Basenji Intellegence
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  • Hi all,

    I just wandered over from a working dog forum and a member posted an article about dog intelligence by breed. MSN and the link this member posted said that Basenjis are on the bottom ten of intelligence. I had to throw the BS flag on that. I've never owned a Basenji or worked with one but from the people I talked to and what I've read that you have to have a good bond and properly motivate the Basenji to train them, it's not an "IQ" thing. German Shepherds are in the top ten, I train for SchutzHund and I'm here to tell you that if you aren't familiar with working line GSDs you would think they were "stupid" or at the very least stubborn.

    I was wondering if you guys could link me to sights of Basenjis doing sport, like agility, tracking, CGC or some really clever series of tricks?

    I tried to explain to the guy just because the pupper doesn't want to work for you doesn't mean the dog is stupid. Put two milk bones in your pocket and only give him one and see what happens…..

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  • Here is a link to Basenjis doing agility, http://www.apubasenjis.com/BasenjisAgility.html

    Here is a link to Basenjis doing rally,
    http://www.apubasenjis.com/BasenjisRally-O.html

    Here is a CNN article about a basenji training for Bomb sniffing,
    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/05/28/police.dogs.smell.detection/index.html

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  • Shhhhh . . . , don't tell these people about basenjis. If they understood, and were smart, and had a sense of humor, they'd all want one. I've done conformation, agility, coursing, rally and pet therapy with my basenjis. I'd love to try tracking. Here's an article about my brindlewonderkid, Digital, doing Rally.

    http://www.apubasenjis.com/2006RallyArticle.pdf

    In addition to a top rally performace, Digital is a multiple best in field dog (coursing), a bench champion and was in the top 3 agility basenjis in the nation (AKC rankings) for 7 or8 years. I also have Jet the try-ing who has a piddly 16 titles to his name. (Diggie has over 30, so 16 isn't a lot.) I also have an up-and-coming superstar. Zest is 3 and with only her Sr Coursing title to her name, is a bit behind the curve, but she's just about to hit her stride. Her debut is here:

    if you're familiar with agility, you'll see she does lack a little focus, but over all a very nice first ever agility run. Nice weaves, nice lead out, nice rear crosses. And she also does spins - right and left.

    Also, just for comparison, in addition to the basenjis, I have a malinois (our second mali). We did agility with our first mali and the first agility dog in the house was a lab. My chosen breed is, and always will be, the basenji. Yes they are harder to motivate. Yes, they do keep the owner/trainer on her toes. Yes, you do have to have a relationship with the dog. But gosh, what thrill when everything comes together.

    I think with that list you spoke of, there are too many variables. It's been around for a while. It was a survey taken by trainers. I wonder how many of those traners used old school methods, methods that rely on force to get what the trainer wants. Basenjis find jerk-and-pull methods offensive. Really, if you can't get your point accross without using force, they seem to think less of you and basenjis have little use for fools. I think the trainers that find basenjis (or any breed really) "stupid" aren't very talented or versatile. I find them a challanging and a blast.

    (And as to the milkbones, my dogs wouldn't care. They have higher expectations. ;) )

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  • Exactly right about the "milk bones"…. gggg... they play for much higher stakes.... one of my Basenjis that I bred and placed is a Dual Champion (conformation and Lure Coursing) and a CD and Advanced Rally...
    Another is an agility title holder (picture on my website).... I have bred a number of dual conformation and coursing champions... have not ventured into Rally or Agility yet... and I totally agree with agilebasenji description of the breed..... it is totally right on

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  • And I should add, that Digital was my first competition dog of any sort. (To clarify, hubby ran the lab in agility.) So he did all that inspite of, not because of, his owner/handler.

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  • If I had to live in the woods with nothing but a dog I'll take a Basenji. Over 30 years of taking them out in the wild they will keep you well fed believe me. I wasn't even hunting and they've brought back Rabbits, Pheasant, small birds and other vermin. My first one killed a large wood pecker.

    This is from Jane Killion's book (which is excellent) called "When Pigs Fly" -Training Success With Impossible Dogs.

