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Are Basenji Dogs Aggressive? [Breed Temperament Guide]

If you are thinking about bringing a Basenji dog into your household, you will naturally want to know whether they’re aggressive or not. Especially if you have young children. Do they make for good family dogs? What can make them aggressive, if anything? And if so can, and then how can you prevent it? Well, here’s everything you’ll want to know.

So, are basenji dogs aggressive? Basenji dogs are not typically considered aggressive, although they can seek to dominate other dogs, particularly other male dogs. While aggressive displays are often rare, they may be observed if they are held tightly or grabbed, or they want to protect their possessions (including food and toys).

Chances are, you want to know more about the Basenji in regard to their temperament.

That doesn’t quite cut it, does it?

But not to worry.

If you keep reading you will discover all you will want to know about this medium-sized breed.

What Is The Typical Basenji Temperament?

Basenjis are playful, curious, and affectionate dogs in temperament. They are, however, energetic dogs with a cautious yet wilful nature with a strong natural prey drive.

Basenjis Are Cautious Dogs

If you want a dog who will run up to strangers and greet them joyfully, a Basenji isn’t the dog for you.

Basenjis are naturally standoffish, with built-in suspicion of strangers.

They need time to warm up to people, so don’t let people impose themselves on your Basenji.

Basenjis need to become accustomed to people, and it’s essential to let your Basenji approach you rather than the other way around.

Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent online resources to learn how to introduce your Basenji to other people without stressing him unduly.

Basenjis Are Natural Hunters

Basenjis were bred for hunting, so they are highly attentive to their surroundings and need lots of exercise and mental stimulation.

They are adept diggers, climbers, and escape artists, so they can easily go over or under fences to follow their quarry.

Basenjis Are Willful

These dogs are willful, and they can be manipulative: they want to be the boss, so they need you to prove to them that you can make them do things!

Basenjis Are Curious Thinkers

Basenjis are highly intelligent: they’re always thinking, and they want to be in on everything you’re doing. They love exploring and discovering new things.

You can literally see Basenjis thinking: their ears perk up, and their foreheads wrinkle – that’s when you know they’re thinking hard!

Their high intelligence means they can be manipulative to get what they want.

Basenjis Are Affectionate

Once they get to know you, Basenjis are affectionate and love their human families.

They will enjoy being part of your family, but they don’t like being left alone, so you need to make sure you have plenty of time to spend with them.

Is Basenji A Good Family Dog?

Despite their suspicious natures, strong prey drive, and behavior off lead, Basenjis can be good family dogs for the right people. They require strong leadership with an experienced dog owner, and children who understand their need to be approached gently.

Basenjis And Children

Basenjis need time to get used to people, and young children aren’t known for their patience, which doesn’t make a good mix.

In addition, Basenjis don’t like to be held tightly, so they aren’t the best choice for younger children who aren’t experienced with dogs.

However, if you can introduce your Basenji to your children in such a way that the dog feels safe, they can become fast friends.

You’ll need to make sure your Basenji learns that your child is higher than he is in the home pecking order.

Your Basenji will, over time, become very protective of you and your family.

Although these dogs can’t bark, they make other sounds (a wolf-like yodeling) and are highly attentive to their surroundings. They make very good watchdogs.

Children may enjoy that a Basenji will often lick to groom himself, much like a cat, and can climb to a high place to survey his ‘kingdom.’

Because Basenjis are so clever, they do very well at agility courses, so if you have children who want a dog who can do tricks, a Basenji might well be the ideal choice. You’ll have to train him to want to do tricks for you, though!

Other Things To Bear In Mind

These dogs also have a strong prey drive, so they will chase and catch smaller animals. If you have cats, chickens, pet rabbits, or other small animals, know that your Basenji will want to hunt them!

Basenjis are also extremely fast: so much so that they can’t be trusted off lead.

They can (and should) be trained to come when you call them, but if your Basenji sees a rabbit when you’re out walking him, don’t expect him not to want to chase it.

