Are Basenjis Easy to Train? (Training Timeline)

Are Basenjis easy to train? That’s a big question that a lot of potential or new owners ask quite often. This may be due to some frustrating attempts at training or from hearing about their reputation for being difficult from other Basenji owners.

Basenjis are harder to train than other dogs. Their free-spirited nature makes them independent meaning that you’ll have a harder time with them. They are very intelligent dogs and will basically pick and choose when they want to obey you and when they don’t feel like it.

This doesn’t mean that they are impossible to train. Basenjis can be trained but you will need to be more coercive than forceful. Their seeming hard-headedness actually adds to their overall charm. Once you’ve fallen in love with a Basenji, they’ll pretty much have you wrapped around their little finger.

Why Are Basenjis Hard to Train?

Basenjis are very intelligent dogs who exhibit both a strong desire for affection and closeness and a strong desire for independence and aloofness. They have a strong pack mentality which can translate to them being very protective of their family.

Basenji training

When they sleep, they usually prefer sleeping in close proximity to other Basenjis/dogs or close to you. You can crate train them early on so that they get used to sleeping there but their preference would be sleeping close to you.

Because they are so intelligent, Basenjis generally tend to choose when to and when not to obey you. If they are in the mood, they can be very much into it but if they are not, they simply won’t obey you and just go about their business.

This is very common when they are running around freely in the yard or park. They will usually not obey when you tell them to come while they are in full flight. This is why the best place for them to run around is in a fenced yard.

It’s built within their nature to be headstrong and independent which makes it quite hard to train them. I read of an owner who trained for some time with their Basenji for an Agility competition only for their Basenji to be totally none compliant when the day of the event came.

How to Properly Train a Basenji

Basenji training is best done at a very early stage of their lives. They are generally reputed to be aggressive dogs and anti-social with people and other dogs. Though a large part of this behavior has to do with the personal character traits of a particular Basenji, a lot of these undesirable behaviors can be done away with early on.

an owner kisses a tiny Basenji puppy
Kissing an incredibly small Basenji puppy!


A great way to get your Basenji to be social both with people and other dogs is to socialize them early on. Take them on play dates with other puppies and dogs and also allow as many people as possible to pat them.

Doing this at an early stage of their lives increases the chances of them being well-behaved and social as they grow older.

Use Coercion and not Force

When you are training your Basenji to obey certain commands, make sure that you entice them to obey rather than force them. The best way to do this is by using treats. Use treats early on or even at later stages of their lives to reinforce their obedience.

A Basenji being asked to wait during training
A Basenji being asked to wait during training. They respond to movements as well as verbal cues.

Basenjis don’t usually respond well to forced obedience. When you train a Basenji, especially one with behavioral issues, they have to believe that whatever you are training them out of or into is their own idea.

This means that you will have to exercise a lot of patience and take things slowly. You don’t want to rush them into anything or else they will block you out.

There will be times you’ll have to be firm with them especially when they do something you don’t want them to do again which may endanger them like biting a bottle with chemicals in it. Just make sure that you don’t do that regularly otherwise they will build resistance to it.

Basenjis are so intelligent that it seems as if they are asking you “what’s in it for “when you give them commands. For this treason, you will find that the method of offering treats or other incentives will usually bring better and more enduring results.

Assert Dominance Early On

All dogs are pack creatures and as they get socialized, especially in a pack, they will want to establish the most dominant as well as the most submissive. They will test and challenge each other to see who the leader of the pack is.

This challenge will also come to you. They will want to assert dominance over you and it is your responsibility to show them that you’re in charge. This behavior is very prevalent in Basenjis and as part of their training; you will need to be firm with them.

This is best achieved by giving commands in a firm, low tone voice. Another way of doing this is holding the soft parts on the side of their heads and bringing them close then giving them the command in a firm low voice.

They need to know who is in charge and the earlier they know this, the better. The last thing you want to do is beat them unless it is or a very serious issue like biting you or someone else. Basenjis have very good memories and beating them is highly likely to lead to really bad behavior further down the road.

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

Calling in a Professional Trainer

When you have challenges with training your Basenji on your own, you may want to call in a professional dog trainer. Before doing this though, make sure to conduct your research. Look for one that has experience with Basenjis.

Even professional breeders and trainers with years of experience have had challenges training Basenjis. The next thing you need to make sure is that their training methods are not coercive. Forceful training techniques may serve to make your Basenji obedient for the time being but they will backfire further down the road.

Your Basenji may end up being negatively impacted in a way that affects their personality or esteem. If you got your Basenjis from a breeder, you can ask them for their recommendations. You could also get recommendations from other Basenji owners that you know.


Basenjis are definitely harder to train than other dog breeds. You will need to be patient and be prepared for retraining them further down the road in some cases. Though this is the case, they are charming dogs who you will fall in love with.