Seriously Considering a Basenji … BUT:

I'm seriously Considering a Basenji … BUT:

I'm concerned about some traits that I've read. I'd like Basenji owners to comment on them:

  1. Dislikes being alone so much that it will trash the house unless crated.
  2. NEVER allow off the leash if there's risk of dog sensing some critter nearby.
  3. An escape artist. A) Can/will climb chain link fence. 😎 Will bolt out open/ajar door.
  4. Doesn't play well with other dogs. Not likely to be popular at a dog park.
  5. Training is not easy at all. Actually, basenji has a lot of in common with a cat - nature and behavior
  6. ???

Proper training can probably minimize some of these issues. But I don't want to be saddled with defensive training ... overcoming the negative parts of the genetic behavioral traits of a hunter.

My puppy will be trained exclusively using Cynopraxic methods. (See "Applied Dog Behavior and Training" by Steven Lindsay.) Also, all commands will be consistent with the training of service dogs. And, the puppy & adult will be given hige doses of affection and play.

I've probably been spoiled by the raising, from puppyhood to the end, of three Labrador Retrievers. A Lab is too big for our annual migration via SUV between AZ & MI. Also, my wife doesn't want to deal with the shedding.

I will value all insights you can share with me.

Gary

With your indications 1-5, I would say a Basenji is not for you. Especially the part about off leash, unless in a secure area, your Basenji is apt to bolt and if there is traffic, they could care less… or care less if you call them... they might flick an ear to your voice, but the game is more important.

Well, there are much more informative people here than me, but I CAN say that Dexter (who I have had for a couple of months so far) has been very friendly and loves to play with every dog and person that he has ever seen. He also learned sit and down extremely fast in my opinion, we haven't done much more than that so far (my fault not his). He is stubborn and I do have to give the command more than once sometimes, but I'm sure that will get better.

@DexterDex:

Well, there are much more informative people here than me, but I CAN say that Dexter (who I have had for a couple of months so far) has been very friendly and loves to play with every dog and person that he has ever seen. He also learned sit and down extremely fast in my opinion, we haven't done much more than that so far (my fault not his). He is stubborn and I do have to give the command more than once sometimes, but I'm sure that will get better.

LOL, you wish… typically Basenjis tend to "forget" commands with age! Stubborn is really not a Basenji, they are a free thinker with the idea of "what is in it for me?"... that is not being stubborn, it is thinking for yourself

Lol, yes but I'm sure there are many people here who have trained their basenjis to be at least pretty reliable, do you think? Also, I said stubborn because sometimes I will have his bowl of food and I always make him "sit" or "down" before I place it on the ground, and we do it every day three times a day, so I know he knows the routine, but sometimes when I tell him he will squirm over to me and paw at me and grumble a little, and after repeating the command he follows through. So it just seems like he would be saying "Awww c'mon, just put the bowl down, no need to make me do that other stuff!" lol.

  1. Dislikes being alone so much that it will trash the house unless crated.
    Mine don't mind being alone. But I usually have at least 2

  2. NEVER allow off the leash if there's risk of dog sensing some critter nearby.
    There are dog parks most everywhere these days. And in a safe (no cars) area, if trained to come to a whistle, mine have been able to be off leash. It's a calculated risk.

  3. An escape artist. A) Can/will climb chain link fence. 😎 Will bolt out open/ajar door.
    We have 4 ft chain link, dogs show no inclination to climb over. Training to sit before door opened, then toss a treat back into the room, eliminates bolting. We also have a little fence around our front stoop. They are curious, and need to know what's 'over there'.

  4. Doesn't play well with other dogs. Not likely to be popular at a dog park.
    My 2 and at least 20 others I know well are great dog park dogs.

  5. Training is not easy at all. Actually, basenji has a lot of in common with a cat - nature and behavior
    Positive reinforcement, making it fun, I have had dogs complete obedience training and do agility easily. But they rarely "hard wire" training like some other breeds, most commands are always a decision for them!

