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My wife and I are first time Basenji owners. We got Ella, our first dog together, about 3 months ago when she was 6 months old from a breeder. We mostly love our little red and white but nothing has been easy with her. We can only assume that she was EXTREMELY poorly socialized by the breeder. The breeder more or less admitted it to us after the fact. And this is causing us a lot of problems because she was 6 months old when we got her.

Among the most noticeable problems we are having is that Ella has an obvious preference for human females and it not comfortable with most males–myself included. Because of our schedules I do most of the feeding and walking with Ella, but she is still neutral towards me at best. Ella's reaction to the two of us is strikingly different. Here are just a few examples. When my wife comes home Ella goes through a production of tail wagging, grrring, play poses and obvious happiness. I get no reaction at all when I come home and she will take a treat from me when I get home. Ella is not strongly food motivated (which is a whole other problem) but she is less likely to take a treat from me than my wife. Ella will get very playful with her toys when my wife is home, but will rarely play with her toys when it is just me. It is not that wife engages her in play. It is simply that she will play on her own if my wife is in house, but not if I am there alone. Ella will still sometimes cower in fear if I move the wrong way at the wrong time.

I have been hand-feeding her meals most of the time for the last month. We saved our best treats for only me to give to her. She will take the food from me but it does not seem to have made much of a difference.

I know that we need patience but any advice on trying to get my dog to like me.

I think it will just take some time… just keep on with what you are doing... I think she will come around... and yes it is hard if not food motivated..... winning them over...

Do you know if she has been DNA tested for Fanconi? If not, would be a good idea to have her tested... you can learn about it at www.basenjihealth.org

It sounds like you are doing everything right and I echo what Pat says…I think she will come around.

My girl Ruby was afraid of my brother when I first adopted her (she was 2yo when I got her). It wasn't that she was afraid of men (she loved my father and the guys in my office), but she was afraid of my brother because of his size (6'5"...a giant 😃 to her). For about a month, the only thing he could do was sit on the floor and let her come over to him on her own terms...he couldn't approach her...she would dart off (that would happen if he even turned and looked at her). Little by little she started to realize that he was only good. Oh, and when he would sit on the floor, the only thing she would do was walk up to him and sniff his back...she wouldn't let him pet her or look at her and with any movement by him, she would take off. She loves him now, but it took some time for her to come around.

So the only thing I would add, is try not to force yourself on her. Feed her, walk her, treat her, but let her make the other moves toward you. Definitely much harder with a dog that isn't food motivated, but maybe up the ante of the treat...cheese works really well in my house (but we use it sparingly).

Good idea, up the ante… of treat... try steak... or something really, really yummy... and not all the time... but she will see that "only you" have the best treats....

I've found that my B loves me and my fiance in different ways. He loves cuddling with me and performing tricks (yes, my B does tricks). My fiance usually gets the playful reaction. Also, my B tends to be more mischievous around my fiance.

With any new pet it always just takes time to get them comfortable in your home and to get them to trust you. As long as you use positive reinforcement, and yummy treats she should come around. Another thing to note, dogs are pack animals, if you can clearly establish her place in your pack it should help the transition and help her know her place and hence make her more confident.

If she was truly undersocialized then it may be a slow process to get her to warm up to you. You are doing all the right things. As everyone has said keep hand feeding and walking her. Let her make the first move for other things. Experiment with some different treats to see if you can find one that is really high value for her and then use it to build your bond with her through training, freeze dried chicken hearts are a big hit here, http://www.healthypetdiet.com/freeze.shtml

Also, be patient, she will come around. My friend has a rescue border collie that she got at about 4 years old. Her BC barked at her husband every time he entered the room for nearly 2 years before she came around that he wasn't a "bad guy". He did all of her feeding and walking for that time and my friend says her dog probably thought her name was "Damn Dog" for those 2 years but they have a great relationship now. Her dog was an extreme case but just goes to show with patience and perserverence, you can see change.

Thank you for the support. I know that patience is the key but some days are tougher than others. And while I would like to think that I can wait it out indefinitely, this issue is making bonding difficult and I am not certain I can keep doing what I am doing for several more months, let alone years. We have had her 3 months. Once we have her six months she will have spent half her life with us, so I am hoping there will be a significant change by then. She has improved quite a bit from Day 1 but we are still a long way from a normal relationship.

