Help - My Basenji hates my boyfriend!

My 9 year old basenji boy hates my boyfriend. It has gotten progressively worse since I have been bringing him over to my boyfriends house. Although my boyfriend is not completely understanding of the breed, I do feel as though he has tried to get Griffin to like him but to no avail. I have another dog one year older, also male, who did not like him at first either, but now they are big buds. I have talked to the vet and to professional trainers, but nothing has seemed to work very well. I can tell that Griffin is miserable and on edge every time Matthew is around. I am afraid I might have to find him a new home, just because I want him to be happy and I am not planning on ending my relationship with my boyfriend.

What have you tried to help Griffin feel more comfortable around your boyfriend? What is Griffin doing to let you know he is uncomfortable? How does your boyfriend behave around Griffin?

He tries to pet him and be nice to him, but still give him his space. We have tried having Matthew be the one that lets him out of his crate, feed him and walk him. Griffin will still consistently growl or snap at him sometimes when he just walks into the room. When we are at Matthew's house or he is at mine, Griffin doesn't want to play at all he will just go into the other room and stay away from Matthew. They did have an incident once when we first started dating where Matthew was playing with him too roughly and Griffin bit him. So, apparently Griffin just can't let go of that?? Griffin is a fairly grumpy little dog anyway as he sometimes growls at me if I do something that he doesn't like or gets in fights with my other dog. I have worked really hard on his behavior with some "professional" trainers, and I feel like he has gotten better in general, but not specifically with Matthew, possibly even worse with him. Unfortunately, when he tries to bite Matthew probably doesn't handle it the best way. He gets mad and throws him in the garage or locks him in his crate.

How long does his behaviour last?

If you mean each episode, then he will growl and/or snap and run and hide. If I go and try to "comfort" him, then he is usually ok with me just a few minutes afterwards. But, I have been trying not to do that because I feel like that is babying him or somehow condoning his behavior. He stays on permanent "caution mode" with Matthew, but maybe up to an hour or two later if it is on his terms, he might let Matthew pet him or give him a treat with no growl.

I'm sorry about your situation, it's really unfortunate. Have you thought in depth about how Griffin feels? He was the first one there. Now he's being asked to deal with someone who is not entirely understanding of his breed nor how to handle dogs in general. I'm sorry, he throws your dog in the garage? Seriously? And you're okay with this? This is your dog. IMO letting your boyfriend interact with your dog in this way is making the situation worse.

The issue of his growling at you needs to be addressed. I don't think your pack order is in….order. Maybe he is afraid of/feels challenged by your bf, thinks he's losing you to him in a way. This would really turn his whole world upside down. Perhaps he thinks he is in a power struggle with the bf for the Alpha position. He would not growl at you if you were his Alpha....who is in control between the three of you?

He has learned that biting or threatening to bite means he gets put away, crate or garage. Mission accomplished, the scary bf has gone away, it worked.

And btw, crates should not be used as punishment. It's supposed to be a haven, a safe place. Griffin creates only negative associations with your bf if he's the one locking him up in his crate because he has misbehaved.

Have you thought about what is of value to Griffin and how you can reinforce desirable behaviors?

Has he had a full Vet check up including a complete Thyroid panel? First thing you always need to know that your pet is in good health.

Also obviously throwing him in the garage or locking him in his crate is not an appropriate reaction (understandable, but not acceptable). In my opinion, first thing that needs to change is your boyfriends reaction to him and stop getting mad and throwing him in the garage and/or crate.

I've always heard dogs are a great judge of character, perhaps you should get a new boyfriend. Sorry, I couldn't resist. To your point, if Griffin still growls at you occasionally, perhaps that's just his personality and the two will just need to develop functional relationship.

My take is that Griffin is really uncomfortable with your boyfriend and that you really need to back up quite a few steps to get this moving in the right direction. Since right now Griffin is telling you that just being in the same room for him is uncomfortable you need to start you work there and not force any more interaction on him until he is comfortable with that level of interaction. The other thing you really need to talk with you boyfriend about is that every time he throws Griffin outside, in the garage, etc handling him angrily like that, he is only reinforcing what Griffin believes about him which is that he is scary and not trustworthy.

I would start by anytime your boyfriend comes in the room tossing Griffin a treat and would start with something really high value like roast chicken, cheese, or whatever he goes nuts for. Once he starts to seem comfortable with your boyfriend walking into the room then start having your boyfriend toss the food to him. Your boyfriend should also work on body language with Griffin, he shouldn't approach him head on, he should turn his shoulder to him.

I would also suggest looking for a Behaviorist instead of just a trainer and getting the DVD The Language of Dogs for both you and your boyfriend to view. It gives some great information about reading the signals your dog gives.

