Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Training Tuesday: Speaking up

Training is a very important part of a relationship with a dog, especially one who is an adept food thief and an expert at ignoring owners when he feels like it. Training Tuesday is my weekly installment in my adventures with getting a Basenji, a notorious breed for not wanting to listen, to listen to me.  I use positive reinforcement and copious amounts of treats to bribe train Indiana so we can have a healthy relationship and my leftovers will stay on the table.  Advice and commiseration are always welcome because I am no expert.

When I tell people I have a Basenji, their first reaction is either "A what?" or "Those are the dogs that don't bark right?"  As for the second question, the answer is a little more complicated than a lot of people think.  Sometimes, it is assumed that since Basenjis don't "bark" they don't make any noise at all.  This is definitely not the truth.  Basenjis are known for a trademark "yodel" or "singing" because their vocal cords have a slightly different formation than most dogs.  So, they still make noise just not the normal kind, and luckily with Indiana and our apartment situation, not too frequently either.

(This video sums it up pretty well. Skip to :28 for some real rooster Basenji crowing.) 

Indiana's name at the Colorado Basenji Rescue was originally Yodel with the tagline "his foster parents have never heard him bark, just happy yodels."  (We considered changing his name to Yoda, but decided we just had to name the dog Indiana.)

We later learned that Indiana's description wasn't quite right, because he does have a bit of a bark. It could be because of the Rat Terrier in him, but he likes short barks for most things and really only sings (or shrieks) when the Husband comes home from work. 

Now, we've been training him to do tricks since we got him and he is smart as a whip when food is involved.  With our trainer recommended "puppy crack," Indiana will try to figure out anything to get a bit.  Teaching him to speak has been my newest goal, after he fairly mastered "shake" and "spin."  This has been a bit of a pickle because of his fondness for silence and his desire to try every trick in the book when he isn't sure of what to do to get food in his mouth.

 So far, I've been able to work with his excitement for treats to get him initially speaking.  Then, I quickly say "Good" and give him a treat.  I've moved onto using a clicker because sometimes I'm too mentally slow to follow up quickly enough with a verbal gratification before his treat.  Indiana will play this game for about ten barks, with plenty of spinning, and then give up.  I'm hoping to have him know a hand signal in a couple of weeks and eventually the verbal command.  I just hope it doesn't backfire and he speaks for everything!

Indiana usually tries to "Spin" or find something to "Touch" to get a treat.

Today in Indiana Misbehaves - This morning, after I cleaned up Indiana's "business" on his walk, I turned around to find Indiana had something in his mouth.  Thinking it a chicken bone, which are constantly littered on the street in my area, I reached into his mouth to take it out.  The offending street munchie was one whole pigeon leg.  The rest of the pigeon was no where in site.

Is that grosser than anything your dog has eaten?


  1. Interesting - I've never heard of a dog who yodels or crows! I just bark or cry!

  2. LOL! That first dog sounded like someone who was being murdered!
    Good luck with the training - my dogs have had me trained for years.
    Hugs, Lynne x

  3. Great job training!
    Bella has brought me dead fish at the lake before. Once while I was actually in the water with her. THAT was gross!

  4. Wow, look at all those behaviours offered! What a cute fella! He quickly worked out you wanted the bark and not the other junk (mostly). Love his enthusiasm. :)

  5. I've never heard a bassenji make any noise before so that vid was great. I just kept wishing the man would be quiet so I could hear the dog better ;)

    Maybe Yoda can be Indiana's second name? Georgia has 4 (we don't like to be greedy).

    Georgia has done heaps better than a dead pigeon body part. She loves scraping dried squid (fisherman's bait) off the pier. Also decomposing rat tail and possum bits, horse/cow manure. I wouldn't consider palm nuts too gross until they come out the other end ;p

    Thank you for dropping by to visit Georgia night before last! Hugs x

    1. There are loads of videos on youtube, but a lot of them have background noise to get the Basenjis to sing. They are a hard breed to get to talk!

      Decomposing rat tail is pretty gross and actually what I thought the pigeon leg was when I glimpsed some pink/red in Indiana's mouth. Hopefully picking up gross things is good for the immune system.

      I can't wait for Georgia to be 100% again!

  6. My dogs don't eat gross things as a rule, but they can spot the most disgusting things to roll in. I'm trying to correct this.

  7. Pigeon, yuck! Pip has eaten some gross things in his day, too.

  8. Ew pigeon! My sister and brother Doxies both eat their own (and each other's) poop
    Dachshund Nola

    1. I've seen that quite a bit at the doggie daycare I used to work at.

  9. LOL wait til you here what I caught Peanuts playing with strutting around inside the house carrying that thing in her mouth.

    Cool, you're using hand symbols to train Indiana. So cool. I can't get Peanuts to do the sit trick once I make her do the "down" trick.

    I use boiled liver for tricks. It gets her all riled up.

    Huggies and Cheese,


  10. I once pulled a piece of a butchered deer out of Delilah's mouth. It was so gross. At first I thought it was a bloody mouse and then a few feet away I found the rib cage. I think seeing the rib cage made me feel better.

    Shortly after that I pulled a piece of a deer leg (fur and all) out of her mouth.

    I am anxious to find out how you are training Indiana to leave things on the table.

    1. Teaching him to leave things that are within his reach is a long term goal and probably a pipe dream. He will do anything to get more food in his mouth!

  11. Hi Helen, thanks for visiting my blog. A partial pigeon leg!!! Wow, I'd probably try to eat it but I know that my mom and dad would have put a quick stop to that. We did see the remains of a pigeon last summer. We think that a cat got it but my dad wouldn't let me get very close to it. We do eat raw though. I suppose my dad thinks that raw chicken necks are kind of gross. My mom likes clicker training a lot and it works if done consistently.

  12. Hi nice to meet you and Indiana. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Deccy x

  13. Hi there, thanks for stopping by our blog and we are a follower of yours now.

  14. I'm always excited to find new Basenji blogs. Mixes included! Indiana seems very well trained, and has a pleasant, deep voice. I hope the trick doesn't backfire, though! ;)

    I guess partial pigeon would be pretty gross. We do feed raw around here though, so that wouldn't be extremely disgusting to me... except that "wild-caught" raw is a little different from what they get at home. We live in a pretty trashy neighborhood, and the Shiba has brought home a soggy giant rawhide roll that had been sitting in the gutters for who knows HOW long. The texture of that thing was pretty disturbing. Not sure if I would have preferred a pigeon leg.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  15. Oh my goodness! How did I not know you have a Basenji?!?! (This is what happens when I'm so swamped with work, I don't get the time I want to go check out other blogs. Sorry about that - following you now though and looking forward to catching up on your back story, as well.)

    I volunteer (albeit not often enough) with Basenji Rescue and Transport and just love the little guys (and gals). Indiana is quite adorable! Now that you've taught him to speak, however, you will likely want to teach him "Quiet", too. ;)

    As for eating disgusting things, I can't even bring myself to say the most disgusting thing Bella will eat. Suffice it to say, puppy kisses afterwards hold much less appeal. :]

  16. see what leslie said up there in her first line?? i feel the same way! lol. in fact, i have already harassed leslie in regards to her hook-up with basenjis, in hopes that my husband and i can adopt one. :-)

    also, i really need to get on that puppy crack stuff. i tried a little mini roll of it once as treats and it was a success. i always forget about it as a treat!

    pigeon leg?! ugh.


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