Basenjis... redeeming qualities?

I’ve been thinking about getting a dog for a couple of years now and almost got a poodle mix before I was talked out of it by some experienced dog owners. A ton of people have suggested I look into getting a basenji, but each time I do research on them, I only seem to encounter neutral to negative feedback about them. I understand they’re clever, highly active, and willful, but that also describes my family’s GSP.
I’ve read through some posts on this forum and asked around in other forums and even people who seem to like this breed don’t seem to have anything terribly nice to say about them. They go on and on about how owning a basenji means constant household destruction, aggression, separation anxiety, aloofness, and the impossibility of training... but what are the upsides, beyond being pretty? Why own a basenji and not any other dog? Is it the same reason people keep high-content wolfdogs—for the challenge of it?

I consider myself a responsible and adaptable person, but it seems like every basenji resource and anecdote is about how unmanageable and difficult and unpredictable they are, even from breeders! I’d like to hear from people whose basenji ownership has been rewarding in ways other than the challenge of it. I can’t tell when people are being truthful and realistic about a difficult breed, and when they’re exaggerating about challenges to boast about their incredible wolf-taming skills. What do people actually like about their pets?

My girl has never been destructive and loves being on the couch with me, not on my lap but touching bodies in some way. She greets everyone but will move away after she hss said hello. B's are not untrainable, they do things in their own way. My girl recalls nearly every time, but I wouldn't trust that she'd come off lessh. I have never regretted getting her, my first Basenji.

Hey there! I think you may have messaged me on my Tumblr but I'll respond here too.

I own basenjis because they aren't your typical "dog". They are quirky cat-dog creatures that make my life whole. They are small, clean, quiet and hilarious. I am not a big fan of dog drool and TONS of hair all over my clothes and house. I like that I can pick them up when I need to, I like that they take me 10 minutes to groom, I like that they aren't expensive to feed (ie not a great dane amount a food), I like that they think for themselves, I like that they don't hide their "emotions", I like that they learn quickly (even if they prefer not to repeat it over and over), watching them run makes me cry (no joke, I cry at Fast CATs lol), I love how they like to snuggle under blankets, I love when I have all 3 on my lap just happy to be near me, HEAD TILTS and yes, I do love how they look. My dogs do not have separation anxiety, are only "aggressive" with some strange dogs, don't know the meaning of the word aloof and all 3 are trained better than most of the dogs I see at work (i'm a vet tech).

They do have energy but like a lot of sighthounds (and cheetahs!) they GO GO GO and done. Mine just did some laps in the yard and are crashed on the couch. My adult dogs are pretty easy to live with, puppies are BAD but that can be said for any breed lol. My youngster shred 3 dog beds when I fell asleep on the couch the other day. He was bored and found something to do! My dogs are in their kennels when I am not home or I do believe they would destroy my house. My poor blinds have suffered many "OMG OMG A SQUIRRL!!!!!!" attacks. They have high prey drive and don't always do well with cats or other small animals. Mine are fine with the cat they grew up with but all others are prey to be chased. They aren't always as forgiving of small human antics like a lab would be. Gotta train your kids too.

I think a lot of the negative things actually do come from a good place. People LOVE their breed and are afraid someone will get one based on a couple of traits and the dog will end up being rehomed for being a basenji. I think a lot of people get carried away with the "ugly" part of "The good, the bad, and the ugly" and forget that there was a time when they were new to the breed. There is a problem with BYB/Millers telling people they are silent and don't shed. Perfect dog right?? BUT WAIT, there's also prey drive, destructive behavior, stubbornness, etc. So I think that makes people hesitant of newbies and want to be sure they know there is more to them than being small, low shed no barkers. I think you need to meet some before you decided if they are for you! Where are you from? I know many breeders.

So, to sum up my incoherent wall of text: I love my breed and it's true they aren't the easiest breed to work with but I wouldn't have anything else (well maybe an Ibizan hound LOL). Like any animal, find a good breeder you trust!

@crazysenji I’m from Indiana. There’s a breeder nearby that I’ve been thinking of messaging to ask if I could just come and meet her dogs to get a first-hand impression of them, but that feels so forward—there don’t seem to be any basenji clubs within driving distance or I’d do that.
I’m honestly more of a cat person than a dog person, usually, but I’m allergic to cats and so are most of my friends. It seems like with any breed that has unusual traits or care requirements, people want to make sure that new owners aren’t irresponsibly getting impulse pets they won’t be able to care for... and do so by talking about them like they’re the worst pets ever, only for masochists with advanced degrees in dog psychology. Even “so you think you want a tarantula” advice makes them out to be intimidating and difficult pets.

You are SO right about people acting like they are the only ones qualified to own their precious breed. They may be well meaning but it's irritating! I think ego plays a part there too lol. Cat people are often drawn to basenjis because they aren't super "doggy".