Regarding dogs being pack animals, my question is based on her behavoir after 3 months do you think she has still not adopted us as her pack? Or if she has placed us in her pack, based on my description where do my wife and I fit into the pack? We debate about this endlesly. I feel like I have no intuition for dog physchology but my theory is that she sees me as the pack leader and constantly defers to me, even when I don't want her to defer to me. One thing I did not mention in the previous post is that when I leave the house Ella becomes quite agitated and will not relax and will whimper a little bit. She is by no means happy or relieved when I leave. That being said, I get no greeting when I return home. Not much interest in general and cowering in fear on occasion.

We will keep trying different treats. The issue is no longer that she won't take treats but that she only takes them on her own terms. For example, our trainer suggests throwing a "puppy party" everytime she walk in door or whenever I walk in the door to build that postive connection. She will refuse treats at those times. Or when we want to playing training "games" she will decide she is not interested in food.

Some keys to successful training, always bring a hungry dog. You may want to forego feeding her regular meals and instead use her meals as training opportunities. Then reward her for all positive interactions, you may get a better response and she will be less likely to turn down food if she isn't sure when her next "meal time" is. You should chose your reward criteria to be such that she should be able to earn most of her daily food this way.

I disagree on the idea of with holding food, dogs need their 2 meals per day and should not have to work to get it. You can find other ways to encourage her, such as playtime… Baby talk and encouragement is a much more humane way to spend time with her. She may resent having to beg for her meals, and this would make her withdraw more from you! You want to bring her closer to you, not push her away!

Also, find a socialization class in your area, you take her and leave your wife home. This one on one time with her will bring the two of you closer.

You are not withholding food, you are just feeding throughout the day instead of at set mealtimes. Since the dog is being hand fed this isn't a major change, it is just spreading out the meal so that the training that they are using is most effective. If at the end of the evening there is still kibble left, they can give that as a single meal.

so if your kid is not listening to you, you will not feed him supper but instead will give him his bread when he listens and does what he is told, then later you will give him soup when he again does what he is told, and then finally after he brushes his teeth and listens again you will give him the rest of his meal? Come on does this sound humane? NO!
I recommend getting the dog on a good diet, such as www.vetschoice.com the Holistic Health Extension Little Bites is a good choice, the Jr Vitamins are also a good option.
and take some good one on one time and spend with her… (puppy classes are great) and being on unfamiliar turf will benefit your bond greatly. As of now she might possibly enjoy you hand feeding her and just maybe this is her one on one time with you, as for your wife she has her in playtime, and you in feeding time. Break up the routine a little bit, you play and have your wife feed her...

Before you respond so harshly, you probably make sure you understand the situation you are responding to. The person is having a hard time getting their dog excited about eating treats when they come home from work so they can use that as a reinforcer. All I am recommending is that instead of using treats, they change their feeding schedule so her "puppy party" is part of her dinner and helps to reinforce that bcraig's arrival signals positive things.

This is not cruel nor can it be equated to withholding food from a child.

@bcraig:

My wife and I are first time Basenji owners. We got Ella, our first dog together, about 3 months ago when she was 6 months old from a breeder. We mostly love our little red and white but nothing has been easy with her. We can only assume that she was EXTREMELY poorly socialized by the breeder. The breeder more or less admitted it to us after the fact. And this is causing us a lot of problems because she was 6 months old when we got her.

Among the most noticeable problems we are having is that Ella has an obvious preference for human females and it not comfortable with most males–myself included. Because of our schedules I do most of the feeding and walking with Ella, but she is still neutral towards me at best. Ella's reaction to the two of us is strikingly different. Here are just a few examples. When my wife comes home Ella goes through a production of tail wagging, grrring, play poses and obvious happiness. I get no reaction at all when I come home and she will take a treat from me when I get home. Ella is not strongly food motivated (which is a whole other problem) but she is less likely to take a treat from me than my wife. Ella will get very playful with her toys when my wife is home, but will rarely play with her toys when it is just me. It is not that wife engages her in play. It is simply that she will play on her own if my wife is in house, but not if I am there alone. Ella will still sometimes cower in fear if I move the wrong way at the wrong time.

