How well-trined can a Basenji become?

Hi there,
I have a nearly four month old little pup called Jessie. I have been doing training with her since I got her, mainly following Ian Dunbar's puppy training advice. But it's been a bit frustrating. I am working on general obendience mainly at the moment, and she can sit and do down and stand etc, but not very consistently. Sometimes she does it straight away, other times she looks at me (familiar to you all I am sure) as if to say, nope, I just couldn't be bothered.
So I'm persevering, but I'm just wondering, just how well trained can an average Basenji be. How high should I have my hopes? I'd love to be able to let off the leash sometimes (her mother is able to be, her father not), but of course, I need to be sure that she'll come when she's called. Can a Basenji become trained to the point of consistency? If I just keep persevering will she eventually be reasonably compliant when I specifically ask her?
Are the Basenjis that different to most other dogs?
Another question, I have been having all sorts of problems keeping her off the couch. Should I just admit defeat?
And lastly, does the biting stop once their adult teeth come through. She is getting quite good when it comes to how hard she bites, which is good, but not always, and I'm just wondering how much longer we have until she stops nipping at us.
Looking forward to reading your replies. I have only just found this forum, and I have enjoyed reading the threads,
Regards
Sheree
(North Queensland, Australia)

Hmm, I only noticed the spelling error in the title after I posted. Oh well, I'm sure everyone worked it out!

Hi Sheree,

well, it's a Basenji…. one of my males brothers has a obedience degree (in German it is called Begleithundepruefung, which is almost everywhere basics for further sports like agility). A few more Basenjis in Germany also have those degrees, but I guess it is not that common for a Basenji to obey.... they like to follow their own ideas. So, if you want your Basenji to follow, she must think it is her idea to follow 😉

And yes, Basenjis are very different to other dogs.... and I would not let her nip at you. Show her that it hurts, if she does not listen, you could try to snap at her ear, this might show her to stop. But, hey, its not a guarantee, we are talking about Basenjis....

Regards,
Esther

Basenjis can do Obedience and Agility though they tend to be most successful in Rally Obedience and Agility compared to the more formal Obedience Competitions. The big hurdle I have found with my basenjis and training is that they get bored easily and lots of repetition will cause them to shut down. You can definitely tell that they hit the point of "Hey I get it, are you just stupid?" We also have days where it is like "Sit? What language do you speak? I don't know what that means." But a lot of those times are linked to situtations where I have probably gone past their level of either Distraction, Duration, or Distance.

As for recall, lots of rewards and constant work on it, and I still don't let them off leash unless I think the consequence of them not responding to my calling them will cause them harm. I treat often when we are on offleash walks and they do learn to keep close but they are sighthounds and if they flush something they will go for it.

If she has already established a habit of getting on the furniture then it will be difficult to undo. Was she allowed on furniture at her breeder's? I ask puppy people what their expectations will be because my dogs are allowed on the furniture and with my first litter they were able to follow their Uncle Nicky onto the couch at like 5 1/2 weeks old which was a little surprising to me but by the time they were ready to go home they already had the habit of being on furniture.

As for biting, the first step is to teach soft mouths so that if they do nip or bite there is no pressure in it then to teach "no bite". It sounds like you are getting close to having a soft mouth and can probably teach "no bite" but keep in mind that she is also going to be mouthy at this age as she loses teeth so have lots of toys and chewies to use to redirect.
attachment_p_53320_0_cokead.jpg

One thing I like to keep in mind with my girls is that Basenji mentality is still extremely close to their wild cousins. In order for them to have survived the past 6000 years they have needed to be sharp, quick and independent thinkers. Central Africa is chalk full of dangers to these little curly tailed monsters. It is natural then that they do not just "snap" to our commands, that some times they mull them over or just plain ignore you because it serves their interests better. A Basenji is not dependent on us, the way other breeds have been bred to be. They really are substantially different from dogs who have been bred for human companions or working dogs.

Esther is right - the easiest way to get Bs to do something is to make them think it's their idea… once I was on board with that life got much easier. 🙂

I also agree with Ivoss that B's pretty much "get" their training rather quickly & then get bored. Keep your training sessions as varied as possible and quite short. (when Lycia was 4months, I trained in 3-5 min intervals a few times per day)

I can't say anything about the furniture. Our B's have rights to everything in the house because the shedding etc. is so insignificant.

I really enjoyed reading "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia B. McConnell, it is not a real training book but more of an investigation on the relationship and functions of dogs and people. It illuminated some body postures and "Human" communication errors I was making with my puppy - after which I cleaned up I clearly saw improvement in Lycia's training.

Hang in there, these babies are worth it. 🙂 and welcome to the forums.

Hello Sheree,

Welcome to the forum! Please post some pics of Jessie!

