Puppy Painful Biting Nonstop

We have a 13-week old basenji; a coworker adopted her from a breeder at 8 weeks old, and within the first week sought to re-home her due to her “puppy” behaviors. After much thought, and a whole lot of research (and some basenji meet and greets) we decided to adopt her at 9 weeks old.

I preface all of this to say: I know 8 weeks is too young to remove a puppy from the litter, I had no control over this. I will not name the breeder, although after research I have found it is not a responsible one, but again I had no control over this (and do not wish for this post to turn into a doxing post). We now have a 13-week old basenji who has stolen our hearts, but we need input from some expert basenji owners.

She bites. A lot. She bites you when you walk, she bites your hands, your arms, your legs, your face. She has made me bleed on several occasions and will even growl when biting. We have done everything. Yelping or saying “Ow!” makes her more excited, not moving and acting disinterested does nothing. Constantly replacing with a toy doesn’t work. She drops the toy and bites your feet again. Timeouts or space doesn't work, she gets out and will immediately start biting. You can’t just lovingly pet her, because she will just bite you. I am nervous when anyone else holds her because I know she will bite them, even their face.

Some background: she has adapted well outside of biting. We have successfully crate trained and potty trained her and she has mastered all of her basic skills. She does great on leash and we successfully (and safely) socialized her from 9-12 weeks (prior to quarantine). She is on a schedule and we ensure she is never “overtired.” We exercise her often, train her often for mental stimulation and give her plenty of positive reinforcement, never negative. But we are at our wits end. Is this a phase? Will it only get worse? Does anyone have any experience with this? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Don't allow the behaviour. Period. When she bites, or preferably when you see the bite coming, restrain her (as gently as you can) and don't let her go until she quits trying to bite you. I use a "bear hug" to do this, being careful the dog cannot reach my face. If she starts again, rinse, repeat. She is self rewarding in some way with the biting and you need to shut this down as it appears to be turning into a habit. When you release her, if she does not try to bite, lots of praise. If she tries to bite again, a firm "no" and restrain again.

Another option is when she goes for your hand, thrust your fingers down her throat so she gags. She may then redirect to another part of your body, so get your hand in the way and repeat.

This pup has not been socialized. Her mother and siblings should have taught her that constant biting is not acceptable, and since apparently that didn't happen, it is up to you to show her that biting is off limits.

None of this is pleasant, but now is the time to sort this. Puppy teeth are sharp and it won't be fun for you, and yes, she may grow out of it, but letting it become a habit isn't something you want to happen. She is young, and hopefully if you kindly and consistently stop her from indulging in this behaviour, she will give it up.

You might want to wear a pair of heavy gloves until you get a handle on this. If she is used to walking on a leash, another thought would be to let her drag a leash and use it to pull her away from any biting attempt. Good luck!

last edited by eeeefarm

@doowop - I would have to assume that she (and the rest of the litter) was separated from each other way before 8wks... and while I do not place puppies at that age unless with experienced Basenji owners this issue I would say is that the litter/Mom any adults were separated way earlier in life. Note that I am going to say this, you need to call out the breeder so that others do not have the same situation you are finding yourself in.... and other need to know not or to be careful in getting a pup from this "so" called breeder. OK so all that said, you can contact me privately go to me website below and email me. And all that said, this pup seems to be the dominate puppy from this breeding... so you really need to take the upper hand. It is totally possible that depending on the breeding this puppy has temperament issues. It seems that you are already doing the right things...Oh AND overtired is a good thing... LOL.... It is a phase unless the breeding is bring out a less than positive temperament... You need to find a "WONDERFUL" REPLACEMENT to replace the biting... this is was puppies do... what they want in the litter they bite to get it... And yes puppy teeth are like razor blades... and they HURT...

You seem to be doing a great job in most respects!

The biting business is pretty much on the humans. Basenji puppies, and I'd assume all puppies, learn how to bite between 8 and 12 weeks. They bite overly hard, the litter mate yelps, they stop and learn that this was a mistake and pull the bite more the next time. This is trial and error, and since trial and error takes repetition, it's also why the puppies are full of scabs! LOL

I've heard/read that squealing helps. IOW when she bites you just let out a loud yelp and stop whatever you are doing, which is more or less what the litter mates would have done. Worst case is she grows out of it and learns eventually.

That said I have had a lot of scabs on the backs of my hands.

@donc said in Puppy Painful Biting Nonstop:

I've heard/read that squealing helps. IOW when she bites you just let out a loud yelp and stop whatever you are doing, which is more or less what the litter mates would have done.

Apparently that was tried. " Yelping or saying “Ow!” makes her more excited"

Many dogs react to this tactic the same way they react to a squeaky toy. I don't personally recommend it. Puppies do indeed learn from their littermates, but even more so from their mother and other adults. A dominant pup may learn to bully his siblings, but pushing Mom around is another matter. I have watched mothers and other adults pin an aggressive, annoying pup down and snarl in his face. That seems to get the message across, and is what I base my advice on.