I love the breed because of it's independence and intelligence, attributes that don't lend themselves to rote obedience. If you really want a 'well trained' dog, not a free-thinker, you might consider another breed. And basenjis do shed, just not too much!

i would say 2, 3, and 5 can be pretty common traits. and, while basenjis don't smell like other dogs, they do shed. they may or may not trigger allergies, but they do definitely shed (to varying degrees). and they are definitely more like cats than like labs. but, those of us who love basenjis grow to think that it is cute that they do whatever they want!

I will add, when I am doing a home visit for rescue and people assure me that 'they can train a basenji to behave like any other dog' I do note that in the visit report. (unrealistic expectations)

If you don't want a dog that makes noise, don't get a beagle, then scold him all the time for baying. (like a neighbor we used to have)
If you want a dog that is easy to train like a service dog, get a breed known for that.

Geting an independent breed because you like it's size and looks, then expecting it to behave like a lab, is setting everyone up for failure. JMHO

@LateralG:

I'm seriously Considering a Basenji … BUT:

I'm concerned about some traits that I've read. I'd like Basenji owners to comment on them:

  1. Dislikes being alone so much that it will trash the house unless crated.
  2. NEVER allow off the leash if there's risk of dog sensing some critter nearby.
  3. An escape artist. A) Can/will climb chain link fence. 😎 Will bolt out open/ajar door.
  4. Doesn't play well with other dogs. Not likely to be popular at a dog park.
  5. Training is not easy at all. Actually, basenji has a lot of in common with a cat - nature and behavior
  6. ???

Gary

Okay, I have the world's best basenji ever. I am, of course, referring to Digital the brindlewonderkid who is now almost 14.5 years old and almost deaf. He also has 29 titles to his name, if my counting is correct. Most of those titles are agility related titles, but he also has coursing, conformation, rally and therapy titles. He was my first rally dog and he got his RN with 2 first places (beating Rotts, goldens, shelties and other more traditional breeds) and one second place. His high score was 99 out of 100 points. He was a brilliant worker with a total novice handler. (He was my first competition dog of any sort in everything we did.) He was nationally ranked in the top 3 agility basenjis in the nation for 7 or 8 years running. Now I'm not telling you all of that to just brag about my dog, because, gosh knows I hate doing that :rolleyes:, but I want you to realize how much training this individual dog has had. Two years ago, when his hearing was better, if he saw a rabbit, he was chasing that rabbit. And if I were to call his name, he was chasing that rabbit. And if a car came, he was chasing that rabbit. Today, he saw a rabbit and if I had dropped his leash, he would have chasing that rabbit, although at a reduced speed. That should answer #2.

#1 is more of an individual thing. Digital has NEVER destroyed anything in anybody's house from the time he was less than a year old. Jet the trying, who is still intact, might pee on something, but probaby would not destroy much, but he's 13.5 years. (He only has around a dozen titles, so his education is lacking a bit.) My first basenji pulled a blanket into her crate to destroy it when she was over 8 years old.

#3 also more individual thing. Digital has gotten out of an xpen at an agility trial to come looking for me, but otherwise won't. Zest! the supestar in training, LOVES to figure out puzzles. How to get out of something is a grand puzzle! And loves to climb things. Of course in all fairness I did pick her out to be my next great agility dog, so I got what I got. As long as I am in the yard with the dogs, they are content to stay in the yard. Bolting out the door - not so much in my experience, but this is probably due somewhat to training.

#4 Mine do fine with most dogs as long as the dogs are not pushy or rude. That may or may not have something to do with early socialization. Pushy or rude dogs may start a fight; little dogs may kick in prey drive.

#5 Easy as pie and a blast to train. Difficult to motivate and that "distraction" of the 3D's is a killer.

