What Behavioral Issues Might a Basenji Have?

An improperly socialized Basenji can struggle with nipping and various destructive behaviors. Yet, with training, owners can help their dogs thrive.

Jan 6, 2024By Sara Payne
what behavioral issues would a basenji have

The barkless Basenji is a breed that originated in Central Africa as a hunting dog used to flush out small game. Basenjis are small hounds with short brown coats, upright ears, and curled tails. People often describe this ancient breed as cat-like with an aloof and independent personality. Does this independence make them prone to behavioral issues?

Basenjis can exhibit destructive behaviors. They can also nip if people cross their boundaries, and they are wary around unfamiliar people. However, early socialization can help quell these behaviors.

Bored Basenjis Can Be Destructive

basenji toy
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Basenjis are ancient dogs. They descend from the pariah dogs of ancient Egypt that hunters used to flush out small game. Experts believe this breed is similar to what the first domesticated dogs looked like. These semi-wild dogs are fast with good eyesight and a deep sense of loyalty.

These traits made them prized as hunting dogs, but in modern society, they can make them a bit mischievous as pets in the home. Basenjis need lots of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy. If they get bored, they may redirect these behaviors toward your favorite pair of shoes or any other household item they can get their mouths on.

These intelligent dogs become bored easily, so it is important to give them plenty of activities throughout the day that keep both their minds and bodies occupied. Breed-specific dog sports, like lure coursing, are great activities for a Basenji.

Some Basenjis Nip When Annoyed

basenji nipping
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Basenjis can be great family pets. They love to play with older children and can be very protective of their families. However, this dog exhibits a lot of independence. What’s more, they’re not ideal dog breeds for families with small children.

Though they love a good romp with kids, Basenjis also need their personal space and alone time. Small children may push these boundaries and elicit aggressive behavior from this dog breed. In response, Basenjis may growl, snap, or nip to communicate their annoyance. This doesn’t mean a Basenji is a bad dog; this is how canines get their points across.

As noted, older kids do better with these dogs, as they’re usually better with respecting animals’ boundaries.

Basenjis Are Generally Wary of Strangers

basenji stare
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This ancient dog breed can also be anxious around new people. They do not immediately run up to strangers eagerly, as some other breeds do. Instead, they prefer to slowly investigate newcomers. They like to make introductions on their terms, like the way cats act.

Since this breed is a pack animal, they are protective of their family. They cannot bark to warn off predators, so they may resort to biting or acting aggressively toward outsiders, especially if they think the stranger is going to harm one of their family members.

In Africa, these dogs were used to take down lions, so even though they are small, they can be tenacious. It is always best to let the Basenji approach you rather than approach them. Their aloofness may keep them at a distance indefinitely, but once you form a bond with this dog breed, they are incredibly affectionate.

How to Manage These Behavior Issues

basenji training
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The best way to manage a Basenji’s behavior issues is to provide early and consistent training. Basenjis are incredibly intelligent and eager to learn, but they do get bored easily. So, you must provide them with a varied training routine to keep their minds occupied.

They also respond well to positive reinforcement. This means:

  • Refraining from raising your voice when your dog “acts out”
  • Using high-value rewards, like slices of turkey or ham, to reward favorable behaviors
  • Being consistent with teaching tricks and obedience tactics
  • Refraining from physical punishment
  • Remaining patient
  • Setting firm boundaries

Strong-scented treats work best since these dogs have a keen sense of smell. Additionally, you should socialize your dog with other people and children early on. This will help them to be calmer around new people.

It is important to note that individual dogs have their own personality traits. Individual Basenjis may be more or less friendly. They may never overcome their wariness of strangers, or they could become the friendliest dog you’ve ever met.

It’s Okay to Seek Professional Help

basenji with harness
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If you have a Basenji that you are having difficulties training or socializing with, then you should seek out professional help. Many people begin by taking their dog to the vet. This helps to rule out any medical issues that may be causing behavioral problems. Since animals cannot communicate pain, they sometimes act out.

Once the vet indicates that your dog has a clean bill of health, you have a few options for additional help. You could take your dog to a trainer or an animal behavior specialist.

A certified dog trainer can help you and your dog overcome both complex and common behavior problems. An animal behavior specialist can assist you if your dog is exhibiting behaviors that put you or others at risk. They can help target these issues, find the causes, and offer insight.

Basenjis Are Aloof and Independent

basenji running
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Basenjis are an ancient dog breed prized for their powerful sense of smell, fastidiousness, speed, and energy. This dog breed is new to Western owners, so they don’t always know what to expect with a Basenji. So, nipping, stranger aggression, and destructiveness can be a surprise to new owners.

These dogs can be loving family members, but they also have more independence than most dogs. They value their alone time and their own personal space. If you train and socialize these dogs early, you and the dog will have a more successful and peaceful life together. Be sure to give your Basenji plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy.

Sara Payne
By Sara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.