Rescue dog prey drive!

I rescued a dog 3 months ago and now believe she is a Basenji or a crossbreed Basenji. Am struggling with her strong prey drive! I live by a forest full of deer and horses omg!!! Can’t trust her off lead but she pulls SO hard on lead that she has pulled me over many times!! Walking is definately NOT a pleasure. She has needs constant attention at home so any recommendation for games etc would be much appreciated. Feeling overwhelmed at the moment.

My dog had a crazy high prey drive as well. We started with training in the home (no distractions), saying “look at me” and when he looks and holds eye contact, he gets a treat. Then medium distraction (our backyard where we seldom see squirrels or much else) and doing the same thing. And then on walks, as soon as his ears perk up at a squirrel in the distance, start doing look at me and give lots of treats so he mostly forgets about the squirrel. Must use a very enticing treat for this like chicken not just training treats.

The goal is to train them so that when they notice something, they look at you instead of wanting to chase the animal.

And it definitely takes a long time! He’s not perfect yet but he’s much improved.

Thanks for that! We are training similar and can let her off lead in a local recreation ground so she runs with other dogs. But today she spent all the time dancing on her hind legs and yodelling at a squirrel - she even was trying to climb the trees - totally ignored all attempts at recall. Definately going to be a long slow process I feel!

@robin7 said in Rescue dog prey drive!:

train them so that when they notice something, they look at you instead of wanting to chase the animal.

Basenji's are hunting animals. Why would you try to remove a hunting instinct so deeply ingrained in the breed? Adapt to it. You will be far less frustrated.

@fiona - That is what they do, you can't change what is inbred to them... it is NOT taught it is bred into them... You can't change their DNA. My Basenjis have caught and killed more squirrels then I can to say... and in the back yard, my one's first was when she was 4 months old.... We have way to many critters in the yard... they do what is natural to them. Hounds are hunters... that is what they do... especially sighthounds... live with it

last edited by tanza

How much does she weigh and what are you using to control her, a harness or a collar? IMO, a martingale collar works well. Then teach her loose leash walking, which will require patience on your part, but basically you never proceed unless the leash is loose. High prey drive, sure, but you need to be able to control your dog! There is a time when you just say "no" to unacceptable behaviour, especially on a leash.

My personal favourite distraction at home is to teach my dog the names of his toys and then hide them and request he retrieve them by name. Takes time, challenges the dog, and improves your relationship.

last edited by eeeefarm

@eeeefarm - Seems we have a difference of opinion here.... I don't agree, yes you can "say" no but since hunting is inbred to them... say "no" all you want... they chase what they see...At home is one thing, on a walk with critters like squirrels... say no all you want... their focus is never to you but to the prey... One time many years ago at an indoor show, there was a person that had a "pet" squirrel in a crate... this critter got loose and ran through all 9 indoor rings.... and you could say "no" to your were blue in the face, they wanted that critter... and honestly that was for all breeds, not just Basenjis...

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I can see both sides of this fence... I want a dog that's under control near people, dogs, bicycles, and especially traffic. I'd also love to have a dog I could trust off leash. Then again, I get the prey drive thing. It's instinctive and embedded in their DNA. Can't and don't want to get rid of that. Part of what makes a Basenji a Basenji.

Like @robin7, if I'm in an area that requires control I do a few things. Before I go there I've noticed that there are couple of different kinds of pulling: focused and somewhat firm Sniff pulling and full on I JUST SAW SOMETHING I WANT!!! SEE YA!!! pulling. For Sniff pulling I simply stop and don't continue till the dog relaxes. I learned that technique here on the forum. For full on pulling I do a few things... shorten up the leash for starters if it's not short already; stop completely; make the dog focus on me by putting my body between the dog and the target it's fixated on; give the dog a treat once it relaxes; then continue. My key word is "Easy". If the pulling starts again... same thing.

Back on the other side of the fence... If I'm on a trail or at a park with no other hazards I'll give the dog all 26 feet of the Flexi Leash. It's a privilege and the dog still has to show some manners, but they get a lot more leeway. If they pull too hard or decide they're in charge... back to a short lead. Here, for me, it's like riding a motorcycle. Look as far up the road as you can. Read what's coming. Learn to anticipate trouble well before you find yourself in it. Even though it's exhilarating it's not a race. Learn to slow down. For a dog on a long lead that means watching everywhere, reading your dog, reeling the dog in fast when required. So wish I lived in a area where I could turn one loose, but I don't. Long lead is as good as it gets right now.

