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The Thinker, Basenji Style
Photo taken 13 August 2010

Nope, she’s not nibbling. She’s just resting her head on her paw, appearing deep in thought.

Basenjis have an ill-deserved reputation for being not very “intelligent” owing to some 1994 study of dubious merit. Basically, it sounds like they took a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating dogs and rated different breeds based on how many repetitions it took for a dog to learn a command. No mention of what kinds of rewards (if any) or physical techniques were used, or whether the evaluators were even fit to judge, which leads me to think the entire study is hogwash.

I’d hardly describe Bowpi as unintelligent, but rather, a dog who has a clear understanding of what she likes: sleeping, eating, snuggling, and exploring the outdoors (but not the backyard, which she uses for the occasional sunbath). These are activities she enjoys in and of themselves, and not necessarily suitable as training incentives. She certainly won’t respond “correctly” to every command, even a simple sit if you’re asking her to do so on bare floors. It’s one reason why she likes Pet Store A as much as she does, I think. Aside from the gourmet salmon treats they offer, they have carpeted floors, a rarity among pet boutiques. That seems to be the main reason Bowpi so willingly responds to their requests. Otherwise, she gives no indication of being willing to obey strangers — what’s the point, after all?

I don’t think she got very much mental stimulation in the life preceding ours. Yet, I often see a twinkle in her eyes that makes me think she’s eager to process new things, even if she holds back on responding to them. We haven’t done much to train her, as she didn’t really come with any bad behaviors that needed correction. If anything, more pressure was put on Bowdu, as he had to learn to accept her constant presence and understand that she was not to be bullied. I’ll probably write more about their introduction at some other point. Suffice to say, this match worked largely because Bowpi is so introverted and doesn’t demand interaction, at least not at home.

Photo taken 22 April 2010

The most solid “new” cue that she’s learned from us has been Go to bed. That is, after sleeping all day on the futon in my study room, we’ll tell her to Go to bed at night, at which time she’ll rise like a serpent from her sea of blankets, and trot directly to the bedroom where she happily curls up against the nearest available human lump, and continues to sleep some more.

It’s going to be a cozy winter.