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Why you need to read the Zande Put-Off

by Sally Wallis

Very few people are as difficult to buy a puppy from as we are. The first thing would-be owners get sent is the Zande Put-Off, seven pages of close typescript destined to deter all but the most persistent wannabe Basenji owner. Or, if they have web-access, they are referred to our website with a list of articles to down-load, read and digest. After that, and always supposing they survive, they are expected to visit us and undergo the rigours of ‘inspection by pack’. If one of the boys fails to sit on a lap - they go away with no hope of a puppy, at least not from us.

We have tried to develop the Put-Off to include as much detail as possible about the traits, habits and characters of our beloved Breed. We believe it is necessary to make people aware of all the bad things about owning a Basenji as well as the pleasures and fun, the challenge of training an intelligent, thinking doggie to become a social asset, a friend you can take anywhere.

It is perfectly possible to train a Basenji. Regard it as a Challenge, approach it with a sense of humour and conviction and you can win.

Training is a positive ideal which should be impressed on all new-comers to the Breed. Horror stories of destructive dogs who chew furniture, shred drapes, eat underclothes, are fine in their place but should always be justified and accompanied with encouragement to new owners to take heart, Basenjis can be trained !

I enjoy reading stories about the evil that these little sod-dogs have wrought as much as the next person. However, after reading a few ‘mine too’, ‘so does mine’, ‘typical Basenji behaviour’ comments and follow-ups on the internet Basenji Lists, with nary a one showing the other side of the coin, I get very dispirited for the Breed as a whole.

My worry is that new Basenji owners tell about their problem-children and all they get is a catalogue of similar experiences so they give up training their hounds, thinking them untrainable. So many people tell them so, it HAS to be true! Which it isn’t, because they aren't. It takes time and effort but pays off in the end, so long as you never rest on your laurels.

Ours have never demolished furniture. The only damage anywhere, and that includes to the leather sofas & chairs, are puppy teeth on the legs of chairs in the kitchen These are kept tipped up where they don't just slide under, to prevent eager thieves from leaping atop the table.

It is essential to start early and to continue throughout the long life of the Basenji. Nothing is 'too early' or 'too soon' and he must learn that 'no !' means not just no, but "hell NO !" - said with a straight face. If you laugh you are lost. The Basenji will see the joke and fail to take you seriously.

Discipline is on-going and the pressure needs to be kept up for ever. People came to look at puppies once. After a couple of hours with the dogs, and on the point of departure, the man turned to Marvin and asked "How soon can we expect dignity and for the puppy to fit in, quietly and reliably, with our life-style ?"

At the moment, Deedles went down on his elbows, chased his tail for a moment and shot through the visitor's legs, nearly bringing him down in his haste to get into the garden and race along beside a tractor or a passing horse in the lane (from inside the garden, I hasten to add !).

"Well," drawled my husband, "difficult to tell, really. That boy is 14 years old !" Memory of the resultant look of horror will not leave me in a hurry.

A bored Basenji can become a destructive Basenji leading to the 'WAIL !! - I can't COPE any longer..' syndrome. But marrow bones, a rabbit made of old panty hose knotted firmly into strips, old tennis balls, enough regular exercise and human contact, all help to keep them interested and out of mischief until they are ready to sleep.

If a Basenji is really naughty, before administering chastisement (which is probably already too late because punishment must follow the crime immediately of the dog will think "what'd I do THIS time ?") ask yourself why - because you can learn, through your dog's naughtiness, how to prevent it happening again.

Was he bored, did he need to go out and couldn't ? Was something spilt which made whatever it was taste appetising ? Was he trying to tell you something you didn't want to hear and got frustrated ? Basenjis are extremely logical and you might be very surprised at the number of times you can rationalise their behaviour.

One owner was very surprised when she had her first baby and her Basenji pushed past her into the bathroom to get at (and devour) the soiled diapers before helping 'wash' the baby. But the bitch thought it her duty, as it would have been in the wild, to keep the place clean.

Dropped rusks, biscuit crumbs, all went down the Basenji unless the vacuum cleaner could be produced, pronto, and the Basenji became very overweight. For her second child, also raised by the Basenji, our friend knew better and scavenging was discouraged !

Life with a pack of Basenjis is at worst a compromise and a challenge and at best exciting, frustrating and just plain FUN. But discipline must be observed because an untrained dog does no service to his breed, his breeder or his owners and he/she often needs rehoming. The last thing any of us wants to happen

The Zande Put-Off
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Sally & Marvin Wallis
Zande Basenjis
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