Advice for potential basenji owner

  • Hi Everyone,

    Me and my girlfriend have been talking about getting a dog for over a year now and have finally decided on a basenji. From what I've read they seem like the perfect dog for our life and our on many lists as great apartment dogs, but I had a few questions I was hoping some basenji owners might be able to help me with.

    We live in a highrise in downtown Chicago with over 150 other dogs living in the building. So being social is a must as he or she will be seeing many other dogs on the elevators, daily. I have read that there can sometime be issues as far as being social with other dogs is concerned. What are your thoughts?

    I also keep reading that they can be extremely destructive if intense exercise requirements are not met. We both have full time jobs which would leave us out of the apartment for around 8 hours a day. We plan to break this up by having a dog walker come in mid day and go on a 20 min or so walk. We would alsobe able to go on a walk in the morning and at night. Is this a sufficient amount of exercise, or is everyone taking their dogs on long runs every day?

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!

  • Dog aggression is common. You can work with your dog from puppyhood to ignore, but if you expect a social butterfly.. wrong breed.

    Yes, a lot of exercise helps relieve boredom and destructiveness, but they can be too tired to stand and still destroy things. Some are safe out of crates, many are not.

    I am curious what about basenjis made you decide they might be the best fit? I don't want to be negative, but I can tell you in all honesty that they don't make my top 10 list of easy apartment dogs. Okay, not the top 20 even.

  • Good Evening Debra,

    Thank you for taking the time to provide some feedback. I decided on a Basenji for a few reasons. I like that they are athletic and active since I am also very active when the chicago weather permits. Their intelligence, low maintenance when it comes to grooming, etc. The only negative negative characteristic was aggression towards other dogs since there are so many in my building.

    As most people do these days, I'm getting all of my information off line from what I'm hoping are subject matter experts writing these articles (obviously that's not always the case). That being said, there are quite a few pages that disagree with you about a basenji not being a good breed for apartment living. They include:

    I'm sure we could argue the validity of these sources, but I'd love to hear why you think they might not thrive in an urban apartment situation. I posted because I'm trying to educate myself before finalizing this decision. I'm thankful for all opinions!

  • I would agree with Debra as far as apartments go. Apart from anything else, an unhappy Basenji can be unbelievably noisy in expressing their dissatisfaction! You can crate to curb destructive behaviour, but unless you have a soundproof room your neighbours may be less than enthusiastic about your pet. They may not know you have a dog (not likely to be barking), but they may think you are murdering your first born!

    If you are convinced a Basenji is the dog for you, you might consider adopting an adult with known proclivities. A puppy is a blank slate, you can't reliably predict personality, but with an adult you can avoid a dog aggressive choice and with luck find a settled individual that will be content to relax and wait for your return, rather than wrecking the apartment or vocalizing its opposition to confinement.

    Good luck!

  • Sounds like you have not met Basenjis in person? Visited with breeders and/or owners? Suggest you do that first before deciding if a Basenji is the right dog for you. I know many, many people who are in apartments with Basenjis (living in San Francisco). It can work quite well. I don't agree that "intense" exercise is a requirement. Yes, exercise in general, but remember to work their "minds" too... Teaching things like sit, stay, down, etc... goes a very long way to exercise their minds and that does tire them out. All kinds of fun games you can use to exercise their minds.
    You can search for breeders by state at and go to the link Find A Puppy. Remember to always go to a responsible breeder and be sure to verify health testing

  • I love basenjis. I love their eye contact and their devious thinking and so many things. But even as an experienced owner -- Rottweilers, Chows, rescue, breeding -- the first basenji was a shock. I never imagined the dog aggression fueled fury she was capable of demonstrating. Nothing was too big for her to want to take on. I have never loved a dog as much in my life, but living with her was hell for my other dogs. I couldn't bear to rehome her, so I spent from age 2 til her death managing things. I am now on my 3rd. Yes, I love them, but they are not an easy breed. Just trying to get one that is water phobic to go potty on wet ground has driven some owners to near madness, lol.