As other's have said it takes dedication, consistency, time, patience, repetition, praise, treats. And every dog responds differently. Logan is really food driven. Sparkle couldn't care less about food when she's on a walk. Still trying to find her secret can't resist desire.

last edited by JENGOSMonkey

Tbh I had never heard of a Basenji until people started asking me if she was one!! So all her prey drive came as a bit of a shock! It is like owning two dogs really as in the home she is brilliant calm relaxed and loving - then we go out walking on lead and she is “Devil Dog”!! So strong for her size too.

The Basenji is not a typical dog. It is an ancient that survived the Congo through genetic change and a fierce sight/scent combo hunting ability. Unlike most “hound” breeds once the basenji’s prey drive kicks in full force there is very little that can be done to break it. The more you learn about the breed and it’s origins the more you can understand the dog’s perspective. The most helpful advice I received after getting my first Basenji eleven years ago was, “Don’t think of a Basenji as a dog.. think of it as a cat in a dog suit and act accordingly. Good luck, they are worth it. I will never own another breed of dog now but a Basenji. It is truly a unique animal relationship.

last edited by DocGonzo

I'm with @tanza on this. Basenjis (and other dogs) have been bred to hunt and to hunt independently. That's why they're good at coursing and were found to be the best at running mazes. Can't trust them off-leash. Maybe the special owner can find one which can be trusted but life is too short to spend it tilting at windmills.

Years ago I took out two Basenjis to a fenced park. I took their leashes off. By the time I looked up they had a squirrel. Gross. The next time I took them to the park I paid attention. As soon as the leases were off the younger one took off after the first squirrel he saw. The squirrel ran for the nearest tree, where it ran to the back, went up, and then circled back to the front. Crafty move to avoid a predator. Unfortunately for the squirrel our older dog had made a bee-line for the front of the tree and timed his jump to pick the squirrel off as it circled to the front. (I got the squirrel to get away). Rest assured I had not taught this skill -- in fact I had no idea that squirrels had this escape pattern. But these guys had figured it out from observation and had worked out how to take advantage of it. It wasn't taught and there wasn't anyway to un-teach it.

They also love to roll in cow pies!

I just keep them on a leash unless in a safe fenced area. They don't seem to mind and it ensures they don't get into the road and get hit b a car. For collars I'll second @eeefarm's recommendation to use a Martingale collar. They work well.

last edited by DonC

@tanza said in Rescue dog prey drive!:

@eeeefarm - Seems we have a difference of opinion here.... I don't agree, yes you can "say" no but since hunting is inbred to them... say "no" all you want... they chase what they see...

Oh, I am not disputing that they will want to chase that squirrel or whatever, what I am saying is that it's possible to control the impulse, at the very least you can control with a leash. There are a lot of squirrels where I live, and Perry used to enjoy chasing them in the backyard, but although he would notice them on a walk he didn't try to pull me around to get at them. Truth be told, dog aggression was far more of a problem with him.

Bottom line, if you are walking a dog, any dog, on a leash, you need to know you can control them. Otherwise it is dangerous to you, your dog, and anyone else that might be in the "line of fire". That was my point, not that they won't want to chase. Off leash is a different kettle of fish. Again, control is possible, but maybe not in a way you would condone.

@fiona said in Rescue dog prey drive!:

Tbh I had never heard of a Basenji until people started asking me if she was one!! So all her prey drive came as a bit of a shock! It is like owning two dogs really as in the home she is brilliant calm relaxed and loving - then we go out walking on lead and she is “Devil Dog”!! So strong for her size too.

Yes, they are strong for their size. So as has been noted, pay attention to surroundings and be prepared so you aren't taken by surprise. A short leash is safest. Apart from anything else, if they leap to the end of a short leash the dog may get a jolt but it won't be severe. A dog hitting the end of 25 feet at a full out run could pull you over, or could flip the dog, possibly causing injury. The only up side to this is that if the dog is uninjured it may have learned a lesson! But don't count on it.

SF Bay Basenjis

Get a “No Pull” harness ASAP! They attach to leash at the chest and give you far more control of your dog than a collar. It was recommended to me by a trainer when my basenji was a puppy and after buying one I never use anything else. My dog is 12 now so he’s calmed down, but when he was younger he had the strength of an ox! And only 23 lbs! The naughtiest and least obedient dog imaginable until he was about 3 or 4. Basenjis will kick your butt!

@uconolly said in Rescue dog prey drive!:

Get a “No Pull” harness ASAP!

Please don't ! Get a Gentle Leader - for so many reasons these are far superior. I have been extolling their virtues now for months - no need to repeat it here.

And @jengosmonkey - if you want to use a long lead, use a long lead, NOT a flexi ! You can very easily damage the dog's neck when you reel it in and let it out and it snaps back when the dog runs the full extent of it and is brought to a sudden halt.

