Basenji Dog Breed

Dog Group: Hound Group

Class: Hound



Medium-small and quite athletically built, the Basenji is a handsome dog with a smooth, shiny coat and a sharp, intelligent expression. The coat of this breed comes in various colors: black and tan, black and brindle, copper or red. Some Basenjis have a white blaze on their faces, and they also have a furrowed brow, often making them look as thought they are constantly worried. The Basenji has a distinctive tail that curls upwards, and this breed has erect, elongated ears.

This breed is unusual in that it doesn’t tend to bark. Instead, the Basenji uses his vocals to growl, howl and produce a repertoire of other sounds, which will depend on what he is trying to say and how he feels.


The Basenji is a very affectionate and intelligent dog with a playful and curious streak. This breed is alert and energetic, and most Basenjis are eager to please their owners. This breed is probably better with older children rather than in families with young children that may tease and taunt it; the breed is also not always suited to cats and other pets unless it has been thoroughly socialized. They may get on okay with other canines, but dominance can play a part in aggressive behavior here. However, this breed does not tend to fight amongst one another, so a Basenji should get on well with others of the same breed. A frisky breed, the Basenji is a dedicated chewer, so you should bear this in mind when taking him in to your home and deciding on appropriate toys.

Height and Weight

The male Basenji tends to grow to around 16-17 inches in height, with the female Basenji reaching around 15-16 inches in height. The weight of a male Basenji can reach approximately 22-26 pounds, with females lagging slightly behind at 20-25 pounds.

Common Health and Behavioral Problems

The Basenji is at increased risk from kidney problems, eye diseases and infections, and intestinal issues. A neglected Basenji may also display a range of behavioral problems due to its need for play and company.

Ideal Living Conditions

The Basenji loves to play and therefore is best suited to an environment with space, such as a yard or garden. However, this breed will adapt well to living in an apartment providing regular exercise and play is provided.

Exercise Requirements

The Basenji is a curious and energetic dog, which needs plenty of exercise. This is not only to exercise his mind and satisfy his curiosity and energy levels, but also to keep him from gaining excess weight and becoming lazy, which the Basenji is prone to doing.

Diet and Nutrition

The Basenji is something of a vulture when it comes to food, and has been known to scavenge any food left unattended. This breed is also prone to weight gain and laziness if the diet is not properly monitored. There is no special diet for this breed, although a dry food will help to keep the gums and teeth healthy, and providing it is a quality dry food will provide all of the nourishment required. As with all dogs, fresh, clean water must always be available.

Life Expectancy

With a healthy lifestyle and no life-threatening illness or disease, the Basenji can average around ten to twelve years in age.

Grooming Requirements

Because the Basenji does not shed much at all, it makes the perfect pet for allergy sufferers. Grooming and maintenance is minimal, and a simple brush of the coat will keep him looking healthy and glossy. Another unique fact about the Basenji is that this dog cleans itself in the same manner as a cat, and is a very clean and hygienic canine.


The Basenji originates from Zaire, although drawings of very similar canines have been found on ancient Egyptian tombs. This breed is also known as the Congo Dog, and it is thought that the Basenji may have stemmed from a hunting dog used in the Congo by Pygmies. The year 1934 saw the introduction of the Basenji to Europe, and it was not until the 1940s that the breed was brought to America. The American Kennel Club first registered the breed in 1944.

Secrets to Dog Training: Consultation

Secrets to Dog Training offers a free consultation with every order! Here is one submitted by Simone about her Basenji mix called Tamsin...

Simone's Consultation

Hi Daniel,

Tamsin was attacked by another dog 3 months ago. Now, every time we go to the dog park, she shows teeth and growls at other dogs. She occasionally growls at people when I walk her and they want to reach down and pet her.

She loved going to the park (prior to the dog bite) and after about an hour she would start getting a little aggressive but I thought it was because she was getting tired of playing.

After the dog bite, she is aggressive upon entering the park and we can stay at most 10 minutes because of her behavior. I'm going to start walking her with a muzzle but would love some advice on taking her to the off-leash areas again.



Secrets to Dog Training Reply:

Hi Simone,

Sounds like you have a difficult problem there. It isn't unusual for a dog to react the way Tamsin has after being attacked. Can you give me a bit more background on Tamsin?

What breed of dog is Tamsin?
Is she a well trained dog? Can she sit, stay, and wait on command?
Does she respond to you immediately?
How is she in other social situations besides the dog park?
Does she growl at strangers/dogs when you are taking her for a normal walk?

Once I have this information I can arrange a program and give you some ideas on what to do in this case.

