Saturday, June 11, 2011

When Your Basenji-Boy Grows Up

Kindu in a serious mood

     One of the most bittersweet moments with a dog comes when you realize that your pup has grown up to be an adult. Sleeping all day becomes the norm and playing takes a backseat to a good meal. I believe part of the appeal of basenjis for me is their prolonged puppyhood and how even a dog aged 10 can suddenly revert into a puppy again and run throughout the house like a whirling dervish. However with our current pet basenji, Kindu, his puppyhood has persisted into his 4th year losing much of that appeal along the way.
     For Kindu, the two tough parts of training have involved walking on the leash and not using his teeth while playing. During his first year, many times I lost all patience with his constant biting, jumping up and scratching my arms. All of my pups knew how to control their mouths by the time they were a few months old, but not this strong-willed boy! As Gary would say upon returning from a walk with “the boy,” walking him was a nightmare. More than once he pulled the leash out of our hands, yanked us nearly off our feet or tripped us by constantly weaving back and forth like a snake in front of us. Which is a whole extra problem, there was just no way he would agree to walk behind us or even at our side. This is called heeling and our boy was having none of it.
     This month though, Kindu has surprised both of us with his growing maturity. For years we didn’t allow him to approach children on walks because he would rambunctiously knock them down. Recently on a walk in the park he minded his manners while meeting a group of small children. This is so surprising because Kindu never used to be able to control his impulses. If he wanted something, nothing stopped him. This time he sat quietly allowing himself to be petted.

Kindu heeling for our friends
     Although the signs have been clear, the real test came when our friends arrived from Vancouver for a week of visiting. The first couple of nights we had to use our strongest corrections to convince Kindu that kisses were better than grabbing our friends’ arms or clothes with his mouth. Although he did no damage, he needed to learn that this is not how we treat our guests. It took 2 nights, but by the time their daughter arrived on Monday from Disneyland Kindu had finally learned this hard-won lesson. Martina enjoyed playing with Kindu the way she had always played with our previous basenji, Noelle, when she was a little girl. I breathed a sigh of relief that Kindu could behave himself if I enforced the rules.
     Now my big boy is snoozing quietly beside me on the couch. I push the memories of him stealing the antibiotic ointment from the bathroom drawer tonight. Yes, he’s finally acting like a grown-up dog, except when he gets that wild basenji craziness going and steals something, anything, just to get a bit of that “puppy” attention.