Basenjis are NOT just a different packaging of dog when compared to labs. (I've had a lab too, b's are way different.) Personally, I don't think a basenji is a good fit for you unless you change what you want/expect. They aren't going to change.

If you really liked the personality and hard wired traits of the labs you raised as a puppy raiser then you may find yourself dissatisfied with personality and hard wired traits of a basenji.

I was at a presentation about dog behavior last year and the presenter was discussing motivation. She asked the audience to name things that dogs found motivating. Almost everyone said, "praise". She pointed out that some dogs found praise motivating and some did not and you needed to know your dog. She then showed two video clips and asked the audience if they could tell which dog found praise rewarding and which didn't. The first clip was a black lab being introduced to a Manners Minder. After the treat was dispensed the trainer would praise the dog who would respond by moving toward the trainer and act in a generally happy manner. The second clip was a basenji also being introduced to a Manners Minder. After the treat was dispensed the trainer would praise the dog who clearly looked at her from the bowl of the Manners Minder with an expression that conveyed, "Less talk more treats". It was very basenji like behavior.

Basenjis are not really difficult to train, you just have to understand what motivates them and it isn't often things like praise. One thing that motivates them though is the chase, so competing with that can be a challenge and not something I would risk in an area where there is traffic and the risk of death if they choose the chase over coming when called. Some have separation anxiety, some do not, some is training and some is genetics. As for getting along with other dogs some like dog parks and some prefer to have select dog friends which doesn't mean they don't get along with other dogs but they don't want to put up with the in your face rudeness of many of the adolescent dogs found at dog parks.

@LateralG:

I'm seriously Considering a Basenji … BUT:

I'm concerned about some traits that I've read. I'd like Basenji owners to comment on them:

  1. Dislikes being alone so much that it will trash the house unless crated.
  2. NEVER allow off the leash if there's risk of dog sensing some critter nearby.
  3. An escape artist. A) Can/will climb chain link fence. 😎 Will bolt out open/ajar door.
  4. Doesn't play well with other dogs. Not likely to be popular at a dog park.
  5. Training is not easy at all. Actually, basenji has a lot of in common with a cat - nature and behavior
  6. ???

No matter what breed you decide on, it sounds like you are going into this the right way: research, asking questions, realistic expectations, etc.
I will say this: my ex got me into basenjis. I wanted a lab or a weimeraner or a golden retriever. The more research we did, the less I wanted one of these "willfull, stubborn, destructive, escape artist" dogs. We went to see puppies & who can resist a puppy of any breed?
I resented the beast for the first 6 months until I discovered the dog park. What a great way to release some energy and have some fun! We bonded over that, and by the time he was 7 months old, I was talking about adding another basenji to the family. Now I'm a "breed snob" and wouldn't consider anything else.
Every dog is an individual. I have 2 girls that are within 2 weeks of age. Most people can't tell them apart & everywhere we go, strangers call them twins. But to me, they are like night & day. They both respond to different commands & different situations differently. One of them I can trust in safe (no cars around) situations off leash, the other I can't. Neither one of them has awesome recall; one just doesn't like to be too far away from me. The other could care less where I'm at if there are animals to chase.
It sounds like you are more than willing to put in the time and energy necessary to train a dog, and if you can find the proper motivation, basenjis can learn absolutely anything at all. But like others said, there is a "What's in it for me?" attitude that makes their response to commands unreliable. I find that the more time I invest in training, the better my basenjis respond to commands. If I'm taking them to classes & working on training every day, they are very responsive and eager to please when I have treats.
To address your specific concerns:

