Researching Basenjis
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  • M

    My experience, up until now, has been with larger dog breeds: weimeraners and Dobermans. I have recently downsized to a townhouse, and am considering getting a Basenji. From what I've read, the smaller size and "bark less" characteristic (although I know they do vocalize) might suite my new living space.

    I am single and semi-retired and while I work about 4-5 hours Monday through Friday, I will be home with a dog most of the time. I am a believer in working with and spending time with a dog. I would love to hear your thoughts, advice, and experiences with Basenjis. I love dogs and plan to make this pet my loved companion.

    Oh, and btw, I DO have a cat. Is that going to be trouble?

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  • ?

    Hi! Hopefully I will be able to shed some light on what life with a Basenji is like. I grew up with labs and goldens, and while they're great, loyal dogs, they're (forgive me) more than a little dumb. I've always been a 50/50 cat/dog person, so when I began researching Basenjis, I realized I had just found the best of both worlds. Besides the fetch part that I was accustomed to with my retrievers, of course. My Penny's idea of fetch is: "I will thrash this stuffed toy while you watch it explode all over your floor… and run away when you get close. You shall not have it. You shall not pick up the fluff, either. That is for shredding when I'm done with this part." and... "Get that rubber ball away from me; it has no squeaker and I cannot thrash and destuff it."

    So, my foremost piece of advice: If you do not have a sense of humor for antics and mischief, a Basenji will make you very unhappy. It's much better to laugh, repair what damage you can, and move on. My husband doesn't deal as well with this concept as I do, as he thinks "the dog is smart and should know better". The problem with Basenjis is that while they're smart enough to know better, they make a conscious choice to do it anyway. A prime example for me was the day Penny realized she could squeeze out of her crate if the bottom latch was undone. She then proceeded to attempt to burrow her way through the carpet and wall into the garage. She got through about 6 square feet of carpet by the time I made it home. I wasn't happy, but by being careless with the latch, I had really set myself up for it.

    As a Basenji owner, you'll have to be able to outsmart a very devious, at times devilish, creature. You can certainly set yourself up for success if you know what you're looking for. I can give you a brief list from my experience.

    1. Papers left out and about will be shredded for you when you return to them. (This can sometimes be useful, admittedly.)
    2. Open doors = life is a highway, and that Basenji will ride it all night long before it looks back and/or misses you. Fear of cars, by the way, is nonexistent.
    3. Always open the blinds before you walk out the door to get the mail, or they will be ruined by the time you get back. Yep, it only takes 30 seconds.
    4. Anything wetter than dry grass is "wet grass". Wet grass (and rain of any intensity) has caused many a Basenji owner a soiled carpet and unapologetic attitude on behalf of their Basenji. Penny is one of the few I know of who has learned to do her business as quickly as possible to get back inside. I'm serious, she's fast. She comes sprinting in the house practically still in the middle of a bowel movement some days.
    5. A Basenji that is not crated is a ticking time bomb. They are most adept at identifying things that smell like you and ruining them while you're away, even if you think your house is spotless. Pants (just the crotch), underwear, shoes, retainers (that was an expensive one)... all consumed without remorse. I've heard of some people who have success with leaving their Basenji uncrated, but those folks are few and far between. It is much safer for the dog and your possessions if they are secured in a designated "den".
    6. Trash cans are too tempting, whether filled with paper or leftovers. They should have lids or be put away when you're not able to supervise.
    7. Basenjis are sled dogs, you are the sled. I've never met one that doesn't put most of its weight into the leash, especially when excited. It takes a lot of effort to leash-train a Basenji, as they're really inquisitive and want to sniff everything, even if it means leaving you behind. I certainly recommend a good harness, as Penny would hurt herself on a normal collar/leash combo.

    While Basenjis are not particularly social with everyone, they're very devoted to their human. It's good that you would be able to be home much of the time. Even if they're basking in the morning sunshine from an east-facing window, a Basenji will still be keeping tabs on where you are and what you're doing. Penny will snuggle next to me on the couch for hours, loves sleeping under the covers with me at night, and will come after me with her "pokey paws" when I'm sitting in my computer chair and she wants my attention. They may be independent by nature, but that doesn't mean they're unaffectionate. Except for kisses. She curls her lip up at me when I smooch her, so I always end up kissing her teeth. Blegh.

