Thursday, December 27, 2012

Basenji Discipline

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     In less than two weeks, we will celebrate the first anniversary of Star's arrival in our household. Over the last year, she enjoyed the retired show dog life, no shows, no puppies, just one slightly eccentric basenji boy to keep in line. At first, she experienced a lot of culture shock. She met other people and dogs on our walks together. She watched Kindu yodel greetings while she had been hushed her whole life. Life's changes left her stunned and confused much of the time.
     One of the first problems we had to address was her inappropriate nipping if someone surprised her. Sometimes all a person had to do was pet her the wrong way and she might fall apart. She had spent much of her life outdoors isolated from other people and dogs and she found integrating in a pack of two humans and one very spoiled basenji boy troubling. Two things calmed her during these challenging early days: resting outdoors on the back patio or sleeping in the safety of her dog crate.
     As time passed Star learned the routine around our house. First thing every morning included a walk around the block with Kindu. During the warm days of spring and summer, she went outdoors to rest on the patio after breakfast, but as the days grew shorter at the end of the year a nap between her humans suited her just fine. Breakfast slowly grew later and later in the day until she learned her big meal of the day arrived after 3 each afternoon followed by another walk. As the sun set, she joined the pack in the living room at first in her own personal dog bed. Eventually she was invited to join the rest of us on the couch.
     For Kindu it has been a year of transition too, much of which he has disapproved. When two dogs reside in a household, nobody gets quite as spoiled as they used to be. Behavioral expectations have increased for our boy. Star wanted to get in the middle of every game, so he plays less and sleeps more. However one of his favorite activities, watching out the front window to see what's going on outdoors, still remains a prime use of his time. Star still doesn't understand the appeal of watching out the window, she is content to take a nap and let the whole world walk by.
     In those first months, I never let the two dogs alone together. I feared a fight might develop and one of them would be hurt. In time, Kindu began to ask to join Star on the back patio for sunbathing together. I monitored their interactions carefully watching for signs of aggression. Interestingly the one place they rarely disagree is outside in the sunshine. I guess there are enough California sunrays to satisfy both of their desires. After 6 months of no outside fights, we dared to leave them both together on the patio when we went out. The first couple of times I felt sure I'd be rushing one or both of them to the vet for stitches, but thankfully they teamed up out there and just kept an eye on the back gate.
     Discipline at our house has tightened up and both dogs are expected to listen up when we ask them too, but mostly we are a happy and healthy pack together. Star still looks confused at times and doesn't really understand at all what all this Christmas fuss has been about. Trees in the house, visitors at the door, all these and more have stretched this basenji girl's patience a bit, but it's been really fun spoiling her a bit while providing her a more relaxed life. She will celebrate her 8th birthday in early January, next week, and I wonder what 2013 will bring to us and our little basenji pack.