back, blinking like crazy.
So, I have Nova crated and intend to keep her so for the remainder of the night to prevent any further instances between her and my chihuahua or her and any of my cats. Any opinions on the route of overnight crating? I currently have her crate in my room, is that okay? I hate having to worry about something breaking out and literally moving the rest of the animals around based off of Nova.”

I would stick with it for a while until you understand what’s going on. Try to make the crate as positive an experience as possible for her.

“I feel like this is so many steps back as I have been working in new tricks and on leash tugging with her this past month or so and she’s done so well. She’s been picking up in the department of training, until this happened again. This past week has just put a damper over all the work we’ve been putting in.
Nova has never been like this, I almost feel as if something’s wrong because she’s always been a cuddly and sweet girl with my chihuahua and cats. The most she did was chase and groom, but she never attacked. Any opinions and ideas would be greatly appreciated. My schedule is about to pick up where I’m not home in evenings between 6-8 during the week and I hate to have her crated then, too, if I can’t get anywhere with her.”

Don’t hate the crate, she will pick up on it and hate the crate too. I had a male who chewed his way through a metal crate because he had separation anxiety. We got a female pup and he eventually got to the point where he would go in on his own as long as she was in another crate next to him. He hated the crate initially because I hated it and thought it was a bad thing to crate him.

Don’t worry about steps back, at two I would expect some. A full blood panel never does any harm and might reveal a problem. Basenjis like routine, so try to establish one. Moving probably shook her up too. Work on positive reinforcement and make sure she gets at least 3-5 miles of walks, preferably split over 2-3 walks every day. Mentally and physically they need that until they are much older.

One more thing, never try to take food off a dog regardless of their reaction. Always make them drop the food. My girl was very food aggressive and instinctive, if you tried to take the food she would bite you hard. Instead, I would convince her to drop it. Took some time to train her on it but it worked. In a pack, dogs do not take food off other dogs, they intimidate them into dropping the food. So in the instance you gave of being in the garbage, never try to grab her or take the food. Instead tell her a very firm no, then move in carefully and slowly until she leaves the garbage. If she starts to growl at any point, stop and out wait her. Dogs react a lot to eyes, I would stare at her and not move, after maybe thirty seconds she would give it up.

Don’t be too discouraged, the things you are telling us are not unusual for a basenji. They are unusual dogs and have unusual quirks.

last edited by Dagodingo

I would do a theroid test first of all

@madisbasenji1 said in Basenji Aggression Overall:

Are obedience classes even an option (she doesn’t like new people, she tends to keep distance and hide)

On rereading your post this jumped out at me. IMO, something is wrong if a Basenji acts this way toward strangers. All five I have owned have been either aloof or friendly with people they don't know, never fearful. Lack of socialization or a bad experience at some point? Her aggressiveness may actually be due to a fear reaction, but without knowing a lot more it's hard to say. The many changes in her life recently may have amplified any fear she has been harbouring.

We discussed this issue a couple of months ago... based on your comments, it seems to have gotten worse. But back at the end of August, you had multiple cats. Are they still in the picture? How is the interaction with the other animals going?

A large enough crate, with space for her to stand up and stretch, lie down full out, containing a large bone and something to interest her, should be looked upon as a refuge, not a punishment.

This is the season season. Her hormones are over active, spayed or not. She will try to assert herself this time of year, cutting her won't become effective in this regard for at least a couple of years.

If, added to this, she has undergone other changes - cats coming / going etc - she will not be feeling secure. And from what you say, she has undergone huge changes.

Love her, help her socialise, spend time with her and don't despair. If you are positive, it will help her. Take her out for long walks and tire her out while letting her know you are one to one with her.

I have had 15 - 20 adult female basenjis over the years, and 2 was the age when it seemed like they became their 'true adult selves.' (spayed/neutered or not)
I do not feel confident giving suggestions, just wanted you to know her age is typical for this to happen.

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