I have been hand-feeding her meals most of the time for the last month. We saved our best treats for only me to give to her. She will take the food from me but it does not seem to have made much of a difference.

I know that we need patience but any advice on trying to get my dog to like me.

No, he is clearly upset that their dog appears to like his wife better than she likes him. He needs to find a way to get her to bond with him.

bcraig…please don't get caught up in the bickering carried over from another thread...and the sales pitch for vitamins that you are receiving. And I have received invaluable advice from lvoss...she knows her stuff regarding training, health, etc.

Having lived this situation (although a seemingly lesser level than you are going thru), I have to agree with lvoss. I think the idea of mixing up the schedule a bit, so the meal is of a higher value is a GREAT idea. I know my brother was heart broken that my girl Ruby "didn't seem to like him."

One other thing to remember is that girl basenjis can be more independent than male basenjis...so therefore come off as less "loving". My girl Ruby wants love "on her own terms." Seriously, my friends are a bit baffled why I love the breed...I think my friends get my boy Brando...he is so affectionate and lives for it...but Ruby really is her own girl. Please hang in there. I think upping the value of the treat or using the treat when it has more value (i.e. she's hungry) could swing things in your direction.

BTW, the real turn around with my girl Ruby and my brother came when I injured my back...he HAD to walk her, feed her, pretty much became her care taker. I'm hesitant to tell you that was a year after she came here...
But since he has been really involved, she now will jump up into his lap...and her favourite place to relax (other than in front of the fire) is his chair. In a way it bums me out that she will sit in his lap (and not mine...I've always been her favourite), but at the same time I'm so happy that she loves him.

So...my long winded way of saying, you really are on the right track.

Here is a good article on establishing pack roles: http://www.cbrrescue.org/articles/packleader.htm

If she gets anxious when you leave it sounds like she has bonded with you more than you think she has. By being agitated she is showing signs of separation anxiety.

If she is showing fear towards you, you may want to consider the body language that you send to her. You may be unknowingly sending her signals you don't want to. Try to stay open and positive to her. Use discipline commands (such as off and leave it), instead of always saying no. Here is an article I found that may help you understand what body language means to your dog: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/what-does-your-body-language-say-to-your-dog/page1.aspx

There is lots of other information out on the web about dog behavior, it might help both of you understand each other. Don't give up. Basenjis by nature are more independent. You may never get the exact same reaction from her that your wife gets (as I said earlier, my B cuddles more with me, and plays more with my fiance). Give her the time she needs to recognize that you aren't a bad guy and she'll come around.

Again, I thank everybody for their advice. It is nice to know that I am not the only one to ever face this problem. I had already gotten past taking it personally, but we are new dog owners and at first it was hard not to take it personally. I really felt that it was my fault.

I tend to feel that is is not inhumane to use food as a tool for training the dog. No, I wouldn't treat a child that way, but Ella is a dog–not a human. Of course, we would not starve her, but if she misses a meal to make her more amenable to training I certainly will not lose sleep over it. One message I get from the dog experts is do not treat your dog like a child. Ella has a healthy appetite but she seems to be able to take it or leave it at any given time. But we will act on some of those suggestions.

I will definitely look at the body language link. I am certain that is probably one of the reasons many dogs prefer woman. Men just project differently. I am not a large man but I am sure that I am scary to her many times. I have a deep loud voice, I am always doing chores around the house that involve noises and objects that could be scary to her. Although I am careful not to get in her face or push myself on her. It was kind of funny, but yesterday sitting on the couch I apparently picked up the TV remote control a little too quickly and Ella was walking under the glass coffee table and reacted so skittishly fast that she smacked her head on the table. Not the first time it has happened. Too alert for her own good. I just wonder if she will ever get comfortable enough that those kinds of things will not happen.

And I have heard that bitches (females) can be bitchy. She definitely has her moods.

One thought that just popped in my head…. I don't know how you normally discipline her, but you may want to try using a squirt bottle or water gun as discipline instead of physically pulling her away from things. In theory, that separates the discipline from you. Then she reacts to the bottle, and not a motion that you make.

I think that it is good that you are working with a trainer. Do you have a personal trainer that comes to your house to see how you interact with her? Or is it more of a group class? Also, is your trainer more of a behaviorist or simply a trainer?

