What is a Basenji?

A poised, elegant hunting dog from Africa, the Basenji is smoothly muscular and moves with ease and agility. He is lightly built and possesses a wrinkled head and a high, curled tail. The Basenji is commonly known as the “barkless dog”, but when excited, he makes a noise that sounds like a yodel. Colors include chestnut red, pure black, tricolor, or brindle—all with white feet, chest and tail tip. © American Kennel Club

You can also learn more about the Basenji at Wikipedia.

How does the BRAT placement process work?

The first thing to do is to read about BRAT's adoption process. The next step for an adopter is to complete the BRAT adoption application. Once you have completed and submitted the application, you will be contacted by a BRAT representative. The representative may ask questions in an attempt to find the best possible match for you and the Basenji. Be patient with this process. We are an all-volunteer organization.

Following are some examples of possible questions:

  • What are your expectations? Do you want a dog that is promptly obedient and content to lie endlessly by your side, gazing at you adoringly?
  • Are you willing to adopt a Basenji that might chew up your sofa or try to climb your fence? How about one that has never lived indoors and has somewhat iffy house manners? Or one that requires medication for hypothyroidism or is on a dietary protocol for Fanconi syndrome?
  • How much effort are you willing to put into helping your Basenji become the pet of your family?
  • What are your beliefs about training, crating, and other dog-related issues? For instance, do you feel that dogs should be allowed to run free?
  • Do you support crating? If not, why?
  • What training methods do you plan to use with your adopted Basenji?
  • What is your housing situation like? Do you rent or own? Does your landlord allow dogs? Do you have a yard and is it fenced?
  • What is your household like? Do other people reside in your home? If so, what is the general feeling about dogs in the home, Basenjis in particular?
  • Do you have children, or do children regularly visit?
  • Do you already have dogs? What breeds and ages are they? Have they been spayed and neutered? Are there any behavioral issues? Do you have cats?
  • What kind of your lifestyle do you have?

Being a responsible dog owner requires time, effort, and expense, and this can be even more true if you adopt a rescue dog. The good news is that you will not have to spend much time grooming your Basenji. However, this is a breed with lots of energy, and the expression, “a tired Basenji is a good Basenji” certainly holds true. You will need to find time in your schedule to give your Basenji an appropriate amount of exercise, both physical and mental. This means that if you travel a lot and can't take your dog along, or if you have so many other commitments that the Basenji would be “just one more thing,” now is probably not a good time to add a Basenji to your family.

Once you have completed our application, you will begin receiving emails describing new Basenjis available from BRAT. You need only to respond if you are interested in the dog. You should also check out the adoption listings on the BRAT website. Read the profiles carefully. As much information as possible is provided in order to help you decide whether or not the dog is a good match for you. If you have cats or children, for example, be sure to note whether a particular dog does well with them. Knowing what kind of applicant the coordinator is looking for can save a lot of time and frustration.

When you see a dog that you think might fit well with your home and lifestyle, email the dog's BRAT coordinator by clicking the coordinator's link within the dog's listing. The coordinator will receive your application and may email or call you with some additional questions.

If the coordinator decides to pursue the placement of the Basenji with you, a home visit will be scheduled. A BRAT representative will visit your home for further discussion, hoping to ensure a positive outcome for both you and the Basenji. In some circumstances, it may be possible for you to visit the dog you are interested in adopting. This can be particularly useful for both first-time Basenji owners and those with other dogs. It is critical if the Basenji is shy or has difficulty accepting new people.

When you are approved for a Basenji, you will be expected to pay a placement fee and sign an adoption contract. The adoption fee varies based on the age of the dog and can be found on each dog's webpage. Fees help defray costs of medical care and feeding the Basenjis while in our care.

The coordinator will also work with you to arrange transport of your Basenji. Often, a Basenji Underground Railroad (BUR) run can be coordinated, where multiple BRAT volunteers drive your dog to you, or part of the way to you, relay style.

If air transport is the best option, it may be arranged at the expense of the adopting family. The cost of flying the dog will be dependent on location and the airline used.

If you have questions about BRAT or the placement process, please use our contact page to leave a message for a BRAT administrator.

Why are these dogs in rescue? Are they bad dogs?

There are a lot of reasons why Basenjis and other dogs come into rescue. Some of the most common include:

Life changes: Sometimes major life changes force people to give up their treasured companions. An owner may suffer a catastrophic illness or injury, or the health of a family member can suddenly require all of the owner's time and effort. Job loss or requirements such as long work hours, or prolonged travel may mean the owner does not have time for the dog.

Marriage might bring a spouse or stepchild who cannot live with the dog, or a new baby may take up all of the owner's time. Divorce often plays a role in relinquishment, as may unexpected financial difficulties.