Our very first Basenji was removed from her litter at way too early of an age, and she was exactly what you describe, a big biter. We were in despair. It was the early 1990s and there wasn't a lot of information out there about Basenjis, so we contacted Susan Coe, the only author we knew who had written a book about basenjis: "The Basenji: Out of Africa to You." She recommended that we squeal and bite the puppy back. That sort of worked for my husband, however, I was the one staying home with the puppy and trying to train her and I couldn't bite her back. Here is what worked for me, when she got aggressive I would put her on her side in a time-out. After all I was bigger than her and I could hold her there and keep my hands clear of her mouth. I would hover over her and growl back "no bite!" much like her mother would have done. She would be furious at first. She would growl and try to bite me. But I would keep her there until she calmed down and once her heart stopped racing, I would give her praise and let her up. I would ignore her for a bit and then be her friend again when she was redirected to something good. She was very much an alpha dog and wanted to rule us, and I was so terrified that she might bite someone and we would have to put her down. I made sure I was very consistent in putting her in a time out and not allowing her up until she had fully calmed down. It worked, and even though she continued to challenge us for the alpha position throughout her whole life, she never bit anyone. She learned she could not use her mouth to get what she wanted. We later got her a male Basenji as a companion and he just automatically assumed he was her Alpha so she was very much put in her place. Life became easier with two. We miss those two, but now we have a beautiful female basenji who growls if you look at her wrong. She growls about everything! But she's all bark and no bite and we love her like crazy. Have patience and keep up the good work. You got this!

Something I've done (with other breeds): Smear some peanut butter on the palm of your hand and offer it to your pup to lick off. As the puppy is cleaning your hand, say reassuring things, "good girl", "i love you", "love love love", whatever. It seems to be effective at introducing a different way for your pup to use it's mouth: kisses! Worth a tablespoon of PB to try, right?

p.s. Finding out who the pups breeder is (and contacting them) would help you get the answer to a lot of questions!

last edited by elbrant

Hello, boy oh boy do I know what u r going through! My little guy, whom I rescued from Medfly 11 years ago was what u describe! He was 1 year old and would bite always! I have scars up and down my hands, but...and there is a bit..I tried pinning him down, sending him to his crate , nothing worked. Finally I found the solution...every time he went to bite and growled I took two fingers and wacked his nose and used the word loudly “outtt” , found he hated the sound and my wacking the tip of his nose. He quickly stopped biting...of course praising him him always when he acted normal ( if there is such thing with a 😎 . Believe me in a few days all I had to do was show him my two fingers and use the word loudly and he got the message.
It is important for the Basenji to know u are the alpha and for them to know u will protect them. My guy turned out to be a great boy and he is so smart and such a great listener!
Patience is the only answer , but I am so happy I rescued him...please keep trying!
Oh, one more thing, my guy hated the crate, I think he had been confined to it prior to me.
Best of luck and be grateful to have a Basenji... the are truly a wonderful friend!

I've often wondered if a really loud (and surprising) blast from a marine horn (an aerosol can made for that purpose) would be a good way to stop a persistent dog from doing whatever bad thing he/she was doing (like jumping or biting). Has anyone ever tried it? I've been lucky not to need to resort to such a drastic measure. It seems to me that a quick/loud/surprising blast would make a dog think that the human was very powerful to make such a noise and stop it from continuing the unwanted behavior.

Bless you, doowop, for rescuing and loving this wayward little land shark. She's gotten a rough start but is lucky to have landed with you. You sound wonderfully practical and knowledgeable. I believe, if you can conquer this mouthy issue, you will end up with an extraordinarily delightful companion. Please keep us posted on how she progresses and what works for you. BTW, what's her name?

@elbrant said in Puppy Painful Biting Nonstop:

Something I've done (with other breeds): Smear some peanut butter on the palm of your hand and offer it to your pup to lick off. As the puppy is cleaning your hand, say reassuring things, "good girl", "i love you", "love love love", whatever. It seems to be effective at introducing a different way for your pup to use it's mouth: kisses! Worth a tablespoon of PB to try, right?

p.s. Finding out who the pups breeder is (and contacting them) would help you get the answer to a lot of questions!

Obviously Elbrant, this person has already acknowledged that this was not a responsible breeder.... They have acknowledged they know who the breeder is.... and to that point it really needs to be addressed

last edited by tanza

@pawla - Pawla, this is something that others have used and it does help as it breaks the action.... and once you get their attention you can direct to something else. I have never had to do this, but it is a good suggestion

You have to be careful with what peanut butter you use. There is an ingredient in some peanut butters that are harmful to dogs. I’m sorry I can’t remember what the ingredient is. (xylitol, a sugar substitute, is deadly to dogs, often found in sugar free gum)

@pawla thank you for the suggestion! That is not something I have thought of. Her name is Marin, and we are thrilled to have her join our family. Here’s to hoping we can nip the biting in the bud sooner than later (no pun intended!). 😉

Thank you, @tanza much appreciated. We are hoping with continued consistency we can curb the biting early on. I’m hopeful as she’s incredibly smart and catching on with all other aspects very quickly.

Our second puppy, Tim was a biter as a puppy. I found that he mostly bit during play, and when he became overly stimulated. When he would bite, whatever we were doing would immediately stop. I would stand up, fold my arms, turn my back on him, and in a very soft voice, ‘oh, no, naughty boy’, and ignore him. It was a phrase I ONLY used when There was an extremely egregious behavior. Because I swear he though his name was, ‘no, puppy, no’! He hated when I ignored him, more than ANYTHING.

@rgk9ruler said in Puppy Painful Biting Nonstop:

xylitol, a sugar substitute, is deadly to dogs

Thank you for the reminder! I don't do "sugar free" products (which would be obvious if you met me), but I often forget to mention this. Very important warning. Thank you!

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