The Basenji as a breed has a great personality and temperament and a good size for almost any type of living condition. As with any breed there are also concerns with Basenjis and some types of households. It is important to remember that simply because the Basenji is not always a good match doesn't mean the breed of dog is not outstanding; it just means that like every dog there are some situations that are unsuitable or at least undesirable for the breed.
The first and foremost consideration is that the Basenji is a sight hound by breeding and history and does need a lot of routine exercise. They are very active indoors but still need at least two to three brisk 30 minute or longer walks per day to avoid problem behaviors. Incorrectly in insufficiently exercised Basenjis are highly destructive and will find ways to keep themselves entertained that include chewing, digging and climbing. These dogs are incredibly athletic and can jump very high, easily over a four foot fence in many cases. Combining this with a true climbing ability means that a Basenji has to be in a secure fenced yard at all times to prevent escape if the dog is bored or needs to get out and run.
As a hound breed the Basenji also has a naturally high prey drive, especially when not properly socialized and obedience trained. They can be very good companions with household cats, especially when raised together. This relationship will work because the cat and dog have learned that one is not prey and one not the hunter. With stray cats and timid cats the Basenji will chase, resulting in serious injury or death to the cat and a much greater likelihood of the household arrangement becoming unmanageable. Basenjis should not be considered for households with other smaller types of pets including ferrets, hamsters, gerbils or rabbits. Caged birds may be acceptable if they are securely out of reach of the Basenji but larger birds out of cages are not recommended.
As a coursing or sight hound the Basenji is also a relatively independent dog and tends to want to think things out for his or herself before deciding what to do. When they are on the hunt or in the chase they simply are too focused on the prey to respond to human commands. This is very dangerous in city areas where the dogs run out in front of vehicles without even looking. All Basenjis that are not completely and routinely trained in off-leash work need to be kept on a leash when out of the yard for their own safety.
This independence and focus in the heat of the chase is also found in almost everything else the Basenji does as well. They are highly affectionate dogs that love to be with their family, but they are not typically considered to be a breed that blindly follows all commands immediately. This sometimes translates into frustration for the owner or even a misconception that the dog is just not all that bright. In reality the Basenji is highly intelligent and is able to evaluate situations based on their own knowledge and abilities. This is often a stumbling point for owners that want a highly obedient dog that follows all commands in an immediate fashion. Working with a Basenji can lead to this level of obedience but it does take significant amounts of patience, time and practice. To top this off the Basenji, as with most intelligent and independent breeds, tends to do very poorly with highly repetitive types of trainings and routines. Constant variation will help keep the dog mentally alert and focused on training while repetition will cause increasing refusals and simply ignoring the owner. They also need a strong and consistent leader and will become dominant towards people if they don't see the human is consistent and in charge of the situation.
Basenji dogs are playful and tend to enjoy being around older children that know not to tease or taunt the dog. The breed is not tolerate of teasing as a whole and may resort to snapping or other types of aggression if they are being pestered or taunted. Parents that work with the children and encourage the kids to interact correctly with the dog will find the breed a terrific match. Ideally a Basenji needs to be raised with children from a puppy to be truly comfortable around kids. They are very affectionate with children in the family but will be aloof and indifferent towards other children that come to visit. Parents have to ensure the dog is highly socialized with kids or kept apart from visiting children to avoid any possible issues.
The Basenji is very clean indoors and is extremely easy to housetrain when provided routine times to get outside. As a puppy they quickly learn to stand at a doorway to go outside, however their lack of barking often makes signaling their owners a bit more problematic. They do use a yodel type sound and are very vocal at times, even though they are considered to be a barkless dog. It is important to keep in mind that a Basenji does make sounds and will bark if they are feeling threatened or in danger.
The Basenji will spend a significant amount of time self-grooming on a daily basis. Like a cat they will lick their paws, chest and legs and tend to keep themselves very effectively groomed. They shed very little year round with a slightly heavier shed of the short, dense coat in the spring. Most Basenjis have very little if any dog odor, which is one reason they have become a popular indoor companion pet. The Basenji may be a suitable breed for mild dog allergy sufferers but each person should spend time with a Basenji before making this decision.
Overall the Basenji is a very healthy breed although PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) as well as other eye conditions are seen within the breed. Fanconi's Syndrome, a serious kidney disease, is also found in Basenji dogs and owners need to screen potential breeding pairs for this genetically inherited condition. Flea allergies and occasionally skin sensitivities are occasionally seen in the breed, but these are manageable with regular treatment and preventive steps.