HELP!! I NEED OWNER'S OPINION ABOUT A BASENJI THAT BITES!!

Hello everyone,

My sister has a 5 months old basenji and tonight she bite my arm as I was telling her not to put her paws on the dinning table. I have a cat and my cat goes on the table since she has no where else to escape. As the basenji came back over and over again on the table, she bite my arm as I pushed her away. My sister took her dog and told her to sit and gave her a treat. THATS ALL! no punishment not even a "no!"
I told her that she cannot reward her dog after she just bite me because she will continue to bite people if she knows that she will only have to sit to get a treat afterward...
Anyways my sister told me that this was the right way to train a basenji... to just make her sit and give her a treat and somehow I can't believe that this is the right way...

Please, can anyone explain to me if she's doing the right training to reward her basenji after she bites people's arm???

It's hard to give advice when one didn't see the incident, but it sounds like this could be confusing to the pup. Presumably she knows she is being rewarded for the sitting, not the biting, since the reward followed the action of sitting. If one was going to use an aversive it would have to immediately follow the crime to be connected to it, and unless you are very quick you lose the moment and just confuse the animal, but a "no" as she was committing the act would be appropriate, followed by removing the pup from the area and not rewarding her. The time for rewards is when you intercept the action before it occurs and ask for an incompatible behaviour, i.e. she goes after the cat and you interrupt and ask for the sit, and when you get it you can reward. You really can't be effective if you miss the moment. How serious was the bite? Break the skin, draw blood, or was it just a pinch? She did it because you were preventing her from reaching her goal, which was the cat. Your sister should be maintaining control of her pup and she does need to work on teaching the pup to respect other humans and that biting is unacceptable. Without witnessing the situation it's hard to say what should have been done, but one does not want to send the wrong message to the pup that biting is an acceptable tactic to get her way.

Good luck trying to stop her from putting paws on the table.... and as noted she was after the prize "the cat".... instead of pushing her away, you should be saying (or your sister) "off" as soon as all 4's are on the floor, reward her. So I agree with eeeefarm that rewarding her for the sit was correct.

@jujubeans If a basenji is aggressive, never touch them because they will bite. Tell the dog a firm NO might help but depends on the situation. Pushing them away is the wrong move unless it is an emergency as you can be bitten.

I donโ€™t know what you imagine as punishment, but punishment is only likely to lead to resentment and more aggressive behavior in a basenji. Any dog will bite under the wrong circumstances.

Without knowing or watching the full event I can not tell you exactly what went wrong.

@eeeefarm thank you for your answer! it left a red mark this morning where she bite me, it was more swell yesterday and it didn't draw blood but it was pinching for a good 30 minutes.

@dagodingo As punishment I mean at least tell her NO ... I understand now that pushing her away is just going to bring her back and more agressive, but its the fact that her dog doesn't even understand the word "NO" she thinks its a game and start playing and biting ur arms, hands, clothes, she even bite me in the face once because I was sitting on the floor and she jumped in my face.

@jujubeans - HMMMM... sounds to me like this pup was not with the litter or any adult Basenji to learn what is or is not acceptable. Do you or your sister know exactly how she was raised? Have you talked to the breeder? The ones that teach puppies what is too much is their littermates and Mom, plus any other adults in the home. Was she brought up in the home? When was she separated from the litter/Mom? And "NO" only works at the exact time that she is doing something unacceptable. So in reality, instead of pushing her away, you should have told her NO when she put her feet on the table.. and encouraged her to get down, when that happens reward her. And remember she is only 5 months... could be that she has not understood the concept of "NO"... no different IMO then with human children... repeat, repeat, repest. They do not learn after one or two attempts.

It sounds like this pup doesn't understand and thinks you are playing with her. As she is your sister's dog, it's up to her to deal with this problem. Totally unfair to punish a pup or any dog when they don't know they are doing something wrong, and as I mentioned before, aversives are only effective if the timing is right. Used inappropriately and misunderstood, they can cause fear and damage your relationship with the dog. That said, it is important for this pup to learn that biting is not acceptable, and I would suggest any kind of roughhouse play be discontinued, as it can lead to nipping and biting. As soon as she starts this kind of behaviour playtime should be over. Only engage with her when she is being "polite". Otherwise, "no" and walk away or ignore her. If you see that she is about to escalate, give her a job, depending on what commands she understands. That gives you a chance to reward her, either with praise or a treat. Bad behaviour should never be rewarded, for the sake of her safety. If she does not learn that biting is off limits, at some point she may bite a stranger, and there are consequences that come with that.

@eeeefarm - I totally agree... again if she is putting feet on the table, give her a different job... but as I noted Basenjis will and do figure out how to get on things like tables... I have come home to my C-Me sitting on the kitchen table with the look in her eye "I can if I want"... comes down to your sense of humor with this breed.

@tanza said in HELP!! I NEED OWNER'S OPINION ABOUT A BASENJI THAT BITES!!:

@eeeefarm - . comes down to your sense of humor with this breed.

For sure! My own would never try to steal in front of me, but I would not leave my dinner on the coffee table with an unsupervised Basenji in the room. With my second girl, my husband got up from dinner to answer the phone (call was from me) and when he looked around his pork chop was missing from his plate and Lady was nowhere to be seen. He found dog and pork chop in her crate (where she never went voluntarily!) and they had a growling match over who owned the food. Husband won that one, and learned to keep a close eye on his dinner after that. I could eat, sitting on the couch with a dog at my side, and no attempt at theft would be made, but I knew enough not to let my attention wander. They know instantly! ๐Ÿ˜‰

last edited by eeeefarm

@jujubeans For sure a firm NO and an outstretched palm facing the dog but not close. However it has to be instant for the dog to understand what they did wrong. Sounds more like the dog is playing and chasing the cat is also play.