About the training, I agree with what is already said. My boy Tillo is a pretty good listener.. but.. still a basenji 😃

About the nipping.. Tillo did it for quit a while.. after the teething it was over. Now he does it only occasionally. We always have stuffed animals laying around, so as soon as the nipping starts we tell him no and put a toy in his mouth 🙂

And about the furniture. Tillo was allowed on the couch at his breeders place.. but not here.. He knows that very well. (try a waterspray..) When he is at the 'baby'sitter, he is also allowed to sit on the couch, but he hasn't tried it at home. They very well know the differents!

Good luck with your baby! It can be hard when they're young! Just enjoy 😃 They grow up very fast…

@lvoss:

@ Ivoss: that's a super cute pic! All the puppies trying to catch a bit of the sun 🙂

I've done alright training my basenjis, but I still would not take my kids off lead without some sort of goal for them (agility, coursing, etc). For recalls, I suggest Nelson's Really Reliable Recall. For obedience, I love Spector's book Clicker Training for Obedience. Anything by McConnell is worth reading (twice!) and I really like McDivett's Control Unleashed.

As far as the sofa, well, my dogs are allowed up there as soon as they can get up there on their own. (not much help) Is there a reason you don't want your b up there? With my malinois, I gave her a place on the sofa for herself. I covered it, so that she could shed as much as she wanted <gg>. don't have that problem with the b's so, they go where they want on the sofa, bed, chair, but I do not let them on the dining room table.

Are they that different from other dogs? McConnell says they are more like their wild kin than the collie down the street.</gg>

We have dog blankets on the couch for the dogs to sit on.
I enjoy this time, as I can watch TV or read, and just touch the dogs all over, in a calm place.
It has helped me find sap in places it shouldn't be, and gets the dogs used to human hands giving them nice touches.
Re letting off leashes, we only do this when we are at the beach with no one else around.
Water on one side, no cars on the other…I also keep lots of good treats in the pockets of my coat, so the dogs know if I call them they get some chicken.

We have blankets on the couch for jack, too, and he generally sticks to those. He really likes to have something to lie on top of. We actually trained him to chew his bone only on his blanket by starting it on the couch…we would just put the bone on the blanket every time he would try and move it. Eventually, we moved it to the floor, and he lies on it....you might be able to do that to keep your girl off the couch? Its just a thought.

Thanks for all your wonderful replies. It is all very helpful. I'm curious, how do you make them think it's their idea? She's pretty interested as long as I've got a yummy treat for her, but as soon as I start to try and phase it out she very quickly loses interest. I think I've just been doing it too fast. And it's nice to know that it is possible to have a reasonably well trained Basenji. I'll start taking her along to general obedience training soon. She has her final lot of puppy shots tomorrow.

I will definitely check out those books. Where does the distraction, duration and distance come from? I think I need to get my head around that a bit more. I feel under pressure a bit because all these books I have been reading say how it's so important to try and do all this stuff while they're puppies and before they reach adolesence when they get much more distracted. And adolesence is like 5 months isn't it?

The couch, well, I suppose I just don't want to have to get the couch cleaned all the time, although between having young children also (1.5 and 4.5) it's probably a lost cause. And they are a wonderfully clean dog. Part of my issue is the way she uses the couches as a highway (I have two single seaters and a three seater along the wall together). It's cute really, the way she tiptoes along the softer top cushins and then leaps more enthusiastically along the firmer bottom part. And then the trying to dig into the couch or bite it (grrr!). But I also have a bad habit of leaving books and magazines on the couch arms, which end up trampled. Anyway, today I have been reversing it a bit. I am allowing her on the couch, but only after she sits in front of me and I invite her. I do enjoy it when she lies not to me on the couch, just not running over the top of me. It's definitely got her thinking. She's pausing a bit longer when I tell her not to get on the couch. Was she on the couch as a puppy. Good question, I'll have to find out, but I suspect yes. That may be why she's been so determined.

Thanks for all your replies!
Sheree

Do you know Clicker-Training? This is how you can get your dog "thinking". They learn to try variations and see what you like. This is how you could get your basenjis to think it's his/her idea to do things…. 😉

http://www.basenji-life.dk/Video_Dogdancing.htm

if you check this video, please keep in mind, that the Basenji does this for about three years already. It is established with clicker-training.

Regards,
Esther

@SNA:

Thanks for all your wonderful replies. It is all very helpful. I'm curious, how do you make them think it's their idea? She's pretty interested as long as I've got a yummy treat for her, but as soon as I start to try and phase it out she very quickly loses interest. I think I've just been doing it too fast. And it's nice to know that it is possible to have a reasonably well trained Basenji. I'll start taking her along to general obedience training soon. She has her final lot of puppy shots tomorrow.

The key to phasing out treat rewards is to go to a variable reinforcement schedule, like slot machine. When she does what you want sometimes she gets a treat and sometimes not but with no pattern. Dogs are great gamblers and as long as there is a pretty good chance they will get a treat then they will try it. If they figure chances are pretty low that there is something in it for them then they will start looking for somthing that will reward them.

@SNA:

I will definitely check out those books. Where does the distraction, duration and distance come from?

I am not sure what book it is from but they are referred to as the 3 Ds of Dog Training and when you are working on a behavior you should be focusing on improving one of those at a time.

