Frustrated and Bored. Stealing and Biting

Another first! I have been to a Basenji mix before but not a pure Basenji, despite having helped thousands of dogs.

He’s frustrated. This drives Benji’s uncontrolled behaviour.

Benji is frustrated

Benji is born to hunt.

The adolescent Benji will steal anything he can find from table, shelves or floor. He runs of with it or destroys it.  This leads predictably to a chase with Benji cornered. He may then become aggressive when they try to get the item off him.

Benji, when thwarted or told off, can become very frustrated. For example, he may frantically dig the leather sofa. When told off, he then may charge around, jumping at the older lady, grabbing her clothes and biting her.

Seemingly out of the blue, he may do the same thing when she is busy – particularly when she’s moving around outside in the garden or wearing rubber gloves. Benji attack golves.

These things are not really out of the blue. His ‘erupting’ will be the result of a constant internal build-up of stress, invisible and unheard because Benji doesn’t bark. This arousal will result in frequent explosions.

The young lady has worked very hard with Benji from when he was a puppy. He was a very good puppy. When he was at a very formative age certain unfortunate and unavoidable things in their lives occurred. Benji’s behaviour changed.

It was immediately obvious to me that Benji has no physical boundaries where the young lady and Benji are temporarily staying. It’s impossible to escape from him.

I could see also that he must be over-aroused and stressed a lot of the time. He is frustrated. He was born to hunt and has no fulfillment. They dare not let him off lead (though have just recently found an enclosed field to hire on an hourly basis which will be great). 

They will no longer ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ when he’s peaceful!

Understandably they are thankful for the break,

Life with Benji is one of being on the constant lookout for him doing something wrong and trying to stop it. All his attention is generated in this way and he milks it.

No item, even if on the dining table, is out of his range. He simply stands on his back legs and gets it off. Among many other things, he’s ruined the edges of the PVC table protector by chewing it.

Another quote from Wikipedia: Basenjis often stand on their hind legs, somewhat like a meerkat, by themselves or leaning on something..

Benji runs up and down the boundary with the neighbour’s dog barking the other side. They felt this was good exercise and left him outside, unstopped. It couldn’t annoy anyone because Benji doesn’t bark. If he did bark they may see it as being very stressful for him, not fun.

To quote Wikipedia: The Basenji produces an unusual yodel-like sound commonly called a “baroo”, due to its unusually shaped larynx. This trait also gives the Basenji the nickname “soundless dog”.

Benji gets easily frustrated and this builds up. The more frustrated he feels, the more ‘naughty’ he becomes. Stress stacks up inside him – and they probably won’t even notice.

To change Benji’s behaviour we are getting to the bottom of why he does these things. He obviously gets something out of it. It will make him feel better in some way .

They now need to find acceptable things for him to do that also make him feel good.

They need to supply him with many suitable and varied activities to exercise his brain as well as his body. He will then become a lot less frustrated. Here is a great link: 33 Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors

Instead of constantly fielding the unwanted stuff, they will consciously look out for and reward every little good thing he does whether it’s simply standing still, lying down – or looking at the table without putting his feet on it.

He can earn much of his food in this way.

They will work hard on getting him to come to them when they call him and make it really worth his while. This will be a lot better than cornering him when he runs off with something. They will never simply take things off him. Exchange will be worked on until he enjoys giving things up.

Just as with a puppy or toddler, they will need to be even more careful with leaving things about – he has a particular liking for remote controls, mobile phones or a wallet – all things that smell most of his humans.

Benji needs some physical boundaries.

They need to be able to walk away from him or place him somewhere with things to do.

They will put a gate in the doorway between sitting room and kitchen. They can give him alternatives to the table cloth, books in the bookshelf, remote, paper documents and so on that he manages to get hold of. Gated in the kitchen, he can get to work on a carton of rubbish from the recycle bin with food buried amongst the rubbish. Anything that gives him an acceptable outlet will result in a less frustrated dog.

Keeping him as calm as possible by avoiding situations that stir him up too much, managing the environment so he doesn’t have the opportunity to keep doing these things and adding a lot more enrichment to his life should turn the corner for Benji and his family.

It will take time. The hardest thing is for the humans to change their ways and to be patient!

It’s no good getting cross with the dog for just being a dog (whether a Basenji or anything else). We are the ones who must do things differently.

Beagle Puppy and Electric Shock Collar

Beagle with electric shock collarYou see the contraption around eighteen-month-old Lulu’s neck?

It’s an electric shock collar.

She wears it all the time. It shocks her if she goes near the boundary, the top of the stairs or the dining table while they are eating. They have an invisible fence, and ‘discs’ on the table and stairs.

They have found Lulu hard work since they got her at eight weeks old. She steals things, chews things and barks a lot.

Bored and wanting company

She spends quite a lot of time in a small pen in order to contain her – so she barks to get out and join the family. She goes out into the garden, but only to bark and scrabble at the door to get to the rest of the people.

On walks, in spite of her mainly wanting to sniff and say hello to people and other dogs, she is corrected by jerks of the lead on her collar if she doesn’t walk ‘properly’.

I have suggested they look at Lulu’s own needs, as a Beagle especially, and run with them. A Beagle is bred as a pack animal, not solitary. They have a very friendly affectionate little dog who simply wants to be with them all the time. They also have a working animal that needs to be occupied. She is a ‘hound’ and needs to sniff and hunt, so why not go with the flow when out on walks, giving her more space on a long line whilst showing her that any pulling simply results in no further progress until the lead is loose again.

People sometimes make things a lot more difficult than they need to be with preconceived ideas of what they think a dog should do.

Fulfilment and enriching her life

There are better ways than a shock collar of containing Lulu. In my mind shocking a dog abusive. Instead of shutting her out of the room they could contain her and give her plenty to do – use anchor points perhaps. She well may not need this at all if her own needs are better fulfilled. If they give her more brain work and more to occupy her when she gets bored.

It was interesting asking each member of the family their reasons for getting her. The grandmother said to sit on her lap, the grandfather said to replace the old dog that recently died, the mother said for affection, the son said to play with and the father said he never wanted a dog.

If they now ask, what does Lulu need and want, and then find a way of fulfilling it, she will be no problem at all. She is the sweetest dog. She is friendly to all people and dogs. The only barking she does is when she wants to join the family and have some of the action.

I have spent time and money over the years, keeping my small field dog proof with conventional fencing and sheep wire. I hope that one day I can persuade this family to fence their garden properly – or at least a part of it, and do away with the shock collar.

People in their ignorance do things with the best of intentions, and no doubt they do this to keep their dog safe. Lulu can so easily be taught to keep away from the dining room table while they are eating by being shown what IS required of her and rewarded for that. The stairs can be gated.

However, it takes a lot more time and effort. All members of the family need to pull together – to drink out of the same water bowl.