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Is a Basenji Right for Me?




(Prepared by the Mid-Atlantic Basenji Club and adapted by Heather Budd and Jeffrey Lumb)


So you think you are interested in owning a Basenji? You have heard many good things about them, and you have decided they are my kind of dog.


Well, we think there are a few things you should know about a Basenji before you purchase one.


They do not bark, but they can make a lot of noise. They scream, howl, cry, groan and yodel. They definitely do have a voice.


They are small, but they are a big dog in a small package – a “pocket rocket”. They are fast and strong.


They are unusual, but there are more around than you think. Most owners love them too much to let them run loose, and since they do not bark, they can go unnoticed.


They are VERY intelligent, but Basenjis are hounds and were bred to be independent, resourceful and efficient hunters. As they are very intelligent, they get bored easily. While entertaining themselves, they can get into lots of trouble.


“I saw ‘Good-bye My Lady’ and….” While the movie is very enjoyable, it is not a good representation of normal Basenji home-life. If you have read this far and still wish to own a Basenji, you should consider the following points:


Basenjis are an active, intelligent and demanding dog, requiring your attention most of the time, and your love all of the time. If you are not willing to spend time with and effort to train and enjoy them, then you do not want a Basenji.


Basenjis are affectionate, loving dogs that will build a strong bond with you and your family. They will, in most cases, be friendly with strangers, and follow children anywhere. If you want a one-person dog, then you do not want a Basenji.


Basenjis are not guard dogs. However, they are alert and will give you a warning if strangers are around. They do not bark, however you know by their actions when something is wrong. If you are looking for a guard dog or great protection dog, then you do not want a Basenji.


Basenjis are mischievous and easily bored. It can be a huge mistake to leave an untrained Basenji alone in the house. They can be extremely destructive if left to entertain themselves. They should be trained or contained in a suitable crate. If you are not prepared to do this, then you do not want a Basenji.


Basenjis love to run and unfortunately, they believe they can out-run any danger. They can jump over, or climb out of any fence if they so desire. They are inquisitive, and the grass is always greener etc., so if you like a free-running dog, unsupervised, please do not purchase a Basenji.


Basenjis are habit forming; once you have been owned by and loved this intelligent, mischievous, active, independent, loving breed, you may not ever want to be without at least one. When you buy a Basenji, you are making a 10 to 15 year commitment to him. If you are not ready for this commitment, please do not purchase a Basenji.


Basenji owners believe that all dogs should be contained in a yard or kennel run rather than running loose. Yes, the dog that is contained misses a lot of life’s little pleasures….like being hit by a car; like being dirty and full of burrs; covered with fleas or ticks and loaded with worms; the joys of fighting with other strays, the pleasure of being sick on garbage and picking up diseases; and best of all the joy of being shot in a farm yard.


If you still believe you want a basenji and are qualified to be owned by one of these unique little dogs, then we welcome you as a prospective Basenji owner. We Basenji owners will take great pleasure in welcoming you into the select company of true believers that own the best, most nearly ideal dog that ever lived, THE BASENJI.


New Basenji Owner Checklist


Basenjis can often live up to 14 years of age, but with the proper care and nutrition it is not uncommon for a Basenji to live to 16 years.




The ideal weight for this dog is 9.5kg and up to 40cm tall for the female, while the male should be about 12kg and 43cm tall.




Elegant, graceful and extremely versatile, the Basenji is fastidiously clean, easily house trained and completely lacks any doggy smell. Although the breed's lack of bark is often thought to mean lack of voice, this is definitely not so. In fact, the Basenji has an amazing vocabulary of sounds, and is usually uttered when the dog is happy, or caught in the act of being mischievous. The most common vocalisation is a mixture between a chortle and a yodel.

As a watchdog, the Basenji is more positive in its approach than the usual barking house pet - it will raise its hackles and let out an unnerving rumble at the sound of impending danger. It is particularly protective with children. In fact, the breed is said to have the gameness of a Bullmastiff, but with the gentleness of a Labrador. The breed can be disobedient if not trained correctly. It is, however, too intelligent to be forced, so do not try to break your dogs will. You must be firm but fair. But any dog-lover with the patience and tolerance to really understand the Basenji will be rewarded with an affectionate, lovable family companion that thrives on attention. 

Basenjis are known to cry real tears, climb trees, hug like bears, stalk birds, and will even clean themselves similar to cats.




Independent, but will not object to sharing their life with other pets they grow up with.




These dogs are natural hunters, with the ability to make the best use of sight, scent and sound. However, these strongly developed hunting instincts can also be the Basenji's undoing. For instance, if a dog is busy following a scent but a car happens to get in the way, the dog will not see it - this has resulted in an alarming number of Basenjis being killed. For this reason, it is extremely important to have good fencing.

Basenjis are not suited to allow to roam "off the lead".




Basenjis do have an independent nature and because of this can sometimes be difficult to live with.




For those people who can meet the very specific needs of this highly individualistic and intelligent breed.



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