Basenji Language 101

When we had our first basenji, Lucy , she was an emotional waggly girl that, if prompted, would ROO and tell stories about "her day"…. which we would love to encourage. Our Lola, on the other hand, doesn't Roo. She will "snark" if Joker (our rat terrier) is in her personal space, and "grumble" if she is moved while she is sleeping. When she is fully alert, and interacting with these tall things called Humans,... well, she will Huff and Puff… and if she was a wolf, yes, she WOULD BLOW our house down, lol!:D

Lola will blow through her nose and make a noise, but it's kind of like a "ha-humph". If we return the noise, she will either do it again (and then we do too… this is "Marco! Polo! in the dog world :D), or she will settle in and cuddle with the one human she has chosen to love. 🙂

So, my question /slash/ theory is: does anyone else use Nose Noises to communicate with their basenjis? And if so, does it help? In my opinion, when we "ha-humph" back at Lola, it seems to calm her down… it's kind of like we are speaking HER language (since she doesn't roo)... like we are at her level. What do you think? 🙂 Anyone with Jack Hanna/Cesar/Victoria/(insert your name please) experience here?

Cesar experience? You mean blowhard machoism interpretation of animals? Sorry couldn't let that one go 🙂

Okay, there are many signals all dogs, including basenji, recognize. A friend of mine wrote this. It is very helpful. Years ago we discussed it and I tried it out on my very frightened Chowcoyote who looked me in the eyes, shut and opened her eyes, and yawned back.

http://k9deb.com/clinical.htm

Shaye huffs when she really really wants something and she isn't getting it, so she's frustrated. When a rabbit, for instance, jumps out in front of her, and she is leashed so she can't chase, she stomps around and huffs at me. It's through her nose, but pretty loud all the same. She whines and mutters when we leave the dog park, but so far, not a single baroo, or yodel.

From - DebraDownSouth;126624]Cesar experience? You mean blowhard machoism interpretation of animals? Sorry couldn't let that one go 🙂

I don't mind Cesar. I just don't think his methods would work for a basenji (I still am waiting to see a basenji on his show!). But speaking of Cesar, he is looking quite sprightly these days - maybe since his divorce and since he got that HUGE diamond in his ear. 🙂

Very good article, Debra… thanks for the info! Like Shaye, I've never heard Lola Roo, although I have heard her yelp when I've accidentally stepped on her when we are running together… lol....

P.S. Debra, I just got "BABE" today from Netflix... I want to see if Lola likes it like your dogs! 🙂

Let me know! I bet Cara would like it too, she is quite interested in the tv sometimes!

Thanks for the article Debra! This is really cool. I wonder what they are really thinking when we are snorting and "rooing" back and forth with them. This is why dog are the greatest.

I use what I call soft eyes with Kipawa when I want him to settle down. It's where you slowly open and close your eyes, leaving your eyes closed a little longer each time. This works with my cats, and has also worked with horses.

I think tone of voice is everything. They tend to catch on what we're trying to tell them when we use a consistent tone.

Other than that, I still truly believe dogs (and especially Basenjis) have a six sense when it comes to feeling out other peoples emotions. I've always noticed dogs pick up on emotions in a very strong way. You don't have to say anything and they have you figured out. Perhaps that's why they still manage to survive out in the wild today. They're almost too aware of their surroundings…..

I used to use the closing of eyes you describe Kipawa, with my cats and yes I agree it works well. With my Basenjis I give them a slow stroke starting at the ears and finishing at the tip of the tail.

I agree that Basenjis have a 6th sense. I don't think you always have to say anything but just use your mind to communicate - I know that may sound weird but I use this method on all sorts of animals and it does work!

@Kipawa:

I use what I call soft eyes with Kipawa when I want him to settle down. It's where you slowly open and close your eyes, leaving your eyes closed a little longer each time. This works with my cats, and has also worked with horses.

Calming signals. I remember the first time I read it and thought… yeah right. Every dog responded with a yawn and relaxed attitude.
You simply look at the dog, slowly close and open your eyes, and yawn.

Great article:
http://k9deb.com/clinical.htm

Deb is a friend and sadly no longer doing training, but I learned a lot from her.

So interesting to read this thread!

I had always heard about basenjis "talking" to their owners, but thought it was probably being exaggerated. But if i go out anywhere, even if its only for an hour, Maya comes running up to me as soon as I return to tell me all about what she's been doing, waggy tail and all! I love it, she's such a happy person when she's rooing and talking away 😃

I also agree that they can have some kind of 6th sense. I know that of my 4 dogs living with me, Maya is by far the most sensitive to my moods. If im feeling a bit down and depressed she will be all playful and cuddly and if im in a bad mood she will just go and lie somewhere quietly and leave me alone.

@DebraDownSouth:

Cesar experience? You mean blowhard machoism interpretation of animals? Sorry couldn't let that one go 🙂

HA!!!! :D:D:D

Mauigirl & I went hiking with our 4 basenjis one day. Callie & Lola were on a coupler, and when they are leashed together on a coupler, they are nightmares with the pulling.
At the bottom of the mountain before starting our hike, a man approached us asking about our dogs. He joined us for the hike up the mountain, and we tried to explain basenjis & their unique quirks. I was getting increasingly frustrated with the girls pulling my arm off, and he mentioned to me that I needed to have them at heel & control them. I replied, "We're on a walk that is as much for them as it is for me. It doesn't make a dang bit of difference where, in relation to me, they are, as long as its not hurting my arm. There are too many things to see & smell to fairly ask or expect this breed to be at my side the whole time." He kept offering us Cesar Milan style training advice, and Mauigirl & I were starting to exchange looks like "Is this guy for real!?" Finally, he asked if he could try walking my dogs. I let him. He pulled their leash & kept them right at his side, making "Tss!!" noises at them. He tried for maybe 3 minutes, tops, and suddenly said, "You're right! These guys are difficult!"
Ya think?

