Basenji Info 

How active are they?

Basenjis can be pretty much whatever you want them to be, as although they are very independently minded, they like nothing better than to be with their owner - whatever that owner happens to be doing. So if you want to go on a long hike they will be more than happy to do so, but if it is raining and miserable outside they are just as happy lounging in front of the fire. They don't like to be excluded from what is going on, and being intelligent and inventive, they may decide to make you aware of their displeasure if they are shut away for any reason. This means they can be destructive, particularly when younger and still learning how they fit into the family and what the boundaries are. It is a good idea to have a crate that they can go to in the day for some peace and quiet, and to sleep in at night. This is an ideal way to confine them when you need to, and that way they cannot get into any mischief. A crate-trained Basenji is generally a welcome traveller in hotels and when visiting extended family or friends. Intelligently used, a crate is a home from home, and affords a sense of security for the dog in strange places.

Entertainment value or nuisance?

This depends on how you look at it. For people who want a true companion rather than a status symbol, Basenjis are extremely entertaining, although not without problems. For instance, their independent nature means they will have their own ideas about who and what they listen to (and when) so although keen to be included in everything, they are also incredibly inquisitive and prone to darting off in order to investigate anything that catches their eye. This means they are unreliable off leash and also need a securely fenced yard on their own property. They are not the kind of dog that can be trusted not to wander ... Invisible fencing can work well for many dogs, and while it may also work for some Basenjis, their impulsive/reactive nature may see them darting through it if they spot a cat/squirrel/rabbit - and hang the consequences. It may be a shock to the system but they will be through without thinking first!


I have known allergy sufferers to be fine with a Basenji, although I do not recommend them as a breed for those with allergies. Whether the two go well together can only be determined by the allergy sufferer spending some time with Basenjis to make sure there is no problem before buying a puppy. I sold one some years ago to a lady with bad allergies but only after she had spent 3 hours at my house handling dogs and puppies. She called me the next day to say she was fine so I was happy to let her have one.


On the whole the Basenji is a hardy breed but there are some health considerations to be aware of. A good place to learn about these is the Basenji Club of America website, details here.

What do they get up to?

They can and do sleep for hours and sometimes you would not know there is a dog in the house. However, when awake they are very busy little dogs and usually looking for something to do (or for something to steal). A Basenji is no respecter of personal property and will collect all kinds of things for his own amusement, so anything valuable (whether in $$ or sentimental value) should be kept well out of reach. Please be aware that Basenjis can and do climb, so never assume something left on a table or shelf is safe from their attentions. Physically they are active dogs and can cope with any amount of exercise quite happily.

As a primitive breed, they also mature quickly, so will reach their full size by 6-8 months, but continue to adjust in appearance in small ways (changes in head as they continue to mature, filling out in body). Running, jogging, etc. will present no problems for them and a Basenji will easily keep up with you, even if you are cycling, but they are less enthusiastic about winter sports. They do enjoy snow, despite being African dogs, but they are not “snow-proof” for long periods so a winter dog coat is appreciated when the temperatures really drop. They are designed for an equatorial climate, so although they enjoy quick bursts of crazy snow running, they tend to want to come back inside soon after!

Do they have a doggy odour?

Not unless they have rolled in something unspeakable, no. They do make a distinction between dirt and decay, and may wallow happily in the latter while avoiding the former. It is not unusual for a Basenji to merrily roll in wildlife poo, on dead squirrels or birds, and then fastidiously skirt around puddles so as not to get their feet wet (they are not called primitive for nothing!). Yes, they do wash themselves like cats and their short fine coat tends to repel a lot of dirt and dust. A good brushing in the spring will loosen any winter coat they may have grown in the colder months, so shedding is kept to a minimum.

Children and strangers

Basenjis have a good sense of humour and enjoy silly games, and are very tolerant of children they know (their own family). They are not so tolerant of strangers and visiting children, as their semi-wild ancestry makes them naturally cautious and sometimes suspicious, of people's motives, especially if they don't know them. Their rule of thumb with anything unfamiliar is "Is it dangerous?" and if they are not sure they will keep their distance until they are sure. For this reason, you cannot expect the average Basenji to go fawning over strangers, casual acquaintances, or random visitors to the house.

Care should be taken not to stress the dog by forcing unwanted attention on it if it is not ready for this, and visiting children should never be encouraged to approach if the dog is hanging back. It is better to be safe than sorry, so if visiting children are playing (running, screaming, getting excitable) the dog is better in a crate. It is a hunting dog at heart and this instinct is never far from the surface. In every case with a Basenji meeting new people for the first time - let the dog go to the humans. In this respect, they are very like cats - ignore them and they tend to come over!

Because of their natural reticence with strangers it is important to make sure Basenjis are well socialised from an early age so they don't feel threatened by new people or situations. Once in Canada, I took advantage of the local dog parks (something we do not have in England) and the three young Basenjis I took there met lots of dogs and people in their first summer. Because of this, they tend to go towards visitors with their tails wagging – aloof they are not!

This information about Basenjis covers the more frequent questions I am asked. If you have other queries that are not covered here, feel free to drop me a line using the form below.

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