A diagnosed biter

I've written here before, although rarely. I tend to write novels like the one that follows…

My B is a biter.

Here's a brief history for those who don't care to find my old threads... :p

Tucker was a foster child from an early age. Apparently placed with people who don't know B's. He was in and out of foster homes, three of them, at the age of about 4-10 months. Noone knows the history prior to that. Then he was adopted by a couple in Chicago. They told me he was a good dog, never biting or anything like that UNTIL they moved to Boston and the mom got pregnant. Tucker then bit two children (because the children ran at him waving arms and whatnot) and also bit the daddy. I imagine he was protective of the pregnant mother. They feared that Tucker would bite the child, so they, too, put him up for adoption.
Along comes me, who adopts Tucker from BRAT (and Tuckers 5th home upset) and Tucker came home to Virginia. The first 4 months with him were hell. Peeing all over the place, lack of discipline, etc. We all know how our B's can be. During the year that I've had him, two main things have happened. 1) Tucker has bitten 10 people now and a number of dogs and 2) he and I have 'come to terms'. He's an amazing pet to me and my roommate and people that are 'properly introduced', but outside of the house, he bites randomly. One guy or girl or dog he warms up to almost instantly, the next he snaps as soon as they are in range. The triggers are certainly not obvious nor are they consistent. I imagine it has a lot to do with what type of person or dog it is that Tucker is 'meeting'. He's an equal opportunity biter - guys, girls, male dogs and female dogs. No apparent pattern aside from guys get a bite moreso than girls.
I spoke with a trainer for almost an hour yesterday about dog behavior and whatnot. I told her Tucker's entire story and she concluded that Tucker was, in fact, a biter. She said with his background, it's really not surprising. Even dogs have their limits. She said that, rather than trying to train him out of biting, that I should simply MANAGE his biting and keep him out of those situations. She said that, like humans, a dog will eventually reach that point of no return where they are 'set in their ways'. I asked her if a muzzle and socialization was appropriate and she said absolutely NOT. Her reasoning was that, based on his history, putting him in a dog/people rich environment with a muzzle on would be further triggering his bahavior because he would feel even MORE defenseless in that situation, knowing he couldn't protect himself or his dad. Her opininon was that this would only make matters worse for him. For the record, Tucker has never 'attacked' anyone. He's only reacted to situations where people approached him. I have always been wary and warned people who wanted to 'say hi' about his behavior, but sometimes these situations just HAPPEN, similarly to a car accident, for lack of better comparison. You just can't ALWAYS see the signs and react in time. I think there is a post in here somewhere where I listed out all the individual incidents and if you can find it, you'll see that almost every situation was unique, and almost half of the bites occurred with my walker or when I wasn't present (one involved my roommate bringing her BF's kid over and not telling me, the kid was messin' with Tucker and got bit for it - and I'm sure my roommate didn't bother to do a proper intro because, simply stated, she's was an idiot). I have a new roommate now. 😉

So, this leads to my question: Do my fellow B lovers agree or disagree with his diagnosis? No health problems with this dog at all, including hyperthyroid. Just a rocky past with potential abuse (his tail was pulled or broken off sometime prior to the previous owner's adoption of him).

I saw that Cesar Milan is taking submissions from my area for the Dog Whisperer and is specifically looking for overly aggressive dogs. I'm thinking about submitting my story and seeing what they have to say. I read that B's are thought to be the 2nd dumbest dog in the entire world (behind the Afghan). I disagree with this 100%, of course, as we all would. My secondary question to Cesar would be "Can you train the untrainable?".

Yeah, you can teach a B to take a leak outside and to not eat your furniture, but can you truly train a B to simply come when you call 100% of the time? To give that guests dirty sock or pair of thongs back? Why does he ONLY listen to me (and my roommate) and pretty much ignore EVERYONE else? Do I really HAVE to teach EVERYONE how to command him and let EVERYONE take the dominant position with him in order to get him to mind them equally? I truly know that B's are unique, by breed, but does that mean that all B's choose to answer your call or not?

