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 Tamsala Basenjis

Where health testing and excellent temperament are of equal importance.


This article is written by Linda Stilwell.

Basenjis are our passion. Most of us in this group have had Basenjis for many, many years, and we want only the best for our little curly tailed friends.

I was told when I got my first Basenji that owning a Basenji is much like having a 2 or 3 year old toddler for about 15 years. 

I will say that they do tend to calm down around age 5 or so - mostly.

If you are wanting a dog that will be obedient, and do what you say when you say it, get a golden retriever or a Border Collie. These type dogs are bred to please their owner.

A Basenji is a free-spirit, and a thinking dog and they are usually one step ahead of you. They get bored with training very quickly, although they also learn very quickly, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will do that particular thing you want them to do repeatedly.

You should not let a Basenji off lead in an unfenced area anywhere near traffic, because they hunt by sight, and if they see something 1/2 mile away, they will take after it, and you can forget recall when they are on the hunt. They will not come back until they are good and ready.

Cars are the top killers for Basenjis. They have no fear, and if they are running loose where there is traffic, it is likely they will be hit and killed. So I say again, be very careful about letting your Basenji off-lead in an unfenced area.

Basenjis are great dogs if they suit your personality, temperament and lifestyle, but a Basenji is not the dog for everyone.

Basenjis can be very destructive, up to, and including, destroying your furniture and your house, if they are bored and left alone too long. I strongly recommend crate training at an early age. It will keep them safe, and your house safe until you feel they can be trusted being loose in the house. It's always safest to have them in a crate when travelling, so you don't have to worry about one dashing out an open door or window. I will say again, Basenjis are great dogs, if they are the dog for you. BUT Basenjis are not the dog for everyone.​

If you do plan to get a Basenji, make sure you get one from a responsible/reputable breeder that is willing to take the pup back if things don't work out. Also a responsible breeder will be willing to help you if you have training questions.

Responsible breeders do health testing on all of their Basenjis to ensure they are free from Fanconi, hemolytic anaemia, PRA (can cause blindness), hip dysplasia, PPM (eyes) and hypothyroidism. A responsible breeder will have you sign a contract detailing their expectations for you and the puppy.

A Basenji's life expectancy is 15 to 16 years, so this is a longterm commitment.  Basenjis are NOT HYPOALLERGENIC. 

No dog is hypoallergenic. 

People who are allergic to dogs can be allergic to Basenjis. If you  are allergic to dogs, and you want to see if a Basenji is for you, find a Basenji person who will let you come to their house to visit their dogs. Bring an old t-shirt and rub allover the dogs and take it home with you to see if you have a reaction.

A Basenji is NOT like other dogs. If you don't like cats, you probably won't like a Basenji  because they are very cat-like in their behaviour, in their aloofness with strangers, pet them on their terms. Some are snugglers but not all. Do your research and think long and hard about whether a Basenji is the right dog for you and your family.

You need to have a lot of patience , and a sense of humour when dealing with Basenjis. As I said above, they are a thinking dog. You can almost "see" them plotting and planning their next escapade. Basenjis are escape artists, so you need a secure fenced yard. The fence should be a minimum of 6 feet (unclimbable). Basenjis do not do well being stuck in a yard alone and ignored. They are a pack animal, and you and your family are their pack. They want to be part of the family.

  • An addition from me - if you are away from your home all day at work, don't get a Basenji.
  • If you want a dog that is happy to stuff around on its own all day in the backyard - don't get a Basenji.
  • I do not recommend a Basenji as an apartment dog, without access to an outside area. They are too energetic, and boredom will set in if left alone for long periods.
  • If you want a dog that you can take down the beach, or the bush, or the park - and let it run loose - don't get a Basenji. 
  • Lastly Basenjis are not a non-shedding breed - they can shed their coat a couple of times a year.