Are Basenjis Good Family Dogs? (You NEED to Know)

Are Basenjis good family dogs? It’s a question asked quite often by people with families who want to get a Basenji as a family dog. In this article, we are going to give you as much information as we can in order for you to make the best decision possible regarding whether or not you should get a Basenji for pet.

Generally speaking, Basenjis are great family dogs that are loyal and very affectionate. They are also very protective of their family, especially young children.

basenji dog looking happy as it explore a hedge
A happy Basenji dog explores a hedge. Red and white markings.
  • Basenjis are generally very low maintenance but do require at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.
  • They do suffer from hereditary diseases so you need to know a Basenji’s family tree before getting one.

Basenjis are basically good family dogs even though they may have a reputation for being somewhat stubborn, aloof and difficult to train. They are fun and lovable dogs with lots of energy. They will be able to keep up with your children without any problem.

Positive Things about Basenjis

To kick things off, let’s look at the good things about Basenjis to help you better understand this fascinating breed a little better.

a basenji with a small child
A Basenji licks the face of a small dog

They are Very Intelligent

Basenjis are more intelligent than your average breed. They are more inclined to make independent decisions and don’t have the need to please that other dog breeds possess. They will generally do things on their own terms, so to speak.

Though this is one of the things that make them a bit difficult, it is also one of the traits that makes them attractive to the Basenji owners. You never really know what to expect from them as they will keep you on your toes.

They are Good with Babies

Basenjis are really good with babies and will exhibit puppy tolerance towards them in a way that they will not normally do to older children or adults. There are instances where they may not show this tolerance towards toddlers.

This is due to the fact that toddlers are at eye level with them and tend to look them straight in the eyes which may be interpreted as a sign of aggression towards them.

hugging a basenji in the snow
A Basenji all rugged up for the snow.

They are Good with Children

Basenjis are great with older children especially if you train them to understand the Basenji’s behaviour and know when they need some space. They have a lot of energy and are a great fit for playing with kids in an enclosed yard or at the park.

In order for Basenjis to be well behaved, they need the opportunity to let out some steam. It is advised that you let a Basenji get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. When you have kids, this is naturally taken care of when they play together outside.

They are Very Energetic

As already mentioned, Basenjis are well known for their high energy levels which needs an outlet of expression. When they don’t get an opportunity to let out their energy, they will tend to be destructive around the house.

They can also be very unsettled and noisy. It’s important that they get an outlet to let out all that pent up energy. There is a saying the Basenji community that goes “a tired Basenji is a good Basenji”.

A happy full grown Basenji wearing a no pull harness
A happy full grown Basenji wearing a no pull harness

They are Affectionate

Basenjis are very affectionate and will often cuddle at your feet or beside you on the couch. They will also follow you around the house from room to room just to be in close proximity to you. Basenjis will also form a strong connection with a particular member of the family over everyone else.

They are Very Protective of Their Family

Having a strong pack mentality, Basenjis tend to be very protective of the pack (family). They will tend to be more protective of the young children in the family anytime they sense that they might be in danger.

They are Very Clean and Don’t Smell

Basenjis are immaculate groomers. They keep themselves clean in the same manner that cats do. They also have a very short undercoat and do not smell like other dogs do. They will, however, give off a unique smell from the sweat glands on their paws. This smell has been described as being like popcorn or Fritos.

While some may love this smell, it is not for everybody. It is usually unnoticeable unless you smell their paws. Sometimes it’s a lot more noticeable when they come inside after spending some time in the sun or after taking a nap.

A naught Basenji looking to steal some food from the kitchen counter. Opportunistic!
A naught Basenji looking to steal some food from the kitchen counter. Opportunistic!

Negative Things about Basenjis

Now, let’s look at some of the negative things you can expect from a Basenji.

They Can Be Aggressive

Basenjis have that reputation for being an aggressive dog. This cannot be applied across because each Basenji has its own personality. This has been noted enough times though to warrant a mention here and some measure of concern.

The aggression is mostly directed at other dogs or animals in general.

They Have a Strong Prey Drive

Basenjis were used as hunting dogs in Africa for good reason. They are both sight-hounds and blood-hounds. This means that they track prey through both sight and smell. They are known to take off and chase anything that moves ranging from cats, squirrels and even cars.

This strong prey drive may lead them to killing or maiming a neighbourhood cat that strays into their territory. Though they get along with other pets they grew up with in the same household, they may attack them if left alone.

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

They are Susceptible to Certain Genetic Diseases

When you get a Basenji, you need to ask for the health records of their parents. Basenjis in America were bred from a small initial stock. There are some genetic illnesses that can affect a Basenji such as Fanconi syndrome, hip dysplasia and some eye diseases.

Make sure that the these diseases are not in the family tree of the Basenji you intend to buy or adopt.


When it’s been said and done, Basenjis are great family dogs that your family will fall in love with. Ask any Basenji owner and they will tell you that though Bs can be a handful, they wouldn’t trade them for anything.