The trainer told me that dogs lack the frontal lobe with houses the capacity to reason. If a dog can associate sitting or playing dead with a treat, why the hell can't they associate biting with being 'bad'? My dad, who raised three B's back in the 'old days', said that when his B acted up, he beat the crap out of it and the behavior ceased. We all know this is wrong wrong WRONG, but it worked for him...

For the record, I don't hit Tucker and refuse to do so.

re: 2nd dumbest dog - the guy who wrote the test is the 1st dumbest human - the issue is that they are too smart to be taken in by his dumb testing.

Once I had an incoragible bitter - she would wag her tail - sit next to you on the couch and then turn and attack - no rhyme or reason - nothing in any health testing - as she got older it got worse - you know where this is going - the owner worked for attorneys and the dog had to be put down. I helped them for over a year and finally concurred that this looked like Rage and not much to do.

Since then I have read a couple of things that indicate - some dogs have 'seizures' that are actually biting incidents and that there has been some success in following that course of diagnostics.

Good luck.

Teaching a B to come 100% when called is pretty much not going to happen…
As for the biting problem, not only are you dealing with a bad beginning, but I suppect a dog of questionable breeding as far as temperament. Meaning one that makes "snap" decision on what they like and what they don't... they are out there and yes they are equal opportunity "biters".... I agree with what you were told by the trainer, totally. I would NOT refer this dog to Cesar.. as I don't believe in his training methods especially with Basenjis.
As far as the 2nd dumbest dog, this is how it relates to training and because a Basenji is a hound and a "thinking" dog.. they are not typically obedient...and yes typically IMO all Basenjis "choose" what they will or will not do.... but to different degrees

Again I go back to his breeding... as far as his temperament... what they are born with for genes for temperament for the most part is how they will grow up.. IMO

You trainor seems to be on the ball! I would go with those suggestions 100% Manage it manage it manage it! That's really the bottom line. Ceasar can't help you with having him be obedient to others. If you've noticed Cesar only helps the owners & Tucker already DOES obey you & listens to you. So you don't need his help.

Tucker needs to lead a happy & safe life. If you can manage his situations where he doesn't feel the need to bite anymore then you'll be doing him a world of good. He's happy with YOU & listens to YOU (most of the time 😃 ) so that's all he needs. I hope that's all you need too 🙂

I simply don't let people approach my dogs PERIOD.
-No you can't come say 'hi'
-No you can't come & 'pet him' &
-No I don't care if you're 'great with dogs because I'm a dog person'

Those are the rules & this way you don't have to have Tucker stress out & people don't have spend on band aids healing their wounds.

Basenjis are not dumb simply because they don't obey every command on cue..they're independent & think for themselves (unlike other dogs who shall remain nameless 🙂 ) That is what these so called "intelligence" tests are based on. So according to that criteria…you can make your own decision 🙂

Good luck to you & Tucker!

For the record, I want to reiterate that I know B's aren't dumb. I mean, how many dogs do YOU know, aside from your B, that actually chooses which course of action he/she is going to take? "Do I get a scratch behind the ears or do I lie here, in the sun, warm, comfy…but what if he's going to give me one of those massages???....bah, I'll get one later...zzzzzzz.....". IMHO, I think that's pretty damn clever. 😃 All the other dogs are simply robots. And I was aware that the intelligence testing they do on dogs is based solely on percentage of commands followed. I don't do half of what I am told... By that criteria, I'm dumber than an Afghan...

I'm actually glad I posted this issue because it makes me feel better knowing that what I've pretty much been thinking/started doing has been the right thing to do for Tuck. I've always worried the, since he's a dog, he wanted to be a dog and do doggie things, like play with other dogs. And he DOES get that, but it's limited to other special dogs that Tucker had bonded with (I think he has the hots for this shephard mix a guy in a neighboring community has and they run around the tennis court together when our paths cross). But I guess, since we're 'family', he enjoys his humans just as much as he would another dog. I just can't give him as quick a chase as another 4 legger can.

