Why is a Basenji different from other dogs?
The Basenji is a small, short-haired hunting dog from Africa, also known as the African Barkless Dog, and is one of the oldest "natural" breeds known to man. Ancient Egyptian carvings of Basenjis have been found on the pyramids. It is speculated that African tribal chiefs gave their treasured dogs to the Pharaohs as gifts.
Basenjis average 16 to 17 inches in height at the shoulder and weigh 22 to 24 pounds. It is a short-backed, lightly built dog with a wrinkled forehead, small erect ears, and a tightly curled tail.
The short coat of a Basenji can be red (auburn) and white, black and white, tricolor (black, white, and tan), or brindle in color, but its feet, chest, and tail tip should all be white.
Members of the sighthound group, Basenjis hunt both by sight and scent, and are still used in Africa today by hunters to drive small game into their nets. A Basenji's swift, effortless, and graceful gait resembles that of a racehorse trotting full out and allows the dog to travel for many miles without tiring.
Is the Basenji really barkless?
The Basenji will not bark repetitiously as other breeds do, but some can emit short, sharp single barks. Basenjis make a wide range of sounds; from loud cries, growls, howls, and screams, to what many have described as a happy "yodel," chortle, or crowing sound. Some Basenjis "talk" a lot; others hardly ever make a sound. Because of its "barklessness," a Basenji generally does not make a good guard dog.
Do Basenjis make good pets?
The Basenji is highly intelligent, but independent. It can be stubborn and difficult to train, becoming bored quickly with repetitive-type training methods.
Forcing a Basenji to do something it doesn't want to do or physical punishment will likely cause it to growl or even snap at you. However; treats, praise, rewards, or sweet talk, will almost always get a Basenji to cooperate. Obedience training your Basenji in a "praise and reward" type method is highly recommended and is a fun activity for both of you.
The Basenji loves its human family, but can be "stand-offish" with strangers. It is a very fastidious dog, cleaning itself like a cat, and has very little "doggy odor." It is an active breed with a lively, playful spirit, and requires a considerable amount of exercise and attention.
The Basenji is an extremely curious dog, and is happiest when it can be near you and be a part of the family. The Basenji can also be a notorious paper-shredder, trash-raider, and a "you-name-it" chewer.
Are Basenjis good with children, and other pets?
If introduced as a puppy, the Basenji should adapt to most situations. However, children should be taught to respect the dog. Tail and ear pulling could result in nips, and young children should always be supervised around the dog. The Basenji will appreciate its own "retreat area," such as a crate or cage, for privacy when resting or eating. Rough-housing and aggressive-type play between the dog and children is strongly discouraged. The Basenji should be well-socialized with people and animals, and introduced slowly to other pets in the household.
Why isn't the Basenji an off-leash dog?
The Basenji is a natural hunting dog and, when it sees a bird or squirrel, will want to run off in pursuit. A strong and fast dog, its intelligence, determination, curiosity, and highly developed hunting instincts can sometimes lead it into trouble. Once it sets sight or scent on something, it is not easily discouraged or distracted. The Basenji fears nothing and once loose, pays little attention to anything around it, including its owner or dangers in its path, such as cars.
The Basenji is also an expert escape artist that can dart out of an opened door quicker than you can react and can climb chain link fencing. A solid (wood or block type) fence with a sturdy gate that can be locked is a must in order to prevent children or service people from letting your Basenji get out of the yard. Most Basenjis that get loose are killed by cars. Also, it is important to teach your Basenji to come to you for a treat every time it is called. This simple training might someday save its life.
Is the Basenji a good house dog?
The Basenji craves attention from its human family and will not be happy or well-behaved if banished to the backyard. It is a naturally clean dog and is easily house-trained.
A young Basenji is full of energy and can become bored if left alone loose in the house or yard. Destructive behaviors such as chewing or digging often result.
It is wise to crate your Basenji when you cannot be there to supervise it. A large wire crate is best so it can still see what is going on. A puppy will need to be let out frequently to relieve itself. If you must crate your Basenji for extended periods, opportunity for adequate exercise must be given.
What are the breed's health problems?
The Basenji has descended from a fairly limited gene pool. Some of the diseases known to affect the breed are: Fanconi Syndrome, progressive retinal atrophy, hemolytic anemia, IPSID, hip dysplasia, and hypothyroidism.
Due to the incidence of these diseases in the Basenji, breeding is best left to reputable, knowledgeable, and responsible breeders.
The Basenji is an unusual breed:
The Basenji has not been long out of the "bush" of Africa and is not as domesticated as other breeds. Treat a Basenji with respect (as you would a "wild" animal), but let it know where it stands in the "pecking order" of your household. If you are both fair and firm with your Basenji, it will consider you to be its pack leader. Patience, tolerance, and a good sense of humor will help you to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of these remarkable dogs. They are truly a joy to own.