@lvoss:

My take is that Griffin is really uncomfortable with your boyfriend and that you really need to back up quite a few steps to get this moving in the right direction. Since right now Griffin is telling you that just being in the same room for him is uncomfortable you need to start you work there and not force any more interaction on him until he is comfortable with that level of interaction. The other thing you really need to talk with you boyfriend about is that every time he throws Griffin outside, in the garage, etc handling him angrily like that, he is only reinforcing what Griffin believes about him which is that he is scary and not trustworthy.

I would start by anytime your boyfriend comes in the room tossing Griffin a treat and would start with something really high value like roast chicken, cheese, or whatever he goes nuts for. Once he starts to seem comfortable with your boyfriend walking into the room then start having your boyfriend toss the food to him. Your boyfriend should also work on body language with Griffin, he shouldn't approach him head on, he should turn his shoulder to him.

I would also suggest looking for a Behaviorist instead of just a trainer and getting the DVD The Language of Dogs for both you and your boyfriend to view. It gives some great information about reading the signals your dog gives.

I agree here with Lisa on the treats!

You said that Griffin has growled at you when you've done something he doesn't like. Can you give a couple examples of that.

I'm going to have to agree with Mark & Nicki… Griffin seems VERY uncomfortable. Granted, basenjis are, by nature, often aloof with strangers; however, if one of my girls growled at somebody coming into my house, I would think twice about who it was exactly I was inviting in. (And please don't take offense... I'm not saying you are a poor judge of character or even that your boyfriend is a bad person, but you know your dog. Has he had this problem in the past with any other friends or boyfriends?)
Considering your boyfriend is a great person, and you do continue this relationship, you do really need to work on getting Griffin comfortable with him, on his own terms. I certainly would not take him over to your boyfriend's house until you work out these issues, because that amplifies the stress. If he's not even comfortable at his own home, where he should feel the most secure and safe, then putting him in a strange place where he's surrounded & inundated with smells of your boyfriend will put him even more on edge.
Turn his crate into a safe place he can retreat to in a quiet room when he's feeling overwhelmed, or put a bed or some blankets in a quiet corner of a quiet room where you and your boyfriend do not hang out often to achieve the same thing (you can find lots of great info on crate training & safe places in other threads so I won't go into that). Once he knows he has a safe place where can take a break from the situation, like everybody else has said, high value treats and babysteps. And don't allow boyfriend to punish him.

He has actually had some health problems and I thought that was the excuse for the increasingly bad attitude, but he has recently received a clean bill of health. He was the one with Blastomycosis for any of you that get the basenji rescue e-mails. I pretty much kept him totally away from Matthew during that time, I thought he was going to die - he quit eating and it was bad for a few weeks. Maybe he just got spoiled during that time.

Anyway, yes he will growl at me sometimes too. If I touch him somewhere he doesn't like or if I make him get off the couch when he doesn't want to. And, my boyfriend isn't the only one that he growls at. He typically doesn't care much for men, but since my boyfriend is the one that is around him most he gets the brunt of the aggression. He will growl at my Dad sometimes, but my Dad just thinks it's funny and walks away. Again, this has been a constant battle with both of my dogs but has actually gotten better in the past few years as I have learned to take control more and let them see me as alpha. He used to get in fights with my other dog alot, but that has gotten alot better since I have been more in control.

Not sure if that answers everybody's questions. He definitely IS NOT good with children either, as he has been around my nephews quite a bit. I assume that is more a typical basenji thing, but it just concerns me thinking about having children of my own. At least with my nephews, they are just around him periodically and can be monitored. They are young 2 and 5. I love this dog very much, but I don't like the idea of him being miserable either. I would rather he be in a situation were he could be happy and relaxed. Sometimes I think that is why he got blasto and my other dog did not, since they are always together. The vet said that stress can cause a weakened immune system, just like in people.

Thanks for the advice so far. The treat idea sounds like one good option.

Oh, and I am going to ignore the comments about my boyfriend's possible character :).

Basenji Mix

Since the forum has said I haven't been on in several weeks which is probably more like a couple of months I will add my two cents which are probably only worth that much. Griffin does have his quirks. Snarky I think it is called. I have taken care of him up to 3 months at a time since I am his Grandmother or whatever I would be called. It also seems that it is hard to make assumptions or whatever if your knowledge is of only one breed. I know there are breed specific behaviors but they may not be that different than another breed so I sometimes have a hard time saying I should deal with something a certain way because that is how you would deal with it because the dog is a Basenji. Hmmm wonder why I have wanted to have Bella DNA tested to see how much Basenji she is? See I said my two cents wasn't worth much. Hi everyone. Bella, my Basenji mix, is doing really well. An empty soda can filled with penny's took care of her jumping up on people when they come in the door and I had tried treats, the shoulder thing, a no jump harness, etc. I do think some good suggestions have been made and can be tried.