The seizure comment made me think a bit about something I noticed after his most recent victim... I was looking at his mouth right at the edges/corners and it seemed that this part of his mouth was shaking...like he was breathing machine gun breaths, almost like a vibration. Could have also been a teeth chattering thing. I've seen this before when he bit another dog and maybe a time or two just after he's made a lunge at another dog. I kinda chaulked it up to an adrenaline rush, but maybe there is more to it... Anyone else ever seen this?

Lastly, Tucker doesn't bite everyone and that is what confuses me. Some people can just walk right up and Tucker acts like he's known them for years! I know a lot of you don't agree with Cesar's methods, but I'll be damned if this doesn't seem like an extreme case of presence or 'positive energy'... Labor Day weekend I took him to the beach and after a bit of fun in the sun, the group of us had dinner outside at a little crab shack. Tucker was with us and was tied to the fence, but he could just get outside of the fence if he wanted to. I was pretty watchful but with those crab legs in front of me, well, you know... Anyway, he had slipped outside onto the sidewalk, just sitting there, (we were in a corner so my view to the left was obscured by a close building corner) this lady comes from NOWHERE and simply leans down, grabs Tuckers head and says "WHAT A CUTIE!", rubs his face and head, and continues walking. I barely had time to say anything, and she was gone before anything actually did come out of my mouth... I had to re-swallow my heart. Tucker bites like a bolt of lightening can strike...he had plenty of time to take a finger if he wanted it.

At any rate, I swear I must be the luckiest guy alive to have a dog that has bitten 10 people (after compiling a list, I realized that it's actually been 11) and still have him with no lawsuits against me. frantically searches for wood If my memory serves me correctly, 8 were friends/family and 3 were outsiders. Luckily, of the 3 outsiders, one was a neighbor and friends dad, one was the roomate's boyfriend's kid thing and one was the UPS guy, none of which thought of it as a huge deal. I'm sure the UPS guy deserved it, I mean, THAT OUTFIT! WTF? 😃

<_>

I do not agree with this trainer-what she is saying is that there is no training an old dog and this is NOT TRUE! It may take a little longer and more patience, but training an older dog can and does happen. However, I do believe she is correct in managing his behaviour for the moment. But I don't agree with keeping him out of these situations. There are various types of muzzles. Socialization is VERY important right now. But also letting him know this is not appropriate behaviour is also very important. This is all IMO; I would start by acclimatizing him to a basket muzzle. This will enable him to open his mouth, pant, bark and receive treats easier than with the tight muzzles. When out and about he should wear the muzzle and be distracted by various methods from biting. I don't know the dog and haven't seen it, but keeping this dog from socialization will only make him more aggressive. He will view all others as threats on a consistent basis. Get a few more opinions from a behaviourist-not a trainer.

As for his past, it sounds like he was corrected in a serious manner and he learned to just bite and make no noise. He probably made noise before and was corrected adversely every time he made a noise. The result is a dog who bites without warning. Let us know what happens._

Basenji Mix

When I take my furkids out, I ALWAYS bring training treats for my use and especially to give to people to give my dogs. I would rather people give treats then pet them. If I don't have training treats - I ask those who are inquisitive to just ignore the dogs - sorry, but I don't want anyone getting scratched or . . . snapped at - makes me comfortable.

On the other hand, have you taken Tucker to obedience training? I've just completed the Intermediate with Duke at PetSmart. (Duke's a wild child) But I have learned some interesting techniques for distraction. I practice with him whenever and wherever. Something to think about . . . because you are lucky, so far that you have not suffered any consequences on 11 bites! Good luck to you both! 😉

Just a further note-(I was a little annoyed at the trainer that said don't socialize him)-I'm sorry B's are far from the second dumbest dog. I don't know of any other dog that will take two weeks to figure out how to get out to the chicken coop so he could have some fresh meat, or figure out how to open doors to get what (s)he wants, or think about how to play on the human's will. Also, some people are just not threatening to dogs at all, this may be why he ignores some people and nips others. I'm taking it that he has not drawn blood?