Hi there, this is Miranda, not Jason this time.

I want to tell you that in our house, Roo has a very different relationship with each of us. Roo is definitely crazy about me, and will Baroo for me (sometimes but not as often as he does for the kids…) and play with me, his favorite thing is to sleep in my lap though. With Jason he never ever Baroos (until last night!) He Baroos as a welcome home to me and the kids but not Jason.

With Jason, Roo is very very motivated to do tricks, not as much with me. The pacing, and whining you describe happens here too, when Jason goes out. If he leaves the house Roo paces and whines, scratches the door, etc, until he hears the car start and realizes that Jason isn't coming back in. He will scratch the door when someone else goes out, but none of the anxious behaviors that he exhibits for Jason.

With time, your girl will establish a unique relationship with each of you. That is one of the wonderful things about Basenjis. They are independent thinkers. I think you may not have enough of a feel for Basenji psychology and signalling yet. It is obvious from your posts that your girl is bonded to you, but she doesn't see you as a playmate, she sees you as the boss. Try teaching her some tricks, or obedience commands. I echo what others have said about finding the yummiest treat possible for her to use during these sessions. Freeze dried chicken, or fish is one thing you might try.

Basenji Bonding from the Male perspective:

Miranda and I wanted to give both the female and male bonding experiences from our experience.

First and foremost, I think your Basenji sees both of you, the male and female in your household as pack leaders. Since Basenji's are highly intelligent they do sense that different pack leaders offer different things and relate to them in different ways. It has taken almost a whole year for me to get a Baroo out of Roo when I came home. Ironically that only happened last night. I cannot comment as far as what his behavior has been when I leave him with Miranda but I know Miranda has already covered that is her response in this post.

Roo will cuddle, sit on my lap, wrestle, bring me toys, and retrieve for me. Of course he spends most of his time with me. The best bonding you can do with your dog is to take him on long walks every day. Now that the weather is starting to break this is a good opportunity for you to do this. We walk 3 miles in the morning and 3 miles in the afternoon. Miranda sometimes meets us at the park in the afternoon after work. She is more regular in doing so in the summer. This activity is good for both you and your dog.

If you also take a longer leash to the park, you can switch leashes and let your dog have some running room after his/her walk. I take a 20 foot lead I bought at a dept store and I found that if you just give your dog about 15mins every day to do this after the regular walk it has an impact.

After you do walk your dog this is a great time to train and teach him/her to sit. I take Cheerio's with me as treats. I give Roo and Bonzo(our Boston) Cheerio's after our walk. They have to sit to get them after our walk. I also train Roo to sit, come, and retrieve with Cheerio's. Since I am going to start agility training after he completely recovers from his Neuter, I will most likely use Cheerio's to reward after that.

I noticed you say your dog is not food motivated. That is ok. Maybe since the dog sees you as the main pack leader he/she is a little more tentative about taking a treat from you than from your wife. Keep in mind that in the wild, dogs usually do not take food from the pack leader. They wait until the pack leader is done and walks away from it. Since this puppy was 6 months old when you got him/her, this puppy might have already been in the habit of treating the pack leader different and respecting the hierarchy of the pack, especially if your puppy was keep with several other dogs.

One last thing I would like to mention. Basenji's as well as other dogs are very very smart when it comes to sensing or reading people. If they sense any kind of fear or stand offish behavior about you, they can reciprocate in kind. I am not suggesting you do what I do. I can honestly tell you that even after owning many dogs in my life, I had no idea what kinds of behavior I could really expect from owning a Basenji. There are lots of stories on the web about different ways they can behave, and some include aggressive behavior. You can buy into those types of stories or find out for yourself. A lot of how your dog behaves is related to how you handle him/her and what you expose them to. In my opinion, how much control you have over your dog is directly related to you and your relationship with that dog.

I did have fear of being bitten by Roo's Razor Sharp Puppy Teeth. I do not know if there is anything I have experienced that are sharper than a Basenji's baby teeth. Since Basenji's like to mouth and it can be their way of letting you know they want to play, I think it can often be misinterpreted. People do jerk their hands away because they are not used to this type of behavior, and as a result they get scratched and think the dog has attempted to bite them.