    Basenjis and how well they coexist with cats depends a lot more on the cat than it does the Basenji. Most Basenjis do well with cats if they have been raised with them. However... If the cat runs and/or is skittish, the Basenji WILL chase it. Basenjis are also quite playful. They go from sleeping to play in half a second, and they will certainly try to tempt the cat into joining in the session. A lot of cats don't appreciate this. (This is why I have two dogs, one being a mini Aussie, who is plenty athletic enough to keep up with a Basenji at play.) Our cat is 13 and has set firm boundaries with Penny. They coexist peacefully, but they're not exactly snuggling each other every day. Also, just because your Basenji gets along with your cat doesn't mean they would be kind to one that wandered into your yard. We've taken all the stray cats in our neighborhood to be spayed/neutered/rabies vaccinated, because they like to hang out in our backyard and are fair game for Penny when she gets out there. I'd hate for her to get a hold of one, but there's no stopping her when she's determined. At least they won't have rabies if she does. Haha :)

    One more thing to note is that Basenjis are 50/50 when it comes to be "out and about" dogs. They oftentimes have difficulty adjusting to riding in the car without wanting to be ON THE DASHBOARD (sigh), which is why Penny has to ride in a crate. She's also overwhelmed (sensory and otherwise) by places like farmers markets. She does well at dog parks, and whether that holds true across the board... well, it will depend a lot on the individual Basenji. They're all different, but most Basenjis seem to enjoy the company of other dogs.

    I'll update if I think of anything more! I LOVE my little hoodlum. I could never go without a Basenji now that I know what fantastic creatures they are. For someone experienced with dogs (like yourself), they are a gem. If you need a companion for some one-on-one bonding and a deep, lasting friendship, they do that so, so well.

    EDIT: And the barkless thing! The Basenji baroo is the cutest, silliest thing ever. Penny also makes a noise that we describe as "a wet sock in a trumpet." Kind of a gurgle-growl. She only does it when begging for table scraps, so I hate to admit that we've totally encouraged her bad behavior just so we can hear her talking. She can, however, SCREAM when she is unhappy. It sounds like someone is torturing a child. Before we added Daisy to the family, she would be so perturbed to be left in her crate alone that she would scream to be let out. She had a bad experience with her crate at about 9 months old (she had Giardia and we didn't know yet, so goodness knows how long the mess was there before we came home after being gone for 6 hours); she never seemed to consider it her "den" after that, even though we tried to retrain her to it using positive reinforcement. :( So proper crate training goes a long way to minimize distress, especially with a dog so strong-willed as a Basenji.

    Double EDIT: Training a Basenji past basic obedience is difficult at best. It CAN be done with a lot of persistence, but my sweet darling (sarcasm, just a little) literally shut down on me in puppy class after the second session. She decided she was done laying down on the hard floor and refused any treat offered. She knows sit, down, shake, and wait. Those were accomplishments. Most of the time, her "sit" is her lowering her butt halfway to the floor and popping back up. Her "shake" is her dangling a paw in the air and waiting for me to grab it. :-D

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  • K

    To bring some nuance to MSP's reply:

    • we have 2 sisters (4 and 5 years old)
    • they have NEVER destroyed ANYTHING of value (garbage should be kept safe though…)
    • after a good walk in the morning (1 hour minimum, with as much as possible off leash for running and sniffing around) they sleep all day (and night)
    • they can be alone in the house for hours WITH NO CRATING
    • they sometimes pull on the leash, but most of the time they are fine
    • they are great travelers: watching the world pass by, and most of the time sleeping
    • they are pretty good at recall: they really want to know where we are and follow us around fine
    • yes, to train a B, you have to have a lot of patience and a big sense of humour, but it can be done
    • sitting on the couch with one or two B's draped all over you becomes an addiction very soon
    • if you get a puppy B, then it should be OK with the cat

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  • M

    Thanks to you both for the excellent replies. I actually would like a rescue B but getting one that meets all my requirements might be tough. A pattern I seem to be picking up is that they are often raised in pairs. Is that a general trend?

