The Basenji is a breed of hunting dog. It was bred from stock that originated in central Africa. Most of the major kennel clubs in the English-speaking world place the breed in the Hound Group—more specifically, in the sighthound type.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale places the breed in group five, spitz and primitive types, and the United Kennel Club (US) places the breed in the Sighthound & Pariah Group. The Basenji produces an unusual yodel-like sound commonly called a “baroo”, due to its unusually shaped larynx. This trait also gives the Basenji the nickname “soundless dog.”
Basenjis are small, short-haired dogs with erect ears, tightly curled tails and graceful necks. A Basenji’s forehead is wrinkled, even more so when they are young or extremely excited.
A Basenji’s eyes are typically almond-shaped. Basenjis typically weigh about 9.1–10.9 kg (20–24 lb) and stand 41–46 cm (16–18 in) at the shoulder. They are a square breed, which means they are as long as they are tall with males usually larger than females.
Basenji owners know that they are in a relationship with their dogs for the long haul. These highly intelligent dogs make wonderful family pets because they have traits that make them a favorite for practically every member of the household. In general, this is a well rounded breed when properly trained and socialized.
If you don’t currently own a Basenji and are considering adopting a pet into your family, here are some reasons why you may want to give a Basenji a try.
They are the things that only Basenji owners would understand.
1. Elegance and grace are their claim to fame
Your basengi is a classy dog and he knows this from the time he is a small puppy. They carry themselves with poise and grace. Their total demeanor exudes intelligence and self-confidence. Just watching this beautiful dog stroll around the yard is like seeing art in motion.
While some dogs may lumber around the yard, this nimble creature knows how to put on a display that could put any fancy poodle to shame. Basenjis come in a variety of colors including tri-colors, blackand white, black, brindle, red and tan. There is just something special about their stance as well as the elegance of their gate as they trot around the yard. You could only understand this by watching them in action.
2. He needs mental stimulation to be at his best
Basenjis are curious dogs and as such they are constantly exploring. They enjoy playing games that require thought and problem solving. Give them a challenge and you’re stimulating their creativity as well as keeping them occupied. This dog does not do well if he’s bored or shut up in a kennel for hours at a time.
He absolutely must have something fun or interesting to do. Even something as simple as exploring the back yard, or meeting a new friend to play with will work. You’ll need to keep an eye on him when he’s outdoors because if he becomes bored, he is likely to scale a fence in search of his next great adventure.
3. Your Basenji will keep you on your toes
Basenjis have an inquiring mind and they are always inspecting their surroundings for something interesting to try. Since dogs exlore with their mouths, they have a tendency to pick household items up with their teeth and take them to a comfortable location to investigate further.
This is why you need to keep an eye on them to monitor what they are getting into. This could be considered a drawback if you’re extremely busy and can’t devote the time necessary to keeping your basenji out of trouble, but if you begin training at an early age, this very smart dog will soon learn what is acceptable and what is not.
You’ll still want to keep dangerous or valuable items out of his reach because there are times when his curiosity will simply get the best of him, even when he knows the shouldn’t do something.
4. He likes to be a part of the action
This pooch likes to be in the know, and you could even classify him as being nosy. He’s the kind of guy that will stick his nose into a project you’re working on because he has an inquiring mind. He’ll do his best to help when he sees you on your hands and knees in the garden.
He may even take an interest if you’re on your laptop. Watch those paws though because if you’re not paying attention to him, basenji’s have been known to place their paws on the keyboard to get your attention. A great idea to help satisfy his need to be in on the action is to give him his own screen to play with.
There are pet screens made just for dogs like him. They are electronic devices that feature a bug crawling across the screen and when he touches it, a pawprint will appear. This is the perfect dog toy for a basenji but you’ll have to supervise his use because he’ll eventually try to chew it up.
5. He’s the perfect pet for people with allergies
Basenjis are considered to be a hypo-allergenic dog. This makes them a good choice for people with respiratory issues or allergies. They don’t shed much hair at all and the added bonus with this trait is that there will be far less cleanup involved.
You won’t find yourself wearing a dog hair sweater in the fall or winter months. Basenji’s are a clean and neat breed that do well with once a week grooming to make sure that they don’t develop mats in their coat, plus they’ll enjoy the time that you spend being close to them.
6. Toys are a requirement for your Basenji
You can ask any basenji owner and they will tell you that you must keep your dog well stocked with a variety of toys that he enjoys playing with. Because of their need for mental stimulation, it’s good to give your dog a choice.
