How to Care for a Basenji

Originally from central Africa, the basenji is a small, short-haired dog with high energy and a tendency to chew. The breed has no bark, but an excited basenji may make a sound described as a yodel or howl. Basenjis are intelligent, inquisitive and stubborn. They require consistent, careful training to encourage proper behavior. Social and friendly, the basenji can be loving, but is not overly affectionate. The breed was originally used for hunting, and a basenji generally is not an effective guard dog. Because of his short coat and a tendency to spend long periods self-grooming, the basenji requires few baths or dedicated grooming sessions.

Step 1

Create a safe environment. Basenjis are curious; they will explore, and they tend to chew everything that interests them. Use a child gate or some similar means to block access to dangerous areas such as balconies or fireplaces, and close doors to rooms your dog should not enter. Lock away cleaners, fertilizers and poisons. Pack away breakable items and small objects your basenji could swallow. Store remote controls, books, shoes and similar items that you may value in places where he can't reach them. Hide or cover electrical cords.

Step 2

Gather supplies. Purchase a large dog crate to serve as your Basenji's personal space and safe retreat. It should be large enough for him to stand and turn around comfortably. Pad it with soft sheets or blankets. Buy sturdy stainless steel or ceramic dishes for food and water. Wash these regularly to prevent bacterial growth. Basenjis are voracious chewers, so make sure your dog's chew toys are all safe for him to have.

Step 3

Visit your veterinarian. Your basenji will require the typical vaccinations and boosters all dogs need, such as parvovirus, distemper and rabies, and possibly heartworm checks and preventative. Your veterinarian will review his health and immunization schedule. Basenjis are prone to a number of hereditary medical problems, including various eye disorders, kidney problems and hypothyroidism, so regular checkups are important.

Step 4

Feed your basenji a balanced diet. Obesity is a major concern with the breed. Ask your breeder or veterinarian for recommendations about a proper diet. You should be able to feel your dog's bones as you run your hands over his body, but you should not be able to see them. Feed puppies two or three times a day, and adjust the amount of food as they grow. Full-grown basenjis can have just one full meal and one snack per day. If he gets treats during the day, reduce the amount of food at his meal to account for them. Stick to a regular feeding schedule.

Step 5

Give him exercise. Basenjis are active dogs with high energy levels. Exercise him regularly by taking him for walks, let him run in a fenced yard, or run with him on a leash at the park. Supervise your basenji when he's outside, as basenjis can climb high wire fences or jump lower ones. Provide suitable chew toys at all times.

Step 6

Keep your basenji clean. Much like a cat, your basenji will spend long periods of time grooming himself, paying particular attention to his paws. Because of this, you should need to bathe him only if he is dirty from play. Rub a small amount of dog shampoo into a lather, and massage his coat to remove the dirt. Rinse thoroughly, dry him with towels, and keep him warm until he dries completely. Trim his nails, or have them trimmed, every two weeks. Brush his teeth with pet toothpaste.

Step 7

Train your basenji in order to reinforce correct behavior. Always use positive reinforcement and encouragement when training, as the basenji does not respond well to negative reinforcement such as hard corrections. Research the various training methods, and speak to professional trainers. The clicker training method works well for this breed, as do well-timed treats and praise. Teach him the meaning of “No!" from the beginning. Teach him to walk properly on a leash, to sit, and to lie down. Attend training classes with your basenji to learn the proper way to teach, and reinforce the methods at home.

Step 8

Socialize your dog. The basenji is a friendly breed, able to get along with people, children and other animals. But he won't learn how to do that unless he is properly exposed to the outside world. Socialize him as early and as much as possible to encourage proper interaction with the larger world. Supervise him during new meetings with people or other animals in order to stop unwanted behavior and keep everyone involved safe. Enroll your basenji in a doggy day care if you have no other pets to keep him company while you're away at work, so he doesn't get lonely, bored and destructive.


  • Never leave your dog unattended around other animals or small children unless you are confident that he is comfortable and will not lash out if aggravated.

  • Avoid chew toys with small buttons or plastic pieces, such as eyes on characters, or bits that may easily splinter off and become lodged in your dog's airway or intestines. Watch his bedding for the same reason, to make sure he is not chewing and swallowing it when you are not supervising. Dogs can get into serious difficulties this way.


  • Breed characteristics are generalizations; each individual animal has his own personality, likes and dislikes. For maximum success, get to know your dog and adjust your training methods to what really motivates him.

  • Behavior training is a constant, ongoing process. At times your dog may not seem to be making much progress. Be consistent, and don't punish your dog for not making progress as quickly as you think he should.

  • When changing over to a new dog food, increasingly mix the new food with his current food over time to help his digestive system adjust. Switching too fast can upset his stomach and sometimes can result in vomiting or diarrhea.

Items You Will Need

  • Kennel
  • Food and water dishes
  • Collar
  • Leash
  • Nail clippers
  • Dog shampoo
  • Dog brush
  • Dog toothbrush
  • Chew toys
  • Clicker (optional)



About the Author

Jane Williams began her writing career in 2000 as the writer and editor of a nationwide marketing company. Her articles have appeared on various websites. Williams briefly attended college for a degree in administration before embarking on her writing career.