Very Aggresive Basenji Pup. Help!

  • I am a new member on this site and i am hoping to get some help with my new basenji Pongo. my husband and i just purchase a 6 week old basenji from a breeder recently. my puppy is now 8 weeks old and i have started to notice some very aggresive and vicious behaviors! when i try to pick him up to to carry him to his play area or crate, or basically anywhere we growls and me, shows his teeth and will then try and nip me. if i tell him no in a very stern voice, and then set him down, he snarls and trys to bit me again. ive tried to set him down and then walk away and ignore him but he doesnt seem to care. his aggression is getting worse and worse everyday and now its to the point where he does not want me to pick him up ever! also when i try and put his leash on him he gets mad and trys to attack my hand. he has very sharp teeth and has broken by skin a few times already. please help! i dont know what to do!
    ~very confused basenji owner,

  • Six weeks is VERY young to come home from the breeder. Have you called her/him to describe the problem?

    The first thing that comes to mind from your post is NEVER put him down when he has a fit after being picked up. He is teaching you to put him down by biting you.

    If this were my puppy, enough would be enough…if I want to hold you, I will hold you...if I want to put your leash on, I will....he could bite me all he wants, but it IS going to happen...get some leather gloves if you have to. Don't be aggressive, loud or mean, just quietly proceed with what you need to do. He is too small to really hurt you, and he is succesfully avoiding what he wants to do by using his teeth.

    I would run, not walk to the nearest positive reinforcement trainer you can find, and learn how to get him to do what you want, and teach him not to use his mouth. I would avoid any kind of punishment based training, as that is really like to make this puppy worse.

    Good should really call the breeder to let him/her know what this puppy is doing...maybe they will care, and have some suggestions...but *please don't use any rough physical corrections with this dog.

  • My Basenji scares me and he's only 7mths old…... he's allowed up on the couch with us until it's time for bed...... when either my husband or I wake him and try to move him down off the couch saying it's bed time..... he looks up and growls then just goes off his head trying to snap at us...... we are new to Basenjis...... is this normal behaviour????

  • I wouldn't call it "normal" basenji behavior…but it is a normal way for a dog to say "screw you, I am not moving". You need to train him to get off the couch when you want. You can use treats to train him to get off the couch, or/and you can have him wear a leash, so when you say "off" you can pull him off without getting bitten. You also can use your voice to wake him up, before you startle him...if you aren't already.

    This dog is "resource guarding" It is kind of a complicated, many stepped process to change this behavior. I would suggest you find a trainer that can come and give you some training steps.

  • I've read many times that Basenji's in particular "wake up badly". But then again- if you're cozy sleeping, who wants to be thrown off the bed suddenly? I don't!! 🙂 Our Basenji has never bitten when we try to move her, but she does give a grunt. It's ALWAYS best to "ask her" to get down. Sometimes it takes her long than I want and I have to ask a couple of times in a row after she gives me that , "Are you serious?!" look, but she will eventually get down. You have to be really considerate and respectful about this one- I've read countless accounts of owners nudging the dog off and then getting bitten and they can't seem to figure out why… Duh. Treat others (including dogs) how you'd want to be treated.

    As far as the biting thing goes- many Basenji's have the "I'm all that and then some" attitude. I find it commical. They are such a tough dog in a small, cute little package. I know what you mean about a little dog scaring you though. When Lexi was younger, she did NOT like my boyfriend at the time. At all. One time he took her out and she went potty. Immediately after that, he came in and got the clothes out of the dryer and took them and threw them on the bed to fold. Lexi runs right up on top of the bed and gets on top of the clothes. She looked him straight in the eye and pee'd on the clothes! OMG, my ex BF got SOOOOOOO mad. It was so obvious how intentional that was- she was definitely sending him a "This is what I think of you" message. He was so mad that he lunged at her and grabbed her up (I knew this wasn't going to be pretty! You just don't move like that around Basenji's- or any dog really). Lexi retaliated and bit the stew out of his hand. I mean, a huge chunk of his hand- it was amazing what that little dog could do. He of course dropped her and then she ran right over to me like, "Mommy! Help me!" It just wasn't a good situation. That was the only time she's ever bitten anyone ever. (PS- We have since married a fantastic man, in case you were wondering. 🙂 )

    The first thing I noticed about your post was that your puppy is REALLY young. Most puppies aren't let go until at least 8 weeks, if not longer. I also wonder if your puppy is okay health wise. Perhaps his tummy hurts and by picking him up, it's uncomfortable? Does he yelp in pain or is he just grouchy? I would definitely return to the breeder and get advice or see if she's had any problems with this from the parents or any of the other puppies. Do you know how much human interaction the puppies got while still with the mother?

    I still think of Lexi as a shark from that movie Deep Blue Sea (horrible movie, but)-- she will try and test the waters. She wants to know exaclty how far she can go and still get away with something. They will get away with as much as they can- just like a kid. Little rascals! Hence all the posts about out-witting them!! However, aggression on their part (or yours) should not be tolerated. If you think he's being aggressive in response to HOW your handling him, then perhaps you can change your method and get him to trust you more and want to do the things you ask. This is not intended to offend you, but does he generally like you? I mean, does he sleep by you and want to play and be with you otherwise? Most Basenji's want to be with 'their pack'....
    Seems like if he's okay in those areas, there might be something with the approach or the physical part of being picked up or leashed that he doesn't like. Anything scarey he's encountered outside that would make him not want to go out there?

