Night time/ sleep aggression in our 18 month old female basenji

Our female basenji who is 1 and a half years old (fixed in April 2020) has recently developed a very scary side to her. I would say it started this summer. When she is sleeping with any of her humans, laying with them on the couch and just relaxing, and even worse in bed at night...once she has found her spot and is comfortable, if you move her, even to adjust your sitting position, she goes nuts. Growling and snarling and sometimes even biting. Some times these episodes can be only seconds, but the worst ones are in bed at night and last for over a minute.

She doesn’t have food aggression, we have taken her food and bones away mid chew or sit next to her and pet her and she’s never been aggressive that way. It’s only with sleep.

Night time has gotten so bad that we have been kicking her out of the bed and locking her out of the bedroom. She’s such a lover, such a snuggler, loves to cuddle and play. But when it comes to disturbing her while sleeping or relaxing (and not directly trying to disturb her), it gets scary. Has anyone else experienced this? Has anyone had success in breaking this cycle?

Also, we learned early on that the breeder we got her from is no help at all; basenji forum on Facebook and this forum has been the most helpful.

last edited by jenmar

Have you tried talking to her before you move her? You can whisper... you aren't trying to wake her up, but let her know that you are there.... doodle used to wake fully up when I moved her. Now I can softly tell her that i'm going to slide her over, then I grab up the bed sheets in each hand and slide her across the bed so I have more room. The only other thing I can think of is trying a crate in your bedroom at night. Someplace where she could be close enough to you without being disturbed. (just an idea)

I've seen this with Basenjis comfortable on the couch, never in bed unless.....and this is an important unless.....they perceive that you are about to deliberately move them from a comfortable place. If moving them only consists of you repositioning yourself and in the process shoving against them so they are pushed out of your way (with your body, not your hands) I think they are more willing to accept it. This may not be true for your girl, but are you using your hands to shift her?

Personally I would probably show her the error of her ways by a loud "no" and immediately and forcefully kicking her out of bed or off the couch and not allowing her back if she tried to return, until some time had passed. "it is my couch/bed, and you get privileges only when I allow it". And make access to bed or couch only on your invitation, not otherwise. "Nothing in life is free". 18 months can be a time for testing you as leader. She is growing up. She needs to learn it is your house and all privileges come from you. If she behaves badly, she loses those privileges. Possibly excluding her from couch and bed for a period of time is what is required to send the message, and that means all the time. Get a scat mat if need be, and keep her off the furniture even when you aren't there.

It might be also worth consulting with your vet to make sure there's nothing medical going on that would cause this change in behaviour in her sleep.

@jenmar My experience is somewhat similar, yet altogether different. I've heard for years "Never disturb a sleeping Basenji." and "Never touch a Basenjis feet while they're sleeping." Apparently they get rather irritated.

Never had that issue with Jengo... ever. Logan was the same when I first brought him home. After he settled in, learned the routine, and who sat where on the couch... he decided to start asserting himself. I'd get up to go get something and he'd move straight into my seat and just stare at me when I returned. I'd reach for him and he'd start growling! Freaked me out. Never had a dog do that before and just assumed it was a warning just before a snap or a bite. Anyway, this happened a few times, so I contacted my breeder. She'd never seen him do this. I kept an eye on this and eventually would reach across him while he was growling and give him a nudge. He'd growl again, but he never ever snapped or bit. What I finally figured out was... He's just a really vocal talkative dog. He's verbal. Still, I wanted to end it and get his head out of being territorial. When I returned I learned to do so with a kibble or another small snack. "Want a cookie?" He'd pop up right away, get down and sit nicely. He was happy and I got my seat back.