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  • K

    Just keep looking.
    There are many people I know that have 2 or more.
    We found it is double the fun for the same amount of energy/time etc.
    You can also check out https://www.facebook.com/groups/basenji.international/?ref=bookmarks

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  • I've had five Basenjis over the years. I did have two at a time more than once, but it was an overlap rather than raising two together. I have never routinely crated a Basenji past the puppy stage, or in the case of two mature boys that I adopted, past the "get to know you" stage. My Basenjis have never been particularly destructive, but yes, they do like to get into the garbage. And chew the crotch out of underwear if they get the chance. You can't trust a puppy alone, and getting to the point where they are reliable in the house can be a process. Confining to a specific area works well as an intermediary step, and some will never be totally trustworthy with the run of the house. My current boy is just fine, and doesn't even rip up tissue, but he is unusual.

    Lots of exercise is a good idea, particularly with a young dog, and mental exercise is recommended as well.

    Basenjis can learn many commands, and be reasonably reliable if you are careful to be consistent, i.e. do not issue a command unless you have a reasonable expectation it will be carried out or that you will be able to ensure it is carried out. Too many people inadvertently "teach" their dogs to ignore commands. If you say "come" and he/she doesn't, go and get the dog and bring it to the place where you were standing when you asked him to come. If you don't care whether he comes or not this time, use a different term, e.g. his name, or "here" or whatever, but do not poison your "come" command by letting him ignore it. Don't get suckered into a game of "keep away", either. In the early stages it may help to let him drag a long line that you can get hold of. And don't trust a Basenji loose in an unconfined area unless or until you are very sure of him. Proof it with distractions…...lots of them! Puppies are often good about recall because they aren't very sure of themselves. Watch out when they mature and gain confidence!

    This page is worth reading, and also good for a smile. Yes, the description is typical!

    http://www.basenjirescue.org/Chey_Miller/Quirks/Quirks.htm

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  • Not true… there are many, many that have single Basenjis... however we all will admit that Basenjis are like potato chips, you can't just have one

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  • ?

    I only have one basenji, but she does have a "sister". I got my mini aussie when Penny was about a year and a half old because Penny enjoyed the company of other dogs so much; I knew she would benefit from having a friend. She took her right under her wing, and it really helped that Daisy is quite submissive, as Penny has a strong personality. They've been best friends for 5 years. Penny grooms her, they have a nightly play session, Daisy pre-chews Penny's rawhide for her (gross), they patrol the yard for squirrels together… the whole deal.

    If you get a puppy, you'll be able to determine whether he/she is the kind of Basenji who would prefer a playmate. Some don't. If you go through BRAT and rescue, they'll be able to tell you about each B's preferences.

    And while you may not be able to find a Basenji who fits your every criteria through rescue, Basenjis are very smart. Despite being a little more sensitive at times, from my experience, Penny has always adjusted well to new people and new homes (when we would go to stay with my parents or in-laws, she got used to the rules of the house very quickly). With consistency, you'd be able to ensure a smooth transition to a new home with new rules.

    (By the way, with my previous post, I wasn't trying to paint Basenjis to be terrors! They're special dogs, and forewarning was appreciated seven years ago when I was looking for my first Basenji. It's always nice to know the worst case; your experience will be great no matter what if you can smile at THOSE antics!! :-D )

    I'm so interested to hear of everyone who doesn't crate their adult Basenjis. I wish. :-/

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  • K

    We don't crate our dogs. Not when we leave them during the day (for a few hours maximum), not during the night (they sleep on the coach or on the bed). It works well for us.
    When we leave, we always tell them aloud that we are going and when we'll be back. They seem to understand, and they will go right back to sleep. Usually they are in the same place/position when we return, lazy bums!

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  • There are many adults with breeders who are placed in homes after they finish their championship, especially males as a breeder only needs to keep so many males to continue the lines. These dogs are used to traveling in cars to shows, being quiet in crates and adapt well to a single dog house. And they are fully health tested which is VERY IMPORTANT.

