Like everyone else has said, a basenji will easily learn how to get out of that haha
I recommend crate training, honestly. it’s safer and more reliable than an ex-pen and it’s important for dogs to have that ‘safe’ space where you can put them in emergencies. Crates aren’t cages - think of it more like a nest or a cave. It’s a comfortable safe place, not a punishment. Most of the dogs that I’ve owned have gone in of their own accord, or will ‘put themselves to bed’ - they like it. My current basenji sleeps in hers at night and goes in when I have to leave the house, and it gives me peace of mind to know that she’s safe (and also the furniture is safe lol). It sets important expectations and boundaries too.
I respect everyone who has commented but I have to disagree on a few certain points. Please do not wait and see if he grows out of it. He will not. Dog reactivity only ever gets worse, not better, without intervention. It’s important to eliminate this behavior asap or it will solidify into a damning habit that will be harder and harder to get rid of as time goes on.
(The exception to this is if it is rutting like Zande mentioned, but you can’t know for sure if that’s all it is)
If he’s attacking dogs at the dog park, then I second those that suggested to (unfortunately, I know) stay away from the dog park.
But leash reactivity is honestly one of the most common and most fixable issues that pet dogs have. I’m not sure what you’re walking him on, but if it’s a harness, I strongly suggest you look into a martingale or prong collar (and then, of course, do lots of homework on how to use these tools properly - there are tons of fantastic videos on YouTube, which is a great place to start). If you control the head you control the dog, and solid leash manners are going to be key in eliminating leash reactivity. Do not try to ‘redirect’ the dog with a treat if he starts to growl, vibrate, lunge, etc. because a) chances are he will be too aroused to even notice the food and b) if he does notice it, he will interpret the food as a reward for the bad behavior of growling, lunging etc. and the problem will escalate. This is, unfortunately, a huge misconception in the dog training world. Food in response to shitty behavior will always, always be interpreted by the dog as a reward for said behavior, not as a deterrent.
Of course treats will come into play when you’re doing leash work. Start with zero distractions in your driveway or another private area and reward him for heeling and keeping his focus on you. Once you’ve done tons of repetitions then start adding in distractions like other dogs. Again, don’t respond to any reactive behavior with treats, but do reward him for ignoring distractions and keeping his focus on you.
I would also strongly suggest investing in a muzzle. Safety is #1 priority for you, your dog and others, and no matter the reason for the behavior, muzzles create a safety net that will allow you peace of mind when out and about with your dog. Baskervilles are the most popular and allow for eating, drinking and panting. If you size it right, your dog will barely even notice it’s there.
Edit: Also, there’s nothing wrong with not neutering him yet. You’re really not supposed to fix dogs until they reach sexual maturity, and that usually comes between 1-2 years of age (For bitches it’s after their first heat). I mean, you can, of course! But you don’t have to feel pressured into it. Like others have said, chances are it won’t fix the problem anyway
Totally agree with what everyone else has said, this is classic resource guarding - super common, super fixable, and there are tons of resources on the Internet that will help you guys overcome this.
I would even go one step further and ban him from the couch entirely, at least for now. Get a dog bed or mat and position it in the room where your couch is and teach him the ‘Place’ Command. If he already knows ‘down’ and ‘stay’, those come in handy too. He shouldn’t be on the couch at all while you or your wife or both are on it. Dogs that don’t have couch manners = don’t get to be on the couch (keep this consistent and don’t cave, no exceptions). It also gets him accustomed to seeing the two of you together without him - maybe even over-exaggerate a cuddle or kiss for his benefit. This isn’t a punishment so much as just teaching him where he fits in the dynamic between the three of you. He’s been getting the wrong message up until now (through no fault of your own or your wife’s!! No one can predict that a dog will respond this way to their primary caretaker), that your wife is a threat to his possession of you, rather than a high ranking member of the family with partner and couch privileges too.
(If he sleeps in your bed, same rules apply)
Eventually you might be able to transition him back onto the couch - I would wait until you don’t see any resource guarding behavior for at least several weeks. This is in conjunction with everything else people have said - your wife should be the one to feed him and walk him. You, as hard as it’s going to be, should not offer him any (or at least very, very minimal) physical affection during this time. You’re going to want to cave and that’s understandable. it’s really hard not to give your dog long pets and cuddles, but resource guarding only gets worse over time (growling becomes lunging, lunging becomes biting). Better to nip it in the bud now quickly and decisively.