My packs have always hunted squirrels (and rabbits). As long as I am not expected to cook them for them - its in their DNA and I wouldn't change it !

I have two basenjis and I know what you mean about walks-they are not always a fun experience for me either-we have tons of wildlife around our house as well. The best success I have had is to replace one prey drive with another. I do coursing with mine so from day one I have used a horse lunge whip with a plastic bag on the end to "play" with. Its long enough to give them some space and action to really go after it. It doesn't stop them from still hunting but it gets a ton of steam off so they are a bit more tired and easier to walk (just make sure they don't eat the bag). Also, when they have gotten loose, all I do is grab the bag wave it around and they have always come right back for it. Its my emergency catching tool. I agree that the busier you keep them, the better they are. They love to have a job and be active!

"Prey drive" is certainly not exclusive to Basenjis, nor is it the same across the breed. Some are far more inclined to hunt than others. Many dogs that aren't even hunting breeds can be high drive dogs when something they perceive as "prey" is accessible. A friend's GSDs regularly kill rabbits that enter their yard. A stray cat would suffer the same fate. I think most Basenjis react to motion. My second girl chased a skidoo for over a mile across a frozen lake, because in her eyes I guess it was fleeing prey. She never showed an interest in chasing cars, but she would jump off the dock and pursue water skiers. However, she would not attempt to chase anything when I was walking her on a leash, because experience told her I would not allow it. Basenjis are not stupid. If taught to walk properly on a leash, they may react to a squirrel or rabbit running away, but after the first impulse they should refrain from unreasonable pulling because they know from experience it gains them nothing. At least, that's the way it has worked for my five....

My Tess loves to rid our yard and bird feeders of those pesky birds! She does have a very strong prey drive. Walks in our open space were really something with all the jackrabbits and other critters

My phrase has always been “eyes.” Tess was so good at that in training and in the house. Basenji’s can give attention like crazy.

But on walks? The tastiest treats were nothing to her. She was too focused on the critters.

Over the years Tess has become much more likely to pay attention to me. She does come when called. I believe that is down to wanting to be safe.
I say she comes when called, but she is getting quite deaf, and only hears me when I pitch my voice up in the high range and really yell.

You can certainly train a basenji, and I do recommend it. It strengthens the bond between the two of you. Basenjis love having their minds challenged.

I will also tell you that when I was actively training Tess, she had an amazing leave it. She loved the leave it game (doggy zen, they get the treat in your closed hand when they look away; to get the treat, you must not look at the treat).

One morning she ran out in the yard and grabbed a dove. She put it under her paws and began plucking it. I calmly told her to leave it, and believe it or not she put the dove down and backed away from it. She got a ton of treats for that.

The dove survived and eventually flew away, minus a number of feather.
I imagine that Tess leaving the dove was down to an age old instinct of giving up prey to a human hunting partner.

FIONA, I wonder what size your dog is? if she is not a very small dog, a front loading harness may be a possible choice, if the martingale doesn’t work for her. The leash snaps to the front of the harness. When the dog charges away and hits the end of the leash, the dog ends up facing the handler. I like how it works for some dogs. If she is at all interested in treats when you are out walking try giving her treats when she looks at you, whether you asked her to or not.
The martingale or the front loading harness may at least keep your arms from being pulled out of the sockets!

I wish you luck with your dog. Each dog is a puzzle when it comes to training, and it will take time to find out what will work for the pair of you.

@brindlebasenji said in Rescue dog prey drive!:

My phrase has always been “eyes.” .............. Each dog is a puzzle when it comes to training, and it will take time to find out what will work for the pair of you.

That was my "look at me" phrase too! Dead easy to teach with (or without, for that matter) clicker training. And Basenjis like to look you in the eye, so easier with them than some dogs. Totally agree, all are different. "Leave it" for my last boy, was the hardest thing for him, but IMO right up there with essential commands, behind "come" and "stay".

@Zande I share your concern about damaging the neck. I only use the Flexi with a harness. I know you're not a fan, but it works for us. The only time I use a Martingale is with a short lead. I've worked many hours with Logan on both long and short leads. He's gotten so much better. He's learned that when he's on the short lead he's working. He also knows that he'll get leeway on the longer lead, but only in certain places. One thing I kept working on with him while on the long lead was recall. Before he'd get to the end I'd call him "Logan, Come!" he'd trot back and get a treat. Now, every time I even begin to say the command he comes right away. I wish Sparkle was as food driven, but she's not when she's outside. She's proving to be more of a challenge for me. I'm determined to prove she's not smarter than me.

I wish I had a forest I could turn him loose in, but we don't have anything like that here. All the county and state parks have leash laws. There's a few state beaches that allow for off leash, but we don't get there very often.

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