For those who love being active and adventurous, the Basenji is a breed that’s a great fit for an active and stimulating lifestyle. Also known as the “barkless dog”, “African Congo dog,” or the “Zande dog”, these energetic and extremely smart canines are a challenge that will reward their pet parents with the utmost loyalty and affection. Read on to learn more about these unique and rare little hunters!
Basic Characteristics of Basenjis
Basenjis are considered an ancient breed of dog that first originated in Central Africa. Known for their ability to track game silently, this breed was ideal for hunting, but they were also known for being wonderful companions and watchdogs, too. In the 1930s, these unique dogs were imported to North America and Europe, becoming officially recognized by the American Kennel Club as of 1943.
This breed is on the small side, weighing between 22 to 24 pounds on average and only standing at about 16 inches tall. However, their small frames are very athletic and muscular. Much to the joy of their pet parents, these pups also have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, too. Basenjis often remain quite healthy for their decade-plus of life, but they are still prone to a few specific issues related to their genetics.
Basenji dogs are also known as the “barkless dog” because they do not bark in the traditional sense. Instead, they make a yodeling sound that is unique to their breed.
Basenjis have a very distinct appearance thanks to their wrinkled foreheads and curled tails. Along with a consistently athletic stance and alert expression, there are not many other breeds that come close to the unique and impressive appearance of these rarely-seen pups. Their coats are short and fine to help them manage the heat in their original environment, and it comes in a variety of colors and patterns—such as black, chestnut, and tricolor—with easily recognizable white neck areas, chests, and toes.
Their “pliable” skin contributes to both their distinct forehead wrinkles as well as serving the purpose of keeping them safe when hunting in brush and other environments that might otherwise scratch them or cause injuries. They may be small, but Basenjis are built to be durable and athletic outdoor dogs!
Temperament of Basenjis
This breed is known for being both curious and energetic. It’s important to make sure you have the time and resources to provide both consistent training as well as proper socialization for a Basenji pup to help prevent any behavioral issues from developing, as these dogs are incredibly smart and independent. When left unattended, untrained, and understimulated, they can easily get into mischief. It’s recommended to stick to positive reinforcement training for this breed because they can be incredibly stubborn, but they do not do well when presented with harsh training methods.
These smart and energetic dogs can be quite aloof with strangers and other dogs, but they make excellent companions due to how playful and affectionate they tend to be with their pet parents and other family members. They make the perfect addition to families with active lifestyles to help manage their boredom and energy levels, and they love to go outdoors and explore the world around them. Basenjis will bond tightly with their forever family and make the perfect companion for any fun adventure you may want to go on.
Exercise for Basenjis
Basenjis are very energetic dogs that require a significant amount of physical exercise as well as mental stimulation to keep them as healthy and happy as can be. Due to their background as hunting dogs, they have a strong instinct to run, chase, and explore as much as possible. This makes taking them on daily walks and giving them plenty of outdoor playtime extremely important to their health and well-being.
Thanks to their high intelligence, these dogs do great with regular training sessions, including involvement in activities like obedience and agility training. These are great options for helping them burn off some of that energy, stay in great physical shape, and get plenty of mental stimulation. Pet parents that love to go jogging or out on hikes will likely find the perfect outdoor activity companion in a Basenji, as these pups can spend all day outdoors with their favorite human, doing their favorite activities.
It’s important to note that the exercise needs (and mental stimulation needs) for this breed are not optional. A Basenji that becomes bored, lonely, or lacking an outlet for their energy is a Basenji that is likely to develop behavioral issues or become destructive.
Grooming Your Basenji
Grooming is a breeze thanks to the Basenji breed’s short and fine coats. They’re not prone to shedding very much, but pet parents should still regularly brush them to remove any loose hair and help distribute some of their natural oils through their coat. Doing so keeps their coat healthy as well as keeps their skin healthy, too.
Another benefit of their short coats is the lack of dirtiness. These dogs don’t often get very dirty compared to breeds with longer coats, and baths are only really necessary whenever your Basenji pup manages to get into something unsavory or simply has gradual dirt buildup over time. One unique quirk about these dogs is that they will also groom themselves, licking themselves clean just like a cat.
As with any other canine, it’s also important to stay on top of trimming a Basenji’s nails and keeping its ears clean to prevent infections. In general, though, this breed is incredibly low-maintenance when it comes to grooming.
Vet/Medical Care for Basenjis
Although Basenjis are quite healthy and sturdy as a breed, they are prone to developing certain health conditions that pet parents should be mindful of. Two of the common issues in this breed are Fanconi syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the kidneys, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). These issues are conditions that your pup’s vet can monitor and check for at any of your pup’s regular appointments or if they begin to have symptoms that are indicative of these conditions developing.
Additionally, Basenjis may also develop conditions like hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and patellar luxation. Another common issue in this breed is immunoproliferative small intestinal disease (IPSID), which is similar to irritable bowel disease. However, with regular vet checkups, regular exercise, and a healthy diet, your Basenji stands a much better chance of avoiding some of these issues and having them well-managed if they do still manage to occur.
Bringing a Basenji Puppy Home
While Basenjis can make wonderful pets, they are not ideal for everyone. They require a lot of attention and interaction with their owners, and they can become destructive and get into a lot of trouble if left alone for long periods of time. They also have a tendency to chase small animals, so they may not be suitable for homes with cats or other small pets. Before adopting a Basenji, it’s important to consider the breed’s unique personality and energy level to ensure they are the right fit for your home and lifestyle.
With a high prey drive, high intelligence, and significant jumping skills, it’s incredibly important to make sure that you have the right yard setup and keep an eye on these pups as much as possible. Having a Basenji clear a fence to go chase something is not an uncommon occurrence, and pet parents will need to make sure their small hunter is pretty much always supervised when outdoors. Small animals, cats, and even young children are enough to get these pups chasing the second they’re provided with such an opportunity.
Due to their rarity, those looking to adopt a Basenji from a breeder can expect quite a hefty price tag. The average price can range between $800 and $2,000—and show-level pups of this breed can range between $1,800 and $4,500! It’s important to make sure that you adopt a pup from a reputable breeder that can ensure the health of your canine companion and provide any necessary information about the pup’s siblings, parents, and other relatives they’ve bred and raised to provide the best possible veterinary care for your Basenji through its lifespan.
For those interested in adopting a pup in need, Basenji Rescue and Transport offers all of the resources to help connect surrendered and abandoned Basenjis to their new forever homes. Additionally, you can search for those available and in need of good homes at rescues and in local shelters via Petfinder, RescueMe, or AdoptAPet.
As always, feel free to reach out and contact us here at Space Coast Pet Services for any dog sitting or pet care needs you may have in Rockledge, Viera, Suntree, or Melbourne, Florida when bringing home a new pup, and we’ll help make your new Basenji’s adjustment period as easy and as comfortable as possible.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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