I like the idea of talking or whispering to her before you move her. Let her know it's coming. Give her a second to put all the pieces together. I know with both our dogs, in the morning, if I scratch their heads a little they will spin around and sniff my hand. Once they get the sent they know they're good, then I can move them anywhere I want. I always give them a little time though. Maybe keep a kibble or two handy to bribe her with. Just watch her weight. I hope you find a solution. I can sense your frustration.

last edited by JENGOSMonkey

If any of my Basenjis did this, they were immediately removed from the couch, chair, bed...period. The only time I had issues was when there were more than one in the bed... LOL... and the other Basenji crowded them. And even then they were kicked out of the bed. I even raised puppies this way, when sleeping, even before their eyes opened (and hearing) I would pick them up... move them around. Much like their Mom's would do. As they got older, I kept this up... so any pup that I placed never had this issue. That said it is a good idea to "announce" yourself as you are teaching them that "you are boss"..... and make them move... they really do get the message...

I can't add to what has already been suggested, but I was told this is VERY common in basenjis. It kind of from their African past - if you're a dog over there, it's best to wake up ready to fight

Oh no, you will not pull that crap on me, you have just lost sleeping in my bed Privileges‼

My husband uses this as a reason for me to wait on him...piper hates her sleep disturbed, and she often cuddles up to him on the sofa. I have gradually reduced her sensitivity but not enough to allow her in bed.

I think BRAT basenji rescue calls this waking up grouchy😁 when they list a dog they always say if it wakes up grouchy or not. I know Izzy does, I think sometimes they just like that warm spot you left them, and they don't want to give it up ; )

@jengosmonkey said in Night time/ sleep aggression in our 18 month old female basenji:

Never touch a Basenjis feet while they're sleeping." Apparently they get rather irritated.

You know something, so do I !

@chrisf my husband does the same! whereas I don't allow her to sleep on my lap, only next to it so I can get up without her complaining.

When was your pup vaccinated for rabies.
Look up side effects of the rabies vaccine.
go to the dogs naturally website and look for
side effects.
Sudden aggression can and does manifest in
in dogs given the rabies vaccine,even if it was months ago.
I speak from 45 years of experience

My Sarge has a no-fly zone around him when he's asleep....common to Basenjis.

@rocky1 - Hate to disagree, I have never in 30+ years had this issue... period, due a rabies vaccine. And rabies is important since it is required by law... if you ever have a dog bite someone, animal control can take that dog if not vaccinated. Not worth it unless you can prove that they have issues in writing from your Vet.

last edited by tanza

Tanza,
I have 15 years on you and I have in fact have had problems.
My dogs had vet exemptions.

@rocky1 are we talking Basenjis or other breeds ? We are a rabies free country so I have never had to protect my Basenjis from the disease and am therefore not competent to comment, but am following the thread with interest.

Zande,
Basenjis for 45 years.
I have had Cancer,Aggression issues and Skin Issues
all caused from reactions to the rabies vaccine.
I'm not saying it happens with all b's but I have had it
happen.
Even had a nice pup die right after the shot.
Unless it happens to you,you wouldn't know.
To those that haven't had a problem,I'm happy for you
but I have had it happen,especially in my Avongara's.
In other breeds it is also very common,sad to say.

@rocky1 This is very interesting, if also alarming.

One of my favourite books is Who Killed The darling Buds of May?' by Catherine O'Driscoll - sent me from USA by a very well-known breeder.

It is subtitled along its spine with the words 'What Vets don't tell you about vaccines' - which kind of indicates exactly what it is about.

It always worried me that regulations insisted a pup have a rabies jab very early before being shipped to Germany although the Germans always said DON'T do it so young, we will do it here at a safer age. They re-did it anyway. Regardless of UKs DEFRA regulations.

Can't have been good for the puppy.

I am not up to date on current rabies vaccines for dogs, but I know that in the past there was more than one formulation, as my next door neighbour's dog had an anaphylactic reaction when vaccinated and the vet made a note to use a different formulation for the next annual shot. In future the dog had no difficulties. There are known side effects to most vaccines. Aggression is not one I am familiar with, however, with rabies vaccination in countries that require it there isn't much choice. It would not be my first thought with an 18 month old dog showing aggression. Especially a Basenji objecting to being moved from a comfortable place.

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