Basenji Care

Basenjis are far from typical dogs: they "yodel" instead of bark, they're highly independent and even stubborn, and they're extremely clean. But these unusual, fairly rare canines are beloved by their owners--and fortunately, Basenji care is not too time-consuming. This page contains all sorts of useful details about caring for a Basenji: puppy development, exercise needs, diet and nutrition, and more. For plenty of tips on raising a Basenji, keep reading!

Basenji Breed Development

Basenji puppy development from birth to full maturity typically spans 14-16 months. Physically, puppies grow rapidly in height and length for about the first six months, then those growth rates slow somewhat while the adolescent Basenji "fills out" by gaining muscle mass and fat; a Basenji is normally at or near its full adult size by 12-14 months. Socially, Basenji puppies develop fairly steadily: they reach adolescence at 4-5 months, sexual maturity at 8-9 months, and full mental maturity by 16 months (though some will retain their puppylike behavior for up to two years of age or more). For specific developmental milestones, refer to the Basenji puppy development chart below:

Basenji Exercise Needs

As exceedingly athletic dogs that are quick both physically and mentally, Basenji exercise is vital to these dogs' health and happiness. And activities for Basenjis may be a bit unusual compared to other breeds: since they're intelligent and often very stubborn, these dogs are more likely to participate in exercises that engage their minds as well as their bodies--and it's even better if they're able to perform the exercises on their own (though they'll definitely need supervision).

But just how much exercise does a Basenji need each day? The typical adult Basenji, depending on its age and overall activity level, should have an hour of daily physical activity at the very least. You can start exercising a Basenji pup at three months of age by taking it on short (15-minute) walks, then increasing the walks' duration as the puppy grows.

Some things to consider when exercising your Basenji: first, puppies younger than nine months old shouldn't participate in activities that include lots of jumping and running, as doing so can injure their still-developing bones and joints. (Basenjis are especially prone to suffering hip dysplasia, a condition in which the thigh bone doesn't fit properly into the hip joint; the condition often originates in puppies that over-exert themselves.) All Basenjis, regardless of age, should be leashed when in public. These dogs have an exceptionally high prey drive, so an unleashed Basenji will soon be a missing one when it chases the first interesting-looking critter it sees. Even when exercising in a fenced yard, a Basenji will need to be closely supervised; these dogs are incredible escape artists, and will either climb the fence or dig under it if allowed. Also, Basenjis have a high dislike for the cold and the rain, so it's best not to exercise your Basenji outdoors on frigid or rainy days.

Safeguards aside, it's especially important to give your Basenji exercise every single day. These dogs are already quite stubborn and independent, and if under-exercised they'll be even more disobedient, and even aggressive. Basenjis also love to chew things, so a restless dog of this breed will chew everything in sight! It's highly recommended, then, to give your Basenji some exercise every day--for both the dog's peace of mind and your own. Here are a few ideas for Basenji exercise:

  • Walking/Jogging: Two 30-minute walks per day is a good target
  • Fetch/Frisbee: A Basenji will love chasing a ball or Frisbee
  • Tug-of-War: Great indoor activity; use a rope or old towel
  • Canine Sports: Basenjis excel in some (but not all) competitions: agility and flyball are two examples
  • Hiking: Excellent bonding activity; a well-trained Basenji can do this unleashed

When indoors, it's a good idea to have several chew-toys lying around that will allow your Basenji to release some pent-up energy; as a frequent chewer, the Basenji will enjoy these toys. It's also recommended that you establish a consistent daily exercise schedule for your Basenji, such as walks or jogs after breakfast and dinner and a play period in the afternoon.

Basenji Maintenance

Maintenance for these dogs in terms of shedding and drooling is fairly low overall. Basenji shedding is light for most of the year, but a bit heavier during shedding season; drooling is not an issue.

Dogs of this breed have coats that can be deceiving. The coats are short-haired and fine--but contrary to what many believe, they're double-layered, and thus shed more heavily during shedding season (which for these dogs is in the spring, and sometimes in the fall as well). That said, Basenjis shed very lightly for most of the year, and the short hairs aren't all that noticeable. When they blow their coats during shedding season, the shedding is more profuse, but still not extensive. So owners may need to vacuum and use lint rollers from time to time, but shed hairs aren't a big problem overall; previous owners say brushing minimizes the shedding pretty well.

And Basenjis drool very little; possibly in anticipation of food, but that's about all. If your Basenji is drooling extensively, it may be a sign of a medical issue, in which case veterinary care is needed.

Basenji Diet

Nutrition for dogs of this breed is especially important in maintaining their fitness and longevity. As an athletic breed, Basenji food will need to be packed with nutrients including animal proteins and carbohydrates for energy. In fact, breed experts say any food you buy for your Basenji will need to have a specific type of meat listed as its first ingredient (not simply "meat" or "meat by-products"). This means that the most sensible choice for these dogs is premium dry food; high-quality foods, while more expensive and difficult to obtain, will contain the necessary animal proteins and carbs that cheap dog food simply doesn't have. Basenjis can be picky eaters, though, so some owners say they like to mix in a bit of canned food or fresh meat with the dry food to make it more appealing to the dog.

Royal Canin, Blue Buffalo, and Taste of the Wild are three recommended brands that have excellent lines of premium food, and all will be great for the Basenji diet.

And how much premium food should you give your Basenji? An adult Basenji weighing 25 pounds--and the amount may vary depending on the dog's age, size, and activity level--will need 1-1¼ cups of dry food per day, divided into two meals. Basenji puppies, again depending on their age, will need a bit less: about ¾ cup of dry food per day, divided into three meals until they're six months old. And it's best to feed a young Basenji puppy food; sometime between 6-9 months, you can transition the dog to an adult formula by mixing the two together. For more info on feeding your Basenji, see the chart below:

*--Between 6-9 months, begin mixing a bit of adult food in with the puppy food. Over the course of a week, add more adult food to each meal until the Basenji is eating it entirely.

It's best to try and stick to the above-listed portions; while they may seem small, they're ample enough for these dogs. Over-feeding a Basenji is not a good idea--though this breed doesn't have a high tendency for obesity, a fat Basenji will have joint, digestive and breathing issues, not to mention a shortened lifespan. You can control your Basenji's weight in several ways: establishing a consistent feeding schedule so the dog gets used to eating at the same time every day; giving the Basenji plenty of exercise; no feeding of table scraps; and by no means should you "free-feed" your Basenji (or leave food in its bowl all the time, in other words, allowing the dog to eat anytime it wants). It's best to put your Basenji's bowl down only at mealtimes, then pick it up 15-20 minutes after it begins eating.

If you're worried your Basenji is overweight, give the dog this simple Ribs Test: run a hand along its side, and if you can't feel any ribs, it's diet time. Reduce your Basenji's daily food consumption by one-fourth, and add an extra walk or play period to its daily exercise schedule.

Living Environment

Basenjis are best suited for homes with a nice-sized fenced yard. Technically speaking, Basenjis are both inside and outside dogs: they'll need lots of outdoor exercise, but they'll prefer living inside with their human family members. And for the Basenji, apartment living is fine--but the dog will require plenty of daily outdoor activity.

In regards to climate, these dogs are pretty adaptable. Basenjis normally handle hot and cold weather with equal ease--but their short, fine coats aren't too good for especially frigid temperatures.