    Sit down, because this is going to come as a shock to you. No breed of dog is inherently
    better at learning than any other breed or mix of breeds. That's right — despite
    all the flashy behavior that certain breeds offer, despite the fact that some breeds
    of dogs are literally waiting around for you to tell them what to do, they are no
    quicker to learn than any other dog. That is not just my opinion — Scott and Fuller
    in their seminal work Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog (Chicago: University
    of Chicago Press, 1965) did extensive experiments with Basenjis, Shetland
    Sheepdogs, Beagles, ****er Spaniels, Wire-Haired Fox Terriers, and all manner of
    crosses of those breeds. The tests consisted of various complicated combinations
    of obstacles and mazes that the dogs had to negotiate in order to get to a food reward.
    Scott and Fuller found that, when it came to problem solving and learning,
    no breed or cross of breed is quicker to learn than any other is. In their words:
    … (A)ll breeds show about the same average level of performance in problem
    solving, provided they can be adequately motivated, provided physical differences
    and handicaps do not affect the tests, and provided interfering emotional
    reactions such as fear can be eliminated. In short, all the breeds appear quite
    similar in pure intelligence.
    Wait, it gets better. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that people consider
    a Basenji to be one of the hardest to train dogs, and a Sheltie to be one of
    the easiest. If you attend obedience or agility trials, you will see lots and lots of
    Shelties, and powerful few Basenjis. Some people will attribute this to superior
    intelligence and learning ability on the part of the Sheltie. Here is what Scott and
    Fuller found:
    In general, the four hunting breeds (beagles, basenjis, terriers, and ****ers) performed
    best on the tests. This is probably because most of the tests were deliberately
    designed to test independent capacities motivated by food rewards...By
    contrast, the Shetland sheep dogs, whose ancestors have been selected for their
    ability to perform complex tasks under close direction from their human masters,
    performed rather badly. Indeed, in many of the tests, the shelties gave the subjective
    impression of waiting around for someone to tell them what to do, (Emphasis
    added)
    The Basenji learned faster than the Sheltie. The Sheltie was waiting to be told
    what to do, and the Basenji was out there figuring it out on his own. So, if the
    Basenji is just as capable, if not more capable, than the Sheltie of learning, why is
    it so devilishly hard to get a Basenji to actually do what we want them to do? The
    answer is that traditional training models were designed with the biddable dog
    (like the Sheltie) in mind. Those methods rely heavily on "showing" or "telling"
    the dog what to do. If you have a dog who is pre-programmed through hundreds
    or thousands of years of breeding to be receptive to being told what to do, those
    methods might get you somewhere. If you have a dog who has only ever been bred
    to think for himself, you will find yourself beating your head against a wall. The
    problem is not the dog, but the method used to teach him. Instead of compelling or
    showing the dog what you want him to do, you need to learn a system of training
    that will tap into your dog's ability to excel at independently motivated problem
    solving, just like the dogs in Fuller and Scott's study.
    Please note that the fact that the Sheltie was reluctant to problem solve does not
    mean that the Sheltie was more or less intelligent than the other dogs. It only
    means that the Sheltie had a natural preference to be told what to do in that context.
    I think we must be careful not to ascribe labels like "intelligent" or "unintelligent"
    to dogs, because the assessment of a dog's intelligence is going to depend
    on your preconceived notions of what a dog "should" be.

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  • P

    No Barkus - I totally agree with you about labels of intelligence.

    Scott and Fuller did extensive research on these breeds and I don't believe this has ever been surpassed. I stand to be corrected but I have read and read over and over 'Genetics and the Social Behaviour of the Dog'. It is one of ym 'bibles'!

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  • Houston

    Dan, I love it..
    So is the book a good read?

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  • Great article! The funnies thing about the article is that I learned ****er Spaniels are bad, why else would they edit out the first four letters of their name. :):):)

    @nobarkus:

    If I had to live in the woods with nothing but a dog I'll take a Basenji. Over 30 years of taking them out in the wild they will keep you well fed believe me. I wasn't even hunting and they've brought back Rabbits, Pheasant, small birds and other vermin. My first one killed a large wood pecker.

    This is from Jane Killion's book (which is excellent) called "When Pigs Fly" -Training Success With Impossible Dogs.