  1. Mine actually do pretty well when not crated. I expect to find stuff torn up occasionally, and if I do I don't get mad because its nobody's fault but my own for leaving them loose. They are better in the evenings and at night than during the day when they are more active & more likely to get bored. I don't think its so much that they hate being alone as they just get bored easily. And long periods of time alone=boredom & they WILL find a way to entertain themselves. Entertainment may include digging to find out just what exactly is in the middle of the couch cushion. I leave the blinds open so they can watch the world go by & make sure they have newspaper or something they can shred if they feel naughty.
  2. Again, every dog is different. I let Lola off leash in my neighborhood late at night knowing she won't stray too far from me. BUT it is a calculated risk. She could bolt after a skunk & come back smelling horrible. She could get hit by a car. She may get scared & bolt. Its a huge risk I'm taking. Callie is NEVER allowed off leash in an unsecured area unless we're at least 5 miles from a road. They will both come back, but on their own terms (ie: nothing better to do & I have a treat).
  3. Definitely true & varies by dog. Mine have never climbed chain link fences, but Callie has gotten her head stuck in the gap of the gate before trying to get out. Callie's littermate learned to stand just inside the electric fence border, where the collar would beep but not shock, until the battery ran down & then would dash. Both of mine can clear a standard baby gate with no trouble, and Callie can get out of most crates. I just find better crates, buy taller baby gates, and make sure the fence is secure. Neither of mine have ever been door bolters. I have taught them to stay at the door; however, they have both slipped out once or twice when I wasn't being diligent enough.
  4. Again, depends on the dog & their experience. When I was taking Lola to the dog park a few times a week, I never had many problems. But when I added Callie & started going less frequently, it became more of an issue. They are a little dynamic duo & can be intense & gang up on other dogs. Its not the end of the world. I still take them to the dog park, but if they are being jerks, we leave.
  5. Basenjis ARE very cat like, but training is easy if you find what motivates them. They are extremely intelligent & can learn anything you can think of to teach them. However, they do not like blind, mindless repetition. Lola gets easily bored in agility class if we work on the same thing too many times because she gets it, I get that she gets it, and she sees no point in doing it 50 times when she's already proven 5 times that she can do it.
    I think you should try to meet some basenjis, especially if you can find a local breeder or owner that does obedience, rally, agility, etc. You may be surprised.
    One of my favorite traits is that they aren't clingy. They are always happy to see me, enjoy cuddle time and attention, but don't need to be pet constantly. They are just fine sleeping on a comfy couch or bed in the sunlight in another room. Its the perfect mix of affection without annoying me to death with neediness.
    Good luck with your search, no matter what breed you decide!

Please let us know what you decide.

@tanza:

With your indications 1-5, I would say a Basenji is not for you. Especially the part about off leash, unless in a secure area, your Basenji is apt to bolt and if there is traffic, they could care less… or care less if you call them... they might flick an ear to your voice, but the game is more important.

We became basenji owners this January when we acquired a wonderful, male puppy. He is the joy of our lives. He is happy and he is crazy. He is stubborn and he is willing. He is clumsy and he is graceful. He is silly and he is serious.

I was going to answer each of the questions, but the more I read them, the more I found myself agreeing with Tanza (Pat). A basenji just doesn't seem like the dog for you.

IMO, a basenji is the right dog for you if you accept all of their unique traits - the good and the crazy/challenging ones. As far as an individual dog's traits goes, I believe you have to go into owning a basenji feeling comfortable with whatever will come your way. There are just no guarantees. Lots of the challenges are why we love them. So the question is: regardless, will you be willing to do the work to keep your basenji for his/her entire life?

I hope I don't sound harsh, because I don't mean to. Researching the breed before coming to a final conclusion is critical. I admire you for doing all of your homework before making such an important decision.

@LateralG:

  1. Dislikes being alone so much that it will trash the house unless crated.

This is individual to the dog. Our previous Basenji, Maxx, was left free in the house when we were gone from the time he was less than three years old (he was crate trained) and never bothered anything. We're hoping that Blaze will turn out to be the same way, but at four months old, he's not yet to that point, so he's crated at night and when we're not at home.

