Why Do Basenjis Smell (Easy Stink Fixes)

Do Basenji dogs smell at all? In this post, we are going to look in-depth into this issue to see whether Basenjis smell or not. It’s a commonly held belief that Basenjis do not give off any body odour at all. This is largely true but is it a fact that Basenjis don’t smell at all?

Basenjis don’t have a strong body odour as most dogs do. This is partly due to the fact that they groom themselves like cats. Their short fur is also a contributor.

Basenjis do give off an odour which Basenji owners describe as popcorn, Fritos, tortillas and similar smells. In rare cases where your Basenji wreaks it may be due to leaking glands.

We will get into a full explanation of all these different smells in the rest of this article but first:

A tri color Basenji gazes lovingly at its owner.
A tri color Basenji gazes lovingly at its owner. The feeling is mutual!

Basenjis Don’t Have Body Odour

Generally speaking, Basenjis do not give off body odour. Well, not like you would expect from an ordinary dog anyway. Their short undercoat is usually kept in an immaculate condition much like cats do. They lick themselves clean meaning that you don’t have to bath them often.

This cleanliness and self-grooming is one of the reasons that people are in love with the Basenji. They won’t stink up the house with a dog smell and you only need to give them a bath a few times every year.

Don’t misinterpret their cleanliness for tidiness though. Basenjis can really mess up your house especially when they don’t get a lot of exercise.

Their short fur is one of the reasons why Basenjis are thought of as being hypoallergenic though this is not 100% accurate. They just rank lower on the hypoallergenic scale. No dog is completely hypoallergenic.

When and Why Do Basenjis Smell?

Now, let’s look at some of the reasons why Basenjis will actually smell. As we’ve already stated in the answer summary further up this post, Basenjis will give off smells and many Basenji owners will attest to this.

Some Basenji owners love the smell while others completely abhor it. These smells usually smell like your favourite snack ranging from popcorn, Fritos, tortillas and more. These are usually more pronounced after they wake up or when they spend some time in the sun.

So, what exactly causes these smells?

basenji dog eye wipe
Like many small dogs, Basenji’s neer eye gunk removed – preferably before they dry. Dog eye wipes help but any cloth can do.

Sweat Glands in the Basenji’s Feet Cause Odour

The place where you can smell a Basenji’s odour more strongly is on the paws. This is due to the fact that the sweat glands are located there. There are no sweat glands on any other part of the dog’s body.

If your Basenji sleeps curled up in a ball, their head will be in contact with their paws leading to a more pronounced smell when they wake up. If their body temperature rises, it will also lead to a stronger body odour. If this a problem for your, a good thing to have handy is a quality shampoo (or spray).

While I use shampoo myself for my Basenji – the reason we sometimes recommend a no rinse shampoo is because Basenjis are known to not like water and this solution will help you get the smell off without having to fight your B so that they take a bath.

IThere are other smells which can come from a Basenji that are not so pleasant.

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

Smelly Basenji Ears

One reason why your Basenji could be giving off an unpleasant smell could be their ears. When bacteria and yeast ferment in your dog’s ears, it can lead to them smelling. The smell from dog ears will be like cheese.

When you see this happening, consult your vet or get an ear cleaner for your Basenji and it should take care of your problem. You could also try the Zymox Otic Enzymatic Solution which is a highly rated ear cleaner for both dogs and cats. 

Your Basenji Has Leaking Glands

Another reason that your Basenji will smell could be because they have a leaking gland. When this happens, they will give off a really awful smell which, by most accounts, is unbearable. This smell will be more prominent around their area.

The anal gland will often leak when they are sleeping. If you suspect this to be the case, take them to the vet quickly and have them take a look at it.

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!


Though Basenjis don’t smell, they do give off a unique set of odors which may vary from one B to another. This is normal and should not be cause for concern. When the smell is cheesy (pun intended) or downright putrid, you may want to have a vet take a look at it as a matter of urgency.