    Hmmm... Give us some more details.

  • Young puppies try out different vocalizations and tactics to see what works to get their way. Usually they are still with their littermates and dam during this phase, right around that 6 - 8 week period and find out that growling at mom gets you no where and neither does biting. Since they learn from mom and siblings these tactics don't work they learn practice the ones that do, good polite dog language. They also should be handled a lot during this period by their breeder and visitors to get used to being handled and that rude behavior doesn't work with humans either. When pups are removed from their mom and siblings too early they miss this critical education and it can be difficult to replicate.

    I agree with Andrea, get this puppy into puppy kindergarten. He needs the socialization with people and especially with the other puppies to learn what appropriate behavior is.

  • my puppy pongo is sweet in some areas and not in others. he does like to be wherever we are all the time! if he cant see us, he crys. when we watch tv he likes to sit on our lap and chew on one of his toys until he falls asleep. he comes we we call him (most of the time) and has never biten because he was startled waking up. it does not seem like he is in any pain when we pick him up, its more of a grochy, "put me down" sort of a growl and then he will start snaping at you. the moment he is put down he is fine and goes back to his business.

    I took him to his first vet exam 2 days ago and everything checked out fine.however the vet needed to have 2 assistants in the room with her to help her give a shot because he was biting everyone because he did not want to be handled. he seems fine with strangers as long as they dont try and pick him up. im trying the method of just holding him even to show him that he can not get what he wants all of the time. he bits and bits hard so ive been trying to wear some gloves when i do pick him up. hopefully this will work.

    i am taking him to a puppy kindergarden in 2 weeks but i am concerned about how we will act around other dogs. my next door neighbor has a dog and we occasionally let them out to play together. the neighbors dog is very sweet and she just runs around him and sniffs him then runs off. everytime she comes near pongo though, pongo with attack her viciously. it doesnt hurt her, she thinks its fun, but im concerned about this as well.

    i have also spoken to the breader about this and she says that i need to get him to a puppy kindergarden and i also need to be more stern with him. she said i should leave a collar and leash on him during training and when he trys to snap at me, give a little tug on the leash. i have found this to be very unsuccessful though because his agression only gets worse when i do this. i do know one thing about the puppys dad in all of this though. he dad was removed from a home when he was beaten and abused. he has a very agressive streak to him with certain people other than the breeder now that she has adopted him. could this somehow play a factor in how my puppy acts?

    Thanks guys for all your help. i really appreciate being able to talk to other basenji owners for some advice.

  • Puppies learn by interacting with their siblings and the adult dogs of the household. Puppies play rough and only learn to tone down their play through the interaction with the other dogs in their household. I do not let my pups go home until they at least 10 weeks old. They need that time to learn good dog communication skills. When a pup plays too rough like yours does mom or big sis teaches them it is inappropriate. The method they use is very much like what Andrea described, they hold the puppy until it settles and then let it go, if it continues the behavior they repeat the process until it learns better. Some take more education than others.

    Puppy kindergarten will be a good thing for your puppy. He needs lots of interaction with other dogs and it will be good for him to interact with puppies his age. It will also be good to have someone else observe his behavior and give you a second perspective.

  • Just my 2 cents, though you have already received some excellent help. I am reliving my experience just reading your about your cute little "devil". We got Duke last March, he was an abandoned 10-12 week old. I couldn't believe I felt sorry for him - I just kept telling myself, "He needs love" etc. I actually felt sorry for myself for putting up with his razor sharp choppers. Today, Duke is about 13 mos old and a well mannered little boy he is. Coincidently today, me, my son & Duke were playing together and son said "Remember how Duke used to growl anytime we moved him?" He was nasty! (but cute - that saved his life, I'm sure) Stay positive with proper and consistent training and you'll have the best dog in the world. I surely feel that way now. The evolution of changes will be suttle and quick. You and baby Pongo are both adjusting to changes. Tell yourself, "It will get better". 😉

  • Thank you Andrea. When it's time for Bandit to go to bed, I go into the kitchen to grab a couple of treats. He's hot on my heels by the time I reach the kitchen….... lovely!! he's off the couch!!!
    I say to Bandit "now it's bed time, outside into bed" and he heads for the door and once outside I firmly say sit Bandit which he does. I then give me the treats saying good boy and close the door. He's such a smart cookie....... and this way I don't have a confrontation with him.....excellent!

  • <_>


  • Your baby boy was way to young to have left the pack at 6wks…. even 8 wks IMO is too early, unless going to an experienced Basenji home and better yet with another Basenji already there to help with teaching him/her the ropes. My pups don't leave till at least 10 wks... One of the most important time for puppy socialization within the pack is the 6 to 10 wks time frame... they learn so much from their sibs and from Mom and/or other adult Basenjis in the house... I agree that you really need a behaviorist more the puppy kindergarden.. (not that you should not go to classes...)...

  • Whoooops! Sorry Andrea….. I meant to say "Then I give him the treats".....LOL
    But I guess you got the idea.

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