    Sit down, because this is going to come as a shock to you. No breed of dog is inherently
    better at learning than any other breed or mix of breeds. That's right ? despite
    all the flashy behavior that certain breeds offer, despite the fact that some breeds
    of dogs are literally waiting around for you to tell them what to do, they are no
    quicker to learn than any other dog. That is not just my opinion ? Scott and Fuller
    in their seminal work Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog (Chicago: University
    of Chicago Press, 1965) did extensive experiments with Basenjis, Shetland
    Sheepdogs, Beagles, ****er Spaniels, Wire-Haired Fox Terriers, and all manner of
    crosses of those breeds. The tests consisted of various complicated combinations
    of obstacles and mazes that the dogs had to negotiate in order to get to a food reward.
    Scott and Fuller found that, when it came to problem solving and learning,
    no breed or cross of breed is quicker to learn than any other is. In their words:
    … (A)ll breeds show about the same average level of performance in problem
    solving, provided they can be adequately motivated, provided physical differences
    and handicaps do not affect the tests, and provided interfering emotional
    reactions such as fear can be eliminated. In short, all the breeds appear quite
    similar in pure intelligence.
    Wait, it gets better. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that people consider
    a Basenji to be one of the hardest to train dogs, and a Sheltie to be one of
    the easiest. If you attend obedience or agility trials, you will see lots and lots of
    Shelties, and powerful few Basenjis. Some people will attribute this to superior
    intelligence and learning ability on the part of the Sheltie. Here is what Scott and
    Fuller found:
    In general, the four hunting breeds (beagles, basenjis, terriers, and ****ers) performed
    best on the tests. This is probably because most of the tests were deliberately
    designed to test independent capacities motivated by food rewards...By
    contrast, the Shetland sheep dogs, whose ancestors have been selected for their
    ability to perform complex tasks under close direction from their human masters,
    performed rather badly. Indeed, in many of the tests, the shelties gave the subjective
    impression of waiting around for someone to tell them what to do, (Emphasis
    added)
    The Basenji learned faster than the Sheltie. The Sheltie was waiting to be told
    what to do, and the Basenji was out there figuring it out on his own. So, if the
    Basenji is just as capable, if not more capable, than the Sheltie of learning, why is
    it so devilishly hard to get a Basenji to actually do what we want them to do? The
    answer is that traditional training models were designed with the biddable dog
    (like the Sheltie) in mind. Those methods rely heavily on "showing" or "telling"
    the dog what to do. If you have a dog who is pre-programmed through hundreds
    or thousands of years of breeding to be receptive to being told what to do, those
    methods might get you somewhere. If you have a dog who has only ever been bred
    to think for himself, you will find yourself beating your head against a wall. The
    problem is not the dog, but the method used to teach him. Instead of compelling or
    showing the dog what you want him to do, you need to learn a system of training
    that will tap into your dog's ability to excel at independently motivated problem
    solving, just like the dogs in Fuller and Scott's study.
    Please note that the fact that the Sheltie was reluctant to problem solve does not
    mean that the Sheltie was more or less intelligent than the other dogs. It only
    means that the Sheltie had a natural preference to be told what to do in that context.
    I think we must be careful not to ascribe labels like "intelligent" or "unintelligent"
    to dogs, because the assessment of a dog's intelligence is going to depend
    on your preconceived notions of what a dog "should" be.

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  • @MDSPHOTO:

    Great article! The funnies thing about the article is that I learned ****er Spaniels are bad, why else would they edit out the first four letters of their name. :):):)

    The Spaniels first name was actually edited by this forum. When I wrote it I did spell it out. It was edited because….... well you know why. ;)

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  • @Max:

    I was wondering if you guys could link me to sights of Basenjis doing sport, like agility, tracking, CGC or some really clever series of tricks?

    I have trained multiple basenjis, with the basenji breed being my introduction to all dog sports (to mean I had no idea what I was doing much less getting into).

    I have owned and/bred multiple champions (breed and field) as well as obedience, rally and agility titled basenjis; earning multiple Best in Field, Best of Breed, High Point and High in Trials (locally and Nationally).

    Some of my dogs have titled through Master Agility, some have MACH points, and I have bred/owned the first and only basenji to ever qualify for AKC Agility NATIONALS (regular or preferred) by earing 6 DQ's in only 15 attempts. In obedience, prior to her premature death, my heart dog Sage was able to garner one leg (winning both High in Trial and High Combined) towards a Utility Dog Excellent degree in her first and only attempt.

    While tracking is the only venue I have never attempted due to my location; desert with all the nasty creatures that come along with the SW desert (rattlers, scorpions, recluse spiders, Valley Fever) I find advanced obedience proves their scenting abilities quite well; my basenjis are truly versatile dogs.

    You asked for some links showing their abilities.

    Here is a link to a 5 month old basenji doing Utility Scent work. I do not use anything other than my scent to train.

    Here is a link to a silly proofing exercise I call Weave Retreive:

    The dogs range from 8 years to 2 years of age in this video.

    As you can see (and have heard from others in this forum) they are far from stupid; they can and do excel in all that they do though not everyone can nor does get the best out of them.


