The "Barkless" Basenji

descriptive textDog breed info
(Congo Dog)(Congo Terrier)
Weight: 22 — 24 lbs
Height: 16” —17”
AKC Rank 2008 #83
Lifespan: 12—14 yrs
Group Hound
Origin Central Africa

  • Health, Dog Illness, Medical Problems

    Dog Breed Info -- The Basenji

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    Breed Overview

    Origin: Ancient times. Original function: Hunting small game. Today: Lure coursing.

    The first signs of the "Congo Dog" go as far back as the ancient tombs of the pharaohs, some five thousand years ago where they showed up on Egyptian carvings. The dogs were possibly gifts to the pharaohs of the time from Africa. The name “Basenji” means “bush-thing.” This is basically a hunting dog and helped the native tribesmen find and retrieve game. In the 1930’s, dogs were brought to England. This caused a lot of commotion and soon after these dogs came to America. By the 1950’s, an increase in popularity occurred due to a book and movie which featured a dog of this breed. In the 1980’s the breed was registered and has gained some popularity.


    Not easy to train. Too independent and stubborn. They will learn but it takes patience. Try using a clicker. Pick one up at your local pet store. clicker training works wonders for hard-to-train dogs.

    Crate Training

    Want to crate train your Basenji? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

    Potty Training

    The Basenji puppy can be difficult to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

    If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.

    This Basenji is out for an evening walk without his human
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    The Basenji is a clever, alert and sometimes stubborn creature. The breed tends to be independent yet doesn’t do well if left alone. As a hunting dog, it lovers to chase small animals. It is perky and energetic, always ready to play or hunt and explore. They don't enjoy wet weather and are fastidious about keeping themselves clean. This is a quiet, “bark less” breed, able only to make kind of gurgling sound. More like a vocal “shriek.” They are a quick and playful breed and can scamper over a chain link fence with ease. The Basenji can be aloof and reserved with strangers and is not a dog for the family that works and is gone all day.

    If you get a Basenji with a separation anxiety problem, maybe that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

    Friendly Toward Other Dogs

    Maybe. Picks her dog friends. Does not care for other Basenji's.

    Friendly Toward Other Pets

    No. Maybe if raised with other pets, but as a rule, does not do well, especially with other non-canine pets.

    Friendly Toward Strangers

    Yes, pretty good with people so bring on the relatives and neighbors.


    Yes, loves to play.


    Reasonably affectionate, especially with her own family members. She forms a close bond with her family.

    Good with children

    Older, well mannered kids 6 and up that have been trained in how to behave with dogs are okay. Not for very young kids.

    Good with Seniors over 65?

    No. Needs too much exercise.

    Living environment

    This dog would do well with a house with a doggie door to a medium size fenced yard, or a farm would be great. It could survive in an apartment but really needs space to roam and stretch and run in.

    Energy level

    Fairly high energy.

    Exercise needs, daily

    Good jogging partner. Two good walks daily and plenty of play time are needed. The dog must have adequate exercise to keep it from becoming destructive.

    Basenji profile.
    This is a good looking dog!

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    Guard dog

    No. Falls short here.


    None to almost no shedding.
    Good for the allergy sufferer.


    Brush weekly to remove dead hair.



    Suggested Reading For The Basenji

    The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for every dog owner and should be kept close at hand.


    Basenji Breeders

    In the event you decide to go looking for Basenji puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.Try this site for a selection of breeders:
    Basenji Breeders with puppies for sale.
    Go online if you want and search for more Basenji breeders, also try "puppies."

    Basenji Rescue

    In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for a Basenji Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
    Petfinder - Basenji Rescue - (Nationwide) As I write this, Petfindcer is showing only 397 dogs available for adoption in the USA. You might get lucky and adopt one near you! Read over the dog breed info above before adopting. Remember, dog health is important too.
    Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but this is a hard-to-find breed in the US. Try surfing online for Basenji Rescue groups or kennels if you don't find anything at the two sites above.

    Dog Health Issues - The Basenji
    Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Basenji by various vets.