@nomrbddgs:

Just a further note-(I was a little annoyed at the trainer that said don't socialize him)-I'm sorry B's are far from the second dumbest dog. I don't know of any other dog that will take two weeks to figure out how to get out to the chicken coop so he could have some fresh meat, or figure out how to open doors to get what (s)he wants, or think about how to play on the human's will. Also, some people are just not threatening to dogs at all, this may be why he ignores some people and nips others. I'm taking it that he has not drawn blood?

I agree for the most part with what the trainer said. Arlene, I don't think most pet people have the skills and/or the interest in rehabbing a dog like this; and I think for the most part an inexperienced owner would be putting people and dogs at risk unless working REALLY closely with an experienced trainer. I would advise the exact same course of "treatment" based on what I know of this situation.

The old "dumbest" dog chestnut is based on a test that evaluated "easily trained with traditional methods"…not best at problem solving...I don't know why anyone even wastes any energy worrying about that ridiculous study.

You can't socialize a dog until you convince him that he is safe, and doesn't need to use his mouth to protect himself...IMO, that hasn't happened with this dog at all...he has been placed in obviously 10, probably more, situations where he didn't feel safe, and comfortable...having people pitch treats at him isn't going to change that. He needs to be completely managed FIRST and then in time start expanding his opportunities.

@Duke:

When I take my furkids out, I ALWAYS bring training treats for my use and especially to give to people to give my dogs. I would rather people give treats then pet them. If I don't have training treats - I ask those who are inquisitive to just ignore the dogs - sorry, but I don't want anyone getting scratched or . . . snapped at - makes me comfortable.

On the other hand, have you taken Tucker to obedience training? I've just completed the Intermediate with Duke at PetSmart. (Duke's a wild child) But I have learned some interesting techniques for distraction. I practice with him whenever and wherever. Something to think about . . . because you are lucky, so far that you have not suffered any consequences on 11 bites! Good luck to you both! 😉

Just FTR, I have been bitten by a dog as I was handing him treats. Something that I learned just recently, is that it is more effective for the owner to feed the dog treats as a stranger approaches. With a dog that is at all questionable, a stranger offering a treat can be really conflicting, and will draw a hungry dog towards something that they would rather move away from.

I do not agree with this trainer-what she is saying is that there is no training an old dog and this is NOT TRUE!

Arlene-I would respectfully 🙂 disagree on this point. My interpretation is that this dog has other issues that doesn't make it possible to recondition Tucker to accept a normal social atmosphere. Given Tucker's past & his temperment I would agree with the trainer. I absolutely agree that you can teach older dogs to be conditioned to certain situations! However, dog are much like many humans that are just NOT social & overall they're timid or shy or anxious. Some people are just uncomfortable in certain social situations & no matter how many shrinks they see this will always be the case. It is part of their genetic personal make up. I believe dogs are very similar. Some dogs love human attention, some tolerate human attention, & some can really do without attention, & some just can not tolerate attention.

I think my dog is similar to Tucker she just IS a certain way & some situations give her more anxiety than others. In order to keep my dog safe I need to manage the situation and I chose not to force her to deal with every situation. I've accepted that she will not be comfortable with certain people no matter how much training I do with her.

Just my 2 cents! 🙂

<_>

I agree…maybe you just have to have a dog that is like that to really understand. It happens with such irregularity, and such unpredictablility that it is very difficult to retrain, because you don't know what triggers it.

This kind of situation isn't about training the dog, it is about training the person to not put the dog in a situation where it feels the need to protect itself.

The Culture Clash, by Jean Donaldson is a perfect explanantion of this._

I disagree with you also Arlene… and the reason, reading the post about this boy, it is pretty clear that 1. This dogs has had some hard times and 2. IMO he was/is not of the greatest temperament to begin with... he makes "snap" decisions on liking or disliking, it is immediate and there is no changing their mind... and it could be body language that is helping make that decision but the dog is taking immediate control of the situation. Training is one thing, this dog clearly has a history of biting....

