Advice for potential first-time basenji owners

  • Hello all,

    I have been reading the forums on this site for months and have learned a ton! My husband and I are young professionals living in DC and have been researching and preparing for welcoming a young adult basenji into our home. I welcome any advice from those on here who have experience with the breed. I have owned dogs from a young age (several stubborn beagles and a black lab). However, my husband has allergies to those breeds and has not yet shown an allergic reaction to basenjis he has been around.

    We will be meeting two potential red and white male Bs - one is a 1 year old and the other is a young adult. They are both currently at their breeders (each is from a different breeder). Does anyone have any advice about the pros and cons of a 1 year old versus one several years older, or would it entirely depend on their individual personalities?

    The main area in which I would like some advice is how to smoothly transition the little B into our household and schedule. We live in an apartment (next door to another male B!) with a dog park and lots of areas for walks and outside time. My husband and I work full-time but would be hiring a dog-walker to stop by at lunchtime every day. I work 4 days a week and telework a couple times a month, so I would have 3 full days at least each week to be with my B. We also are very active and often take long hikes and runs, which we would love to take our B on. Does anyone have tips about (1) transitioning a young adult into this type of household? and (2) advice on crating (or not crating) during the workday? Does anyone have problems with excessive howling when away during the workday?

    Thank you all in advance for any advice or information!

  • A lot will depend on the dog's current situation. Do not assume that because a dog is used to being crated with other dogs close by that it will translate into being comfortable in a crate while alone. I learned this the hard way with my last boy. He developed severe separation anxiety because he had never been truly left on his own before. We worked through it, getting him out of the crate as soon as possible, and he ended up being the most trustworthy Basenji I have had, but there were a few hiccups along the way. If the dog is coming from a breeder he most likely has been used to having lots of canine company. If the breeder has socialized him as a house dog and he is used to being loose in the house the transition will be a lot easier.

    Age. An older dog will likely be more settled, but also could potentially come with more issues, depending again on what his current circumstances are. Best to get any new dog at a time when you can be around fairly constantly for the first few days, and work on leaving him alone (crated or uncrated) for short periods of time at first to gauge his reaction. You can hang around in the area to see if howling or screaming occurs, and you can also judge his state of mind by his behaviour when you return. Do make leaving and returning as low key as possible. You don't want the dog to think it is a big deal.

    Lots of exercise, of course, both physical and mental. If you have had Beagles you are familiar with independent hounds, so expect a dog that is more interested in pleasing himself than you, and that is easily distracted. Good luck!

  • @eeeefarm thank you for all of this! The 1 year old is a show dog (not sure if he is housetrained even) and the 4 year old has lived in a household.

  • Most show dogs live in the home. πŸ™‚ And since they are on the road and in hotels some, have usually learned good crate behaviors.

    I'd simply meet both and see which one clicks. But first, get their sire/dam reg numbers and make sure they have health clearances. If you are unsure how, post here for help.

    My concern isn't with you getting a dog fit into your life, you seem like an ideal home.

    My concern is your husband and allergies. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed. Even though dogs that shed less leave less dander/spit/allergens all over, they still have them. Making wiping him down once or twice a day with a damp cloth after a quick grooming should help reduce the allergens. Basenjis love to sleep with their humans or nearby, generally. If your husband has serious allergies, making the bedroom a "dog free zone" will help a great deal. However, you need to consider what happens if you get him home and your husband starts to have a lot of issues.

  • @DebraDownSouth Thank you!! Our plan is to have my husband spend a couple hours with our neighbor's basenji in their apartment (which should have a good amount of basenji dander in it) to test his reaction. We also told both breeders that we need to test how my husband reacts when we meet the dogs in person. We certainly don't want a situation where we take a dog home unsure if his allergies would cooperate.

    Other precautions we have heard are to take a daily allergy med (such as Claritin) and he is open to doing long-term allergy shots. His dog allergies are moderate, not severe (he has severe reactions to cats). He is mostly okay around beagles but worse around Labradors and golden retrievers.

    We absolutely would have a "zone" in our apartment that is dog-free. We were thinking the bedroom and bathroom would be off-limits, with free reign of the living room and kitchen.

  • Have you neighbor with the Basenji let sleep with a hand towel for a couple of days, then pass along to you. Have your husband sleep with that towel under his pillow....

  • @tanza Thanks for this idea! We will try that πŸ™‚

  • I note the dog park and dog-walker could be potential issues.
    First off, I don't like dog parks (absolutely must be fenced if you do go) as people tend to "drop off" their dogs and go visit with other humans, leaving the dogs to sort out aggression or fear or other dog emotions on their own. The last time I took my male, as soon as we entered the area, 4 or 5 big dogs came over and immediately started showing bully behavior. My little boy tried to get away but they continued to "gang up" on him. Another friend told me about her experience with someone who "dropped off" their lab mix and he immediately charged and seriously bit another dog (several hundred dollars of vet bills which the other didn't pay).
    Second make sure the dog-walker understands basenjis. The walker can not simply let them off-leash (unless you have a fenced yard); they're very smart at escaping - they can back out of inappropriate harnesses; if they lock on a creature to hunt and yank that leash right out of the walker's hands they won't pay any attention to cars; the walker must always be aware of the environment and not on their mobile device.
    The BCOA website has lots of good information for new owners.

