17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight


  • Our beautiful Basenji boy is testing our patience these days and it seems to have happened overnight! He is castrated and is 17 months old. Whenever I read about fear periods and sudden "adolescence-driven" behavioural changes it always seems to say around the 7 month mark, and for sure we noticed some changes and challenges around then but nothing like this.

    It is like suddenly nobody is "home" up there in his brain, mostly outside. He has been tricky to train on leash but we were finally getting somewhere and he was doing so well (after months and months of training), and then bam one day he's just forgotten it and is either getting zoomies outside and pulling in a thousand directions, or you just cannot get his attention and he is staring into space. He seems to have suddenly forgotten a lot of things.

    He has a clean bill of health (recently checked for other reasons) and is his usual self inside the house - aside from just seeming a bit on edge / stressed and not settling down as easily as before.

    It feels like he has suddenly taken ten steps back in his training. We have simplified his training for now, taken everything back to basics and trying to make it fun but it's not clicking. Walking him is a nightmare these days - even on a long lead for a decompression walk because he will just sprint constantly, pull, dig and eat random things on the ground. Just generally act crazy. He wasn't like this a couple weeks ago!

    Any tips to get him through whatever period he is going through? Anyone experienced the same at this age?


  • Where are you having the problems outside? Is it halfway on the walk or immediately after you step out of the door?

    Do you have his attention inside before going out?

    Is he on a collar or a harness?

    I'll be able to give you more specific advice after those questions are answered.

    In general, you need to work on building value in yourself. If you don't have the motivation you need outside, then you need to build value in yourself outside specifically.

    If I were you, I'd stop the long lead walks since he can't behave on them. You don't want him to rehearse "acting crazy", so don't give him the opportunity.

    If you have a backyard, I'd suggest running around outside playing chase with him (with him chasing you only), tiring him out, letting him cool down for 10 minutes, then trying to go for a walk.

    If you're invisible to him when you guys are outside, you might not want to try full walks, maybe just to the mailbox and back inside.


  • @antoinette - Did he have a full eye exam by a Board Certified Ophthalmologist? I would suggest that to cover all bases regarding health.


  • His age may be a factor. Becoming mature, testing boundaries, although if the problems are only outside, maybe not. He is neutered, but still, if there happens to be a bitch in heat around anywhere that could cause a bit of craziness. I second keeping him on a short leash. Preferably with a collar, not a harness, so you can control his head. Don't allow him to set the agenda. The two of you go where you decide, not where he wishes. A little bit of "nothing in life is free" might get you an attitude adjustment.


  • @scagnetti said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    Where are you having the problems outside? Is it halfway on the walk or immediately after you step out of the door?

    Do you have his attention inside before going out?

    Is he on a collar or a harness?

    I'll be able to give you more specific advice after those questions are answered.

    Thanks for quick response! Answers to those questions ^^

    • Problem arises as soon as we step out of the door
    • We have lots of attention inside (even before we go out he is well-behaved and calm)
    • He is on a harness (worth mentioning that he did walk nicely on a harness before - but willing to switch things up if that could work)

    We live in an apartment unfortunately, so no yard or anywhere to safely let him off-leash. Point taken on pausing the long lead walks, we definitely don't want this to become "learned behaviour". We can also absolutely just do super short training walks with him instead of full walks - he gets super tired from brain games so we can tire him out inside that way.


  • @eeeefarm said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    His age may be a factor. Becoming mature, testing boundaries, although if the problems are only outside, maybe not.

    Yeah I thought age too. Inside he hasn't changed much, although he is being a bit more demanding in terms of wanting attention. He has always been incredibly chilled inside though, so we have always been lucky with that

    @eeeefarm said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    He is neutered, but still, if there happens to be a bitch in heat around anywhere that could cause a bit of craziness. I second keeping him on a short leash. Preferably with a collar, not a harness, so you can control his head. Don't allow him to set the agenda. The two of you go where you decide, not where he wishes. A little bit of "nothing in life is free" might get you an attitude adjustment.

    You know, you make a good point here. We live in Norway and it's very unusual to spay or neuter dogs here. Tons of dog owners we have met in our neighbourhood over the past couple weeks have mentioned there were lots of females in heat right now. I just disregarded it as ours is castrated, so I figured it was a non-issue. But maybe is is still affecting him in some way?


  • @tanza said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    @antoinette - Did he have a full eye exam by a Board Certified Ophthalmologist? I would suggest that to cover all bases regarding health.

    He didn't no so that is something to consider, I think pretty much everything else was checked! Thank you for pointing this out!