    My basenjis scream at the top of thier lungs when I at at training class with them and I am working one , the other is very unhappy to be crated. Rescues come with thier own set of troubles, key of which is that many rescues have not been health tested for Fanconi using the direct DNA test. Do not get a dog unless that test is done first, you want to know if there is a possiblity of your dog developing fanconi later in life, I would also say the PRA test for blindness is a must as there are so many blind basenjis out there too. Basenjis will live to 16 years or more, you need to be prepared to support them that long, and knowing health issues down the road is important. too many people get rescues, then find out they cannot financially handle the many health issues that crop up, many of which could have been avoided by getting a dog from a reputable breeder.

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  • Well said Lisa!

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  • You may want to volunteer as a foster for BRAT, they are always getting dogs in that need to be homed. I saw a post of three that need immediate pickup from Amarillo TX today. I was a whippet foster a few months ago and adopted her despite her severe PTSD. Could not bear to see her go through more trauma being shuttled to another home after the horrific upbringing she had.

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  • First Basenji's

    All good advice. My first instinct from your thread was that a rescue would be an excellent idea for you. If you are patient, and persistent, the right one that needs you and vice versa will come your way. I learned this very recent in my search for an AKC breeder (was looking for a yellow lab) got burnt, and decided on a rescue and got some mix….but a beauty and great temperament for my Uzi tricolor B-boy. Got a call yesterday from a yellow lab breeder that lives a few blocks away.....go figure. the cards were piled up for me to adopt a rescue for sure!!!
    attachment_p_172840_0_jaydiethirdday5.jpg

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  • G

    I don't think I could ever actually just buy a dog anymore. Sometimes I think I'd like a dog that I can show again… but no, I couldn't buy from a breeder, not after knowing how many dogs are out there without homes (purebreds too). Someone's got to give them a home, might as well be me. Rescues make good dogs too, and out of the 5 rescued purebreds I've had, 3 originated from "show" breeders. And I'm not necessarily maligning breeders (though the term IS used rather loosely) nor people who choose to buy from them, I'm simply stating that I couldn't.

    And regarding crating Basenjis, I'm on #6, 3 show and 3 rescue, and all 6 could eventually be left loose in the house.
    -Joanne

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  • Well breed with proper conformation, well temperment, healthy Basenjis come from breeders… Not sure what you mean per say "show breeders"... there are many, many breeders that while they show, they also do other things with their Basenjis along with them being family members first.. While I do show, I also do course... not many show homes and if I think they "need" to be shown, I keep them (unless someone is really really interested)... and 80% of the time, my pups are placed in wonderful companion homes... So responsible breeders will take offense to your statement about breeders.

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  • G

    Oh, I agree with you about the merits of buying from a GOOD breeder, and yeah, if you want to buy from a good breeder, go ahead, I don't have a problem with it. I just mentioned the fact that I couldn't do it anymore. There is nothing I said that should cause a good breeder to take offense. By "show breeder" I meant a breeder whose puppies are meant for the show ring… or obedience ring, agility ring, coursing field, etc. Compared to a breeder whose stock is intended for a pet store, or buddy whose stuff is sold out of the trunk of a car. The term "breeder " covers those people too.

    And the "show breeder" I got my rescues from... one dumped the dog when the dogs' bottom jaw wouldn't quit growing, the other breeder turned into a hoarder and over a hundred crated Basenjis were removed from her property.
    -Joanne

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  • Ya know, I know this chick who refers to people who have biological children as breeders. She is adamant that no one should produce, doing so it selfish, should only adopt. Never mind that then leaves "breeding" to people who are not ready/able/responsible enough to raise the children necessary to make adoptions possible.

    I am not a breeder now and I take offense. It is one thing to say you choose to get rescues because that is what you feel is right for you. Quite another to lump breeders together, or indicate that show means represents all show. It would be like me talking about people who rescue and give an example of someone too lazy to take the time to research and too tight to spend the money on a well bred dog. It insults breeders, it insults rescuers, who do either for the RIGHT reasons.

