Are Basenjis Obedient? (Strategies)

Basenji obedience is a subject that is spoken of often on Basenji forums and whenever people get to speak about them. It seems to be somewhat of an issue especially for would-be owners of Basenjis. As a matter of fact, this issue scares off quite a lot of people from owning the breed.

How much of an issue is it though? It is not easy for Basenjis to be obedient. They are very intelligent dogs and generally have a mind of their own. It makes them hard to train but not impossible. You will need to work more through enticement to get results. The fact that Basenjis participate in agility events is proof that they can be trained to be obedient.

That’s the short answer in a nutshell. Basenjis are not your typical dog breed meaning that they come with their own unique set of challenges. In order to get the best results from them as far as obedience is concerned, you need to be willing to use a lot of creativity to keep them engaged.

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

Are Basenji Obedient?

So, are Basenjis obedient? The best way to answer that that they can be obedient and definitely can be trained. When we say that a Basenji is highly intelligent, what we mean is that they generally make independent decisions as far as the actions they take goes.

They will approach situations with a” what’s in it for me” mentality. Though they are affectionate creatures and often cuddly, pleasing you may not always be a big enough motivator for them to obey you.

In order to get them to cooperate then, it is necessary that you deal with them in a manner that engages them and makes them believe that obeying you is actually their own idea. Use enticement more than force.

If you try and force them into anything, Basenjis will oftentimes dig their heels in and become very stubborn. This is the last thing you want to do. In addition to keeping them interested in the training, you also need to make the sessions short.

Basenjis have short attention spans and 5 to 10 minutes at a time of obedience training is enough for them. Go on for as long as they are engaged. When they stop paying attention, your best bet is to stop and pick things up at another time.

A running Basenji leaping through the air.
A running Basenji leaping through the air. They are FAST!

Will my Basenji Obey a Command to Stop?

Basenjis have a strong prey drive and are very fast on their feet. Their long legs, in relation to body size, make them very fast. They are both blood and sighthounds meaning that they use both smell and sight to track their prey.

When you are out on a walk and they see something, they will take off in the blink of an eye and before you know it, they are gone. At this point, trying to call them back will be futile. They will be back when they are ready to return.

That’s why it’s always important to have them on a leash at all times. A good collar is good but some Basenjis have a reputation for escaping from them.  If they don’t get out of them, they may hurt their throats by tugging at the leash. A good quality harness is usually the best route to go under such circumstances.

The no-pull training harnesses are the best options to go with. They will give you control of your Basenji and make sure that your B does not get injured during your walks. The different places where your leash attached to the harness will give you ultimate control so that your Basenji does not overpower you.

How hard is it to Obedience Train a Basenji?

Training a Basenji is not always an easy task. We’ve already mentioned some of the reasons but here are a few more pointers. When you are training your B, you need to be very patient. It can be a frustrating process indeed but if you go in with the understanding that it’s an uphill battle right from the get-go, you will be better positioned to succeed.

Another trait that you will need to exhibit if you want to successfully train a Basenji is a really good sense of humor. This will safeguard your sanity and allow you to keep going even when the going gets tough.

A Basenji dog has its nails clipped
A Basenji dog has its nails clipped

How Well Trained Can a Basenji Be?

So, how well trained and obedient can you expect your Basenji to be? Basenjis can turn out quite well when it comes to obedience. In fact, they can be so well trained that they can successfully participate in obedience events such as agility courses. We will talk about that a little later.

Generally speaking, you can get your Basenji to a point where they follow instructions very well. It’s a good idea to look for trainers with specific experience with training Basenjis as well as breeders who raise and compete show Basenjis.

The best of them will have experience stretching back for generations. They will be able to give the best advice and provide the best insight into obedience training for your Basenji.

Can Basenjis Participate in Agility Events and Shows?

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.

To compete in agility events and dog shows, a dog has to exhibit a high level of obedience. Are Basenjis capable of competing in these events? The answer is yes. There are a lot of Basenjis which are entered into these every year.

This speaks volumes about their trainability. When it comes to agility events, Basenjis do really well because of their speed as well as their jumping ability. They are able to able to jump six feet into the air and can run at speeds of 35Mph.

Some segments of agility events require that they tackle the course off-leash which is a big test of their obedience. They often do really well in these events.


Though Basenjis can generally be difficult, they can be trained. It has been done many times before and will continue to happen, You just need to approach it with a little more patience and understanding than with other dog breeds.