Family Pet Guide > Dogs > Hounds > Basenji


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Size: Medium (25 to 60 lbs.)
Lifespan: Long (12 to 15+ years)
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Basenjis, meaning "bush things", are primitive pack dogs native to the African Congo. Basenjis are known as the "barkless dog," but veteran owners will tell you that their other noises (chortles, "baroos", yodels, whines, and screams) make them far from mute. Basenjis slightly resemble a Pharoah or Ibizan hound with smaller ears, curled tail, and stockier stature, but resemble cats in personality. Basenjis are sweet, affectionate and loyal dogs, but need tons of exercise (both mentally and physically) or else they are prone to get destructive--making them demanding and somewhat high-maintenance. According to the Basenji Club of America, "new owners quickly learn to put dirty clothes in the hamper, the remote in a drawer, and the garbage behind a closed door. They also learn that a tired dog is a good dog." Basenjis are good family pets, although not to be trusted around small animals and somewhat aloof around strangers. As ancient pack hunters, Basenjis do best in a household with another dog (especially another Basenji or sighthound), and make good watchdogs but not guard dogs.

General Care

Basenjis are graceful and energetic, and like their sighthound cousins, enjoy a high amount of off-leash activity, including lure coursing and agility challenges. Basenjis must be watched in fenced areas, however, because they like to climb, making them quite the escape artists. Basenjis also have a reputation for being "untrainable" due to their intelligence and stubbornness, but owners will tell you that they can be trained with patience, positive reinforcement, and early enrollment in obedience classes. Basenjis are generally patient with kids, but do best with older or more considerate children. If raised with them, Basenjis will follow children anywhere. Basenjis are good for people with allergies: they shed very little and need very little grooming apart from regular dog care. Basenjis can be prone to hip dysplasia, eye problems, hypothyroidism, and Fanconi Syndrome (kidney problems). Sighthound breeds cannot metabolize barbiturate-based anesthetics, so please work with your veterinarian closely if your dog requires surgery.

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