Basenji Dog Breed Info About the ‘Barkless’ Dog

Why is the basenji known as the barkless dog? The basenji has a long and fascinating history and quirky personality traits (yodeling barks, cat-like self-grooming, and human-like expressions). Here you will find basenji dog breed info and the history of one of the world’s oldest — and most interesting dog breeds.

Do Basenjis Bark a Lot?

Known as the barkless dog, the African basenji tends to yodel more than bark. Before you get excited at the idea of a dog that doesn’t bark, the basenji makes up for its non-existent bark with growling, whining, whimpering, howling, yodeling, and hair-raising screams. The reason basenji, one of the world’s oldest breeds, doesn’t bark like typical domestic canines is believed to be the result of a differently shaped larynx. Some experts speculate that the dogs were intentionally bred so their noises wouldn’t attract predators to their villages. Other theories revolve around the idea that the breed is so ancient, it was before the barking characteristic, thus, basenji never developed the trait.

The Basenji dog breed has a reputation of being a “barkless” dog, but don’t let that reputation make you think you’re getting a silent pet. Their sound is more of a sing-songy yodle than a bark, which you can hear in the video below (starting at about 53 seconds).

While we may never know the origin behind their barklessness, we can focus on the sounds basenjis are known to make. These dogs vocalize for any number of reasons, including:

  • Excitement
  • Boredom
  • Fear
  • Attention

Basenjis often yodel when excited by unusual sounds like sirens. Once the sound or trigger is gone, the yodeling will stop. Sometimes a basenji will yodel because their owner has trained them to do so on-demand. 

Boredom can be a real issue with this breed. Their high-energy needs require plenty of exercise, or they are likely to partake in howling and destructive behaviors like chewing up furniture and tearing through garbage cans. Your basenji must get plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation each day. A tired dog is a good dog, especially if it’s a basenji.

Why is your basenji howling?

Your basenji may belt out an almost human-like scream out of fear. This trigger could be as silly as a remote-controlled toy car racing across the floor or other dogs barking. The sound is so convincing that we’ve heard stories of neighbors to a basenji family calling authorities fearing child abuse or domestic violence. So, you might introduce your basenji to the neighbors and explain the noises!

Although basenjis are very independent, they will seek your attention on occasion, and that is usually done with a lot of whimpering and whining. The best way to stop your pet from whining and whimpering is to ignore him (this goes with a lot of dog, not just the basenji). Any look, touch, or word from you and you’re reinforcing the behavior, ensuring it will continue. When you turn your back on him until he quiets down, he will learn that these undesired behaviors get him nothing.  Once your basenji is silent for a few minutes, offer plenty of praise and a treat.

Facts About Basenjis

Basenjis are small dogs that run with a racehorse’s stride and clean themselves in the same fashion as cats. Basenjis are inquisitive and very active. They need lots of exercise and canine activities such as lure coursing, tracking, agility, and obedience competitions to help prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Expect plenty of affection from a basenji, not so much if you’re a stranger as this breed is overprotective of their families. They get along well with their humans and other animals, yet can be argumentative with fellow basenjis.

Quick Basenji dog facts:

  • Basenji size: Basenji is a small-sized breed that grows up to 17 inches in height and weighs 22 to 24 pounds.
  • Basenji lifespan: Basenji tend to live 13 to 14 years.
  • Coat: Basenjis have a short, shiny coat. 
  • AKC group: Basenjis belong to the AKC hound group.

Are Basenjis Easy to Train?

Due to their high level of energy and intelligence, basenji can be mischievous. It is for this reason early socialization and puppy training are a must. Positive reinforcement is an effective training method for this breed, provided the trainer maintains an encouraging and rewarding atmosphere, aka tons of praise and treats. It’s essential that the trainer show leadership through a firm and consistent tone; otherwise, basenji may prove challenging to manage. This breed also tends to lose interest quickly, so training sessions should be kept to a short five to 10 minutes.  

Do Basenjis Need Grooming?

Basenjis are a discriminating breed that cleans themselves regularly, so a quick once-a-week brushing with a soft-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or glove, or a hound glove should suffice. These short brushing sessions will help remove loose hairs and keep them off your clothes, floors, and furniture; it further distributes the skin’s oils to keep the coat healthy and looking its best. Baths are only necessary when basenjis get into something messy. While they are low maintenance in the grooming department, you should routinely trim their nails to prevent them from growing too long and causing the dog pain when walking or running.

What If My Breed Is a Basenji Mix?

As with any mixed breeds, you can’t guarantee the characteristics your basenji will possess; that’s why BarxBuddy recommends you research the parent’s genetic strengths and weaknesses. Basenjis are smart, energetic, and can yodel with the best. Any mix with this breed will most certainly be entertaining and adorable. 

Here are some popular Basenji breed mixes: 

For More Basenji Breed Information

Get more basenji information from the official breed clubs in the United States and Canada:

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