Help for Max

We live in North Carolina. Max is our Basenji (or a mix). We?ve had him now a year after adopting him at around 18 months. No info on him except ?doesn?t like children?. Sophie our spaniel-mix is 6years and she and Max always have got on great and play yet she is dominant one and he will rolls over to her and it?s her house. No issues there. Vet said Max is an Alpha dog, no question. Has typical Basenji traits but we were told he was a Jack Rat Terrier mix so we're not exactly sure. After a few months Max started showing his dark side. He started growling and lunging at my husband whenever he came into the room (or moved). 98% of the time Max is completely normal and friendly with him and everyone but we know we have to watch him. He has growled at me if I move when he?s sleeping or if he doesn?t like a certain touch. My HB has forgiven Max so many times (it was an "it?s me or the dog" in the beginning! Since we don?t have kids he has tolerated him but cannot trust him. Just last night, HB was at dinner table tho not eating and gently just scratching Max?s head while looking at tv since Max went up to him, suddenly Max lunged at him. He growls, shows teeth. If HB comes in room is starts when Max thinks he hears him with a low growl and lots of grumbling, and turns into a nasty growl. Other times, he'll bring HB the toy and they'll play and he'll always greet him with joy if he comes in frm the outside.

Max is always very ashamed of his outbursts and will low crawl to a "bed" area. At night both dogs sleep in our bedroom. At end of bed I have a covered (matches drapes!) crate for Max and he loves to go "kennel up" at night. We don't use it as punishment and had to have it to protect my husband as in the morning if HB walks out and walks back in the room Max would growl and lunge. Sophie is of course on the bed and ignores the commotion.
If people come to the house (we know it) and Max greets everyone joyously but we?re always just a little bit afraid. He snapped at my young niece when visiting me and has snapped on a neighbor. This is only 1 or 2% of the time. He is fine at the dog park with other dogs, mostly a loner, or will play with Sophie. He has a wire loose somewhere. We can't put him down and I love my HB for tolerating him. HB tried all the tips of the tv shows, like high value treats, and tough body energy, etc. Has anyone else had similar problems or got advice? Do we in fact have a Basenji? He looks like one! Thanks!

Wow, lots of issues. My first thought is that Max needs a full medical including Thyroid panel. Once medical issues are checked, then I would get him into a gentle obedience class. It will help you work with your dog, and help him see that you are to be listened to.
Then, at home, when he wants love or to get up on the couch, make him sit…he has to "earn" anything nice, he wants to do.
You didn't mention..are your dogs fixed?

Hi Sharron, yes, both are fixed. He has been medically checked but probably not his thyroid so I will check that. We try to be consistent with both but should be more so, and we don't make them sit for the couch but do for meals and before going for walks. They both need to have more door manners as it lasts for a few mins then, pow, open door and it's a free for all. Or, I put them in "Kennel up" or in the bedroom so we can greet people. Usually Max will easily sit and look up for permission without being asked. He is so smart and is so good on walks and Sophie is the one who has problems there as she refuses to go one way or another if she doesn't want to, I think she has hang ups, but Max is just glad to be along. Gosh it's hard. But he def wants to be in charge. We will make him sit more before giving love or free couch. He knows "off" but we aren't as consistent as we (I) should be…. Thanks.,

What makes you think he wants to be in charge? What specific behaviors does he display?

I highly recommend the video The Language of Dogs, it is available at http://www.dogwise.com

Some dogs give more subtle signals that they are uncomfortable than others and the video is great at giving lots of examples of lots of different signals that dogs give distance increasing signals, distance decreasing signals, and calming signals.

It really can be hard to spot the signs a dog gives when its reaching discomfort.
It can be a yawn, a turning the head away, freezing, oh, so many things…lip licking..sigh. IMO, it would be worthwhile to get a person who knows this breed of dog to come and watch all the interactions.
You might have a reactive dog and just have to manage him...we had one who would bite, and over time, we learned when he was going to...
I admire your working to help him blend into the family.

What Part of NC are u in .. I'm also in NC i by no means am a expert on that behavior however i've dealt with 2 difficult Basenji's and a cattledog/terrier mix . Sometimes having someone else see what he is like helps I know it did for me I didn't see certain things that a friend who helped me did .

