Are Basenjis High Maintenance?

They are generally a tricky dog breed but are Basenjis high maintenance? We will attempt to answer this question as in-depth as possible in this article.

As far as grooming and care, Basenjis are generally low maintenance. They keep themselves clean and don’t smell and do require a lot of exercises in order to keep their high energy levels under wraps. Basenjis need to be socialized early on in order to be tolerant of other dogs, pets, and people.

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

Generally speaking, Basenjis can be a tricky lot. You never really know what to expect from them and in that regard, you need to make sure that they are stimulated in ways that keep their curious personalities satiated.

Basenjis are intelligent dogs that will not always fall into line when you want them to. They have a mind of their own and will sometimes want to know what’s in it for them before they think about obeying you.

It can be a mixed bag with them. They can be really obedient at one time, listening to your every command then all of a sudden decide they would rather not participate in your silly games. Such is their nature but most Basenji parents will tell you they wouldn’t trade their little Bs for the world.

An owner sits with her larger red and white Basenji. Not so small!
An owner sits with her larger red and white Basenji. Not so small!

Do Basenjis make good pets?

Basenjis make challenging pets. This is because they will keep you on your toes due to their boundless energy. If you would rather have a chilled life then a Basenji is not really the best option for you.

If you can get past their seemingly inexhaustible energy levels and are able to keep them intellectually stimulated, Basenjis are actually great pets. They are both sight and bloodhounds but their sighthound side seems to be the most dominant one.

This means that they will chase anything that runs. For this reason, the best place is to keep a Basenji inside a fenced yard. You need to make sure that the fence is a good height too because they are known to leap over them.

Some may consider having underground fences installed but these may not offer a strong enough barrier that stops a Basenji.

Choosing Basenjis for Family and Kids

Basenjis are best suited to a family that has older kids who can understand their mannerisms. If you have a toddler or baby, it’s best to get a puppy. Basenjis can get a bit rough with toddlers when they start walking.

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

They are a bit more gentle with babies because they exercise puppy tolerance towards them. When they become toddlers, some Basenjis may feel threatened by them. This is mainly due to the fact that toddlers tend to make erratic movements which may startle your Basenji.

The other reason is that toddlers are at eye level with the Basenjis and tend to look straight into the Basenjis eyes which they may translate as a sign of aggressive behaviour. They tend to get along with other dogs or pets in the same household but may get aggressive with other Basenjis or dogs they don’t know.

Basenjis are super clean and only need a bath once every couple of months. They groom themselves much like cats do and they don’t have an odour because they have a short undercoat.

They also have a strong sense of loyalty towards their family. This is because they inherently have a strong pack mentality. To this end, they tend to want to be within very close proximity to people or other dogs in the family. They are also very protective of their pack (family).

Can Basenjis be left alone?

Basenjis are known to cause some havoc when left alone in the house. They can mess up a home. The reason for this is usually because they are looking for ways to let out some steam.  They require a lot of exercise on a daily basis. Once they are tired, they usually settle down. That’s where the saying “a tired Basenji is a good Basenji” started. Tired is good!

A Basenji puppy sleeping on the couch.
A Basenji puppy sleeping on the couch.

Another way of getting around the possibility of causing mayhem is to take your B for behavioural training with an experienced trainer. If you have a cat in the house, it’s best to confine them to separate parts of the house.

There have been reports of Basenjis killing cats when left alone with them. This can even happen when there was never any sign of aggression towards the cat when you were around. It’s better to be safe than to come home to a dead cat.

Are Basenjis dangerous?

Basenjis are reputed to be temperamental. Though this is the case for a number of them, it isn’t the truth for all of them. They are very intelligent dogs and protective of those that are close to them. In the same light, they can be aggressive towards other dogs.

There are those who report that they are fine with other dogs but only become aggressive with other Basenjis. The scenarios can play out in a host of different ways. When you look at it generally, you need to handle your Basenji with the utmost caution, especially around people, children and other pets.

I’ve already mentioned that they have been known to kill other family pets in their homes. This will also happen with cats that may stray into your yard as well as small animals like mice and squirrels.

Their prey instinct is very strong and is most likely the biggest reason that they were used as hunting dogs in central Africa where they originate.

Are Basenjis good for first-time owners?

Can Basenji be left alone

If you are a first-time owner of a Basenji, you need to understand that you will need to invest a lot of time into them. The major part of this time investment will be in giving them daily exercise. It may mean going out for a jog, walk or out to the dog park for some play.

They need to have this daily dose of exercise so that they let out some of that energy. When this doesn’t happen on a daily basis, they tend to misbehave. If you have a busy work schedule where you are not at home for large chunks of time, a Basenji is probably not the best dog for you.

If you are thinking of getting a B as a first-time owner, do as much research as possible before taking the leap. A good idea is to consider fostering one from a shelter to see whether you can work successfully with one. Only jump in when you are convinced that you can work well with them.

Are Basenjis noisy?

Basenjis do not bark but they can be very noisy. They make a howling or yodelling noise. They can make an annoyingly noisy sound which can literally sound like you are trying to kill a kid in your house.

If you live in an apartment building, this can be very annoying for your neighbours especially if it happens while you are away at work.

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

Do Basenjis like snow?

For dogs that have a relatively short undercoat, Basenjis are known to love playing in the snow. Basenjis that live in colder regions tend to grow a thicker undercoat and shed more than any other regular Basenji.

I guess this added layer of insulation protects them in the cold weather.  Basenjis generally don’t like playing in the water though. They will avoid walking on the wet ground after it rains though they sometimes enjoy playing in the rain.


If you are considering having a Basenji as a first-time owner, be prepared for a lot of work and expenditure of energy on both your parts. They can be demanding. Having said that, many Basenji owners will agree that they will not trade their Basenji for the world.