Looking into a Basenji
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  • J

    Hi everyone, new member here.

    I am looking into getting a Basenji and am really excited. I am a college student and am interested in getting a dog to train as a service dog (Canine Good Citizen). I want to get my dog involved in the Pet friend program at the local Children's Hospital, which I think is a great program that I've seen really benefit sick children.

    Here are my questions and I'd appreciate the help:

    • Do you think this is a good service animal for hospital visits with children?

    • I have seen reports that the Basenji does well in an apartment with regular exercise, but what about the howling when left alone? I will have neighbors and am just worried about loud noises when I'm not there.

    • Lastly, is a play group essential for the Basenji?

    Thanks for the help!

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  • You should THOROUGHLY research this breed before making a decision about getting a BAsenji. Look at the BRAT (basenji rescue and transport) webpage for articles about Basenji "trainability". There is a section titled "the good, the bad, and the ugly" that will provide accounts of basenji behavior. I am sure that someone, somewhere, has a Basenji who would be good in a hospital setting, but I haven't met one. They are nothing if not head strong and willful. If you need a dog who you can trust to be obedient and calm around children (like a Golden Retriever) a Basenji might not fit the bill. Of course, I think they are amazing and wonderful companions, but you have to take them on THEIR terms.
    Also, a play group isn't essential, but it sure does help to burn off all of that surplus Basenji energy. Something you'll see repeated on this forum is "a tired Basenji is a good Basenji". Truer words were never written. A single day without a robust exercise session and my Basenji is a rug eating, counter surfing, toilet paper stealing maniac!
    I am sure others will weigh in on your post - this is, of course, just my experience. Good luck in your search!

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  • I did therapy dog work with Winston and Cody, but we did nursing homes. They probably would have been good with kids, but I'm not. Definitely do your research as all sighthounds have issues with people reaching forward over their eyes and can snap at people who do that, which kids frequently do. To propery approach a sighthound for a pat, its important to do it from below, chest, neck, chin etc, not break the line of sight. My whippet would freak if someone came at her from above.

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  • There are MANY Basenjis that are great therapy dogs. But it isn't for EVERY Basenji :) It would be important to find a responsible breeder that would be willing to help you find the right match for what you would like to do with your Basenji.

    Basenjis can do very well in an apartment, but there are some that do hate to be left alone, and will howl, shriek and scream. It is hard to know in advance whether the puppy you bring home will be one of those. Again, a responsible breeder should have an idea of how "loud" their puppies are, and which ones might be likely to be a trouble maker ;)

    Is a playgroup necessary? Hmmm…. I don't think so; not like a regularly scheduled group. But I think dogs do need to have dog friends to play with occasionally. I think dogs are happier if they have canine companionship...but they can be very happy without it also. It kind of depends on the dog. IME most Basenjis don't do great in dog park, or doggie dayschool type settings for a variety or reasons. But there are lots that do fine. It depends on a lot of variables. So if visiting a dog park is really important to YOU, then you should take that into account before you decide on a Basenji.

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  • You said you are in college so how much time can and will you be able to spend with your B? My B's so far have been great around children but they are not the two same dogs by any means. Jaycee will not go over gate and not howl or yell when alone and will do her kennel very well. Jaycee does not like people to rush at her. Having said that about her if you do not give her time and play and walk she will get into something and make a mess for sure. Now Jayden well he hates the kennel and will yell and cry makes some of the worst sounds I have ever heard. Jayden will go over the gate in a second and love people and children they can run at him he is great loves to play and run will get into things if he does not get the time he thinks he should have. Jaycee leaves trash can alone not Jayden. Read and read again before you get a B and wish you had not or they do not do as you would have liked for them to do. Every B for that matter every dog wants that forever home please make sure your home is that forever home. Thank you.

    Rita Jean

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  • @lisastewart:

    Definitely do your research as all sighthounds have issues with people reaching forward over their eyes and can snap at people who do that, which kids frequently do. To propery approach a sighthound for a pat, its important to do it from below, chest, neck, chin etc, not break the line of sight. My whippet would freak if someone came at her from above.

    Find a good breeder.. visit with their dogs…
    I completely disagree with the above statements.
    I have had sighthounds other than Basenjis and none have had an issue with being petted OVER the head.
    And I have never been taught to pet them in that fashion.
    They see me, I pet them.. ON their head.
    A number of dogs I have bred have worked as Therapy dogs in hospitals and two in a nursing home.
    All of them went through basic puppy obedience and a number of obedience classes after that...
    none of them had any issues with folks reaching in over their heads...
    either before or after their obedience classes.