  • @antoinette said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    @scagnetti said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    Where are you having the problems outside? Is it halfway on the walk or immediately after you step out of the door?

    Do you have his attention inside before going out?

    Is he on a collar or a harness?

    I'll be able to give you more specific advice after those questions are answered.

    Thanks for quick response! Answers to those questions ^^

    • Problem arises as soon as we step out of the door
    • We have lots of attention inside (even before we go out he is well-behaved and calm)
    • He is on a harness (worth mentioning that he did walk nicely on a harness before - but willing to switch things up if that could work)

    We live in an apartment unfortunately, so no yard or anywhere to safely let him off-leash. Point taken on pausing the long lead walks, we definitely don't want this to become "learned behaviour". We can also absolutely just do super short training walks with him instead of full walks - he gets super tired from brain games so we can tire him out inside that way.

    I would recommend practicing (having him rehearse) going outside. If he's okay indoors, but behaves wildly as soon as you go outdoors, that means going outdoors is a big deal to him. It shouldn't be. A well-adjusted dog won't be stimulated and amped and uncontrollable (and possibly anxious/fearful/reactive) when going outside.

    Practice going outside before going outside, i.e. get his attention indoors (on a lead), open the door, hold his attention while door is open, close door. Once you can hold his attention at the open door, you'll start going outside, one or two steps, then turning around and going back inside. Slowly you should go further and further outside until you can hold his attention away from the building and have him start regarding you outside in general.

    Again, the process above is at your dog's pace.

    Harnesses are a great tool for building motivation, because the dog can be restrained and frustrated, thus building drive and desire. In this instance however, there really isn't a need for a harness or extra motivation to go outdoors. And continuing to use it will ensure that he pulls harder. You should probably switch to a collar. In fact, you may wish to begin leash pressure training with a slip lead. You can socialize him to the slip lead prior to using it, by having him wear it while feeding/training and taking it off when done. You can socialize him to the collar by practicing taking it on and off with food.


  • Personally, I loathe harnesses ! Train 'em on a Gentle Leader (with control of the head) - only takes a couple of weeks, if that, and you have a dog who can heel nicely on a light leather collar and lead.

    Castration is another thing I would never recommend, but its too late now. However, Basenjis who have been 'cut' still retain those primordial instincts for anything up to two years. As I have said many times, you can cut off the wherewithal but you can't cut out those ingrained urges.

    17 months is a bit past the normal 'teenager' phase but I am wondering if something happened to spark off the changes ? Think carefully, cos often something will hit you - and hopefully something you can rectify or ameliorate.


  • @antoinette said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    Problem arises as soon as we step out of the door

    Oh, well then....

    .....assuming he wants to go for a walk, in my world that would not be happening without manners. Start misbehaving and it is back inside for you! Wait a few minutes, try again. Might take awhile but I think the penny will drop. Any recurrence of bad behaviour, we turn around and go home. Or perhaps we just cease walking until he settles. Most critters figure this one out fairly quickly. (my neighbour trained her stud horse this way, misbehave and you are right back in your stall, no "fun" breeding that desirable mare until you mind your manners! A rank stud is dangerous, so one does not let bad behaviour result in reward.)


  • @eeeefarm a friend of mine with a boy Mku's age just acquired a bitch puppy. She is now about 14 or 15 weeks old. He told me recently she had learned her door manners. When I queried what these might be he explained. Doors to crates, indoors or to the great outdoors can stand open. But the Basenji does not go through that door until she hears the word 'free".
    My friend is an exceptionally good trainer. But that little girl can heel, come when called even when she is having fun, and has door manners.
    Training is achievable, even with Basenjis - and especially if you start 'em young enough !


  • @antoinette - For sure with a Basenji neutered or not... they still know what breeding season is... period... and neutered basenjis can still "mate", we call that "safe sex"... And it will for his life time, regardless of age. Some don't... but many males do.. so do not discount that fact. Males, neutered or not still understand bitches in season... for sure... years ago my male at age 10 caught my one female in season and tied her... it happens... can't change the "brain" of a Basenji male... again, neutered or not....


  • @zande said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    Training is achievable, even with Basenjis - and especially if you start 'em young enough !

    Absolutely! I think one of the biggest challenges is to identify what the dog finds rewarding. Often bad habits get ingrained because the dog is actually being reinforced to repeat the bad behaviour. e.g. the dog who pulls and gets to his desired destination, rather than being thwarted and learning that not pulling will get him there, but pulling never will. With any animal, you are training for good or bad all the time, whether you realize it or not. IMO, the most important thing is being consistent. You can't keep changing the rules and expect the dog to understand.