  1. NEVER allow off the leash if there's risk of dog sensing some critter nearby.

I'm not sure I'd use the term "never," but you have to be very cautious about where you do let a Basenji loose…and you have to be sure they have good recall (but, even then, if a Basenji sees a rabbit or squirrel, I'm not sure even the best trained Basenji could be reliably recalled). There were a couple of places that we let Maxx loose, and he was pretty good about staying close and we didn't have too much of a problem recalling him. However, Basenjis are very prey oriented, so we were very cautious about the areas where we let him run free if it wasn't securely fenced.

  1. An escape artist. A) Can/will climb chain link fence. 😎 Will bolt out open/ajar door.

Again, this depends on the dog. Maxx was not really an escape artist and never showed any interest in climbing the fence. We were able to teach him that he didn't go out the door until he was given the "OK," and then it was always on a lead unless the door opened into a secure area.

  1. Doesn't play well with other dogs. Not likely to be popular at a dog park.

Depends on the dog. We never took Maxx to a dog park, but he was friendly with most dogs. There are lots of people on these forums who take their Basenjis to a dog park all the time without problems.

  1. Training is not easy at all. Actually, basenji has a lot of in common with a cat - nature and behavior

This is certainly true. Basenjis are independent dogs, much like a cat is independent. If you want a dog that will hang on your every word, and do what you say without question (like the Labs you are used to), a Basenji isn't for you. A Basenji's attitude when you ask him to do something is "What's in it for me?"

I've probably been spoiled by the raising, from puppyhood to the end, of three Labrador Retrievers. A Lab is too big for our annual migration via SUV between AZ & MI. Also, my wife doesn't want to deal with the shedding.

If all you are concerned about is size, there are lots of smaller dogs that will be more amenable to training and that don't shed (or shed as much as a Lab) that would probably be more suitable for you. As mentioned, Basenjis do shed…they just shed little short hairs, not big clumps.

If you go into Basenji ownership thinking that you can teach it to be just like a Lab, you're going to be sorely disappointed, and another Basenji will end up in rescue.

Please rethink your choice.

Houston

+1 to all that is above..but this…

We became basenji owners this January when we acquired a wonderful, male puppy. He is the joy of our lives. He is happy and he is crazy. He is stubborn and he is willing. He is clumsy and he is graceful. He is silly and he is serious.

I was going to answer each of the questions, but the more I read them, the more I found myself agreeing with Tanza (Pat). A basenji just doesn't seem like the dog for you.

IMO, a basenji is the right dog for you if you accept all of their unique traits - the good and the crazy/challenging ones. As far as an individual dog's traits goes, I believe you have to go into owning a basenji feeling comfortable with whatever will come your way. There are just no guarantees. Lots of the challenges are why we love them. So the question is: regardless, will you be willing to do the work to keep your basenji for his/her entire life?

I hope I don't sound harsh, because I don't mean to. Researching the breed before coming to a final conclusion is critical. I admire you for doing all of your homework before making such an important decision.

…..feels like I just wrote it..I agree with Kipawa

I love Pippin's good and "bad" sides...my husband is still learning to accept is his "bad" manners, but he knows these are more common breed traits with basenjis and is learning to deal with it..he is after all the one who told me to look into the breed after seeing some show about them many years ago..

Good luck in your hunt for a perfect dog..you are going about it in the right manner by doing your research..kudos for that...:)

  1. Dislikes being alone so much that it will trash the house unless crated.
    Depends on the dog, but I find Basenjis have a pack instinct. Most the the B ppl have more than one dog to keep the other company. Mine does ok on her own but does not prefer it and will not be crated.

  2. NEVER allow off the leash if there's risk of dog sensing some critter nearby.
    Basenjis are not trusted off leash, period. They have no natural fear of cars and death by vehicle is a leading cause of death in the breed. I allow my dog off leash when we are in national parks with no existing roadways, I have been training her recall since she was 11 weeks old and she is still not trust worthy without fences or open country. Basenjis have that natural prey drive which can not and will not be broken by their person.