Don't worry about rushing to get training done, it sounds like you have laid a good foundation and though as she goes through adolesence you will find she acts like she has "forgotten" everything, just keep using positive methods and persevere and you will come out the other end just fine.

The dancing Basenji was awsome, thanks for posting that link, my son and I much enjoyed it.

About the couch, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps she doesn't like being on the floor because it's polished floorboards and she can't sit on it without starting to slip (only realised this when I started to do more training inside too). And her crate is tucked in next to the couches so she can't be right next to us. So I'm off to find a nice comfy mat for her to sit on right next to where we sit on the couch. It will be interesting to see if it makes any difference!

Regards
Sheree

well it sounds like you are def a Basenji owner! thinking outside the box normally is how we manage to swing it 🙂

Welcome to the pack Sheree! I've two basenjis but never puppies so I can't help with some puppy-level issues. But one thing I would definitely encourage is to train your furbaby to come to a special whistle for a special treat. This will help if your dog does get away from you (and chances are she will slip out) or if you need to have your dog return to you immediately (in case of danger or safety or whatever). I have a dog whistle and have treats that are given only with this whistle – I trained my dog to this and he was already 5 yrs old. It has come in handy a couple of times already.

As for the FURniture - why not make one corner of the couch or a chair special just for your pup. Put a towel or old blanket there and let the dog think it's her special place. I don't mind having mine on the furniture because it's easier to bond with them on the same level (I'm too old and stiff to roll around on the floor with mine).

And read through the topics on this forum for all kinds of additional tips (including feeding and health issues).

@SNA:

The dancing Basenji was awsome, thanks for posting that link, my son and I much enjoyed it.

About the couch, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps she doesn't like being on the floor because it's polished floorboards and she can't sit on it without starting to slip (only realised this when I started to do more training inside too). And her crate is tucked in next to the couches so she can't be right next to us. So I'm off to find a nice comfy mat for her to sit on right next to where we sit on the couch. It will be interesting to see if it makes any difference!

Regards
Sheree

You are probably right! We recently moved to a house with wood floors, and Jack hates being on the floor, too!

I believe its because they can't get any traction on the wood.
My b's use the carpeted areas as push off points to get going before they "hit" the wood floors..
Another short squirrel story..Lou hubby came home with the dogs over to the stove yes, this is the same stove the other story is about..but he didn't shut the pantry, block the dogs behind a baby gate, or open the back door or garage door for the citter to run into.
Yes, you guessed it, Lou opened the stove, the squirrel poped out and not only when all over the counters, but behind the frig, into the pantry, and finally, out the back door.
Lou got the broom when the squirrel was in the pantry, and dogs still loose
got the squirrel out
Squirrel, left the safety of the pantry and started running on the wood floor toward the back door..
Now the b's got into running toward the back door, but on the wood floors, neither could get any tractions…so it was squirrel move 1 in, dogs move 1 in, until the squirrel got outside on the deck and then hit warp speed.
I didn't see it, but did see the mess and Lou telling me this story made me laugh until I cried..
Like an old Tom and Jerry cartoon!

There is a type of dog training technique called Positive Reinforcement training founded by Emily Larlham. You can find free limitless high quality training videos by her under Youtube channel, "Kikopup".

http://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup/videos?view=0

The concept of this training technique is getting the dog to WANT to do you what you the dog to do! Emily Larlham / kikopup features many training tutorials including tips and frequently asked questions. So if you have a question, there's a very high chance the answer is already posted somewhere else in her channel. There can be a multiple videos about one trick so watch out for those. Larlham is always adding more and more content and getting down to better organizing the information.

As far as how obedient basenjis can be. Here are some examples I found you can judge yourself:





…I've also seen a video with impressive basenji obedience knowing a lot of vocabulary that is unlike any other that i've seen, but they took down the video 😞

@soulmate:

Do you know Clicker-Training? This is how you can get your dog "thinking". They learn to try variations and see what you like. This is how you could get your basenjis to think it's his/her idea to do things…. 😉

http://www.basenji-life.dk/Video_Dogdancing.htm

The link doesn't work for me! My girl does heelwork to music, I'd love to see yours! She was also taught through clicker training; Basenjis seem to respond exceptionally well to it.

They learn quickly and know exactly what you mean by your commands, but that doesn't mean you get what you want every time. Patience is key, and our 2 sisters surprise us every day - in how good AND bad they can be. Just this morning, at the end of our off leash walk in the forest, I unhooked a leash before calling them, and they came immediately and sat patiently in front of me, even before being called. Tasty treats help!

We love them on the couch with us! We use a lot of fleece blankets for cover. Works fine for everyone.

As to biting, correct her when she bites you, but notice the difference in play-bite (easily diverted to chews and toys) and I-am-now-testing-this-human-to-see-if-he's-fit-to-be-my-packleader-or-that-I-should-take-over. The second form of biting is more serious, and should be corrected immediately. As soon as she gets the message, i.e. you ARE the pack leader, it will stop.

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