  • @wizard Those are very good points. Our dog park is fenced and usually does not have more than 3-4 dogs in it, total. I agree that constant supervision is necessary! I have heard similar stories of dogs getting badly injured. The main appeal of the dog park for me is for the dog to have a chance to socialize each day - but I've had dogs in the past who absolutely would not enjoy or benefit from a dog park. Since I have not met these two Bs yet, I haven't been able to tell how they interact with other dogs.

    What is the best type of harness (in your opinion) that won't allow a B to escape? I have been recommended martingale collars, and I've seen some Bs that wear a Ruffwear adventure harness.(

  • I like the "hound" martingale collars. If they are fitted correctly there is no way your dog is going to back out of it, plus they are wide enough that he isn't going to injure himself if he pulls, but it does give you an advantage over a flat collar (which certainly can be backed out of unless it is tight!) I'm not a big fan of harnesses, although certainly some people are. IMO, stay away from "gentle leaders" because of the potential for neck damage.

    You didn't ask, but I'm also not a fan of flexy leads because an excited dog can damage himself, other dogs, or humans for that matter if he manages to wind it around someone, and also because of the potential for the dog to run out on the road. They are also technically illegal to use in any city that restricts leashes to 6 feet, which many do.

    Also, some Basenjis are known for releasing themselves from a leash by chomping through it! Certainly not all will do this, but the ones that do spot an opportunity (when you are distracted) and they are quick!

  • @wizard
    Good points. I don't do dog parks. If you have one and have had luck, fine... but dogs are children who need a wide variety of playmates. Much safer to find a group if you want socialization with owners you know you can trust.

    I'd add on the dog walker... I use a chain between collar and leash so the little darlings can't cut the leash. Never had a breed before that could or would cut a leash in the blink of an eye.

  • @eeeefarm Thanks! A martingale sounds perfect. I've used harnesses for my beagles, because they are such pullers when they get on a scent. I will never use a flexy lead -- I saw a dog run in front of a car once when on one (thankfully, no one was hurt).

  • @DebraDownSouth I'll have to see if there is a basenji meet-up group in DC! πŸ˜‰ Great idea about the chain between collar and leash - I wouldn't have thought of it! Sounds like their teeth must be very sharp.

  • Yes martingale's are fine as is the harness you found on Amazon - never use step-in harnesses (because too easy to step out).
    And I never never use the gentle leader - I tried it on my female but she would walk with her head turned sideways until one time she saw a squirrel and then lunged after - not good on the neck. My vet said no no. The gentle leader was designed to keep golden retrievers and such to keep attention on the handler (and thus to walk slowly) but it can cause neck problems in breeds that are not people oriented.
    The chain between collar/leash is a great idea (make sure links are much smaller than tooth so cant get caught) - alternatively I put pvc pipe on the leash instead of using the chain. I had a previous male who bit through a nylon leash in the time it took the vet to turn around to get something off his counter. And my current male chewed through his leather leash in the time it took me to put on my coat - hence why I use pvc pipe pieces (I use 3 pieces cut to about 3 inches so it can be somewhat flexible).

  • @dogelover said in Advice for potential first-time basenji owners:

    @DebraDownSouth I'll have to see if there is a basenji meet-up group in DC! πŸ˜‰ Great idea about the chain between collar and leash - I wouldn't have thought of it! Sounds like their teeth must be very sharp.

    I believe they have razor blades that pop out of their gums. Until we learned better, we had a variety of slips, bras and even pocketbook straps cut so neatly you'd swear it was with scissors.
    This is one I made... simple get thin chain, about 18 inches, from Home Depot type place and 2 links to connect to collar and leash.


  • @DebraDownSouth Wow, that leash is heavy-duty! Love it! It looks like something I'd be able to create - thanks for sharing the photo!

    In other news, my husband and I made plans to spend time with our neighbor's basenji (Mojo - great name) this weekend. Fingers crossed for his allergies!!!

    If all goes well, we plan to meet with the potential Bs in the next few weeks πŸ™‚

  • Make sure the neighbors dog isn't around cats or other dogs as cross contamination could be a problem. If they have other pets, wiping him down might help so you are just exposed to him. πŸ™‚ GOOD LUCK!

  • @DebraDownSouth great news!! We just tested my husband's allergies with Mojo, our neighbor's B. He had no reaction besides some small bumps on his skin where Mojo's fur rubbed a lot. No breathing difficulties or eye burning! 0_1490544670995_image2 (1).JPG 0_1490544683436_image1 (1).JPG

  • @dogelover The neighbors B is beautiful & the wrinkles in the fore head!! I just love rubbing B wrinkles!!

  • WOHOOO, hopefully things will go as well at home!

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