Dog socialization…

Does anyone have any advice out there on how I can get my female Basenji, Tosca, to be better around other dogs? We got her from a shelter in February, so we have had her a couple of months. She is our only and first dog. She has adjusted great to our home, and causes very little trouble in general, except when she has to be around other dogs. With people, even children, she is extremely calm and gentle. She lets my little neices and nephew poke, prod, and pick at her and she doesn't care at all.

However, being around other dogs is a different story. So far I have only seen two dogs that she can be around without a problem. One is a male cocker spaniel and my brother and sister and law have. The other is a female bigger dog of some sort (I don't know the breed, maybe a golden retriever?). With these two dogs she just sniffs them and peacefully goes about her own business.
Any other dog I have seen her with, big or small, she growls at and tries to attack (I think, we have never let her actually do it). She starts by circling and sniffing them, then makes this HORRIBLE devilish growl/hissing sound, and then attempts to go after them. She has always been on a leash in this situation, so she has never been allowed to actually go after them, we always pull her back. This is problematic, because my other brother and sister in law have a lab and a german shorthair, and when we were with them this weekend she did this constantly. Luckily they were easy going dogs and if we tied Tosca up outside they left her alone, so she wasn't near them to go after them. However, I am worried about this because eventually we will be going down to thier house for the weekend to visit, and I don't know what to do. I cannot crate her the whole time at their house, and in the winter I cannot leave her outside all day. Also, I cant make the other family put their dogs outside when we are visiting, thats not fair.

My brother and law said we should just let them try going at it, that they just might be playing and have to get it out of their systems, but I am leery of doing this, as I don't know what Tosca will do, and if she actually attacks I will feel very bad about it, and if they get angry and attack her she is dead meat since she is about a quarter thier size.

Does anyone have any advice about this? Is it normal for dogs to do this when they first meet, and how can I tell if they are playing fighting, or fighting for real? Also, any tips on how I can get her to better socialize with other dogs so we don't constantly have this problem any time we take her to a house with another dog present?
When we got her from the humane society, they said in her previous home she did live with other dogs, but that she was once attacked by a bigger dog, so that may have something to do with it, but its confusing to me because one of the dogs she gets along great with is big and also a female, like Tosca is. So I dont' know, sorry if this makes no sense, its kind of hard to explain without rambling, but any advice anyone has for me would be great!
Thanks in advance 🙂
Jill

Hi Jill,

There are so many questions in this post! 🙂

First of all, it is not uncommon for Basenjis (especially females) to not want to have much to do with other (stranger) dogs, particularly if they weren't well socialized to other dogs as puppies.

Secondly, you haven't had her very long, and sometimes with all the transitions of adjusting to a new home, interactions with other dogs can be more difficult because the dog is hyper-sensitive to any changes.

Thirdly, when you have a dog that is nervous/upset about other dogs in her space, the worst thing to do is to pull her back with the leash. It only heightens the aggression. See the threads here about leash aggression.

Fourthly (and maybe most importantly) I ABSOLUTELY would not allow the dogs to fight it out. You could end up with an injured or dead dog (maybe not yours) and you definitely will not fix the situation. In fact a fight will most likely make it impossible to ever have the dogs around each other.

I would strongly advise that you find a qualified behaviorist that uses positive reinforcement training methods start here: www.iaabc.org/ to help you work through this issue. It will be a long process, and Tosca may never be able to off lead around other dogs, but with lots of work you can probably get her to be tolerant of other dogs around her.

I would say that this is one of the major complaints of Basenji owners….it is really, so SO common that as adults Basenji just don't want to hang around with no-family or non-pack dogs.

Good luck. Please let us know how it goes.

I've been working with my basenji for years on this issue. What I have learned mostly is that he will always try to be the alpha dog when approaching a non-basenji. He does not like it when dogs approach him face to face. I believe he interpretes this to be aggressive behavior.

I've studied and studied Talker for many years. What I do when we "attempt" to associate with another dog is keep Talker on his leash and at a distance. He has to sit and be calm. He is not allowed to approach the dog if he is in a heightened state of mind. I will reward his patient good behavior with treats and have him focus on the treat and me.

If he appears to be calm, we approach. (Of course, you have to hope that the other dog you are meeting is in a calm state of mind. If the other dog is anxious and is leaping around and even if they are trying to be playful, your dog may not like the behavior and will see this as "aggression". I know Talker sees it that way.)

Anyway, if I proceed and Talker snarks, then we calmly stop and I bring him back and put him in a sit mode and we wait. I also noticed that if Talker is allowed to sniff at the dog first, then he reacts much better.

Anyway, I'll do this over and over and what I notice is that if allowed, it takes Talker 10 to 15 minutes to finally calm down and greet the dog. It really isn't a lot of time but it is a lot of patience–for both of us and the owner of the other dog. But I find that if we allow the time, then Talker will play with the dog and will be fine.

I was wondering if Tosca really wants to meet the other dog?
Talker will whine when he can't meet other dogs. Its like he wants to show he's alpha and after that he wants to play. However, owners and dogs will not always tolerate his "snarky" noises and they will see it as aggression.

Does Tosca whine?
My female doesn't mind other dogs but she really doesn't play with other dogs--even basenjis. Talker, however, loves to play with other basenjis.

So, try to read her movements and if you can find someone who will allow her to meet and sniff on her time and give her the time and rewards for her patient, calm behavior, you should see results.

I know its hard for me to find other dog owners who will work with us. But the opportunties that I have had, I've taken advantage of them and have had good results.

I just wanted to share a recent photo of Talker. We met other Dogster pals that live in Santa Barbara this past May when we visited them. Talker met 3 show dogs – and there were no problems at all. It took all of a few minutes and very understanding dog owners to know that Talker just needed time to adjust to his environment. We all did a 2 hour walk and loved it. Here are some pix proving it can be done with a little patience:
This is Talker with the group:

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There is one where you can see Talker's hackles are up, but I stayed in a calm state especially being around experienced owners who were fully tolerant of Talker's "possible" behavior.

Also, I brought a flexi leash for Talker on this walk. I normally do not use a flexi but because I knew we would be in open areas, I wanted to give Talker the "freedom" of enjoying the walk with others. Only two of the other dogs were off leash. Talker and Savannah remained on leash.
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Very nice work Basenjibratz! They look totally comfortable! And I agree that once the basenjis are used to other dogs, and have a chance to acclimate, often things go quite well. It is that initial interaction that often goes so well! You have done some great work.

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