For those interested in the circumstances of the previous bites, please see this link to my older thread:

http://basenjiforums.com/showthread.php?t=1624

Bite No. 10 occurred when I wasn't around. I had gone on a short trip to the airport to pick up my brother, sisinlaw and niece. Tucker was at home with my parents who Tucker knows and have never shown aggression towards and KNOW about Tucker and how he has to be treated. Enter stepbrother. My SB doesn't know Tucker that well but knows that he bites or has bitten. Anyway, long story short, Jeremy left and Tucker tried to leave with him and Jeremy pushed Tucker back. Chomp!

Bite No. 11 was described earlier in this thread.

Some of your posts have made me feel like I am mismanaging my dog, but I really don't feel that way. Owning a Basenji involves just as much of a learning curve as raising a child, methinks. Bite 1 happens, you do what you need to do to prevent Bite 2. Bite 2 happens and involves different circumstances and you do what you have to do to avoid Bite 3. So on, and so on. I didn't raise this Basenji, I adopted him. Don't lose sight of that. Aside from what I am told, that's all of know of his previous 4 years. Think about adopting a 21 year old young adult. Trainable, yes, but to what extent? In another year, Tucker will by my age equivelent. I can assure you that I'M not changing my ways! And I have the ability to reason.

Tucker has this radar, I've noticed. He can see a dog 100ft away and I can look at Tucker and already have a good idea if Tucker will bite that dog once Tucker sees him/her. MOST people I encounter have dogs. How is one to know if it's the dog or the person that Tucker doesn't like until they come face to face? Perhaps the face to face, when unnecessary, is best avoided. The only way to be 100% sure that Tucker isn't into 'protect mode' would be to keep him away from the things that OBVIOUSLY make him lash out.

As for my management, I've been keeping Tucker away from people for a long time, and, lo and behold, no incidents AND he's been a lot more calm at home. He stopped peeing all over the place, doesn't bit my friends as they walk in the door (only happened once as described in above referenced thread), and he has even made great progress with getting in people's face while they are trying to eat (we oftentimes eat in front of the TV with food close to Tucker reach). The passerby at the beach was a lapse on my part, admittedly, but I simply don't have eyes on every side of my head. If you were there, you would understand because I told the people with me to keep their eye on him and to help me be aware of anyone that tried to approach. THAT person, the one I missed, didn't get bit and Tucker obviously didn't feel the need to be protective in that given situation. The girl that got bit this past Sunday was one of the first times I've tried to reintegrate socialization so you can imagine my frustration. Typically the owners don't try to pet him, they just want to dogs to say hello. At this point, more people have been bitten than dogs, but all have been separate (people get bit when no dogs are around, dogs get bit when people don't interact with Tucker at my instruction). Most people think a dog can take care of hisself as long as one is not massively bigger than the other. The Sunday incident was the FIRST time tucker has managed to sniff a dog and not bit him, and then bite the Owner who so longed to befriend Tucker. Thinking back, there were two girls and a dog. Tucker prolly saw we were outnumbered from the start and I didn't even think about that at the time. It's these things that simetimes escape me and afterwards, I want to kick myself in the a$$.

But anyway… I'm getting all defensive and probably have no reason to... I guess I feel like Tucker. 🙂

PS (I just found out the bulk of Tucker's past after this last bite. I had asked before, but the information about what happened PRIOR to his previous Owner was never disclosed to me. His tail was the only evidence I had that aduse was likely for him at a young age. 3 or 4 rapid succession foster homes would indicate early discipline problems or a bunch of idiot dog owners who know nothing of basenjis except that they are darn cute!...probably the latter. Most likely a pet store dog on top of all that.)