    To add to what Pat and Shirley said, they can work out in apartments. Obviously. But it's far from even a good bet. It's fairly true that most of us have known people or had the police at our own doors because someone thought we were killing a child. An angry basenji can be unbelievably vocal. For the record, we have a Samoyed. If I weren't home, there is no way we could live in an apartment because he truly can bark for hours on end. He doesn't do it when we are home, but wow when we are gone. Fortunately we live on a hill top, fairly isolated and we never leave him alone at night. (He's only 9 mos old.) So it's not like they are the only breed that can create noise havoc.

    As for your sources, you want to always go to actual breeder or club sites. Most of those sites are not even owners, they are freelancers.

    You might even consider fostering a basenji so that you get to experience them up close and personal. As Spock said, the having is not the same as the wanting! You may utterly fall in love with them.. which I did. Or you may say, whoa Nellie let's turn this wagon around.

    One of my favorite quotes about their intelligence:

    "Are basenjis intelligent? Yes, but not in the way you might first think. If basenjis were high school students, they would not be the brainiacs who score high enough on their SATs to go to Harvard on a full scholarship. No, basenjis would be the hoodlums with the smarts to bypass security, break into the principal's office, steal a copy of the test, and sell it for cigarette money." ~ Robin Simmons<<

    For some basenji owner/breeder views:

    Mid-Atlantic Basenji Club

    While the Basenji Sisters post is far too absolute (there are basenjis that love water, there are some who do great in dog parks, etc), they certainly are very responsible and knowledgeable people.

  • I see that you did not go the the American Kennel Club breed site:
    You will find some different descriptions of these dogs there and I strongly urge you to check this site out. The website will also provide a list of breeders in the Chicago area (there are many there and Wisconsin); most of which will be happy to show you their dogs and talk more about them. I urge you to take advantage of this.

    Active - yes - but not necessarily in the way you mean.
    If you are thinking of jogging/running with one, good luck. Some people have good experiences but the breed is so highly prey driven that they will constantly be trying to take off after squirrels, rabbits, other critters (biggest killer of basenjis are cars). Your dog must be on a leash if you do go running. If you are thinking of playing ball, good luck. Again some will play but the breed is not retrievers; some won't even play with typical dog toys.

    Training will be an absolute necessity. Basic obedience best if learned in a class setting or from the online Fenzi Dog Sports Academy (and please do not buy Cesar Milan training books or videos) - but also impulse control classes, how to self relax, how to meet other dogs.

    You will need to spend time indoors with your basenji - mind games (aka tricks, interactive toys, hideNseek games, etc.) will do wonders to create a happy healthy relationship.

  • Also, if you've not had a dog before, I would not recommend this breed for a first timer.

  • My husband and I have a 1.5 yo Basenji Mix and live in an apartment in the Boston area. The "weather permitting" part of your statement wont work with a Basenji. My dog doesnt care if its 100 degrees out or 10, she needs constant exercise. I walk her at 6 am for 15 min, my husband walks her at 830 again, then comes home at lunch and walks her for a half hour, then I am home at 330 and take her to a park for at least a half hour, then usually at least one more half hour walk before bed. If we dont do this as a minimum she begins to get really restless and potentially destructive.
    My B isnt necessarily aggressive with other dogs, just not always interested. So that may mean waiting for the next elevator or going another route.
    When we adopted our dog we were told she was a lab mix by the shelter and did not anticipate having this high maintenance of a dog. I am a very experienced dog owner and she is still a handful and a lot of maintenance.
    With all that said she is the best dog and I wouldnt give her up for the world.

  • @EMurata said in Advice for potential basenji owner:

    The "weather permitting" part of your statement wont work with a Basenji. My dog doesnt care if its 100 degrees out or 10, she needs constant exercise.

    If outside exercise isn't available for whatever reason, mental exercise is a good substitute. Basenjis are very clever and if you keep their minds busy it often serves to minimize or avoid destructive behaviour. You are not going to wear a fit Basenji out by walking him or her a couple of hours a day, but I have seen them perfectly content to kick back and relax after half an hour of demanding mental exercise! Clicker training can be useful here.....

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