Should I Get a Basenji Dog?

Discover if the Basenji dog is the right dog breed for you and your family.

By Juliette Cunliffe | May 31, 2012

The Basenji is an expressive dog breed described as "half an angel, half a cat.” Some say that a Basenji is like a cat trapped inside the body of a dog. Regal dogs, Basenjis are also subject to sudden bouts of absolute dog joy and can go from a statuesque pose into berserk play-mode in just a matter of seconds.

The Basenji is a particularly clean dog breed, one that washes itself thoroughly in the manner of a cat and likes to be involved in anything that involves cleaning. Washing clothes apparently holds endless fascination for Basenjis! After a walk in the rain, Basenjis enjoy drying each other off.

Basenjis are very fit and athletic dogs, capable of running for miles without tiring. They are reputed, though, to have very little road sense, so they must be carefully and sensibly controlled (i.e., on leash!) when near traffic.

The Basenji is a hunter by nature, and as a result needs plenty of opportunity for activity to keep him  happily occupied and out of trouble. Some Basenjis need long full-out runs to use up their energy, although others seem to be content with good long walks. Any off-lead exercise must be in safely enclosed areas to prevent your Basenji from going off running, "hunting” something that strikes his interest.

An inquisitive dog breed that likes to participate in every possible activity, the Basenji seems to enjoy teasing his owners. However, Basenjis do not like to be foolishly teased back, for they are quite dignified about their curiosity and basically have a serious nature. Basenjis tend to be rather dominant dogs and have a tendency to think deeply before deciding to obey orders.

A Basenji owner must discipline his dog justly if he expects to win the dog’s respect. Basenjis should not be allowed to get away with mischief, for most owners will agree that the Basenji in general can be described as a "naughty” dog breed. It is essential, though, that your Basenji knows exactly why he is being reprimanded. A young Basenji will almost undoubtedly try things out on his owners, just as a child might. This can be a challenge to an dog owner, but discipline must be given and parameters established; this aspect of a Basenji’s upbringing and care should never be overlooked.

Though the Basenji is an intelligent, independent and affectionate dog breed, they can be aloof with strangers, and this is a serious consideration when deciding on whether or not a Basenji is the most suitable dog breed to fit your family’s lifestyle.

The Basenji is certainly not the dog breed for everyone. A Basenji owner needs both patience and flexibility to understand this unusual dog breed, but for such people the Basenji will give many years of devoted companionship and pleasure. An affectionate dog, the Basenji, with his sleek and highly attractive appearance, makes a wonderful companion. Indeed, with a Basenji around the house, it is difficult to be lonely!

Excerpt from Basenji, part of the Comprehensive Owner’s Guide series, with permission from its publisher, Kennel Club Books, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Basenji here.


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vernette   tullahoma, Tennessee

1/5/2016 1:18:33 PM

Hi Natalie, I have a beautiful male Basenji named Izzy who is now 6 yrs old. Basenji's are very smart my husband and I came home from work one night and found cookies,crakers on the floor,we now have child locks on kitchen cabinets. You need a 6 ft fence they are known to climb and won't come home until they are ready. Basenji's like company and don't like to be alone,we also have a whippet. Basenji's give a lot of love and are very loyal but they do require a lot of hard work,love and care for the breed. I feel Basenji's are worth the hard work and wouldn't have it any other way.

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Natalie   Madison, Wisconsin

11/19/2015 6:54:50 AM

I have been approved to adopt a 3 year old male Basenji from a shelter. There is little information about his past and I am a little concerned about behavior issues as I have little experience training dogs. I work during the day so I would keep him in a crate or barricade him in the kitchen at first. I have no problem with exercise and have a fenced in yard. The last dog I had was very dependable and could be left alone for long periods of time and was fine in the yard by himself. With the Basenji I have read that they can climb chain link fences and my neighbors have back yard chickens. My other option is a 1 year old Doberman. Doberman's seem very high energy, but I haven't seen many other concerns about the breed. Do you have any information about which dog would be better? I do not want to have deal with returning a dog because I made the wrong choice.

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