10 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Basenjis

 Is it really true that basenjis don’t bark?

            Yes, as a general rule the basenji is the “barkless” dog.  Keep in mind that barking really has no function and is a part of the noises young dogs and pups make while developing.  It is believed that most domestic dogs are trapped in adolescence because of human meddling in genetics which perpetuates the barking.  The basenji originates from wild canids that do not bark.   After all,  silence and stealth are a key part of survival in the wild.

            For more information about why dogs bark, read “Hark! Hark! The Dogs do Bark...and bark and bark” by Raymond Coppinger and Mark Feinstein in SMITHSONIAN, Jan. 1991 issue.

What are they like?”

            Basenjis are mischievous.  They love to play and are very intelligent.  Basenjis tend to be dominant dogs and it’s necessary to understand dominance and dog behaviors when owning one.

“Do they shed?”

            Yes, basenjis shed.  However they keep themselves very clean with their own grooming methods.  Most dogs shed and basenjis are no exception.  Their coats are so short, though, with some vacuuming, you’ll hardly notice. 

            Other wonderful features about a basenjis  are that they have no doggy odor and are very finicky about their appearance.

Are Basenjis good with children?”

            While basenjis love to play and usually come with a good nature, you must also ask yourself “Is my child good with dogs?”  Children, like puppies, go through many growth phases and must be taught how to treat animals with respect.  Basenjis, like many breeds, are hard pressed to tolerate unfair treatment.  All play with dogs and children should always be supervised.  Because puppies tend to “mouth” everything, fast hands and toys waved in a dog’s face encourage this behavior.  Hence, parental supervision will keep growing puppies and children moving towards positive development.

“I’ve heard basenjis are destructive.  Are they?”

                Basenjis, like many breeds, like to chew; in fact, they like to chew on everything and anything...shoes, socks, newspapers, chairs, sofas, rocks, metal fences, mini-blinds, trees, and especially you.  Puppy-proofing is very important; as is keeping things out of their reach.  Providing plenty of exercise and the right chewy toys for your basenji should help eliminate the need to chew on “forbidden” objects.  Also note that basenji breeders advocate crating the basenji when you are not home.  This will keep him out of trouble

“Is it better to own a female or male basenji?”

            Both make good pets.  However, bitches tend to be, well, a little bitchy to other bitches, and males tend to be aggressive to  other males.  If you want more than one basenji, either get them both as pups or mix your sexes.  Males do tend to be a bit scrappier with other dogs.  Females do tend to be dominant as far as people are concerned.  The solo basenji owner might consider this and choose a male.  The owner with other non-basenji dogs might consider getting a female.

“I want to do some Obedience.  Is the basenji a good choice?”

            First, keep in mind that a basenji is a hound and hounds have no accountability to humans.  Basenjis have a desire for purpose, and to a basenji there is no purpose to the constant regimentation of obedience instruction.  A basenji has to have fun performing.  It learns very quickly, but as soon as the training gets boring, it quits, or worse, becomes counterproductive to his owner’s goals.

            Basenjis always seem to put their own unique “spin” on every command.  The sits might be crooked; they might take their time sitting down, their minds and attention might wander.  Since basenjis are very “eye-contact” dogs, you can alter their behavior just by looking at them a certain way.  While a basenji is a bright and adept pupil, just remember that it’s just as bright and adept at creating its own training routine

“Why is the basenji so independent?”

            Just think about the basenji’s origins.  It freely roamed jungles for thousands of years, surviving as an independent quick-witted hunter.  It’s not likely to fetch your slippers just because you say so.  It will, however, if it loves you dearly and sees a reason to do so at that particular moment!

“I have allergies and understand that basenjis are hypo-allergenic.  Is this true?”

            Basenjis do not have doggy odor and have limited dander.  Many people who suffer with allergies are able to live with a basenji in their  home.  If this applies to all allergy sufferers, we can not say for certain as the extent of allergies differs from one person to another.  Visit a breeder and spend some time with the dogs to see if you experience any sensitivity while around them.

“I have cats.  Is this a problem?” 

            Basenjis are pretty fun-loving and playful.  Getting along with cats is really determined on a case-by-case basis.  It really depends on the cat.  A more reclusive animal might not appreciate the activity and curiosity of a basenji.  The more outgoing cat might look at this as a new sort of playmate.  Starting with a puppy is probably a good idea, but the right adult basenji has been able to live in harmony with many felines.