    A well-socialized and trained dog won't have freakout issues. And, a rescue dog is not the first dog I would look to for a therapy dog.
    People that turn over dogs [unless it was from a death in the family] never seem to tell the truth, despite what people want to believe.
    People lie to make it convenient for them to return a dog.
    So, with that being said, one won't know the entire truth behind a rescue dog.
    I, personally, would not want to take liability or risk having a dog with an unknown history with others. I must be too conservative, as I can't take that kind of risk.

    Find breeders in your area… and visit with them... see if they have any dogs in your area you can see in their homes. I always suggest for prospective puppy buyers to meet with some of my dog owners and see their dog in the home.

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  • I have 3 certified therapy basenjis. Mine actually make great therapy dogs, but are NOT service dogs. Make sure you know the difference b/n a service versus a therapy dog. I'll try to type more this afternoon.

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  • S

    There is lots of good information above.
    Please let us know what you do decide.

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  • T

    I agree with Kathy, you need to find a breeder that is raising pups for that kind of social situation. In any breed it is helpful if the pup is whelped and raised with that in mind.
    I work in a rehab facility and my pups start training very young.
    There are many keys to training a therapy dog especially for children, we have worked with many situations including with DD kids they tend to approach very closely and stare, they often also move in quick jerky motions when excited and a dog often brings that out. It is important to train any dog for that. I would recommend not just Canine Good Citizen but also an actual therapy certification course.
    We train dogs to bow their heads for head kisses when kids or DD adults approach, we also train them to wait before approaching until we give the okay. Some people in those settings don't want a dog to approach them, some are scared so it is important that you train your dog to be calm and patient in those situations.
    If you are looking for a service dog you will need to have the dog temperament tested, it is a very specific dog that you will need in that situation.
    I believe personally basenjis make great therapy dogs, I also believe as Kathy said finding the right breeder and the right dog is the key for apartment life and therapy work.
    My boy Sober will be 11 this year and he has been a therapy dog his whole life. He is a high energy, strong alpha lead dog who can be very stubborn. When we walk into a rehab setting he changes into his work clothes and becomes very calm and waits very patiently while anyone looks, pets or kisses him. People who have seen him misbehave in the dog show ring for me because he was a ham would be shocked to see him when he is working. Training is key.
    Good luck.
    Therese

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  • @Quercus:

    Basenjis can do very well in an apartment, but there are some that do hate to be left alone, and will howl, shriek and scream. It is hard to know in advance whether the puppy you bring home will be one of those. Again, a responsible breeder should have an idea of how "loud" their puppies are, and which ones might be likely to be a trouble maker ;)

    Well said.

    I got very lucky with my B, as he does wonderfully in my condo, although I do have a very open floor plan so he has a lot of space to himself (and a lovely sunny view to enjoy :) ). No counter-surfing, no howling, he just sleeps most of the day and lounges in the sun.

    I've read a lot about other Basenjis having difficulty in this type of environment. Personality in a dog is everything, from what I've observed. A great breeder, I'm sure, will have a good idea of how their puppies will mature. This is quite important to know how they will adapt to your environment. Whether they will need another Basenji to keep them company, or if they might be best by themselves.

    I think that goes with ANY breed you look at, personalities will vary and you want to have as much information as possible to make sure that you have a successful transition for the said dog.

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  • When you are looking for a breeder, make sure to select one that takes temperament into very high regard in their breeding program. Also, research, research, and then research some more. I was on this forum for a year before I got Kipawa, with whom we are working with to become a therapy dog.

    Our plan is to do therapy visits at the rehab facility my husband was at for 6 months when he became a quadriplegic. Kipawa really respects the wheelchair and the wheeling space around my husband. I am taking Kipawa out to places where there are a lot of people. He is a highly socialized dog and loves everyone. We are working on him understanding that not everyone is interested in being with him (though I can't understand why, he is sooo cute:)). In a month or so we hope to be starting his second obedience class. The training facility we use needs you to pass tests with your dog before they move you to the intermediate class.

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  • @jdido09:

    I am looking into getting a Basenji and am really excited. I am a college student and am interested in getting a dog to train as a service dog (Canine Good Citizen). I want to get my dog involved in the Pet friend program at the local Children's Hospital,

    I know more people with therapy dogs of all breeds that came from rescue than from breeder… maybe because many of the people I know doing therapy are also involved in rescue, but please consider that a GOOD rescue keeps a dog a couple of months before placing. A GOOD rescue can help you evaluate and find a dog with the temperament.

    That said, sorry... I don't think a dog, particularly a Basenji, is probably a good choice for you right now. Why rush? Finish college, find out for SURE if you are maybe going to grad school or maybe ending up with some super job that demands many hours work or travel. I know you are excited... but think of being fair to the dog. How about fostering basenjis for a while. A win/win. You get to truly know the breed AND it gives you time to finish school and determine what your "grownup" life style is going to be. Rescues are full of dogs from people who were young and in college and THOUGHT they knew because it is hard to imagine the changes coming your way soon.

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