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the search for a dog
basenji

Breed overview

  • Breed groupHound Group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height16 to 17 inches 
  • Weight20 to 26 pounds
  • Coat length & textureShort, fine, and dense
  • Coat colorChestnut red, black, tricolor (red, black and white), or brindle. White markings are common, but shouldn’t be the dominant color.
  • Exercise needsModerate 
  • IntelligenceHigh
  • BarkingAlso known as the “African barkless dog”, this breed is known for not barking. However, they can vocalize in other ways, like yodeling.
  • Life spanApproximately 12-16 years 
  • TemperamentConfident, playful, affectionate, intelligent, and inquisitive 
  • HypoallergenicNo
  • OriginCentral Africa (present day Democratic Republic of the Congo)

👉 No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but some are better than others for allergy sufferers.

Basenji fun facts

  • Basenjis are considered to be “barkless” dogs. Instead of traditional barks, they’re known to sometimes “yodel” when playing.
  • They were originally bred as hunting dogs due to their agility and stamina, and are among the world’s oldest dog breeds. They were depicted in art from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia hundreds of years before coming to the United States in the early 1900s.
  • Basenjis do not enjoy swimming or water play as much as other breeds do. Instead, you can channel their high energy levels into off-leash adventures and daily exercise. They also enjoy a variety of dog sports and long walk opportunities.
basenji-fun-facts

Basenji temperament and characteristics

In general, basenjis are incredibly playful, well-tempered, and inquisitive. They’re a good option if you’re looking for an adventurous pal and don’t mind engaging their intelligence regularly. Their playful & gentle characteristics make them ideal for engaging play, and a great pet of choice for families with kids. Older children will love these unique dogs, as they are good companions and a great addition to your family.

Basenjis are generally accepting of other dogs and animals in the family and can bond well with them if they are socialized from a young age. They do not enjoy the presence of visitors, and may act aloof or territorial when encountering strangers. However, you don’t have to worry about a basenji barking at your visitors much — perhaps just the occasional yodel! 

Common basenji health problems

Basenjis are generally very healthy, and are considered to be a low-maintenance breed. However, they are prone to some genetic health concerns, including certain eye issues like progressive retinal atrophy. 

Prospective puppy owners can request breeder blood tests to determine a dog’s risk for hereditary or breed-specific health issues. You can also use this to check for vital blood nutrients and general health information. This can help you to make a preventative health plan to minimize the risk of genetic health problems. The Basenji Club of America provides useful information on how to avoid important genetic predispositions as much as possible. Some common health concerns basenjis experience include:

  • Fanconi Syndrome. Fanconi Syndrome is often scanned for at birth. This abnormality releases nutrients into the urine instead of the bloodstream, affecting a dog’s kidneys. 
  • Immunoproliferative enteropathy. This condition causes severe intestinal inflammation and can be fatal. Basenjis have proven especially prone to this disease.
  • Patellar luxation. Patella luxations , or joint displacements, are common in basenjis, as with other smaller breeds.
  • Heart murmurs. Murmurs are sounds heard through the stethoscope that could point to an underlying cardiac condition. They may or may not be serious, depending on the cause.

Educating yourself about potential health issues in your basenji can help you to find prompt treatment and extend the life of your pet. Routine checkups can help you to make sure that you have a healthy dog, and can even help you to catch and reduce the likelihood of certain types of cancers. 

Cost of caring for a basenji

If you’re considering getting a basenji, be sure to plan ahead for the puppy phase. First year basenji expenses can total approximately $3,000, which covers veterinary care, toys, and other expenses for your furry friend. After the first year, you can expect costs to average around $1,100, which includes well checks, food, and toys. 

These costs can rise in cases involving any pre-existing or genetic conditions. Costs can also average around $3,000-$5,000 for procedures and quality of life purchases for your pet. Health insurance is a great way to minimize unexpected costs associated with your pet, and can help to save you money in the long run. You can also consider a pet savings account, allowing you to set money aside in case of medical need for your furry friend.

History of the basenji

The basenji is unique, having ties to ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, and Mesopotamian cultures. Basenjis appear on numerous sculptures and regional art pieces, indicating that this breed had great importance throughout history. In more recent history, the basenji has been bred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a hunting dog. They have long been renowned for their agility, intelligence, and trainability. 