  • @zande said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    @eeeefarm a friend of mine with a boy Mku's age just acquired a bitch puppy. She is now about 14 or 15 weeks old. He told me recently she had learned her door manners. When I queried what these might be he explained. Doors to crates, indoors or to the great outdoors can stand open. But the Basenji does not go through that door until she hears the word 'free".
    My friend is an exceptionally good trainer. But that little girl can heel, come when called even when she is having fun, and has door manners.
    Training is achievable, even with Basenjis - and especially if you start 'em young enough !

    This does make a lot of sense then. Because he was nearly perfect on leash before and then something suddenly changed (and only outside) and he seems a little stressed generally. I think about 7 or 8 dog owners I have run into around our area have said that there are so many bitches in heat right now.


  • @scagnetti said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    I would recommend practicing (having him rehearse) going outside. If he's okay indoors, but behaves wildly as soon as you go outdoors, that means going outdoors is a big deal to him. It shouldn't be. A well-adjusted dog won't be stimulated and amped and uncontrollable (and possibly anxious/fearful/reactive) when going outside.

    Practice going outside before going outside, i.e. get his attention indoors (on a lead), open the door, hold his attention while door is open, close door. Once you can hold his attention at the open door, you'll start going outside, one or two steps, then turning around and going back inside. Slowly you should go further and further outside until you can hold his attention away from the building and have him start regarding you outside in general.

    Again, the process above is at your dog's pace.

    Harnesses are a great tool for building motivation, because the dog can be restrained and frustrated, thus building drive and desire. In this instance however, there really isn't a need for a harness or extra motivation to go outdoors. And continuing to use it will ensure that he pulls harder. You should probably switch to a collar. In fact, you may wish to begin leash pressure training with a slip lead. You can socialize him to the slip lead prior to using it, by having him wear it while feeding/training and taking it off when done. You can socialize him to the collar by practicing taking it on and off with food.

    I love these tips! We will switch to a collar (he is used to wearing one as we sometimes walked him on collar too) - hopefully this is just a phase but I really like your tips on really taking it back to basics with him to get him back on track! I will try this and then hopefully it will help him ping back to the way he was just a couple weeks ago - thank you 🙂


  • @antoinette said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    @scagnetti said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    I would recommend practicing (having him rehearse) going outside. If he's okay indoors, but behaves wildly as soon as you go outdoors, that means going outdoors is a big deal to him. It shouldn't be. A well-adjusted dog won't be stimulated and amped and uncontrollable (and possibly anxious/fearful/reactive) when going outside.

    Practice going outside before going outside, i.e. get his attention indoors (on a lead), open the door, hold his attention while door is open, close door. Once you can hold his attention at the open door, you'll start going outside, one or two steps, then turning around and going back inside. Slowly you should go further and further outside until you can hold his attention away from the building and have him start regarding you outside in general.

    Again, the process above is at your dog's pace.

    Harnesses are a great tool for building motivation, because the dog can be restrained and frustrated, thus building drive and desire. In this instance however, there really isn't a need for a harness or extra motivation to go outdoors. And continuing to use it will ensure that he pulls harder. You should probably switch to a collar. In fact, you may wish to begin leash pressure training with a slip lead. You can socialize him to the slip lead prior to using it, by having him wear it while feeding/training and taking it off when done. You can socialize him to the collar by practicing taking it on and off with food.

    I love these tips! We will switch to a collar (he is used to wearing one as we sometimes walked him on collar too) - hopefully this is just a phase but I really like your tips on really taking it back to basics with him to get him back on track! I will try this and then hopefully it will help him ping back to the way he was just a couple weeks ago - thank you 🙂

    No problem.

    Hope it all works out.

    Keep us updated.

    All the best.


  • @antoinette do invest in a Gentle Leader and get the pet shop to fit it correctly for you. Then go to You Tube and ask it for Gentle Leader training. There are some very good clips to help you.
    If there are bitches in season your boy will know it and become stressed.


  • @tanza said in 17 month old castrated male: From trained to untrained overnight:

    Males, neutered or not still understand bitches in season...

    Here's a question:
    My girl is spayed, but she still goes through pms and marks every yard we pass. (Apparently only her ovaries were removed, or her tubes were "tied".) Can males tell the difference between a female who is fertile vs one who is not?


  • @elbrant In the rutting season, any female is fair game - even neutered boys ! Basenji males don't discriminate at 'their time of year'.

    The rest of the year though their instincts quieten but if the female was in season at a different time of year they might show less interest. In a normal season season, yes, they would probably show more than a passing interest - just checking, you know !

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