Are Basenji Working Dogs?

Becoming a Basenji owner doesn’t only involve taking care of your dog and attending to their needs all the time. Sometimes, there are other perks that come with owning a Basenji that are not so obvious.

Here is a question that a lot of people ask for their Basenji. Are Basenji working dogs? Can they do jobs for us?

Yes, Basenjis can be working dogs as long as they are trained correctly. They suit certain jobs far more than others, Historically Basenjis are dogs that were bred for hunting in the jungles of the Congo in Central Africa.

patting a happy red basenji on the head
Have you ever seen a happier red Basenji?

If you want a specific type of hunting dog, then a Basenji could be a great fit for you. A working dog is a dog that is trained and employed to do important work for the owners.

Basenjis come with a special set of skills and abilities that make them ideal for specific types of work such as hunting. They naturally have a prey instinct. They are classified as both blood and sight hounds possessing great eyesight as well as smell for tracking prey.

They are also very fast and agile with a strong bite force.

Can Basenjis Hunt?

Basenjis are the oldest and earliest type of breed to be domesticated. They were selected for this partly because of their quietness since they don’t bark. It allowed them, among other things, to be stealthy in hunting situations.

training a tricolor Basenji puppy
In the process of training a tricolor Basenji puppy

The Basenji was used by African Tribes in the Congo for hunting. Their history dates much further back though. Pictures of the Basenji can be found in Egyptian pyramids as well as other ancient structures from that era. It’s evidence that the Basenji was domesticated thousands of years ago.

From those days to the present, they have been and are still used in some African countries for hunting. Basenjis were used for flushing animals out of their hiding places when hunting. They would lead the prey into hunter’s nets.

Basenjis are also used to control rodent populations in African villages. Strong prey drive is also one of their well-known characteristics. Because they are silent, they were fitted with traditional bells so that their owners knew where they were during hunts.

red and white basenji puppies
Two Basenji puppies are playbiting each other.

Working Dog Jobs for Basenjis

JobHow Good Are Basenjis
Rescue dogs+
Therapy dogs++
Working dogs for the blind+
Working dog for the deaf++
Narcotics detection
Guard work+++
Search and Rescue

Can you train a Basenji?

Basenjis are trainable though you will need to exercise a lot of patience and effort. Bs are quite intelligent and have a mind of their own and a higher sense of independence in comparison to other breeds. This means that they will pick and choose what they want to do at any given time.

If they simply don’t want to perform a task, they will simply not do it. They often take the “what’s in it for me” attitude when it comes to training. For this reason, you need to keep training sessions very short as they get bored easily. 10 minutes max is ideal.

Having said that, they catch on pretty fast. The only challenge is that they may not want to entertain you if they are not into it at that particular moment.

The best age to train a Basenji is between 6-8 weeks. This is the age when they will be energetic and enthusiastic to please their owner. This is the time when they can learn new names,  be potty trained, and be taught to walk on a leash.

Advanced training for them is best at 9 -12 months old. This is because they will be already getting along with most basics.

A Basenji sits on a mans lap and sleeps.
A full grown Basenji snoozes in a lap. Taking lap dog to the next level!

Do Basenjis Bite?

The Basenjis are well known for their aggressiveness, so it is best to train them early to avoid this. They can bite anything that moves. Many reports show that they have killed neighborhood cats, birds, and other animals. They need to be socialized around other animals early on in their lives.


In summary, the Basenjis are good working dogs when well trained. They can help you with a quite number of tasks not limited to those mentioned in this post. You just need to understand that you will need to exercise a high degree of patience in order to get the desired outcome.