An Africanis Tale

This month, we have something a little different for you.  We at Superdogs have noticed an increase in the amount of “Africanis” dogs being brought to class and in for our inboard training program.  We decided to ask some of our clients their opinions of the breed.  Here is some of the feedback we received.

“Two years ago, my son went down the Wild Coast with two of my husband’s colleagues for a rustic beach holiday.  Whilst there, they were befriended by a dog.  Full of mange, ticks and fleas, obviously riddled with worms, half-starved and heavily pregnant.  After making enquiries they couldn’t find anyone who claimed ownership of this sweet and friendly animal, so turfed her into my son’s back seat and sent him on his way, armed with paper towels and other things that may be necessary if she were to give birth on the 8-hour journey.  On reaching home he delivered her, by arrangement, to the vet where she stayed to start treatment for everything that was wrong with her.

Four days later, still in hospital, she gave birth to four healthy puppies and a day after that came down with a nasty dose of billiary.  Having been nursed through that, she eventually went home to my husband’s colleagues and our son told us that he would be taking on one of the puppies because they were only going to good and caring homes.  By implication, of course, this meant that we were taking on one of the puppies because he was a young man living in digs doing what young men do, hardly a stable home for a puppy.  And so, just before Christmas in 2011, we fetched this little thing and gave her a name.  She is called Gladness.  We’re glad to have her and she is glad to be with us, rather than being dead in a ditch down the Wild Coast.

Gladness has bonded with us. We all love her to bits but the journey we are on is at the same time, gratifying, perplexing and frustrating.

  • I am used to puppies that settle in within a day or two. Gladness took about two weeks and spent most of that time climbing up my neck trying to escape the Boxers who, with their tails wagging, were just interested and trying to be friendly.
  • Having eventually settled in, she would only sleep under things or nestled in the pillows between our heads. She has improved but to this day, needs the security that some sort of cover provides before she will sleep happily.
  • Every dog that I have ever lived with will run, barking, towards a noise. Not Gladness.  She runs away and hides, only coming out when she is happy that there is no imminent danger.
  • She is completely resistant to change. She usually has her meals in the same place and if, for whatever reason, we change that place she won’t eat her food.  I usually feed her, but if I ask someone else to do it, once again, she won’t eat.
  • She has bonded particularly well with my husband, and he with her. They adore one another and it is a beautiful thing to see.  He, however, needs to go away on business from time to time and when he doesn’t come home at night she won’t settle down to sleep.  She paces the whole night looking for him.
  • Gladness has now learnt that allowing us to put a collar and lead on her means that she will be going on an exciting walk, but it hasn’t been easy. For months it was a tussle every time, one that always held the danger of one of us being bitten in the process.
  • And medication is a nightmare. Shortly after being spayed she developed the incontinence that sometimes comes with that.  This requires that we syringe liquid medicine down her throat every night.  We’ve been doing it for a year now and I have concluded that she will never, ever accept it.  I have to fill the syringe in secret because if she sees me doing it, she runs away.  Gets under the house and only comes out when she thinks the coast is clear.

Having owned Boxers all my life, I am used to the rough and tumble.  We laugh and we play, we get mad and crazy, and everyone mucks in.  I’m not firm enough with my clowns and the only way that they become obedient is if I send them off to boarding school, where an expert will be firm and get the job done.  Where Gladness is concerned, I have learnt to be gentle.  So very gentle.  No firm commands or else she’ll run away.  Just heaps of affirmation.  We didn’t take her to any obedience classes because we felt she was to scared and too timid to cope.

The relationship that Gladness has with dogs is completely normal.  I watch her interacting with our Boxers and it is as it should be.  It’s humans that upset her.  From the moment of her birth she has been well treated and well fed.  Her demons – because that’s what they are – stem from her genes.  Sad that her ancestors learnt that if they were to live long enough to breed they needed to be wary of humans. “

“I have been a friend to many different species of dog in my life time, including super-bright border collies and super interesting daschunds.  Many pavement specials, terriers, jack russells, labs – the list goes on.  In the last eight years I have had the honour of having a male Afrikaaner called Draco in our family.  If the breed is a reflection of the nature of Draco, then I can say without a doubt that this is a special breed.  We jokingly call him “no-rules Draco”.  He has a very determined persona, and usually gets what he wants.  If we want to insist that he does something different, we have to be sure that our whole human family is very clear on maintaining the consistency of the training.  We do not use a ‘firm hand’ on him, preferring to reinforce him for what he does correctly, and this has worked.  I have learned many lessons about behaviour management from many animals in my life.  The lesson Draco has taught me is – be reasonable and if necessary, compromise.  He is not unreasonable.  He just knows what he wants.”

We think that, like every other dog breed, the Africanis is a wonderful, loving, complex dog.  As with other breeds, individuals within the breed vary in character and personality and training methods will differ accordingly.

What’s is your experience of the Africanis?  We’d love to hear from you!