Benny bit the neighbor!

Benny has always loved people, including strangers… We got him neutered about 7 months ago, and he was always afraid of the vet after that and tried to bite him when he examined him.

Recently (3-4 weeks or so) he's been agressive towards strangers and people he doesn't see often. He is fine with them until they reach down to pet him. He bit my neighbor and broke his skin. He bit my nephew and snapped at a few of my friends that he doesn't see often. He is okay with the family and seems okay with others until they try to pet him.

I am not sure what caused this recent negative behavior.

He hasn't been hurt by anyone, to my knowledge. He met a friend a few months ago (my sister's dog) who he plays with a couple times/week. He picked up a few negative behaviors from her (she would growl at him when he messed with her while she was sleeping, so he started doing it to her and then started growling at her for other things, but they never fought). I am wondering if he is applying this learned behavior and using it against humans?

We called a behavioral specialist, but I would appreciate any help/suggestions or a recoendation for a good behavioral specialist in NE Ohio. I want to be able to take him places without worrying about him biting someone and want to be able to trust him around my family.

I think your best idea is to find a good (positive based) behaviorist. "Bites" are so hard to deal with over the internet because there are so many important nuances of dog behavior that you may be missing and cyber people certainly aren't seeing. I think I'd also ask your breeder since she/he may have some insights into his/her particular line that may be helpful.

Having said all that, I'd brush up on your obedience. Clicker training works wonders with these little curly tails. Also, I would instruct people NOT to pet him until you consult with the behaviorist and have a game plan. They can toss food to him but they are NOT to try to pet him. In the past year I've learned so much from the Control Unleashed stuff (book, dvd, internet group) and if it were my dog I'd put that stuff to use, but it's a bit hard to explain over the internet and without seeing what's going on. BUT if I'd encourage you to call around and see if you can find a CU class anywhere. At the very least, get the book and read it.

Have you talked to his breeder about his behavior?

We got him at Pet Land (I know, never buy a dog from a pet store, but they need homes too).

How old is Benny? Did you attend a puppy kindergarten class with Benny? What type of socialization did Benny receive once you bought him from the pet store?

You are on the right track if you are looking for a good behaviorist.

Benny is 16 months old. We didn't have time while he was a pup to take him to puppy kindergarten, we really wanted to though. He was always around people at the home and occasionally my other sister's golden retreiver. We brought him to the pet store every other week and let him socialize there. We also brought him to the park several times/week where he would see other dogs and people. He loved people and every dog he came across until he was neutered (the incident with the vet). Then he and another dog simultaneously got agressive with each other when he was about 9-10 months old. I recall him snapping at a lady, around that same period, while I was walking him around the neighborhood who always gave him treats… she had a hoodie on, so I thought it was that... but he was still good with everyone else. He was NEVER aggressive with anyone or anything until he was neutered though.

I am not sure what is wrong or why... I just hope it can be resolved.

Has he had a full medical check up including full thyroid panel? And I think you are on the right track with a behaviorist also.

And that is one of the classic problems with pet shop dogs are temperament and/or health problems. At age 9 to 10 months is usually when you begin to have serious problems as they become "teenagers", neutered or not. Again I seriously doubt that neutering has anything to do with it… and just because he was neutered should not make him bite the vet, unless you have a really heavy handed ill tempered vet..... dogs really do not associate things like neutering/spaying with the Vet office, per say. My OJ hated his first Vet because, 1. He really didn't like Basenjis, 2. He was pretty much afraid of them and OJ knew it... and figured there was some to be afraid of by his actions... 3. was pretty heavy handed.... But when we switch to a new vet clinic... he loved going to the Vet... and he had many procedures there over his 17+ yrs.

You are on the right track getting a behaviorist and you will need to rule out that there isn't anything physically wrong with him. When dogs experience discomfort they can act aggressively they can also start associating the discomfort with other things in their immediate environment, such as people. While you are making arrangements with a behaviorist, start keeping a journal, write things like Benny's daily routine, who he has seen, his reaction. That could really help when you talk with the behaviorist to narrow down what may be at the root of this issue.

I would be very interested in what the behaviorist says.
IMO, its not too late to get him into a basic obedience class.
It will help him learn his place, and it will help you learn to read his body language.

I know neutering can increase the chance of hypothyroidism, but the neutering itself shouldn't be a direct cause of the aggression.

And remember that many Basenjis have thyroid problems… both genetic and otherwise...

I really doubt neutering influenced any aggression. Usually it works the other way around unless the dog is in some kind of pain possibly from the procedure gone wrong.

If this were my dog, my first instinct would to have him completely checked out medically. If the dog checks out medically then you really should consult a behavior therapist.

It's your dog, you know better than anyone if you think the dog bit someone intentionally. In my personal experience, I have never seen a dog bite anyone unless it was in pain, fearful, or felt threatened. I do know that dogs temperaments can be affected by breeding. Since I do not know the history of your dog, is it possible something happened to it when it was younger that you might not be aware of?