Am I correct in assuming that Griffin is a rescue? What do you know about his life prior to joining your household? It really sounds to me like Griffin wasn't well socialized during his critical development period and so things we may take for granted make him uncomfortable. Again, I would really work with using positive reinforcement to help him build positive associations with the things that he is having problems with.

I would say, for right now, don't have Matthew try to interact with Griffin at all. When Matthew comes over, he should ignore Griffin - no treats, no pets, no plays, etc and certainly no putting G in the crate or garage. M should not even look at G. If G wants to go to another room, what's the harm? Hopefully this will help neutralize things. Have you done any reading on dealing with the hard case rescues? There was that article about Queen in some basenji-related magazine recently. If you can find that, read it. (Someone want to help me out about where it was?)

In the mean time, read Control Unleashed, watch the dvd, or better yet, both. YOU work with G on mat work and find some Ttellington Touch exercises. Then progress to the Look At That game, or in this case, do Look At Matthew game. Decrease the distance between M & G, always keeping G subthreashhold. Go at G's pace. Don't push. It is a slow process, but it is worth doing.

If you can find a CU class nearby, go. It'll help you understand some concepts and getting a trainer's persepective will be so valuable.

@CRHenn2:

Unfortunately, when he tries to bite Matthew probably doesn't handle it the best way. He gets mad and throws him in the garage or locks him in his crate.

I guess Matthew is lucky that Griffin is the dog not me.
I'd bit his a$$ so hard he'd wished he'd never touched me.

WHY would you want Griffin to like someone that is acting like such a JERK to YOUR pet/family member?

Sorry, but boyfriends come and go… you brought Griffin into your life... not to be thrown away because some guy comes along. NO man is deserving of tossing aside a dog to be with him.

Wish I could give advice, but I don't think much of Matthew at this point, and letting Matthew have more interaction is apparently making the situation worse. I know you want to ignore comments about Matthew.. but he is making things worse with Griffin and it isn't fair to the dog.

Best of luck to you.

@lvoss:

My take is that Griffin is really uncomfortable with your boyfriend and that you really need to back up quite a few steps to get this moving in the right direction. Since right now Griffin is telling you that just being in the same room for him is uncomfortable you need to start you work there and not force any more interaction on him until he is comfortable with that level of interaction. The other thing you really need to talk with you boyfriend about is that every time he throws Griffin outside, in the garage, etc handling him angrily like that, he is only reinforcing what Griffin believes about him which is that he is scary and not trustworthy.

I would start by anytime your boyfriend comes in the room tossing Griffin a treat and would start with something really high value like roast chicken, cheese, or whatever he goes nuts for. Once he starts to seem comfortable with your boyfriend walking into the room then start having your boyfriend toss the food to him. Your boyfriend should also work on body language with Griffin, he shouldn't approach him head on, he should turn his shoulder to him.

I would also suggest looking for a Behaviorist instead of just a trainer and getting the DVD The Language of Dogs for both you and your boyfriend to view. It gives some great information about reading the signals your dog gives.

I totally agree with all of the above. You want Griffin to think fabulous things happen for him everytime he sees your boyfriend.

@Andrew:

I'm going to have to agree with Mark & Nicki… Griffin seems VERY uncomfortable. Granted, basenjis are, by nature, often aloof with strangers; however, if one of my girls growled at somebody coming into my house, I would think twice about who it was exactly I was inviting in. (And please don't take offense... I'm not saying you are a poor judge of character or even that your boyfriend is a bad person, but you know your dog. Has he had this problem in the past with any other friends or boyfriends?)
Considering your boyfriend is a great person, and you do continue this relationship, you do really need to work on getting Griffin comfortable with him, on his own terms. I certainly would not take him over to your boyfriend's house until you work out these issues, because that amplifies the stress. If he's not even comfortable at his own home, where he should feel the most secure and safe, then putting him in a strange place where he's surrounded & inundated with smells of your boyfriend will put him even more on edge.
Turn his crate into a safe place he can retreat to in a quiet room when he's feeling overwhelmed, or put a bed or some blankets in a quiet corner of a quiet room where you and your boyfriend do not hang out often to achieve the same thing (you can find lots of great info on crate training & safe places in other threads so I won't go into that). Once he knows he has a safe place where can take a break from the situation, like everybody else has said, high value treats and babysteps. And don't allow boyfriend to punish him.

I just want to point out that I don't really trust my dogs' judgement of character 😉 Ivy doesn't like my Mom at all, never has….my Mom has excellent character! She has never been anything but sweet to Ivy, but she isn't a dog person, and dogs like Ivy make her very uncomfortable, and Ivy senses it. Not the same situation as Griffin's...but worth pointing out, that it isn't always a human issue..dogs make associations in their minds that we can't know, or understand. But we can always try to change their reaction to something that makes them uncomfortable.

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