  3. An escape artist. A) Can/will climb chain link fence. 😎 Will bolt out open/ajar door.
    Quite true, but different dogs have different weaknesses. My B can climb trees as well as fences, but she normally doesn't - however I would never leave her outside unsupervised. She will bolt out of a open door if possible.

  4. Doesn't play well with other dogs. Not likely to be popular at a dog park.
    Basenjis I find have their own language of play, I find they enjoy ancient dogs play more than modern dogs. However my B loves all dogs, and they like her. She is quite popular at our dog park.

  5. Training is not easy at all. Actually, basenji has a lot of in common with a cat - nature and behavior
    Basenjis are incredibly cat like- they just require different training. They cannot be motivated by conventional means because Basenjis are not motivated by people but by their own desires. The key is to train them into thinking what you want is really what they want. Positive and creative training is the only way. That being said, using positive methods my B has become much more biddable with time. She is no Lab, but she is developing many key training talents at 3 years old.

I Don't find the Basenjis hunter instincts to be negative, they are just fact. You are working with a dog which has kept itself alive for over 6,000 years on it's mind alone. These dogs are special but I think if you are looking for a dog which is biddable and will really respond to you and your family at the centre this is probably not the correct breed. This dog will love loyally but never see itself as your "dog" so to speak. If you are looking for a medium sized dog which doesn't shed much, doesn't have a strong odor and IS motivated by its' people I would suggest the Hungarian Vizsla.

I doubt the destructive issues are so much hating to be alone, as liking to self-entertain. Destruction is good fun.

Sorry, I don't think this is the dog for you at all. Consider something more malleable, a dog that wants to please YOU and the bonding of the type of training you want to use will help forge a wonderful happy relationship. A basenji might love you to pieces, and still not care a flip about what you want them to do. That "please the owner" gene is terribly missing. And the relationship you want is unlikely to be met with most of this breed. Can you train it eventually to do much of what you want… maybe. But why shove a square peg in a round hole? Consider another breed. Or... volunteer to foster a basenji from BRAT, lol... then get another breed.

But I truly applaud your researching!

@LindaH:

If all you are concerned about is size, there are lots of smaller dogs that will be more amenable to training and that don't shed (or shed as much as a Lab) that would probably be more suitable for you. As mentioned, Basenjis do shed…they just shed little short hairs, not big clumps.

.

First: I've never experienced a forum with such straight-forward, informative responses to an inquiry. Thank you all!

Second: Recommendations for some "… lots of smaller dogs ..." to look into would be valued.

Gary

Poodles and Schnauzers don't shed. Our Brussels Giffon, Gracie, doesn't shed, either. And you couldn't ask for a more devoted dog than Gracie…she's got the "please the owner" gene that Debra talked about in spades. She learns things very quickly...not that she's any smarter than Blaze, our Basenji, but because she wants to please us. Blaze, on the other hand, while I know he loves us, doesn't have the "please the owner" gene at all...he has the "please the Basenji" gene! 😉

While we've never had a poodle, we have had a Standard Schnauzer...as well as a Doberman and a Great Dane. The latter two are probably too big for you, but all of these dogs are much more amenable to training than the Basenji. Don't get me wrong...a Basenji CAN be trained, but it'll take much more work on your part, and they will never be a Lab.

Small breeds I would recommend… hmm.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels IF you find a breeder who has 3 generations of clear hearts at age 7.
Pomeranians are bright and have the "please you" gene. 🙂
Toy or mini poodles are incredibly bright. The fru fru cut people give them don't do justice to their working dog intelligent personalities.
I haven't met a Brussels Griffon I didn't like. 🙂
Miniature Schnauzers are genetically and temperamentally the same as Standard... tougher than you think but with the "please you" gene that makes them highly trainable.

Go to a dog show, or obedience trial part of one, and meet the breeds. 🙂

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