Edit: oh, and number one thing not to do is ‘redirect’ him with treats. I.e., ‘Your wife comes over, he growls, you/your wife make him get off the couch, then give him a treat’. ‘Or your wife comes over, he growls and you/your wife give him treats’. That’s not redirecting anything, it’s rewarding his growling with food and he will very quickly make that connection and it will very quickly get worse. Food should not even be in the equation during this ‘correction’ period (except in the training and reinforcement of the ‘Place’ command, or ‘down’ and ‘stay’ commands designed to preemptively make him give you and your wife space before he even has an opportunity to resource guard). Basically, At no point should any resource guarding behavior be followed by treats.
I’m curious - did the doctor recommend a basenji specifically or just a dog in general?
It’s just that Basenjis are so high-energy, high-strung, independent and mischievous. My instinct is to say that this breed is not predisposed to therapy or support work, though of course there are always exceptions and appropriate training will play a big part in making this situation work (though obviously that would go for any breed).
I’d recommend getting a puppy from a reliable breeder who knows your situation and can make the best possible match, so the puppy can be socialized within this particular dynamic from the get-go.
That said, would there be any opposition to looking for a more therapy-inclined breed? There are just going to be way fewer unknown variables with, say, a lab or poodle, who already have an established history as successful companions to kids with special needs.
A couple other Connecticut basenji owners and I connected on one of the basenji Facebook groups and had our first meet up last weekend. It went really well! We’re planning another one this coming Saturday at 9:30 AM at the Milford CT dog park (Eisenhower Dog Park) if anyone is local and interested in joining us! I’d love to get a good group doing this regularly. My girl Korra will play with all breeds but she definitely has a special love for playing with other b’s!
^^^^^ I agree! The idea will be to reconfigure what the expectation is when you’re taking your dog for a walk. It will take training and I strongly suggest the use of a martingale collar or slip lead when working this behavior because it will send an additional, automatic, and silent message to the dog that will make a treat and voice command that much more effective in the long run.
When you start you’ll have to keep a very short leash so that he learns what the expectation is. You want him trotting at your side, focused on you, not scanning the horizon for potentially poisonous yummies or the next thing to sniff. Eventually (probably far in the future) you might be able to loosen the leash and give him a little more room, but don’t change the expectation! Walks are about being focused on you. When it’s appropriate you can give him ‘sniff breaks’ where you can completely loosen the leash and let him sniff around to his heart’s content. Then when the walk starts up again, his attention must return to you.
And yes it is possible with a basenji (it’s possible with any dog, and making excuses based on breed, which I unfortunately hear from way too many people, achieves absolutely nothing but a miserable owner and a miserable and possibly dead dog) because I’ve done it with mine and it’s made our walks far more enjoyable. I wish you the best of luck!
I can’t say if it’s the same thing, but my most recent basenji was a nightmare to house train and I still have no idea why - it took her a heck of a lot longer than my other dogs, but she did eventually grow out of it.
In the meantime, I’d recommend having him sleep on old towels (or just dog-designated towels) because they’re easier to clean and way less expensive than dog beds.
Is he neutered? It might also be a ‘marking’ thing, but like mentioned above, idk why he’d do it in his sleep space
They’re harder to find in rescue but My basenjis have always had the most fun playing with other sight hounds - their playing style is most similar.
And it’s different for every dog but in my experience basenjis are 100% convinced they’re big dogs and have no problem wrestling and chasing with dogs plenty times their size lol (and usually come out on top too) - if the wrestling gets too rough they can always just run away and few non-sight hound breeds can catch them
(For example the other night my basenji was running amok with a friend’s pack of six 50-60 pound salukis (a breed of sight hound) and having the time of her life bossing them around)
Obviously every dog is different and I agree with other commenters! Individual compatibility is most important
If other recommendations fail, bop him on the nose. You’re not hurting him; it doesn’t have to be hard, just enough to surprise him and send the message that this isn’t acceptable behavior. Accompany with a firm “no” so that he gets what “no” actually means. his littermates, mom, and other dogs would give a warning snarl and snap in this situation - we don’t have that, so a quick bop on the nose is the next best thing
whatever action you take needs to be motivational enough for him to stop the behavior. Yelping or ignoring him might be all it takes to do the trick and if so, that’s fantastic. But if he isn’t fazed by that (my basenji wasn’t when she was a puppy), you need to up the ante in order to send the message that this behavior isn’t appropriate.