When he gets bored with one dog toy, he can move on to the next and it will help to keep his busy mind occupied for a while. It’s also important to give his playthings a periodic inspection because he will eventually wear them down with his teeth. Make sure that the toys are made of durable materials or he will make short work of them.
If there are any squeakers included (they love toys that make noises), only buy the ones that have the sound mechanism deeply embedded within the toy because he’ll figure out how to pop it out and it could become a choking hazard for this curious pup.
7. You must establish yourself as the alpha from day one
This is a breed of dog that has a high intelligence level and can also be manipulative. If there is something that your dog wants badly enough, he will try to guilt you into letting him have it.
He can be bossy and demanding if you let him get away with it. If he learns that you are the dominant figure, he may still try to persuade you, but it won’t be as bad if he’s trained to take no for an answer.
This is something that basenji owners learn quickly. It’s hard to get the respect of a basenji back once he learns that you are a pushover so even if you really are, don’t ever let him know that or he will try to rule the roost.
You must establish yourself as his leader and not back down from this position. It’s not a good idea to play tug of war with this dog because if you give up and let him win, he may believe that he’s got the upper paw on you. Instead, settle for a game of fetch because this teaches obedience and servitude even in play.
8. He’ll do what you tell him if you’re firm and consistent
Basenjis are easy to train for a few reasons. The first being that they are very smart dogs that get what you’re trying to impress on them if you are consistent and firm with them. The second is that they do want to please their owners.
When training your basenji, you shouldn’t have any problems if you use positive reinforcement methods. Housetraining goes fast when you’re working with puppies. It may take your puppy a little longer to learn to control his curiosity, but his heart will be in the right place.
9. Your basenji will not trust a stranger
Basenjis are alert and vigilant dogs that notice practically every sound and change. They are not trusting by nature unless you are a member of their family who has given them their socialization and shown them that they can trust you.
This is a big deal with basenji’s and it’s not a good idea for you to break their trust by treating them unfairly or by teasing them too much. If a stranger comes into your yard, they won’t like it until you let them know that it’s okay.
10. A strong leash is necessary for walks
Basenjis need to have a fair amount of physical exercise. It helps to burn off their excess energy and it also helps to keep them in good physical health. All basenji owners know that it’s not a good idea to let them off their leashes when walking in the park or near a busy road.
If a basenji sees something that interests them they are going to go after it and there is little you can do to stop them unless they are at the end of a strong leash that they cannot break. They tend to be a bit impulsive so you should plan to stay on your guard during your daily walks.
11. Your shoes and socks will never be safe
Basenjis are natural chewers. This is an instinct that they are born with. When they are puppies they are at their very worst because they have new teeth coming in and their gums are swollen and itch.
The only thing that helps to relieve the misery is to chew until the new teeth come through. They will chew on anything that they can find lying around the house. It is to your advantage to keep your pup supplied with a variety of sturdy chew bones that will hold up to some real abuse.
They love to chew on shoes and for some reason, socks as well. As basenjis get older, this isn’t as big a problem, but the threat still exists. Basenji owners have learned not to leave their shoes and socks lying around the house because you never know when the urge to chew on them will strike.
12. You can get lost in his eyes
Basenjis have very expressive eyes. In fact, they are extremely animated dogs who can communicate with you through their expressive faces. They let you know that they understand what you’re saying with a tail wag or a tilt of the head.
There is a kindness and beauty in the eyes that is underscored with a divine spark of intellect that isn’t present in all breeds. This is one of the characteristics of a basenji that sets them apart from so many other kinds of dogs. You can look into your dogs eyes and see wonder, curiosity, love, appreciation and so many other emotions.
This makes them special and it is an endearing quality that make basenji lovers devoted fans of this amazing breed. Once you own a basenji, you’ll have a firm understanding of just how close a pet parent can become to their pooches.
13. He’ll keep your home safe
This is another benefit of owning a basenji as a house pet. He is almost always on guard and alert. If there is somebody on the property that shouldn’t be there, he’ll let you know. This smart and vigilant dog will keep his eyes and ears open and he has a keen sense when something is out of place.
If he hears a noise in the driveway or if there is a would be criminal at the window, he’s going to let you know then be right there to help defend the home to the best of his ability.
He’s not a vicious dog by nature but he will not tolerate any abuse of his home or his family members. He has a deep and abiding territorial instinct and he’ll also deter any stray dogs or cats from coming onto the property.
14. Your basenji is not a barker
This is perhaps one of the most unique traits of a basenji. While not by any means a quiet dog, he doesn’t have the ability to make barking sounds in the traditional sense. This doesn’t mean that he can’t get his point across though.