I got over this very quickly by sticking my whole hand in Roo's mouth. In fact it is a practice I continue today. I also can grab Roo anywhere, including yanking on his tail and ears. Roo never attempts to bite me, but does continue the mouthing behavior when he wants attention. We have accepted this mouthing as normal and spent a lot of time when he was a puppy sticking our hands in his mouth and teaching him not to bite.

Once again what works for me may not work for you. I think if you are patient, you will find that your dog is very bonded to you, and happiest when all his/her pack members are present.

Jason

ComicDom1-Thank you both for your perspectives. I will relate a few more details.

Ella is not a biter at all and we got her after she lost her baby teeth. She will very occasionally nip when she is in a playful mood but that is it. She did bite my wife's butt once while paying in bed. I can honestly say that there is no subtext of fear for her to pick up on. She might be picking up other things that I don't know about, but not fear of biting.

We are working on teaching obedience but that is when it can get frustrating when she won't take treats or is skittish of me. FYI-We have an obedience trainer and would love to see a behaviorist who could come to our home–haven't found one yet. We are teaching SIT right now. I will engage her in the SIT game but sometimes she will sit, see me toss a treat and just ignore it and end the game. Not always, but some of the time and it does not seem to be related to meal times. Sometimes she will sit repeatedly, but across the room from me, not in front of me. When my wife plays the SIT game she has no problem doing the sit right in front of her. My wife spontaneously taught her to lie down in about 5 minutes last night.

You and other folks describe how your Basenji can treat members of the family differently. I think I now get that. My frustration is that I don't get very much of the good stuff. The stuff that you think of when you get a dog. A happy greeting when you come home. Sitting down next to you to be touched. Playing games. I don't really get any of that.

Exercise. I should start a new thread for this but since you mention taking them out for 3 miles a day twice per day I have to ask the question of how much exercise is enough? One of the reasons we got a Basenji is that I too am unhappy if I don't get my exercise and I too am happiest when I am tuckered out. I hike or bike or ski almost every day. The problem is that Ella is so poor on the leash that it is difficult to take her out on my hikes (which are on skis this time of year and really does not work with her on a leash. I took her out on a retractable leash on my cross-country skis several times. This was great because it allowed to really run, but she learned how to twist the small clip on the retractable out of her collar and ran away a few times. Epic adventures getting her back. I can't ski with her on a regular leash so that ended that activity for now. And she is a Houdini that has also backed out of every collar she has ever worn and can only wear a harness that is rubbing her raw). I usually walk her AND then go out and get my exercise. As a result her walks are usually about 30 minutes--three times a day. Occasionally she gets a walk near an hour. She is an incredible puller on the leash. We are working on it with the trainer but it is a long and slow process. We have gone through 4 harnesses and 2 collars and 2 leashes in 3 months. She is over-excited anytime she meets a dog and fearful when she meets most people. She is either pulls at full force or will stop on a dime to sniff and that does not make for a good hike for me. We are working with our trainer on all of these things but I assume it is going to take a while. I look forward to the day I can take her with me on my hikes and then I am confident I can tire her out but I don't see that happening for a while, hopefully summer. Are we killing her zest for life my taking her out three times a day for about 30 minutes?

I will leave the issues of exercise, collars, and loose leash walking for a different thread but would really like to recommend the book and DVD On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals, by Turid Rugaas, http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=A251

Another great dog language DVD is The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs, http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB875P

Both are great because you get visuals to see the dogs giving these signals so you can learn to read your dog better and get ideas about how you can interact better.

As for the treat thing, I think you are going to have to work to find what treats you dog finds high value. Each of my dogs values food differently. Rally and Sophie are the easiest, working for kibbles of Evo is just fine with them. Nicky and Rio on the other hand can be more choosy. For most things cheese is a high value treat and my dogs will happily work for it. In highly distracting situations or for tasks that they find more challenging, they will sometimes not work for cheese and I have to up the ante. Some of the high value treats in my house include lamb or beef lung, freeze dried chicken hearts, and freeze dried green tripe (this stuff really stinks so I only use it on very rare occasions). I usually keep a variety of treats on hand so that they don't get bored with any one type but also so they aren't sure if the next treat is going to be that really super yummy one or a just sort of okay one.

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