Continued from Part 1:
Refusing to Conform:
I guess I am just one of those people that can be stubborn just like a Basenji. After reading that Basenjis do not like water I wanted to put that to a test. So what did I do? First I filled the bathtub when Roo was about 10 weeks old. I had to give the dog a bath anyways, and what better way to test his ability to swim. Of course he did not like the water at first, but he did allow me to keep him in it and because his legs were so short, showed me he had the ability to swim.
Since we are part of the local Sailing Association at our lake, we hoped that we would be able to take Roo and Bonzo with us on our Sailboat. Off to Petsmart we went to get both of them lifejackets to help ensure their safety. Roo wears his just fine, but Bonzo just hated it and fought to get it off. We decided that Bonzo can stay home because of the lifejacket issue. We also cannot get Bonzo to wear a sweater to keep warm even in the dead of winter in sub zero temps.
The next thing we had to find out is if Roo would adapt to being in the deep water and get comfortable with swimming. For this I bought a 20 foot lead and drove to the lake with Miranda, a bunch a towels, treats, Roo's lifejacket, and Roo. I walked out into the water carrying Roo and placed him in the water. Miranda sat on the dock and called him. Roo did just fine although I think he was scared at first. He did not whine but he also did not panic. The more he swam, the better he got. Previously we noticed that when he is afraid or scared his tail will uncurl. After spending some time in the water swimming, we noticed his tail was staying curly. To us, this meant he had adapted. A picture of this can be seen in my gallery under ComicDom1. Roo has been swimming under the same conditions, several times since. We always treat him after a swim, dry him off, and allow him to warm up in his crate in the car on the way home.
Roo the Sailing Basenji:
Next came taking Roo out on the sailboat. Our sailboat is a Melges MC Scow which is only 16 feet long, but has a 26 foot mast, and a very large sail. We do not sail flat, and the boat angle changes as we change course. This is no different than putting a Basenji on a wobble board during an agility competition. As I suspected, Roo adapted quickly, and soon decided he would take a nap during a Triangle Club Race we were involved in. He climbed under the hull, and went to sleep on my life jacket and our dry bag. As you can see from the pictures in my gallery under ComicDom1, Roo is more than comfortable being on deck when we are heeling the boat. We did put Roo in our boat on dry land prior to taking him out on the water so he could get used to being in the boat.
Roo the Biking Basenji:
Roo now has his own trailer that is pulled behind my recumbent bike. It is 6 miles to the park where we walk so in order to save a little gas money, Roo convinced me to buy him a trailer. Roo seems to ride very well in the Burley branded dog trailer aptly named the "Tail Wagon" Pictures of this are also contained in one of my previous posts.
Miranda has four words for you…. Dog Park and Petsmart!
I would add walking as we do in the regular park where we encounter other people as well as others with dogs. When Roo was little we took him to Petsmart on almost a daily basis for the first two weeks. Where we live, there are very few places you can take your dog inside. To go to the dog park Roo had to be at least 4 months old so we had to wait and did not have a lot of options on where to take him for socialization skills.
To this day, Roo has not met a person or dog he has not been able to get along with. We also make sure when he is not running loose in the dog park or house, that he is securely on a leash and we are in control. We also do not put him out on a tethered line unless we are out there with him, or close enough to monitor him and his activities.
Miranda and I feel that sometimes people do not understand that what they consider a bite or nip from a Basenji is a result of the dog attempting to let you know he wants to play and as they touch you with their mouth it is a normal reaction for children as well as adults to pull their hands away which can result in a scratch or breaking the skin. Puppy teeth are brutally sharp and the sharpness changes as adult teeth come in. Certainly there are times when a dog that is constantly teased, backed in a corner, pestered, protecting their territory or family, or otherwise harassed will bite. I believe this is true of any breed. An animal in fear, pain, or who has been traumatized in some way will bite if they feel it necessary to protect themselves. But it is just as likely with a young dog that they are just trying to play with a human, in the same way that dogs play.
When Roo was 8 weeks old, we put our hands in his mouth, and pressed down firmly with our fingers on either his top jaw or bottom jaw and told him firmly "no biting." We have always done this in a firm, calm voice. This seemed to do the job and we do not have a biting issue at the current time. Also you can take your hand away when they start biting or nipping, and direct them to a toy, or if they are really wound up and want to play, just get up and walk away. Do not go back to your dog until they have calmed down. If they learn that they will lose your attention when they do something unacceptable to you, then they will eventually get the message and the behavior will disappear. Basenjis are very smart dogs and learn very quickly. They are also great manipulators and will push your buttons if allowed and eventually end up training you instead. OH, and lets not forget their persuasive power of the FACE! This is why it is so important, that you take a firm hand with your dog from day one.