    Bmw 132

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  • P

    Linda -Wonderful dogs. I'm very impressed with the youngsters and by you and your training. Its good to hear so many sticking up for the intelligence of our beloved Basenjis. I have even heard some owners call their Basenjis stupid and wonder how much they know themselves!!

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  • V

    I love to tell people that b's are rated the "second dumbest dogs". Totally freaks them out.

    I think part of the rating was done by "trainability". Yes, the b is more like a cat (doesn't care what you want). But, whoever rated these "dumb" dogs is the biggest idiot of them all.

    I have a friend who has a lab who has been to the vet numerous times for eating stuff he shouldn't (sound familiar?). My Mom has a border collie mix (beautiful dog) who will stand out in the rain until he is drenched to the bone when he has adequate cover. I have a friend who has a chihuahua and it's so neurotic it has to be on doggy downers on a daily basis.

    So, tell me, which is "smarter"?

    Give me my clean, cute, stubborn, cuddly, quiet, crazy b any day!

    I think they should rate owners. Where would b owners rate? At the top, in my opinion!!!:D:D:D:D:D

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  • Thanks all, appreciate the help. It irks me when somebody reposts some internet fluff by a nobody with a few letters after thier name. I've learn to question the supposed experts in my lifetime, there are a lot of college educated morons in the world or have agendas

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  • by the by, I uploaded an ikon file but it won't take? am I on probation or somethin?

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  • Funny thing, I have read articles where the Basenji is amongst the top ten, and then there are those that say it is at the bottom.

    I for one never really looked at a dogs intelligence. Personally I cannot see a valid way of us calculating out an animals intelligence.

    Like humans, we respond differently when it comes to learning. Some can get it in one go, others need to keep trying, some need a different approach such at motivation etc etc does this valid calling one less intelligent than the other?

    It's the same with dogs, and it's the owners responsibility to understand his/her dog and how it responds to different types of training.
    Also I don't believe in "specific breed" training, but instead in personality. Again, it's all in the owners hands.

    So I guess I can say that a dog's intelligence depends on his/her masters intelligence/ability in knowing their dog.

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  • Houston

    Like humans, we respond differently when it comes to learning. Some can get it in one go, others need to keep trying, some need a different approach such at motivation etc etc does this valid calling one less intelligent than the other?

    It's the same with dogs, and it's the owners responsibility to understand his/her dog and how it responds to different types of training.
    Also I don't believe in "specific breed" training, but instead in personality. Again, it's all in the owners hands.

    So I guess I can say that a dog's intelligence depends on his/her masters intelligence/ability in knowing their dog.

    Very well said…I agree..

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  • Just because a dog doesn't hang on your every word does not mean it is not intelligent. Basenji just have other things on their minds. I've found AJ to be very trainable and follows both voice and gesture commands. We don't use the typical Sit…Stay... We have our own cadence and I have difference requirements of him.

    Some people equate canine intelligence with blind and immediate action to specified instruction. IMO, this is not "intelligence" so much as rote learning. Actual intelligence is the ability to solve a problem. I figure a dog is pretty smart when he teaches himself how to unlatch a wing window and let himself out of the truck through that small opening. I'm glad this truck does not have wing windows.

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  • This is a great thread. I'm currently doing a home study dog course and for the last unit I have to do a 'special study'. As usual I've left it to the last minute and haven't actually done any study. (Got to be in by this Friday!!) :o
    What I had thought I would write about (needs to be approx 1500 words) was 'Why are some dogs labelled as more 'intelligent' than others?'

    Would any of you mind if I maybe used some of your stories as examples in my study? And maybe if some of you can help in any other way I'd be VERY grateful.

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  • P

    Benkura - what a great idea.

    I had another thought but I don't know whether you can use it?

    • A Border Collie is deemed intelligent because they are so obedient hence a Basenji could be called unintelligent for that reason.

    However which of these breeds would jump over a cliff if given the right command?!!

    Don't anyone take this as a slur on BCs - I love them too.

    Tiyaa who was Nakura's great great great (I think!) grandmother learned obedience from watching us train our Border Collies. She never had any training herself. She came to classes to compete in match competitions and did extremely well but for the retrieve. She would take one look when we threw the article and turn to us as if to say "You threw it, you fetch it"

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  • The Border Collie Vs the Basenji was exactly what I had started to write about but wasn't sure if I could pad it out to 1500 words. A friend has lent me just about EVERY book on BCs. (I'm not a quick reader). I like the idea of a BC (or similar) being bred to follow commands from one leader and therefor may need 'leading' to solve problems etc.

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