We have taken special care to consistently socialize our Basenji since he was a very tiny puppy. He has gone all kinds of places and met all kinds of people and dogs, and continues to do so, so that he will not forget. We have always touched him everywhere, tugging (gently) on his ears, tail, paws, etc, putting hands in his mouth, rubbing his muzzle, everything. This has resulted in a dog that likes everyone he meets, especially children (which is odd, because we don't have any) and will tolerate almost anything. The only sign of aggression we have ever seen was when a strange man came up out of the woods one day on our walk. The man surprised us all, and Roo gave a low growl of warning.

Does your Basenji bite everyone or is your dog selective? Miranda and I had a rescue Americian Eskimo that was very loving to us, but he was a selective biter, he was very fearful of strangers and just plain out disliked certain people. In fact he tried to bite Miranda's father at one time. Dogs are very protective of their packs. If they associate a behavior or a scent as threat then any dog can become aggressive.

Even though our dog bit someone, we did take time to understand his behavior and then as responsible owners we made sure that this dog was never allowed to be in a situation where he could hurt someone. With proper precautions, he lived a long happy life. He was no trouble, really, we just had to be aware of his issues, and be certain to accommodate them.

Jason and Miranda

Well put Jason… and just to add... that there are selective biters.... and some just take an totally dislike to a person or persons... and the first choice is to bite first, ask questions later....

But as already said, the first course is to make sure there is nothing medically going on.

It seems that he's biting anyone he's not comfortable with, he gets stand-off-ish when someone goes to pet him. My friend who he was completely comfortable with 3 weeks ago (who he has only seen one other time in his life), he snapped at yesterday when he came over. I remember him squeeling because my friend pulled the skin on his neck (which ticked me off and I yelled at my friend for doing it). I forgot about that incident… That might have something to do with this recent surge in misbehavior...

Stresses in a life are cumulative. Let say I'm having a great day and someone cuts me off in traffic. I may think "gee, that was rude" or "boy, he's in a hurry." Whereas on another day, where my boss chewed me out for something I had nothing to do with, my mother scolded me for not remembering her birthday, my grandmother's health took a downturn and I've got 5 minutes to make it to the store to get dogfood before it closes AND this $%$^^& cuts me off. I'm probably not just going to ponder the guy's ill manners. I'm probably going to yell "&^%$$#%^Y&U!!!!" and there may be some gesturing. It's the same with dogs. So you can't always look at the bite incident by itself, you have to be aware of what led up to the event. Maybe he doesn't like "John" because John was wearing a hat, or because John is 6'4 and leans over him, or because John has a really heavy footstep and tends to pet him with a heavy hand. Or maybe what the bigger problem was he spent the day being overstimulated and he's over threshold. It does take a while (exactly how long I'm unsure of, but at least several hours) for the adrenaline to return to normal levels.

A lot of this type stuff is covered in the Control Unleashed book. (and probably explained a lot better)

Here's some reading you may find interesting.

http://www.kerryblues.info/WDJ/BITTEN.HTML

@agilebasenji:

Stresses in a life are cumulative. Let say I'm having a great day and someone cuts me off in traffic. I may think "gee, that was rude" or "boy, he's in a hurry." Whereas on another day, where my boss chewed me out for something I had nothing to do with, my mother scolded me for not remembering her birthday, my grandmother's health took a downturn and I've got 5 minutes to make it to the store to get dogfood before it closes AND this $%$^^& cuts me off. I'm probably not just going to ponder the guy's ill manners. I'm probably going to yell "&^%$$#%^Y&U!!!!" and there may be some gesturing. It's the same with dogs. So you can't always look at the bite incident by itself, you have to be aware of what led up to the event. Maybe he doesn't like "John" because John was wearing a hat, or because John is 6'4 and leans over him, or because John has a really heavy footstep and tends to pet him with a heavy hand. Or maybe what the bigger problem was he spent the day being overstimulated and he's over threshold. It does take a while (exactly how long I'm unsure of, but at least several hours) for the adrenaline to return to normal levels.

A lot of this type stuff is covered in the Control Unleashed book. (and probably explained a lot better)

Here's some reading you may find interesting.

http://www.kerryblues.info/WDJ/BITTEN.HTML

Really great post 🙂

thanks renaultf1 - it was late when I wrote that, so i'm glad it made sense.

@renaultf1:

Really great post 🙂

I agree!!!!

Update: The behaviorist came over today…

He told us that Benny thinks he's the pack leader and we have to break him down and build him back up.

  1. He walks us, we don't walk him. We need to get a training lead.
  2. We give into him at the dinner table and feed him.
  3. We basically have to make him earn everything we give him.. beit attention we give him or food we give him
  4. We always keep his dish full, we were instructed to feed him 2-3x/day.
  5. Benny bit him about 10x on his hand when he held him down on the ground to show us what to do if he trys to bite someone. He's been aggressive towards family and friends who don't come over often, including my 2 year old nephew who loves Benny.

I am not sure that I understand what you are saying happened in the last point. Are you saying that the behaviorist forced Benny to the ground while he bit him to force him to submit? If so this is based on an outdated belief and is likely to increase Benny's aggression not decrease it.

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