Crate Training Take 2 the Final Frontier:
As many have discovered, once you let a Basenji run free, they do not like to be crated. Give them an inch and they will take the whole house. This includes your bed, your favorite chair, your couch and pretty much everything else. I believe they would either sit or stand on the dinner table if you would allow it. The sad part is that some people do allow certain behaviors that they shouldn't. A Basenji will soon stake out their favorite resting spot which may or may not be what you would choose for them. At this point, either the dog controls you or control the dog. Of course its easier to correct behavior when a dog is young.
Just so you know Miranda and I are not immune to making a mistake like this. Once we let Roo out of his crate all night and sleep in the bedroom, he did not want to be crated anymore at night or during the day.
Note: We never have allowed Roo on the bed. Dogs have dog beds and crates. As far as we are concerned people sleep in the bed. We know many will will disagree but this is our personal view. When I chose to be intimate with Miranda or her with me, we certainly do not need Roo in the middle of it.
This is important! Crate training is not cruel to the dog! Crating a dog helps in teaching house breaking skills. It allows you to put them on a schedule. It keeps them safe from dangers in your house like electrical cords, chemicals, and trash(some of which can be poison) when you are unable to supervise them. It also can keep your home, possessions, and visitors safe from any destructive type behaviors. This is one way you can ensure that no one is harmed when strangers to your dog enter your home. Since dogs are naturally den animals with the right training they will soon accept their Crate/Kennel as their safe haven.
Roo is now 7 months old. We stopped crating him at about 5 months, as soon as we felt he was house broken. We did put him in the bathroom with the gate closed at night, but he would stand up and beat the gate with his paws. This created noise which would keep us awake, and would wake me up in the morning when Miranda would leave for work. This was not acceptable behavior to us.
Since getting free run of the house he developed a resistance to being crated at night. Once again he was crying, screaming, and beating at the crate door to get out. What this behavior combined with Miranda leaving for work indicated to us was that Roo not only did not want to be crated, but also had started suffering from mild separation anxiety.
Miranda and I did not even consider the use of drugs to treat this. I know there are many people that do because they do not wish to go through the retraining process. I will agree there may be certain cases that a dog needs medication, but I do not feel for "our dog" this is one of them(edited by Jason to correct intent and meaning).
Our method of dealing with this situation is simple. We went back to square one. We started giving Roo a treat every time he executed the Kennel command. Miranda and I also praised him. Of course after we closed the door Roo would carry on for a bit but eventually he would quiet down. After a while, Roo would start up again and repeat the same behavior. This is going to happen several times during the first few days of training.
Ignoring a dog's crying or screaming is the hardest part when kennel/crate training a dog. You have to turn off your sympathy somewhat and not feel sorry for the dog. You are doing a dog a favor by crate training them.
I noticed on the second night of retraining Roo to be crated, then when I got up from my computer chair and he could not see me it set him off. This was a clear indication of separation anxiety. As harsh as it sounds, I had to continue to ignore his crying when this happened.
Miranda and I now have a method for our crate training. Miranda walks the dogs at 10pm at night, and during that time, I hide several different kinds of treats in different places in both Bonzo's and Roo's kennels. Then I close the door to the crates and they are not allowed in their crates right away. Roo and Bonzo are now running from crate to crate and pawing at the door attempting to get in. This is the reversal of Roo's behavior and kind of funny to watch. There are times that I go to bed later than Miranda so I wait a little bit before I let the dogs in their crates for the night. I also have been staying up a few hours and walking Roo just before I go to bed as he becomes accustomed to being crated again. We have noticed that when Roo is upset, sometimes he will urinate to show his displeasure. Although we have not seen that in quite a while, we do check his crate bedding on a regular basis.
I am happy to say, that the return to crate training has been going well. Roo is crying less and less after he is crated and appears to be settling down faster each night. He still will start to cry once I get up from my computer chair and turn off the light, but with a little more patience I think he will overcome that as well. It is very important that once you crate train your dog you keep them in practice. I am not saying you cannot let them out once in a while during the night, but I am stressing that getting out of the habit can be harmful and stressful to both you and the dog. Once again you are not being cruel when crating your dog as long as you are not using the crate for punishment or leaving your dog crated for an excessive amount of time.
In closing, I would like say again, that we are not experts. These are the methods that have worked for us. They may or may not work for you but hopefully they will give you or new owner some alternative things to try with your dog.
Jason and Miranda
PS by Miranda: Although I have always wanted to have a dog to show for conformation, at this point, I would not trade Roo for the best bred pup from Champion parents. He's wonderful and just right for us. There isn't much I would change, except for the necessity of repeating crate training..lol. I just cannot resist the _FACE!