Basenjis are lightning-fast, and they will run very far to hunt down smaller rodents, cats, and other dogs.

You can only have your Basenji off lead in an enclosed area with no other animals present.

What Can Make Basenji Dogs Aggressive?

Several things can make Basenji dogs aggressive: insufficient exercise, boredom, and the presence of other dogs, particularly male dogs. Some Basenjis can also be aggressive when protecting their food, toys, or other favorite resources.

Insufficient Exercise or Mental Stimulation

A Basenji needs lots of physical and mental activity to be happy and content. Your dog will want to be with you all the time, so if you have to be out of the house for hours, consider getting a different breed of dog who can happily spend a few hours alone.

Your Basenji will bond with you and your family quite strongly, so he will want to be with you and be involved in whatever you do.


A bored Basenji can cause a lot of havoc: this breed is famous for ripping out the stuffing of sofas and chairs, digging up craters in your yard, or even chewing through drywall.

Basenjis need to be doing things that they find interesting and engaging.

Protecting His Favorite Things

You may find your Basenji gets aggressive around his food, toys, or other favorite things.

Other Dogs

Basenjis want to dominate their environment and everyone in it, and this includes other dogs.

Male Basenjis who haven’t yet been fixed can be particularly aggressive towards other male dogs, as they see them as competition for the females.

How To Prevent Aggression In Basenji Dogs

You can usually prevent aggression in Basenji dogs by providing them with lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Early training and socialization are also essential with this breed to help prevent aggression.

Give Your Basenji Lots of Mental and Physical Exercise

Make sure you take your Basenji on long walks so he can burn off his physical energy.

You may want to consider taking him to agility classes where he can romp around obstacles and develop his mind and body together. Play lots of games with your dog, too.

Because they’re natural hunters, Basenjis also enjoy lure coursing (running full out to chase a mechanical ‘prey’ in controlled conditions.)

Train Your Basenji Well

Basenjis are not for inexperienced dog owners, and they need consistent training right from puppyhood.

Because they have minds of their own, they are not easy to train, although it can be done. Basenjis need to know that you are the leader of the pack!

Here are some ways you can establish your authority over your Basenji:

  • Don’t let your dog eat before you do – he eats last
  • Always have your dog enter a room after you
  • Make sure you’re the one deciding which way to go on walks, which games to play, etc.
  • Do play lots of games with your dog, but avoid aggressive ones like wrestling or tug of war
  • Never yell at or confront your dog – that will only lessen his trust in you
  • When he’s sleeping, let him sleep (but don’t let him sleep with you)
  • Use positive rewards to get your dog to do what you want and give him lots of praise when he does something positive
  • Keep under lock and key anything you don’t want him to touch

Crate training is essential for Basenji puppies so that you can help your dog get used to a routine.

If you get your Basenji puppy used to spending some short periods of time in a crate, it will be easier if you have to leave your dog for short periods of time.

Some people recommend that you treat your Basenji like a tamed wild dog rather than a domesticated one: respect his wild nature, which is still very much present in this breed.

Teach your dog to respect you, establishing clear expectations of what you want your dog to do.

Keep training sessions short: 5 to 10 minutes is ideal when training your Basenji. Any longer than that and your dog may start to lose interest.

Make sure you socialize your Basenji puppy early on, getting him used to the important people in your life as well as other animals he may encounter regularly.

You’ll always need to remember his strong prey drive and keep him on a lead around other animals, but he’ll be happier if he gets used to being around other dogs in a non-threatening environment.

Try these activities:

  • Obedience training
  • Breed club activities
  • Local dog shows
  • Puppy playdates
  • Dog parks (keep your Basenji on the lead at all times, though)


Basenjis are generally not an aggressive breed.

But they can shoe signs and glimpses of aggressive behaviors and tendencies, in particular contexts.

But, with the right training and environment, your Basenji can be an excellent companion for you and your (active) family.