@zande thank you for your reply! That's a great suggestion!
This behavior of hers applies to any small dog we come across, so it's not something that I can predict, unfortunately, which is part of what makes it so hard! We also go to lots of different woods, so I can't ever be positive who we're going to meet. She doesn't do it in dog parks, interestingly, but those are closed right now and all my dogs and I much prefer the woods anyway.
Aiii anyway, I really appreciate your thoughtful replies!
and as a general note, I REALLY don't believe in 'well that's just the way basenjis are so I don't have to try to correct inappropriate or dangerous behavior' - yeah, it's going to take more time and effort than with other breeds, but that's sort of what you sign up for when you get a basenji. It's your responsibility to make sure they are respectful members of dog (and human) society. That goes for any breed. Yes, basenjis have deeply buried instincts, prey drive being at the forefront, obviously, but throwing your hands up isn't fair to them or other dogs/owners
@zande yep, basenjis off leash has yet to be a problem for me and I've had 3 now. I only ever let them off in the woods, far away from traffic.
And yes, I absolutely believe she knows the difference between prey and dog, even small fluffy dog. I don't want to take away the joy of running through the woods for her, but I can't in good conscience allow her to frighten other dogs and their owners. My job, hard as it is, is going to have to be getting her to listen when other dogs say 'stop'
So being off leash was one of the first things I trained my basenji (1.5 year old girl) to do because I go hiking multiple times a week with my dogs. She does wander and she does chase squirrels and other critters, and I am ok with these behaviors since 1) they’re instinctive and 2) she knows to come back and check in with me. It’s never been a problem.
Recently, however, she’s started to equate small dogs (particularly small fluffy dogs) with prey and shows typical hunting behaviors when we come across them. She stalks, chases and nips at them when she reaches them. Sometimes they run, which of course exacerbates her prey drive.
I’m afraid she’s going to do some real harm and can’t justify having her off leash in the woods anymore, on the off chance we come across a small dog and I’m not able to grab and leash her in time. Right now my plan is to put her on a long lead and go back to the basics, redirecting her any time she wants to chase anything.
I’ve seen other people discuss this issue in the forums and wanted to ask for any tips/tricks/ setting expectations that others have used that have been effective.
My goal is to hopefully one day be able to allow her off leash again but again, I can’t justify it right now
Edit: I think my biggest question is, how do I eventually differentiate squirrels and birds etc from small dogs? I don’t want to forever restrict her from chasing everything, just for her to know what’s appropriate to chase and what’s not
Martingales! They’ve been a wonder getting my 1.5 year old basenji to walk well on a leash. Go on YouTube and you’ll find a ton of great 101 videos explaining how they work and how to train with them (it’s way easier to watch than for me to explain)
Take walks that are specifically training walks, Even if it’s just up and down the street a couple of times. no wandering and no sniffing allowed. The dog’s sole job is to walk by your side and be attentive to you. Have treats on hand and reward your dog every time he looks to you or gives you his attention. It’s also helpful to have him practice sitting and waiting - my girl is at the point where if I stop walking she’ll almost automatically sit and wait at my feet.
She has the most trouble when we’re passing other dogs and we’re definitely still working on that, but just setting the expectation that her job on a walk is to be next to me has made walking with her so much easier.
Once he starts to get the picture you can give him ‘sniff breaks’ too, so he still gets to have fun and do what dogs do. And I take my girl on lots of off leash hikes in the woods, so she gets to have a place to roam and run but she also has a place where it’s time to listen and behave
Bells! My b-girl likes to roam in the woods and I just invested in a loud pair of bells that go on her collar so I can always hear approximately where she is. I started her off leash early like those above and she was attached to me and my other dog at the hip so I just rewarded the heck out of her for those behaviors so by the time she was old enough to gain confidence and want to go off on her own, she knew to always come back. She does chase squirrels and birds but I always go to wooded areas away from busy roads so she can do so to her heart’s content and I don’t have to worry. I still of course carry treats and reward her sporadically for coming back so she never knows when a treat reward is involved. Seeing her pure joy at running full tilt through the woods with my other dog (a catahoula mix) truly will never ever get old