The basenji breed didn’t find widespread popularity outside Africa until the mid-1900s, but it soon became a lovable family breed. The barkless, playful, and affectionate dogs quickly became close with their new families.

Today, these small animals are known as a great pet of choice for families with young children, families, and more. The general consensus is that they’re a healthy breed, without many of the common problems you’ll see in other breeds.

basenji-history

Caring for your basenji

Caring for a new puppy can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to help. First, make sure to schedule your basenji’s first vet trip, and get them up to date on their vaccinations. Then, you can puppy proof your home and make it a safe place to play. Don’t forget to consider anything you’ll need to buy to get through the teething phase.

Exercise

Basenjis are energetic, but they can often entertain themselves with toys or other forms of engaging play. They only need about an hour of exercise per day. Any time beyond that can be considered an added treat! Because of their moderate exercise requirements, basenjis are great for city environments or areas with less available yard space. As long as you plan to take them to the dog park or on frequent walks, they’ll be able to thrive in your home. Basenjis love any attention they can get, so be sure to indulge in some extra cuddles and pets after a bout of playtime.

basenji-exercise

Grooming

Basenjis are clean animals who self-groom more frequently than other breeds. They are considered a good choice for allergy-sufferers due to their low shedding, and are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. For best results, it’s generally recommended that you groom your basenji every six weeks to ensure that their ears and nails are in good condition. This is also helpful to maintain the natural shine and look of the coat, and to keep it clean of any sort of dirt or bugs they bring inside.

The coat is easy to maintain between grooming appointments, as it is short and dense. This decreases the risk of matting, and gives less opportunity for dirt to live under the top layer of the coat, nearest to the dog’s skin.

Diet and nutrition

Basenjis love their treats, but are more prone to obesity than other breeds due to their increased potential for thyroid problems. Because of this, it’s generally best to feed your basenji a balanced diet of lean meats and veggie-based foods to ensure that their nutritional needs are met. If you’re unsure of how much to feed at any stage of development, reach out to your veterinarian. Adult basenjis, on average, should be fed about a cup of food per day, split between a smaller snack and a larger meal.

Training your basenji

These dogs are incredibly intelligent and engage well with their humans. However, they aren’t considered to be the most easily trainable. Their instinct towards creativity requires dog trainers to come up with new and engaging ways to enforce learning and repetition in the training process. 

However, their intelligence can make the training process simpler in some ways. Trainers and pet parents can reward them continuously throughout the training session, using treats and toys for positive reinforcement. Clickers are also a great tool to keep their attention on the lesson, and to more quickly communicate when the good behavior or action has been done. It’s basically music to their ears to hear a signal that there’s a treat coming!

basenji-training

Breeds similar to the basenji

If you’re looking for a quiet breed, but aren’t quite sure if getting a basenji is the right choice, there are many other types of dogs that you can consider. We’ve included a few below:

  • Shiba inu. Shiba inus are known to be intelligent, quiet, and great family-friendly pets. While they are difficult to train, they are quite friendly and affectionate with their pet parents and “pack.” 
  • Borzoi. Borzois, while more stubborn than other breeds, are beautiful, intelligent, and very quiet. This dog is a great choice if you love action or if you’re looking for your next adventure buddy!
  • Shih tzu. Shih tzus are ideal “apartment pets” and do well in relaxing indoor environments. They are easy to maintain and are considered to be a quieter dog breed.

Frequently asked questions

Is a basenji a good family dog?

Basenjis are great family dogs, as they are very affectionate and loyal. They aren’t considered to be aggressive, and love to play and cuddle. 

Do basenji dogs bark a lot?

Basenjis don’t bark, and are considered to be a “barkless breed.” This is due to their shallow larynx, which results in any noises being minimized to a “yodel-like” sound. 

Are basenjis considered aggressive?

Basenjis aren’t generally considered aggressive. They may be aloof when encountering new people, though. 

Is a basenji a good first dog?

A basenji is a great first dog if you have the resources to invest in engaging toys, training, and proper nutrition for them to thrive. They are quiet, loving, and loyal pets, and only need a moderate amount of playtime during the day.