Snarling + Biting When Putting On His Winter Coat


  • Hello everyone!!

    My 2.5 yr old male basenji becomes extremely aggressive and will growl and bite my hands as I try to put on his winter coat (which he needs from time to time to avoid freezing on our walks). This occurs mostly when staying over with my parents -- oddly enough, he is completely fine with them putting on the coats, it's just me - his owner. And when we're alone back home on our own, he's mostly better and accommodating.

    What I'm wondering is, can there be any way to reduce his "anger" at me in this regard? Treats won't cut it, and he's old enough to have given me a bunch of scars by now. Is he confused by who his owner is when multiple people take him outside? Is he wanting to challenge me for some strange reason? Also, it appears the worst part is putting his front legs through any jacket holes. He hates it.

    Any ideas/strategies/suggestions are most welcome, as I'm going crazy trying to figure out how to keep an otherwise calm + loving boy from tearing up my hands over 20 seconds of activity. Thanks so very much!! (also - he doesn't have any underlying pain or physical issues to speak of in regards to this, so he's not responding to pain)


  • Aside from (perhaps) buying a coat that does not require you to put his front feet into "arm holes"?

    If your dog is biting you, do the opposite of what he expects by pushing your hand further into his mouth. Why? The reason we get scrapes and punctures from bites is because we automatically try to pull away from the animal that is biting us. If you push in (instead of pull away,) the dogs mouth is forced to open wider, which automatically releases your hand because the dog can no longer clamp down. The dog is startled by the unexpected behavior, so they instinctively stop the attack. The dog realizes that they really don't like what just happened and does not want a repeat (so they don't bite you again).

    Why does the dog tolerate your parents putting on the coat, but not you? Well, because your parents are parents. They handle the dog differently. Little children will fight putting on coats too, and then parents just stop asking them to do it. They grab their arms, slide them into the sleeves and the coat is on before a battle begins. Kids eventually "deal with it". You, on the other hand, are probably a bit nervous about getting your dog into his coat (because you are expecting more battle scars). So, pretend you're the parent and just put it on. If the dog starts to create an issue, tell your dog that he is "wearing a coat or not going for a walk!" in as stern a voice as you can muster.

    I'm sure you'll be fine.


  • @nothernbarker If he doesn't object to others putting on his coat, but rebels when you do, perhaps you are doing something he finds uncomfortable or even painful in the way you are handling his legs? Of course, if he is anticipating discomfort and struggles, that only makes it more likely he will find the process painful. You seem convinced he isn't reacting to pain, but these things don't typically occur without reason.

    I would spend some time with him, going through the process very slowly, one small step at a time, stopping whenever he objects and even going back a step, but not allowing him to do anything else until he has his coat on. Is he difficult about any other type of handling, e.g. trimming nails, checking or brushing teeth, cleaning ears, picking him up?

    You say treats don't help, but how are you using them? He should only be rewarded when he does what is required. It occurs to me you could clicker train him to put his own legs through the jacket holes. Might be an interesting exercise. Hold the jacket and reward successive approximations is how I would go at it....


  • @elbrant - Totally disagree, that is a good way to get bit really bad... I would never suggest that to stop biting....


  • @tanza and yet, it works


  • @elbrant Again I disagree, it does NOT work.


  • The technique elbrant is describing can work in specific situations, depending a lot on the dog and the person, but I wouldn't recommend it. If the dog is serious and has good reflexes, it will pull back which has the same result as the person pulling their hand back. If the person isn't very confident and has any hesitation, again it won't work. There are better ways to deal with a biter. There is also a huge difference between a dog that is essentially nipping and one that means business. The former is easily deterred, the latter not so much. Add fear into the picture and you have the makings of a dangerous dog. Fear biters go off unexpectedly when they feel threatened, and mishandling a nipper can create a fear biter. With a small dog it is usually possible to gently restrain them until they quit it, but again you have to have confidence and not be afraid of being bitten. A pup that is taught from a young age that teeth on flesh is unacceptable usually doesn't turn into a dog that bites.


  • Mine have a different approach to winter jackets. They hide. Under the table, up the stairs, under furniture - anywhere it is difficult for me to get at them. But they are the same with leads. Even in summer, it is a struggle to find them and put collars on them. These are necessary to get to the car which is parked on the driveway so they could run out into the road if not tethered.

    Once in the car, they are perfectly happy with collars AND coats. And in the woods they run free anyway so leads are not used and coats don't impede their squirrel hunting and chasing anything that moves - last Sunday they put up a deer who, fortunately, could outrun even a couple of determined Basenjis. Mku gave up first and came back to us. Kito took a while longer but he gave up in the end.

    I would tend to watch the parents dressing the dogs, and figure out what you are doing differently ! But stopping biting is a different ball game and others have advised you.


  • I will concede that everybody has a different level of hesitancy and tolerance and patience when it comes to dressing their dog for cold weather and walks. Doodle came to me trained and accustom to being handled. I had a head start. But she wasn't a fan of her (real Goose) down jacket at first. Now when it's time to go she helps me get it on/off without a fuss. Even her collar (which she doesn't wear inside) is quick and simple because she wants to go outside for an adventure....

    of course, the big difference might be that we live in a condo/apartment/home. No backyard or doggy door to go out and run around in. No going outside (at all) unless I take her. Don't feel badly for her, we always do/go something different (dog park, woods, beach, a 2-4 mile walk, sometimes a day trip out of town)... yesterday was a 2 hour walk. I'm more tired when we get home than she is!

    @zande The image you paint of your B's chasing after a deer is priceless. How I would have loved to have seen that!


  • Basenjis that want to cooperate can be amazing. When I broke my ankle a few years ago, my dog walkers were having a bit of a tough time getting Perry to accept putting on his jacket and boots, so I thought it better that I get that done before they arrived. I was using a wheelchair to get around the house (I am hopeless on crutches!), so I asked Perry to stand on a footstool beside my chair while I dressed him. He was wonderfully patient about the whole procedure, actually more cooperative than when I had full mobility. If you can build that kind of relationship it pays off in spades when the chips are down!


  • My Basenji has always hated wearing a coat (and harness) and as we are in the UK without very extreme temperatures, we stopped pushing it and she manages fine without one. If she gets rained on it a good way of getting her bathed!

    She also used to run away from the collar, but we solved that by placing a small piece of chicken on the front door handle and she now sits nicely waiting for her reward!

    Have you watched how your parents put it on to see if they are doing anything differently?

    Some people have success with gradual desensitisation and using rewards e.g start with putting it on the floor and placing a treat on it, then when he goes to sniff the treat, say "coat" and treat him again; then move onto touching his back with the coat briefly and treating again, moving through the different stages of putting on the coat until he is comfortable - it can take a while but might be worth a try.


  • @elbrant said in Snarling + Biting When Putting On His Winter Coat:

    @zande The image you paint of your B's chasing after a deer is priceless. How I would have loved to have seen that!

    It is the only time I worry about them coming back. I know they will, but as they may follow the deer for a mile or two, coming back will take longer than usual. Indeed it did last Sunday. Mku returned after about 10 minutes, but we patrolled the same stretch of path for almost half an hour before Kito showed up. I will admit, I was worried.

    But they knew where they had left us and although in an unfamiliar part of the wood, we stayed within a couple of hundred yards, walking up and down and they found us OK.

    The deer was going flat out, so was Mku, following him/her. Kito was about ten yards behind Mku but catching up I think. One of the many occasions when out with the boys that I wish I had had my camera poised and ready. But they crossed the path and were gone in a flash.

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