Check out Carole Kirk of Possum Creek Basenjis. She's a sweet lady and has wonderful dogs! I've learned a lot from her and again, I can't stress how lovely the temperaments of her dogs are. She's near Lexington, KY I think. I can't speak for her but I've never known her to be rude or put off by people interested in the breed.

My dog's breeder is in Indiana near Louisville, KY and I'm a bit biased but I love my Meisterhaus boys <3.

I am in OH and there are A LOT of excellent breeders here to!

Dog shows are another excellent place to meet them :).

I got my B because the first people that got her liked her catlike qualities, but forgot that she was actually a dog that needed to be exercised and stimulated. They left her in a back yard for 4 years before they decided to give her up for adoption. When I got her, I realized right away that she was the PERFECT Basenji! I’ve never given her a bath, trimmed her nails nor has she ever made a sound! She HAS however destroyed two pairs of my VERY expensive leather shoes, along with the shoes of a guest in our home. She knows good leather! However in the last five years that we’ve had her, this has almost completely stopped since she no longer feels separation anxiety (and we learned to never leave good leather out where she can get to it!) My husband and I walk her twice a day, and she has a routine that she’s comfortable with, so she’s pretty much never destructive at all anymore...except for the mouse that she caught in our kitchen two weeks ago...I think my husband was more proud than she was with that one — it must have come in through our garage! She curls up between us on the couch every night, and sleeps in our room at night on her own bed on the floor next to our bed. She definitely needs to be close to us at all times as part of our pack, but not “touchy-feely” affectionate. However, if one of us goes to the bathroom, she goes too, because it’s another opportunity for us to pet her, etc. This is my second Basenji, and as long as you keep them busy, tire them out, and give them lots of affection, they’ll let you be part of their pack forever.

We've had our puppy for three weeks as first time dog owners, and there have definitely been times when we felt we'd made a huge mistake, like when she figured out on day 3 how to climb out of her play pen, though we should have been using the door instead of teaching her the way in and out was over the top by putting her in that way. For the most part, she wants to be on our laps or chasing something. We also created our own problem with a minor case of separation anxiety by indulging her desire to be on our laps all the time, but she's learning so quickly (mostly house trained, sit, come, stay, don't bite if you want to be on the couch, it's okay to be alone, etc.) and has brought a lot of fun and snuggles to our lives. We're also very popular in our city neighborhood and our vet because of her. We were also very proud at puppy play when she held her own against the three other doodles that were significantly larger. So far the only differences between her and other breeds is that she climbs and yodels and is much smarter than the retrievers I grew up with, but that has made her easier to train. She has wanted to meet every single person and dog she sees, and seems disappointed if they don't acknowledge how cute she is. And we're definitely getting in better shape with the walks and chasing! I would highly recommend a basenji based on my very limited experience, but thought I'd share my impressions so far as a newbie to dog ownership and the breed.

@basenjicurious - Basenjis are a "thinking" dog... They are hunters by instinct, not taught. They are sighthounds, what they see they chase. Breeders will often tell the negative first then the good. They are great dogs... fun dogs....dogs with a brain. And yes they are clever. Basenji puppies like all puppies chew... leave "stuff" around and they will claim as theirs... They do not know the difference between "their" stuff and yours... Don't expect them too... don't leave items where they can get them... you have to work with them, work not only their body but their minds. I have been in the breed for 30+ years and would not have any other breed

go to my website - its in the signature block I think - but if not
www.zandebasenjis.com and read the various articles including the Put Off and Doing the Breed a Disservice and other things about surviving life with a Basenji.

As long as you are and remain the pack alpha - there is nothing bad about the Basenji that love, UNDERSTANDING, and mutual respect won't overcome. I have had 8 at a time over the years (38 or them) and would never have another breed.

@basenjicurious

Intelligence, if you like intelligence they will not disappoint you.

Loyalty and bonding, they bond very closely to their owners once they get to know and trust them. You have to earn their trust and loyalty, but when you do it is worth that much more because it didn’t come easily.

Humor, they make you laugh if you have the “right” sense of humor. Some might not find it funny but others find them hilarious.

Grace and speed, they are very regal dogs who love to be admired for their majesty. They are really beautiful looking dogs.

If you have a strong but slightly dry /quirky sense of humor, if you enjoy a challenge, if you are intelligent and enjoy puzzles, then you may love the breed.

Many who want a dog look for loyalty and obedience, so they are disappointed when they get a basenji. They are like an odd tasting food, some will love the taste and rave about it, others will say that’s the most disgusting thing they have ever tasted lol.

@basenjicurious said in Basenjis... redeeming qualities?:

@crazysenji I’m from Indiana. There’s a breeder nearby that I’ve been thinking of messaging to ask if I could just come and meet her dogs to get a first-hand impression of them, but that feels so forward

That is not forward at all. In fact I'd think you would be more than welcome. The worst that could happen is they'd say "no". In which case no big deal.

