Breed Group: Hound

Temperament and Behavior

Basenjis, although called a “barkless dog”, are far from mute. When happy, they yodel, chortle, and scream. They also growl, whimper, and whine just like any other dog. An active dog inside, they love to play, chew, and explore. But, when meeting strangers, they are calm and aloof preferring to make the first move towards friendship. Strangers should keep fingers away from the dog’s face until attention is invited. Basenjis enjoy playing with children. Early socialization will help turn dog and child into playmates that exhaust each other. They love to chase cats or any other small animal that runs. Keep them on a leash unless in a secure area. Even then supervision is required because Basenjis are master escape artists with tree climbing a specialty and six-foot fences easily cleared. Quick and agile, once loose they are almost impossible to catch. Judicious crating temporarily control their antics. Excellent watchdogs and, though small, they will also protect their home turf to the bitter end. Those who like feline behaviors will relate well to the breed. They have meticulous, cat-like grooming habits which is good because Basenjis hate baths. Also like cats, they can be moody– aloof one moment and loving the next.
Physical Characteristics
Basenjis measure between 16” and 17″ at the withers and weigh 15 to 30 pounds. Their short, coat comes in four colors: chestnut red, black, black and tan, and brindle all with white feet, chest, and tail tip. Their coat needs almost no grooming beyond what they provide themselves and sheds little. With its African heritage, the breed does reasonably well in heat but poorly in cold temperatures. They also have sensitive skin, so caution is urged when choosing what may be a harsh flea shampoo for any attempt at bathing.
Trainer's Notes
Pups need plenty of extra attention paid to their socialization. Without a wide variety of different experiences at an early age, they tend to become shy and snappish or aggressive. Training a Basenji requires a greater commitment of time and effort than most breeds. They learn quickly but consider the pros and cons of responding. Your challenge is to motivate them to cooperate. Positive training techniques work best. To keep up with this spirited breed requires a physically and mentally active owner. An obedience class will benefit you both. Basenjis won’t ever be top obedience competitors, but with humor and patience, they do reasonably well. Inexperienced owners beware, dominant dogs are clever as a fox. They can easily outsmart and train you. Over-indulged they can become a dictator which frequently leads to aggression. This is not a dog for a first-time owner.
Photo placed in the Public Domain by hypnomedi and is available here
Basenji, brindle
Basenjis have a life expectancy of about 13 years. Genetic health problems of greatest concern are Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Fanconi Syndrome, and IPSID/Basenji Enteropathy. Health issues of lesser concern include Persistent Pupillary Membrane, Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency, Hypothyroidism, Umbilical Hernias, and Coloboma.
These quirky little dogs are ranked 84th in popularity by the AKC. Between 800 and 900 Basenjis are registered in a typical year. Basenjis only breed once a year rather than twice as with most dogs. Finding a breeder is a challenge, finding puppies is real work. Be prepared to be put on a waiting list. Basenjis bred in the fall, deliver in late fall or early winter. They are then ready to go home with you eight– or even better, ten weeks later.
Breed History
One of the oldest breeds, research shows the first specimens in ancient Egypt. When ancient Egyptian civilization fell, the breed was preserved in Central Africa and at one time was called the Congo Dog. It was in Central Africa they were developed as hunting dogs. There intelligence, courage, and adaptability were emphasized. These traits aided the dog as an independent hunter used for driving game into nets, and hunting wounded quarry. The breed’s ability to be silent was an additional asset when hunting.
Additional Information
Female Basenjis are frequently more dominant than males and each is aggressive with their own sex. For single Basenji homes, a neutered male is likely best. If you get more than one, obtain both as puppies or mix sexes. Courtney Thorne-Smith (actress, Melrose Place) has owned a Basenji. The National (US) Breed Club is the Basenji Club of America.

Is A Basenji THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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