    This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog health and medical issues this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

    The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

    • Fanconi syndrome—Inherited disease usually showing up around ages 4 to 8 years age. A disorder where nutrients of the kidney are spilled into the urine instead of into the body where they belong. Symptoms: Excessive drinking and urination, glucose in the urine. It must be treated or the dogs usually die. Since glucose is “dumped” into the urine, it is recommended that Basenji owners test their pets monthly beginning at three years old. Urine glucose test strips are available at drug stores.

    • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain and difficulty walking. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

    • Patellar luxation—Limping, Hind Leg Lameness, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position in the Basenji. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs. It’s most common in small and toy dogs. If your dog has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

    • Basenji enteropathy—Hereditary in this breed and is a digestive problem. A disorder known as immunoproliferative enteropathy. What this amounts to is a digestive problem of the small intestine. A severe progressive intestinal malabsorption which results in protein loss in the body, intractable diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight. There is no cure but the disease can be managed by treatment consisting of special diet heavy in protein and a corticosteroid.

    • Persistent pupillary membranes—Hereditary. Vision impaired by strands of tissue in the eye left over from before birth. Strands should be gone by 5 weeks age. Strands can bridge from iris to cornea, iris to pupil, iris to lens (causing cataracts) or they can for sheets of tissue. If the Basenji is young and you see small white spots in the dog’s eyes or the dog seems to have poor vision, see the vet. Forming of cataracts might be the biggest problem but don’t let this slip by. It may be nothing, it may be something.

    • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision and if not treated will eventually lead to total blindness.

    • Pyruvate kinase— A recessive, inherited hormone and a red blood cell deficiency in a dog will cause anemia and liver failure, leading to death between ages 1 and 4. The dog will be anemic, have no tolerance to exercise and have no energy. See a vet immediately.

    • Urolithiasis—Excessive crystals (stones or bladder or kidney stones) can form in the urinary tract or kidney, bladder or urethra, blocking the flow of urine in the Basenji. The crystals or stones irritate the lining of the urinary tract. They cause blood in the urine and pain and in severe cases make urination impossible. Symptoms are frequent urination, urinating in odd places, blood in urine, dribbling, depression, weakness, straining, pain, vomiting and loss of appetite. Dogs can be treated by diet, medications and surgery, depending on the dog, severity and other circumstances of the individual case.

    • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the Basenji’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW Basenji symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections and depression. See your set right away.

    • Hair loss and dry skin - Treating - There can be a number of causes for a dog losing hair. Hair loss and dry skin are common. See a vet to find out the CAUSE of the hair loss, such as the hypothyroidism above, flea allergies, dust or mite allergies and so on. Hair loss is usually treated with a topical ointment if it's a fungal infection, ringworm, pyotraumatic dermatitis or other forms of dermatitis. Dry skin problems are often associated with hair loss so look at both together with your vet. The vet should look for food allergies or atopy, demodectic or sarcoptic mange and so on. Once the SOURCE is determined, you can treat the hair loss and/ or dry skin on the Basenji effectively, sometimes with medicated shampoos, creams. diet changes, oral medication, disinfecting the house or whatever is needed.

    • Umbilical hernia—Inherited problem. Weakness of the skin at the "belly button" allowing abdominal contents to protrude after birth. There is the possibility of trapping intestines. If the bowel is trapped, it's serious. If you see redness or tenderness at the hernia area, painful bowel movements or vomiting, take the dog to the vet immediately for a cure!

    • Iris Coloboma—Eye disease. A thinning or hole in the iris. This does not stop the dog from seeing but it does cause the dog to squint because too much light is allowed to enter the eye. With a hole in the eye, it's ;like getting your eyes dilated and going out into the sun. It should stop with the breeder.

    • Corneal Dystrophy—An inherited disease of the eye. A fluid buildup causing the outer part of the cornea to appear white and move inward toward the center.. A very painful and difficult to treat ulcer will develop.


    Other health problems could occur with your Basenji. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide

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