The bite also indicates play, a fully triggered basenji will bite hard and leave puncture wounds, however itโ€™s hard to say for sure without seeing what happened.

as an aside: If you are ever in a situation where an animal bites you, push your hand/arm/etc into their mouth. It sounds counterintuitive, but ... this action forces their mouths open wider, automatically releasing whatever they were biting. And, they "hate" it -- so they stop biting because you made it "no fun".

To a Basenji, cause and effect are immediate. The dog was rewarded for sitting, not for biting. In the same vein, if a dog has been naughty - and this applies to all canines, not just Basenjis - if you call it and it comes back to you, NEVER pumish it. It will associate the act of coming back to master or mistress with the punishment, not the naughtiness.

Your sister told the dog to sit. It sat. It was rightly rewarded.

That it bit you is another issue entirely and as one who has been bitten seriously fewer than 5 times in almost 40 years of life with Basenjis, I can tell you that in every case it was my fault or carelessness.

So I have to ask, what did you do to the dog to get such a painful reaction ? Basenjis can bite when provoked - it is almost always an instinctive reaction. Did you grab it to get it off the table ? Grab it from behind, startle it ???

Don't always immediately blame the dog. If it is not given to biting, something caused it to do so this time.

If it IS given to biting, and I don't get that impression, then your sister has to deal with it, as it is her Basenji.

There is another reason dogs bite, and I would specifically say why Basenjis may learn to bite. That is the mistake people make, letting them learn that snarkiness will result in you letting them have their own way. The dog is quick to learn that when thwarted it has only to growl and the person yields, with the result that when someone is not intimidated, the dog may escalate to biting, and if that makes the person back off, you have now created a dog that will bite to get what it wants. This whole scenario may be avoided if good judgement and distraction are used to avoid confrontation in the first place, but IMO you cannot let the dog "win" by snarking or even biting. Puppies especially are learning all the time. Teach them that aggressive behaviour will never result in them getting their way, if necessary by gently removing them from whatever illegal prize they are after, ignoring any snarking that may result, and giving them something else to think about, ideally something you can praise and reward them for doing.

@elbrant said in HELP!! I NEED OWNER'S OPINION ABOUT A BASENJI THAT BITES!!:

as an aside: If you are ever in a situation where an animal bites you, push your hand/arm/etc into their mouth. It sounds counterintuitive, but ... this action forces their mouths open wider, automatically releasing whatever they were biting. And, they "hate" it -- so they stop biting because you made it "no fun".

They do indeed hate it - and it does often cure biting. I use my wrist and push that across the mouth so it is forced wide open at the same time as a loud 'NO' - but it must be instantaneous. Even a minute later is too late. Instant cause and effect. I bite, she jams my mouth open with her wrist. NB. Its better to be wearing a thick something-that-covers-the-wrist !

last edited by Zande

A biting basenji is never acceptable, but as many people have already pointed out, any aggression must be dealt with properly based on the circumstances.

In this instance, the basenji is only 5.5 months old and was trying to get to an EXTREMELY exciting and enticing "prize" (the cat). The person who got bit (no broken skin! that's important) is the cat's owner (with a probable built-in bias against her sister's basenji pup - sorry - no offense intended). I used to have 3 basenjis who would go nuts on leash if they saw another dog or huntable critter. They would bite anything (including eachother) in the heat of their excited frustration. I am thinking the nip described by Jujubeans was likely done in frustration. I hope Jujubeans can forgive the basenji pup's indiscretion and not hold a grudge.

Dogs are instinctive hunters. A table top is NOT a safe escape place for a cat running from an excited/determined dog of any breed or age. It is better to avoid a bad situation rather than be caught in one: set up a baby gate with a cat door wired in such a way to alow only the cat into a safe room, or, simply never allow the pup to run free around the cat. Cats and basenjis can get along - sometimes it just takes a long time, lots of patience and common sense.

Be proactive, not just reactive. You've got to be quick and smart to outwit a b-pup.

@pawla Very well said ! You summed it up beautifully -
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@pawla said in HELP!! I NEED OWNER'S OPINION ABOUT A BASENJI THAT BITES!!:

A biting basenji is never acceptable, but as many people have already pointed out, any aggression must be dealt with properly based on the circumstances.

I used to have 3 basenjis who would go nuts on leash if they saw another dog or huntable critter. They would bite anything (including eachother) in the heat of their excited frustration.

I had this with my two Basenji girls.....it's transferred aggression.....if you can't bite the one you want to bite, bite the one you're with! My last Basenji boy could be trouble if he saw a dog he didn't like. I was careful to keep him at arm's length if he really got revved up, or else my clothing could become a target.

Agree, keep the cat and dog away from each other, although with the best of intentions, sh*t happens and critters manage to get where they should not be. One of the reasons I think "no" is the second most important word in a dog's vocabulary (after "come"). As such, IMO it should be reserved for important situations and always be enforced. It means "stop what you are doing right now!" And yes, there are instances where you might want to raise your voice. Again, done only when it is important, this can be effective. Do not poison your important control words. Use them only when you mean it and make sure you are obeyed. For less important occasions, use a different word. You do not want to teach your dog to ignore you when it's critical for him to pay attention.

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