But not to hijack the thread & turn it into a Cesar discussion…. Callie makes almost no noise. She burps & makes a "Bwap" noise when she yawns. Sometimes I'll make her yawn noises back at her & she'll make them again. I don't know if she's responding to me though. If I tell Lola to "speak" she'll give a little whine, and if I get her worked up by making funny noises, she'll baroo. She will also baroo with me sometimes.
I took agility classes with Lola & learned that dogs communicate mostly through body language, so they are very tuned in to body language. I am now more purposeful with my body language, and although I don't feel we communicate much through noises, I KNOW we have full & rich conversations with body language.

I have such baroo envy. 😞 I miss Sayblee's basenji baroos and yodels and "i want some" talk. 😞

Thank you for that link Debra - the articles on the site are very interesting but I most like her quote
"There might be one true way to spiritual enlightenment but there is no such road that leads to one 'right' way to train a dog".

How true.

@DebraDownSouth:

Calming signals. I remember the first time I read it and thought… yeah right. Every dog responded with a yawn and relaxed attitude.
You simply look at the dog, slowly close and open your eyes, and yawn.

I remember when I first read about and started using calming signals. It amazes me how many dog savvy people don't know about them today. I introduced someone to this notion just this weekend at an agility trial. I fully believe that the biggest contributing factor to Jet the try-ing's Open and Excellent agility titles were the calming signals I used before and during his runs. Years ago someone was telling me about their agility dog. I said "Try yawning at her." gg You should have seen the look I got. But, you know, hey, it's worth a shot!

@agilebasenji:

I remember when I first read about and started using calming signals. It amazes me how many dog savvy people don't know about them today. I introduced someone to this notion just this weekend at an agility trial. I fully believe that the biggest contributing factor to Jet the try-ing's Open and Excellent agility titles were the calming signals I used before and during his runs. Years ago someone was telling me about their agility dog. I said "Try yawning at her." gg You should have seen the look I got. But, you know, hey, it's worth a shot!

Once I learned about them it definitely changed my perspective on watching my dogs' behavior. Here is a nice, short book that covers the subject in case anyone is interested.

http://www.amazon.com/Calming-Signals-What-Your-Tells/dp/B000PGTF32/ref=pd_bxgy_d_img_a

Here is some links to YouTube videos about canine body language.

@agilebasenji:

I remember when I first read about and started using calming signals. It amazes me how many dog savvy people don't know about them today.

I don't know why but that reminds me of a quote about living with wolves as pets… that most people are not aware enough of behavior clues and signals to safely do it. And then I think of the person (I think NJ?) years ago who had a wolf/dog, brought home her new born baby, held it down to show the wolf who promptly grabbed it by the head and killed it.

I have known many people with wolf/dogs (I refuse to use hybrid.. dogs are descended from wolves so not really a hybrid). And I can say that of all of them precisely ONE should have owned it. They had the home, the set up, the animal saavy and the ability to provide the animal a private life where it and the public were safe. In fact when it died at about 14 yrs of age, they got a new one that is about now about 7.

And it is why when I took the chow/coyotee out of the shelter I knew she could only stay with me. She would not have been safe in most homes and I wouldn't have risked the liability. We loved, adored cherished and enjoyed her. But she could get upset and make noises that would make the hair stand on the back of your neck. I muzzled her for almost 1 1/2 yrs doing her nails or ANYTHING that might frighten her. I actually cried the first time, almost 18 mos after we got her (she was an adult btw.. about 11 to 13 mos, feral, when I got her) when she play bowed to me the first time.

Which gets my long winded post back to calming signals. Without calming signals, we could not have lived with Katana. She was very skittish, the world was frightening to her. She went from living loose to a shelter for 3 mos, to my house. She stood on coffee tables, couch... had never been inside. She startled when you turned the tv on or off for about 2 yrs. But with calming signals and love, she came to trust me utterly. I think she would have tried to let me do open heart surgery on her wide awake, once she bonded. But I called a trainer who works with fearful dogs many times on consults that first 2 yrs. (I had never had a fearful dog, my type always ran to the aggression issues lol). Calming signals... sounds so simple, almost not worth the bother, don't they? Yet to me, we spend a dog's life making them learn our modes of communicating, our language, our commands. I wish everyone getting a dog had to take a test on dog behaviors and body language and yeah, calming signals. Our dogs would live much happier lives.

Rant done. sorry.

You bring up a good point around education of how dogs communicate. I wish the topic of calming signals or body language was discussed more generally in socialization and training classes (maybe it is elsewhere, it's not here). Watching a puppy interact with another dog is a great way to see example behaviors. Granted, signals are contextually sensitive which makes it more challenging to teach. But even introducing the concept in a class (or a handout) would go a long way, IMO.

Looks like your connection to Basenji Forums was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.