@phoenix3:

What Part of NC are u in .. I'm also in NC i by no means am a expert on that behavior however i've dealt with 2 difficult Basenji's and a cattledog/terrier mix . Sometimes having someone else see what he is like helps I know it did for me I didn't see certain things that a friend who helped me did .

Hi Phoenix - We are close! We're in Pinehurst/Southern Pines area. The kennel/crate was a dog friend suggestion that has helped as he feels safe in it (and so are we). We have learned to be cautious when we pet him. When Max wants to snuggle and nudges me to pet him I do. I will rub his belly and touch his feet (my husband can NEVER do this) to try to desensitize him. It is a certain look tho that he gives and I know he is about to bite and I can sense it so that is how we have learned to live with him. He knows it too and will jump down and be in low crawl position. I call this his having "bad thoughts" mode. This isn't all the time - he loves to play, tug, catch, and is so funny with our other dog Sophie. He can throw and catch his own ball too!

@sharronhurlbut:

It really can be hard to spot the signs a dog gives when its reaching discomfort.
It can be a yawn, a turning the head away, freezing, oh, so many things…lip licking..sigh. IMO, it would be worthwhile to get a person who knows this breed of dog to come and watch all the interactions.
You might have a reactive dog and just have to manage him...we had one who would bite, and over time, we learned when he was going to...
I admire your working to help him blend into the family.

Hi Sharron, Reactive his is! I thought this is were we were in terms of managing him and reading his body language, but then suddenly, like when he nudges my husband to pet his head, he'll snarl and lunge at him. Doesn't make my husband feel good. HB will stand and tell him to "go lie down" which Max does with his "I'm sorry I did that" look.

@lvoss:

What makes you think he wants to be in charge? What specific behaviors does he display?

I highly recommend the video The Language of Dogs, it is available at http://www.dogwise.com

Some dogs give more subtle signals that they are uncomfortable than others and the video is great at giving lots of examples of lots of different signals that dogs give distance increasing signals, distance decreasing signals, and calming signals.

Thanks I will get this. Well, he seems to wants to protect me from my husband the way he snarls sometimes if he comes into the room. He wants to jump up and lick anyone who comes in (no we don't let him do this). He wants to be on top of everyone. Body blocks us, is bossy, will stand stiffly over my other dog but she doesn't care because she knows she was here first and ignores him. I do make him sit and sometimes his bottom actually touches the floor!

It really sounds like Max needs some help reassociating things so they have a positive association with them. It sounds like he has issues with touch, and part of he issue that may be happening with your husband is that when he pets Max, he may touch an area that Max is sensitive about and that Max may not be good at giving lower level distance increasing signals. Since Max is a rescue it is possible that he was corrected out giving lower level signals like growling by his previous owner and now escalates to a higher level signal.

I would really work with him to start changing these associations. How food motivated is Max? If he is really food motivated then get something he finds really yummy and cut it into small pieces and then when your are touching him, also feed him. When husband touches him get he should also feed him. This will help to change his association from touching = uncomfortable to touching = really good things happen. When you see that Max is starting to become uncomfortable, redirect him to some activity that he enjoys. For mine we have, "Let's go get a cookie" and we go to the kitchen and they do a sit or down and get a cookie. The change tends to break a bad sequence of events from continuing.

@mybestfriend:

Thanks I will get this. Well, he seems to wants to protect me from my husband the way he snarls sometimes if he comes into the room. He wants to jump up and lick anyone who comes in (no we don't let him do this). He wants to be on top of everyone. Body blocks us, is bossy, will stand stiffly over my other dog but she doesn't care because she knows she was here first and ignores him. I do make him sit and sometimes his bottom actually touches the floor!

These behaviors are not necessarily "wanting to be the boss". Several of them seem to be resource gaurding behaviors, like what he is doing with your husband. The jumping up on people sounds like he needs some work on greeting behaviors.

A good positive reinforcement, dog manners class would probably really benefit Max. Also, having your husband be responsible for a large part of the positive things (food, walks, etc) in Max's life would really help to change his association with him.

@lvoss:

These behaviors are not necessarily "wanting to be the boss". Several of them seem to be resource gaurding behaviors, like what he is doing with your husband.

I agree…and from what I'm seeing here, YOU are the resource. I'm not sure whether to train the Terrier part of him or the Basenji part of him. A behaviorist or professional trainer would have a better idea.

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