<>
I don't intend to make you feel like you are mismanaging my dog...but I have a dog just like this...she has bitten two people and drawn blood, and at least as many where she snapped and made grazing contact.
She doesn't get to meet new people unless I can completely control the situation...meaning I keep her on a leash...I have to know that the people she is meeting will completely follow my instructions (most people at that point don't care to meet her). I don't walk in situations where I would need to tie her somewhere, because it would be impossible for me to completely monitor the situation. She doesn't get to sniff new dogs, she doesn't get to play with new dogs. She certainly doesn't get to be around ANY children other than our own child, and even then, only under supervison. I have to be very careful where I leave her if we have to have someone care for dogs....there are very few people I trust to keep her safe from herself. Often, if I can't supervise, she is crated.
So, yes her life is VERY controlled, and very limited...it certainly isn't the ideal perfect doggy life...but it is better than euthanasia, I am sure she would agree. That is what I mean when I say that this kind of dog, and the amount of rehab required is more than most pet people want......most people want a nice dog that can be around other dogs, and other people and not have to be a constant concern.
With a dog like this, you don't have the luxury of learning slowly. The dog MUST be protected from himself 100% right now. You have to assume he WILL bite, and then count yourself lucky if you slip up and he doesn't bite.
I do argree with Arlene, that you should seek out a behaviorist that will teach you how to manage his behavior better. You can improve his attention to you, but the situation will always have to managed.

@TuckerVA:

Then he was adopted by a couple in Chicago. They told me he was a good dog, never biting or anything like that UNTIL they moved to Boston and the mom got pregnant. Tucker then bit two children (because the children ran at him waving arms and whatnot) and also bit the daddy. I imagine he was protective of the pregnant mother. They feared that Tucker would bite the child, so they, too, put him up for adoption.
Along comes me, who adopts Tucker from BRAT

Am I to understand that Tucker had bitten three different people and BRAT adopted him out anyway? 😕

Instead of having "strangers" give the dog a cookie, try having them toss the cookie to the dog and then walk away.
If they are in your home, have them go to a place away from the dog and not look at Tucker.
Have them randomly toss a cookie toward Tucker, without looking at him.
Do this until Tucker comes over and sniffs the treat tosser.
Then, again, without looking at Tucker directly, have the visitor drop a treat
by the chair.
Just do this until Tucker is able to relax with a new person coming into your home, NOT looking at Tucker, and giving him small treats.something wonderful like small pieces of cheese, or nuked hot dogs, something he gets at no other time.
Once he is good with being calm when the person is sitting, have the person stand…once is he calm with that, have the person, walk slowly around the room, but not 'charging' Tucker.
IMO, this boy has learned to bite first and this has worked for him...
He has kept people away from him and that is the bad learning he has had.
Teaching him that strangers can give good treats in a non threating way, might be a way to start him relearning to trust.
It won't be quick, but it can help.
Getting a trainer who knows damaged dogs and basenjis and having them come to your home, eval the dog and help you would be the way to go.
The above might help in the mean time.

Dear TuckerVA,
My boyfriend Brian & I are hard core Cesar fans. We have the book, rent all the episodes from Netflix and I have been to his seminar in Beverly Hills. At his seminar the woman in the seat behind me was the owner of two basenjis an traveled the 3 hours to learn from Cesar. Just from personal experience we have used some of his training methods and they have worked with our basenji!!!
I may not agree with "everything" he says we do think he is amazing. His formula is simple 50% exercise 25% discipline and last 25% affection. We live by his formula and trust me it shows in our dog.
If Cesar is going to be in your area I say take advantage of it. Think of it this way if you get accepted you get a free session with Cesar, you might be on T.V., your getting a different perspective on your problem, and if you disagree with his methods you never have to use them. Good luck to you and your dog. I dont have experience with a bite dog so I'm sorry I dont have any tips there, I just wanted to comment on the Cesar thing you were thinking about.

My only concern with anyone who uses harsh methods on an already damaged dog, is that it just makes the dog react in an aggressive manner.
Don't get me wrong, Ceser M. has saved many dogs who needed help, but imo, he is harsh in his training.
Some dogs handle this…some don't.
A dog who is already having issues with people,again imo, needs kindness and to relearn that humans can give good things.

@sharronhurlbut:

My only concern with anyone who uses harsh methods on an already damaged dog, is that it just makes the dog react in an aggressive manner.
Don't get me wrong, Ceser M. has saved many dogs who needed help, but imo, he is harsh in his training.
Some dogs handle this…some don't.
A dog who is already having issues with people,again imo, needs kindness and to relearn that humans can give good things.

Ditto! I am pretty sure that Cesar's methods would completely ruin this dog.

Looks like your connection to Basenji Forums was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.