Do Basenjis Make Good Guard Dogs?

You probably own or are thinking of getting a Basenji and are asking yourself, “Do Basenjis make good guard dogs?” In this post, we are going to take an in-depth look at this question and try to answer it as accurately as possible.

So, how are Basenjis as guard dogs? Basenjis do not bark as a normal guard dog would do. In fact, most Basenjis will actually avoid an intruder when they see one approaching. A few others will even approach the intruder in a friendly manner. Though they are generally known to exhibit some aggressive behaviour, they are not really good guard dogs.

Does that mean that they are completely useless as guard dogs though? Not necessarily. They exhibit some traits that may be beneficial as far as protecting those who are closest to them.  Let’s look at some of these traits.

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

Basenjis Have a Strong Pack Mentality

Basenjis understand and adhere to a strong pack mentality. This is something that is genetically inherited from their African ancestry where they were mainly used as hunting dogs in central Africa. It has also been said that they were also common in the ancient Egyptian civilizations.

Their high degree of intelligence is one of the reasons that people tend to take a liking to them. When it comes to the family, this strong pack mentality is exhibited in that they recognize the alpha of the family as well as anyone else who has authority over them.

They also realize that there are others within the family such as younger children who, in the Basenji’s eye, are lower down in the pecking order and need their protection. They will often protect these members of the family when they sense danger.

basenji dog looking happy as it explore a hedge
A happy Basenjoy dog explores a hedge. Red and white markings.

Though Basenjis don’t bark, they are capable of making a wide array of noises which range from howling, barooing as well as ear-piercing screams. In fact, Basenji’s screams can sound like a child is being beaten up. A few people have had neighbors call the police on them after hearing a Basenji’s screams.

When the situation calls for it and they do sense that members of their pack (family) are about to be harmed, they will do whatever is necessary in order to ward off the intruder. This can range from attacking the enemy or making noises until the danger has passed.

This strong affinity to the family somewhat makes the case for a Basenji being a good guard dog. Maybe the best way to look at it is that there needs to be a strong incentive for the Basenji’s protective instinct to kick in and what better incentive than family right?

Basenjis Are Protective Towards Children

We’ve already touched a bit on this but let’s dive a little deeper into this issue because it’s not so black and white. Basenjis are really independent dogs with a high level of intelligence. They are very conscious of personal space and don’t want certain boundaries to be crossed.

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

These include being touched in certain places such as the head or having their tails pulled. They can react in a somewhat aggressive manner which can range from a growl to warn anyone doing this all the way to snapping at or nipping the aggressor (that’s how they may interpret specific behaviour).

They are generally playful dogs when they are in the mood but can also be aloof requiring some personal space and alone time from time to time. Older kids can be trained to recognize these traits and keep their distance whenever they see that the Basenji wants to be left alone.

Basenjis also have puppy tolerance towards infants and will allow them you literally manhandle them. When they move on to being toddlers though, they become less tolerant. This can lead to some situations where you may need to keep an eye on things or separate the two.

This is an extreme example though and not commonplace but one you need to be watchful for nonetheless.

Basenjis Have a Strong Prey Drive

Another argument that can be made for a Basenji being a good guard dog is that they are hunters. Basenjis have generally been used as hunting dogs throughout history. They are agile dogs who are very fast.

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

They were usually used to flush out prey as well as kill it. Being both blood and sighthounds made them very adept hunting companions. In fact, Basenjis have been used for many years to hunt lions. That’s how capable a Basenji is.

Though it may carry these traits in its DNA, the progressive socialization that a Basenji has gone through over the decades that it has been in the western world has somewhat toned down but completely killed them off.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that most of the things we’ve used to describe the Basenji in this article would point to a dog breed that should be able to make a pretty good guard dog barring the inability to bark.

Besides that, it seems to have all the necessary tools for it to be a really good guard dog. Just like human beings, Basenjis generally have their own personalities and you will find that some of them are actually capable of being very good guard dogs. Don’t bank on this though.

Basenjis Don’t Enjoy Sleeping Outside

If you don’t live in an apartment or generally an enclosed environment, it means that for your Basenji to be a guard dog, they need to sleep outside. Most Basenjis don’t like sleeping outside unless they have been socialized to do so from an early stage.

This is also worth taking into deep consideration when it comes to making a Basenji a guard dog.

A red and white Basenji wearing a snow coat.
A red and white Basenji wearing a snow coat.

Speak With Breeders in Your Local Area

In line with the possibility of a Basenji being a good candidate for a guard dog because it has the personality traits for it, consider inquiring with some breeders in your area who have experience with Basenjis.

They may have some older Basenjis with the necessary traits needed to become guard dogs based on their personalities. It has to be noted though that the ones who fit the bill for being a good guard dog may also come with some undesirable traits which may make them difficult to handle.


Though Basenjis possess a lot of traits that may imply they would make good guard dogs, the reality is often not the case. Research by visiting local breeders or kennels to see if you can get one that will meet your criteria.