Should I get a Basenji? – What You NEED to Know Before Adopting!

“Should I get a Basenji?” This may be a question you are asking yourself right now and are not quite sure if you are ready to make that commitment. Well, in this article I will do my best to give you the best possible information to better equip you as far as getting a B is concerned.

Basenjis are great pets to have as long as you have realistic expectations. They are highly intelligent but not so easy to train. Bs are also very good with children and make great apartment dogs. They also rank quite low on the hypoallergenic scale if you have allergies. They groom themselves like cats and are very affectionate and cuddly even though they can be aloof.

I’ve just given you a summarized account of the Basenji and their main characteristics. In the rest of this article, we are going to delve deeper into these qualities so that you better understand the breed before you make the commitment.

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

Do Basenjis Make Good Pets?

Basenjis are excellent companions who will always keep you on your feet with their high energy levels as well as their exceptional levels of intelligence. When compared to most dog breeds, they can be challenging because they will tend to challenge you a lot (see what I did there?) 🙂

What I mean by this is that they are less inclined to want to please like what other breeds are. This leads to them having a low attention span. They will quickly get bored during training sessions so it’s important to keep them to between 5 and 10 minutes.

This high level of intelligence means that they respond better to enticement than force. When you try to use force against them, it can make them a little bit more stubborn. You will get better results when you work at their pace. In other words, you need to convince them it’s their idea and not yours.

They are very lively and agile dogs that were bred from hunting dog stock back in Africa. Being both blood and sighthounds, they made very good hunting dogs.

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

Because of this quality, they chase after anything that moves.

Small animals, cats, other dogs and even cars are some of the things that they can take off after without warning. Don’t expect them to heed your calls to return at this point. Due to this nature, it is best to keep them in a fenced-off yard with a high enough wall that is well over six feet because they can jump that high.

They groom themselves like cats meaning that you hardly ever need to give them a bath. In fact, you only need to do that once every few months or after they have been playing in the mud. Their undercoat is also very short meaning that they shed very lightly.

It is not true that they are hypoallergenic though. They just rank lower on the hypoallergenic scale meaning that some allergy sufferers have a good chance of building up resistance.

Are Basenjis Good Pets

Even though they are good personal groomers, they can make a mess around the house if left unsupervised. To avoid this, you need to make sure that you keep an eye on them as well as ensure that they get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Are Basenji dogs good with kids?

Basenjis are great with children too. They get on very well with infants and older children but you need to keep an eye on them if you have toddlers. There have been instances where Basenjis have been less tolerant when infants become toddlers.

This is mainly due to the fact that toddlers will be at eye level with the Basenjis and tend to look straight into their eyes which they may view as a challenge. Toddlers’ erratic movements may also make the Basenjis uneasy. Though this is not always the case, you need to be on the lookout for it.

Toddlers may also not be old enough to read Basenji’s body language. Sometimes they will not want to be touched on certain parts of the body like the head and older kids can be taught not to do this or to watch for when the Basenji wants to be left alone.

Basenji will display “puppy tolerance” towards infants but may remove this privilege for toddlers.

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!

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying a Basenji?

The fact that you have read up to this point shows me that you are really considering getting one of these beautiful beasts for yourself so let me give you some more information to help you better decide whether this is the right fit for you.

They are Affectionate?

Despite their aloof nature and their reputation for being difficult dogs, Basenjis are actually quite affectionate. They will usually follow you around the house and cuddle up next to you. They build a strong bond with the family and are very protective.

In the African villages, they would sleep as a pack with their backs touching showing that they have an affinity for closeness.

Offering a Basenji dog a treat during reward based training.
Offering a Basenji dog a treat during reward based training.

They are Highly Intelligent

Basenjis are highly intelligent dogs. This usually shows through how they tend to have a mind of their own especially when it comes to obedience. It is also evident in how good escape artists they are. They will find their way out of a yard even when you have a high wall.

They will intelligently make use of anything at their disposal to work their way out of any confinement.

When it comes to training, you have to convince them that whatever action you want them to take is their own idea and not something you are making them do. You need to be really patient and not be pushy otherwise it will backfire.

They Can Act Aloof at Times

Sometimes Basenjis will just not want to be bothered. They will just go about their business without a care in the world. In such situations, it is best to leave them to their own devices. They will come back to you in their own time and way and be all cuddly again.

a cute basenji with a colorful harness
A cute Basenji with a colorful harness. Good boy!

Is a Basenji a Good First Dog?

So, is a Basenji a good first dog? The answer that immediately comes to mind is no. They can quickly overwhelm someone who is new to dogs and I remember reading an account on a Basenji forum where someone had actually gotten into depression because they were having a really bad experience with their Basenji.

That’s a bit on the extreme side though and you’ll rarely find such extreme occurrences but it paints a picture of needing to have realistic expectations before you get a Basenji. That’s the second answer I would give.

Educate yourself well enough on the potential challenges that arise from owning a Basenji and you’ll be better prepared for the likelihood that they eventually do come.

Can Basenjis be Left Alone?

A housebroken Basenji can definitely be left alone without any issues. As a matter of fact, you could technically leave them alone for days though this is not recommended. The ideal time would be around 3 to 4 hours.

If you have to spend the whole day at work, you can arrange to have a dog walker come and take them out in the afternoon to help them exercise for an hour or so. It goes a long way in helping them be more settled and not release their pent-up energy in destructive ways.

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!

How are Basenjis with Cats and Other Pets?

When it comes to cats and other pets around the house, Basenjis tend to get along quite well with them especially if they grew up together or were socialised early on in life. You still need to keep an eye on them though.

There are instances where Basenjis were left alone with the family cat and attacked or killed it. If you have to leave the house, lock them up in separate parts of the house to avoid any possible incidences.

As for other dogs, the same applies. If they were socialised early on or grew up in the same household, you shouldn’t expect any issues out of the ordinary. If you are bringing a new Basenji into a house with other dogs, there is no way of being able to predict how they will act around each other.

Each Basenji has a different personality and temperament. A good idea to get around this is to foster a Basenji you are considering getting for a couple of weeks to see whether they are able to co-exist with other dogs in the house.

During this period, it is also a good idea to get them around other dogs as well to see just how they respond around them. This will give you a good idea of how well they will assimilate into your lifestyle.

basenji dog with a simple harness
A Basenji dog wearing a simple restraint harness.

Is Basenjis High Maintenance?

This really depends on how you define high maintenance. Generally speaking, besides feeding them and other essential things any dog needs, there really isn’t much else that a Basenji needs. You only need to give them a wash every few months and they hardly ever smell except for the Fritos, tortilla, and popcorn smell lol. You can read all about that in the article I did on whether Basenjis smell.

However, you do need to be prepared for at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day. Basenjis are very high-energy dogs and this needs to be expended during the day otherwise they can get very unsettled and destructive.

How Much do Basenjis Cost?

If you want to know the cost of a Basenji, the range is anywhere from $300 all the way to around $4,500 USD. The price difference is so huge because you have the regular pet Basenji at the lower end of the spectrum all the way to show-level puppies with a pedigree and bred by reputable breeders.

The other reason Basenjis cost so much is that they are somewhat rare only giving birth once a year. Add the fact that there are a few breeders who specialise in the Basenji and you’ll get a better understanding of why they are generally more expensive than other dog breeds.


To wrap this up, getting a Basenji all boils down to whether or not you have the right understanding of the breed and are prepared for them. They are not for everyone but those of us who have embraced them can never see ourselves going back.