    I sit here with one insane rescue basenji. I have her on prozac and a use thundershirt because frankly, many of the group are very fearful and unstable. They also have very high rate of fanconi in the pack (lots of carriers too but since spayed/neutered not an issue) and several have digestion issues resulting in a lot of ruptured anal sack issues/vomiting bile, etc. (and btw, my first and 2nd basenji from a (fill in the blank) breeder who produced 2 litters with massive issues including serious autoimmune problems– which I didn't know til I got the 2nd one)

    I have spent my freaking entire adult life working in rescue, adopting as many rescues as I have had well bred. And I can promise you that IF I got another dog, it would be one from a responsible breeder with generations of the best health testing out there. I'd like the odds, at least, of getting a really healthy dog. My choice. With my health, it won't be happening, but I have absolutely advised my daughter to go that route when she is through with school. Work in rescue, get one later, but start with the best bet for a healthy sane dog.

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  • G

    But I wasn't lumping breeders together at all, and I certainly wasn't insulting breeders, and I don't know how you figured I was insulting rescuers . If you notice I had "show breeder" italicized meaning the particular breeders I was referring to, bred for the showring and beyond that they probably didn't give a sh*t. And I don't exactly have the lunatic, Peta type attitude of the person you know, I fully realize that there is a very legitimate place out there for GOOD breeders (and just because a breeder shows, that by itself doesn't necessarily mean they're good).

    Rescue rescue dogs DO make totally good pets, It's unfortunate that yours didn't work out for you. All 5 of the dogs I have now are rescues, a few more have passed on, and I'm sure I'll have rescues in the future. All of them have been good dogs, both health and temperament wise.
    -Joanne

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  • @giza1:

    But I wasn't lumping breeders together at all, and I certainly wasn't insulting breeders, and I don't know how you figured I was insulting rescuers . If you notice I had "show breeder" italicized meaning the particular breeders I was referring to, bred for the showring and beyond that they probably didn't give a sh*t. And I don't exactly have the lunatic, Peta type attitude of the person you know, I fully realize that there is a very legitimate place out there for GOOD breeders (and just because a breeder shows, that by itself doesn't necessarily mean they're good).

    Rescue rescue dogs DO make totally good pets, It's unfortunate that yours didn't work out for you. All 5 of the dogs I have now are rescues, a few more have passed on, and I'm sure I'll have rescues in the future. All of them have been good dogs, both health and temperament wise.
    -Joanne

    Okay let me try again.. I didn't say YOU insulted rescues, I said your comment on breeding was like ME lumping rescues.

    And for the record.. you might want to not make assumptions. I am 58 yrs old. I have had probably 4x as many rescues if not more than well bred dogs. And I sure as hell have done more rescues and helping rescues and transporting and fostering than I have ever bred.. about 10 x more actually.

    MOST of my own rescues have been fantastic. And to say "not work out for you"… no dog is more loved than this crazy dog. She will never have another home, she will never have a day in her life that everyone here doesn't love and adore her. She has "worked out." But she also has health, stability and other issues. I've dealt with a lot of dogs with a lot of health issues from rescues and desiring to have one with much better odds of health doesn't mean anything other than I'd like to own a healthy dog next time and want to up my chances.

    However, not meaning to gang up on you. I have yet to own a well bred chow because there's always another rescue in need every time I thought about it. And I am certainly, as someone who has spent decades in rescue, happy for people who adopt. :)

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  • G

    And I wasn't assuming anything when I said "not work out for you", you yourself mentioned that you've dealt with fanconi, anxiety issues and immune problems, I never implied that you didn't love any of the dogs that had these issues. Maybe I've been relatively lucky with the rescues that came through here. But the odd well-bred dog can have issues.

    My heart dog was a purebred, bred by myself, his parents had all the appropriate testing, nothing sinister in their backgrounds… this dog was born with the majority of his pancreas missing (which wasn't discovered until his necropsy at age 8). He was my unhealthiest dog of all, but I loved him the most.

    And for the record, I'm only a half dozen years behind you.
    -Joanne

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