Thanks for the enquiry.

Kind regards,

Daniel Stevens and the Secrets to Dog Training Team
"Secrets to Dog Training - STOP Dog Behavior Problems!"

Simone's Reply:

Hi Daniel,

Tamsin is a basenji mix, although I don't know the other mix of breed. She was a Christmas present for my sister and she was told that Tamsin was a collie. My mother was going to see if anybody at her work would like a new puppy, because my sister didn't have the time to take care of a dog. When I was home for Christmas, we bonded so I've had her since she was about 8 weeks or younger...she is now 5 years old.

Some people think she is mixed with a Corgi or a Pit Bull, but everyone automatically says Basenji. I've read up about Basenji's and she has many characteristics of one.

She is well-trained and knows the basic commands. She has been to obedience class around a year ago, mainly for pulling me when she walks...which is still a problem but she is getting better. She pulls especially if she sees a cat or squirrel and she is very strong. We have enrolled in class which starts this weekend for a refresher course, mainly for me. I need to become the alpha in the household.

She growls at strangers when we walk but only if they reach down to pet her and she does not growl at everyone. She is very particular on who she likes...she has always had this quality about her. She can tell who the dog people are and would bark at the neighbors coming home who did not have a dog and not at the neighbors who owned a dog.

When people come over and knock at the door she sounds very ferocious and it take awhile to calm her down, so she does not respond quickly with "No barking." She is also really standoffish with everyone at first. She acts really timid when people come over to my place but warms up to them after she acts like she is going to tear the person apart. She has never bitten anyone or another dog, but the aggression is bad enough (cujo comes to mind).

I bought her a muzzle and took her to the park yesterday evening and there were three dogs at the park and she played with them without being aggressive. I eventually took off her muzzle too.

So she has good days and moody days. She hates all basenjis with a passion and they fight without biting of course, but it sounds like a terrible cat fight. So, I leash her immediately when I see a Basenji at the park. For other breeds, it is random, although the last time at the park we only stayed for 10 minutes. It may have been overwhelming because there were so many dogs at the park? But the day before she growled at a neighbor in the parking garage and the lady stepped back and said "she's not going to bite me is she?" Also, in the past week she has growled (cujo like) at other dogs, when we are taking a walk. At first, they come up to her and the other pet owner and myself will let the dogs do their sniffing, but then Tamsin has her mood. I don't know what to say, except "Tamsin stop, let's go" and then I apologize to the other owner.

Well, thank you very much for your time.


Secrets to Dog Training Reply:

Hi Simone,

As you probably know, once a dog gets into a serious fight, especially one that results in injury, that dog's natural aggressive instincts can come to the fore and be very difficult to contain. However there are a few things that you can do that I believe will help turn things around with Tamsin.

One of these is to go through a fairly rigorous training program, similar to that outlined in Secrets to Dog Training, starting from the very beginning. As you are doing the refresher course that should help out quite a lot and you may wish to continue on with that or use both together.

The reason I am recommending starting the training program afresh is that, if the training is done properly, then you will;
- Get Tamsin used to responding to you.
- Be able to control her in a variety of situations.
- Be able to enforce your top dog status more easily.

Those 3 things may not stop her aggressive behavior (although hopefully it will, as ideally she should wait for a command from you instead of deciding on her own course of action) but they will let you control and reprimand her effectively if she does step out of line.

I think that if she is pulling on her lead then that is also a sign that she doesn't quite understand where her place is in the family structure! In conjunction with resuming training I think that it would be worth your while reviewing “Secrets to becoming the alpha dog”. The methods outlined in that book will help establish you as the 'pack leader' and, again, make her much more likely to listen to you when you command her.

On the whole it sounds as though Tamsin has had a bad experience but from what you are saying I think that she will come through it ok. However, if you are genuinely concerned that she may bite someone, or another dog, then you should muzzle her in those situations until you are confident that you have her under control.

The last thing you or Tamsin needs is a visit from the police, especially if she has previously been acting aggressively towards neighbors and the like as you stated in your email. Better safe than sorry!

Well I hope this helps. You have my sympathies with an awkward situation, but hopefully within another month or two she should have settled down.

Kind regards,

Daniel Stevens and the Secrets to Dog Training Team
"Secrets to Dog Training - STOP Dog Behavior Problems!"

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About The Author

Daniel Stevens is the renowned dog trainer and author of Secrets to Dog Training: STOP Dog Behavior Problems!, one of the leading dog training guides on the market today selling over 25,743 copies (and counting). He currently heads the Kingdom of Pets dog training team.