Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Don't Think So

After five months along in my journey in life with Shaka and Audrey, I continue to learn new things and be surprised every day. Though she has a personality that is unique to her alone, I find that she increasingly reminds me of my first female basenji, Bow, and not always in the best way.

During much of September, there was intense street construction going on our block. Jack hammers, steamrollers, dump trucks and just about every imaginable noisy, annoying machine. Needless to say, neither Shaka nor Audrey wanted to be anywhere near that racket, and it started our walks off chaos. The construction is now long over, and initially going anywhere near where the construction had been going on resulted in Audrey first grinding her paws into the pavement, backing up on the leash and giving me the most intense "I.Don't.Think.So." look. And when she is in that state, there is little chance of negotiation. Trying to pull her along makes it hard to believe that this is an 18-pound basenji and not a bank safe on a chain.

Initially this happened just when we went anywhere near where the construction had gone on. But over the past three or four weeks, it has happened at various spots along our route where there is no noise, no distractions or anything obviously setting her off. I've tried a variety of techniques to correct this -- making a U-turn which sometimes works but not usually, happy talk coaxing or dropping treats. But usually it just takes just going a different direction.

All of this is exactly what I went through with Bow about five months into our time together. And with Bow, it was also hard to know what caused it, and one day it just suddenly stopped.

Do others with basenji girls have similar experiences or tips on how to get beyond it. It's now hard to tell if it's stubbornness or fear or a combination.


  1. She reminds me very much of our first basenji boy. A basenji breeder in England once told me, "basenjis never forget." I personally think it's a fear thing, and that you're doing the right thing by changing direction or offering happy distractions. They are sensitive dogs - who knows what happened to her before you had her? She'll probably work through this stage just like your Bow, given the time and love and understanding you consistently offer.

  2. I agree that it's not wise to force her if she is feeling frightened. I'd much rather go a different direction than to fuel her fear and make her think she can't trust me.

  3. I agree with Leslie's comment. This behavior doesn't happen with my basenji girl, Reef, whom I've had all her life so she's quite the confident little princess. But it does occur with my basenji boy, Biko, whom I got 3 years ago as a very fearful BRAT rescue. Oddly enough, Biko never does this when I walk the two of them together, because he follows Reef's confident lead (even though, being a boy, he insists on acting like he's the leader). But when I walk just Biko alone, he very often gets fearful and does the "bank safe on a leash" act. I have no idea what spooks him, but he seems to get over it if I change direction, distract him, or pretend like I see a squirrel and excitedly say "This way! Get the squirrel!" I feel bad doing the fake squirrel thing since he totally falls for it every time and will hunt in vain for it for at least a block, but it at least gets him out of his fearful funk :)