When your dog has something to say he will growl, while, scream and even make yodeling noises. If you can’t stand the sound of a barking dog then a basenji may be a good choice for you. However, you should be prepared to hear some rather odd sounds that most dogs are not even capable of making.
If your particular basenji is extremely vocal, the weird noises that he makes may get on your nerves, but it certainly comes in handy when he’s on guard and reporting a disturbance on the home front.
15. Don’t even try to catch him if he’s off leash
Basenjis are notorious for being fast sprinters. If they are chasing a bird or other animal, they tend to shoot after them as though being shot out of a gun. They develop one track minds and may not even hear you when you call after them.
If you’re hoping to catch your basenji as he sprints after his prey, you’re fooling yourself because he will easily outrun you and leave you behind in his dust. Your best bet is to keep him on a strong leash unless he’s in a fenced yard or in a safe place.
He’ll come back to you when he comes to his senses, but this is one of the things that frustrates basenji owners to the hilt. Plan ahead so you don’t find yourself in this situation by keeping him under tight reign unless you are otherwise in control of the situation because once they embark on a mission, it’s hard to get them back until they’ve satisfied their curiosity.
16. He’s the master of escape
Basenjis are the best when it comes to escape artistry. If you have a fenced yard and he wants to get out, he’ll either scale the fence (they’re great jumpers), or he’ll try to dig underneath. This is why a basenji should not be left in the yard unsupervised.
If he’s in the house and you have an unscreened open window, don’t be surprised if he jumps through it to go on an exploration of his external environment.
This is another irritating trait of basenjis that keep owners on their toes. They can be compared with mischievous children, that is, unless you keep them occupied and happy.
It’s when they get bored that the real problems occur. If your basenji wants to escape badly enough, this clever and cunning dog will figure a way to get free.
You’ll need to be on guard every time you open the door because he’ll wait for an opportune moment and sprint past you before you know what he’s up to.
17. He doesn’t tolerate physical punishment well
Basenji’s are dogs that need to be trained with positive reinforcement in order to have a well rounded pet. This is because of their high spirited and intelligent nature.
Physical punishment or any type of neglect or abuse is likely to break this beautiful spirit and contribute to timidness, shyness, fear or depression. It can also cause a dog that would otherwise be friendly and loving to become mean and distrusting.
Avoid hitting or screaming at your Basenji because there are far more effective ways to train him to be the ideal family dog. Basenjis are very smart and they remember so if you have a bad day and take it out on your pet, he is not likely to forget any unfair treatment or uncalled for punishments. Treat your basenji with respect and he will do the same for you.
18. He has the potential for mass destruction
Basenji owners who have left their pet alone with nothing to do all day can attest to this fact. Basenjis will find something to do on their own if you don’t ensure that they have the right amount of mental and physical stimulation.
Leaving a bored or angry basenji alone in a house for hours is the recipe for disaster. They have the potential for chewing on furniture, ripping the stuffing out of pillows and mattresses, tipping over the garbage can and rifling through it or shredding papers and leaving the mess all over the floor and furnishings.
It’s not a good idea to leave them alone in the house for long periods of time when they don’t have something really cool to keep them occupied.
19. They need supervision around other dogs and cats
Because basenjis are so territorial, it’s not wise to let them mingle with other household pets unsupervised, unless this is an animal that they have been raised with. For instance, a new kitten or puppy is at a bit of a risk because if your basenji is not familiar with them yet, he may take some unpleaseant actions against them.
Make sure that he knows them and tolerates them well before you leave them alone together. Another problem can arise when friends or relatives bring their pets with them to visit. It’s best to introduce your basenji to an animal that is new to them slowly, gently and under strict supervision so they know that this animal is a welcomed guest, or they may have a real problem with them.
After your pet gets to know a new pet better you should still monitor the situation until you see that they are getting along well and that your basenji has taken a liking to them.
20. He is by nature a hunter
You really need to keep in mind that your basenji was originally bed to be a hunting dog. This means that when he sees any potential prey, his first instinct is going to be to hunt and kill. This can cause him to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
Chickens are birds and if you live on a farm, you will need to train your basenji. Do this from the time that he is a puppy. Make sure that the livestock on the farm is not an acceptable type of prey.
Even this may not be enough to stop him from chasing them. Each dog is an individual and will react to potential prey in different ways. It’s always recommended that smaller farm animals and fowl must be kept in a safe place. Make sure that is inaccessible to your Basenji.
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