I think Zande has the best information for prospective owners (some of it humorous) I've seen. The website is definitely worth a look.

Also keep in mind that even Basenjis from the same litter are all individuals with their own personalities. So information is more about proclivities than anything. That said, we've never had a dumb Basenji. Some are smarter (or dumber) at some things than others but they've all had things they are smart about.

Sadly, most isn't exaggerating... it is fairly realistic preparation. If you need an easy dog, a dog that is easy to train, on that won't challenge you or look for alternate ways to do what you said literally without actually complying, this isn't the dog for you.

The upside: Waking up to sayblee's nose gently touching mine to wake me up. The "not dog" smell. They eye contact and feeling of companionship more than a pet. Watching the cogs turn as they figure things out. Gaining their trust and love so they are willing to work with you.

Consider fostering one for a few weeks up to 2 mons and get a close person view of what it is like.

Like so many others here... I'm totally in love with my girl. This is our story...

She was 18months old when I brought her home. I tested leaving her in the house alone while I stepped out for a micro-minute. She wasn't so keen on the idea and chewed off the corners on my decorator pillows. Eventually, all of them. I found a solution for that. Then I went out and bought thread to "fix" her "modifications".

I've had her almost 18 months now. She even seems to comprehend that dozing on the bed in the AC is a better option than sitting in a hot car while "Mom" goes into stores she cannot go in. It's been a really long time since she's chewed up my pillows. She has free reign, 100% access inside and she behaves (even when she's alone). She comes running to the door to greet me as soon as she hears the key slide into the lock.

It took a couple months for us to learn how to communicate with eachother. She tries to let know if she needs something. I try to make sure she has it before she needs it. I make an effort to take her someplace (dog park, hiking, a really long walk, someplace new) 6 days/week. And she let's me mostly veg for a day if I need it. I couldn't have a better dog!

Why have a Basenji? I answer that question with a question....Why ride a roller coaster? There are amazing similarities in the answers to both questions. Think about it.

Indeed, why a basenji? I had a mental check list; hypo-allergenic, less than 40 pounds, personality...serval breeds fit this. I was doing research on other breeds when I came across this book about basenjis. In that moment, I was a goner. I LOVE the way they look. I didn't have dogs growing up, so I did a LOT of research. We got Rory, in March 1996, our very first basenji. She was such an easy basenji, so easy we decided lets get another! So in December of that same year we welcomed Tim her brother, who could not have been more different than night and day!! Honestly, had we gotten Tim first, I don't know that we would have been a 2 basenji home EVER, but for as much trouble as he was, he brought that much joy into our lives. We have 2 different basenjis now, 2 different personalities, and I wouldn't change any one of them. We adopted older dogs second time around, one with biting issues that were so bad we are his 4th home. Not everyone is equipped to deal with some issues. I'm not some miracle worker dog whisperer, it took years, of patience, reapatitve behavior modification on our part, some on his, and to be perfectly honest, my husband was afraid of the dog for the first 2 years we had him, but he didn't give up on him. We are now bonded as a pack. I would never not have 2 basenjis. I love how I feel when they are with me! Plus they are the coolest looking dogs!!

They are spectacular-looking dogs. We've had two purebreds and now own a mix. If you want a dog who will be wagging it's tail like crazy when you come in the door, that's not a basenji. I used to say if I "unzipped" my basenji, out would step a cat, and I like that. Think dog with a cat's smart and discerning personality and you have the basenji personality.

Having said that, they can be cuddle dogs who like nothing more than to cuddle by something or someone warm.

Some basenjis are not particularly dog friendly. And they DO shed. Oh, and they're not fond of RAIN.

@tanza I’ve only had two Basenji’s but it only took one to know I love the breed. But they are a handful😃

@basenjicurious
It’s great that you’re doing your homework on the basenji. I think the reason you read all these “horror stories” is because they are not your typical dog. They are a beautiful and highly intelligent breed with a very strong prey drive. My Kembe is my first basenji but I was familiar with the breed because my brothers were basenji owners. I got her when she was 1years old - she was returned to the breeder by the previous owners. Kembe has never been destructive, she has free reign of our house, and I can leave her at home alone. It’s extremely important to exercise them regularly - especially exercise and stimulate their minds, and establish a routine (I can set my watch to my dog). They are definitely trainable - it scares me to see how smart she is and also well behaved. Basenjis are extremely lovable and hilariously funny. If I have a treat that my dog especially likes - she will do her whole “repertoire of tricks” without me even asking her. She dances to let me know it’s time to eat and will sit right next to me and hit me with her paw when she wants to go for her walk.
I think our basenji chose us - when we went to the breeders home to look at her - She jumped up next to my husband on the couch and curled up! I was sold on her! I really hope you find a basenji that right for you!
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