Irreconcilable differences: That beautiful face with the expressive eyes and wrinkled forehead (not to mention the curled tail) can appeal to people who are not really suited to having a Basenji. They get the puppy home and find themselves unable to deal with typical Basenji puppy antics. Some people have heard that Basenjis do not bark and assume they must be totally silent. Basenjis can make a gamut of sounds that run from a barely audible squeak to a blood-curdling scream. Others have read that Basenjis are good apartment dogs, so they think they do not have to provide them with regular exercise. Some hope to get an obedient dog and then discover that a Basenji does not fit that category. (See Behavior Problems below.) Often such people truly care about their dog, but recognizing their mistake in selecting a Basenji, they may ask BRAT to find the dog a more suitable home.

Some Basenjis in rescue were literally “rescued.” They have been removed from abusive or neglectful circumstances to be rehabilitated and placed in homes where they will be understood and cared for. This includes dogs saved from shelters, puppy mills or seized from “collectors.”

Behavior problems: Basenjis are smart, strong-willed, independent, creative dogs. They require intelligent handling. If left to their own devices, they may learn behaviors that are unacceptable. Read the Reality Stories. Basenjis need to be socialized and taught what is acceptable.

From owners who choose to relinquish the dog: These dogs are not bad dogs. They are dogs that may be poorly trained or under-socialized, but that can benefit greatly if someone is willing to spend time with them, be consistent, and give them proper training. This is not to say that a few weeks in a class will yield a perfect companion. Training a dog is not wholly about training the dog; the humans need training too. Please note that BRAT does not knowingly accept or place dogs that bite and/or are viscous.

Health problems: Some Basenjis come into rescue because they develop health problems with which their owners are unable to cope. Some come simply because they're old. These Basenjis, with proper care, can make wonderful pets.

Is a Basenji the right dog for me and my family?

If everyone thinking about getting a Basenji would ask this question, there would probably be fewer Basenjis in rescue. The best way to answer it is to think about yourself, your family, why you want a dog, and what you want from your dog.

Consider the following:

Is your home life pretty hectic right now, with small children and lots of activity? Are you caring for a dependent family member? Do you need to be away many hours each day because of your job or because you travel often?

What kind of dog do you want? Do you want one that is highly obedient and lives only to please you? Do you want one that can safely be allowed to run off-leash? Do you want one that just likes to lie around the house all of the time? Do you want a dog that has never met a stranger and instantly loves everyone, including small children?

“Yes” responses to any of these questions should lead you to question whether a Basenji is right for you. Basenjis are obedient some of the time, but they are sight hounds, bred for generations to be independent thinkers. They need both physical and mental stimulation, and if they see anything of interest to pursue (literally or figuratively), they will not hesitate to pursue it.

Basenjis are active, often fearless dogs that, when off-leash, may run in front of a vehicle without the slightest sense of danger. This behavior is driven by the Basenji's survival instinct and should not be underestimated. Some Basenjis are outgoing, but others are more reserved and need to be allowed to warm up to strangers before being petted. Many are wonderful with children, but others don’t like them much at all. Again, refer to the Reality Stories on this site to find out some of the truths about life with Basenjis.

Do you want an intelligent dog? Do you want a dog that will challenge you and may even outsmart you on occasion? Do you want a dog that is cheerfully disobedient? Are you willing to laugh at yourself when your dog puts one over on you?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, a Basenji might be just the right dog for you.

Are you willing to put in the time and effort it takes to be a Basenji owner? Will you go to training with the attitude that the training is more for you than for your Basenji? Are you willing to take your Basenji for long walks, play silly games, cuddle as needed, and provide the consistent care and nurturing a Basenji needs?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, a Basenji may be waiting for you.

I already own a female dog and want to adopt another female. Is this a good idea?

While there are exceptions to any rule, same-sex aggression can often be a problem with Basenjis. In general, and especially when dealing with adult dogs, opposite sex placements are easier and safer.

Why should I consider adopting an older Basenji?

Old, elderly and senior are words that conjure unfair images of infirmity and senility. What is old for a Basenji? Like humans, longevity is often dictated by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Basenjis seem to live longer than many other breeds. This can be a good or a bad thing—especially given that we live in such a “disposable society.”

Basenji Rescue and Transport, Inc. (BRAT) places many dogs over the age of eight. Most older dogs adjust wonderfully to their new homes and appear to be grateful to have been given another chance.

It is a myth that the older dog takes longer to bond. If a dog has once been able to love, it will always be able to love. If the dog has bonded with previous owners, it will bond again because it's in its nature. On the other hand, a rescue that has been abused may have issues and might take longer, but that’s true regardless of a Basenji of any age.

Most people want to adopt a rescue aged two or three years-old because by then the dog’s personality has been established; the dog is no longer an unruly puppy, and the dog is still “young enough to bond.” This is true for older Basenjis as well, and with age comes some excellent benefits. An older rescue will not be as demanding. He or she will be happy to follow the sun spots around the house and doze away the day while you're away at work, and greet you happily when you get home. The need for exercise to blow off steam diminishes. Potty walks will be briefer and there will be less leash pulling. (All the foregoing is said with the understanding that there are always exceptions.)

Often, when an applicant’s older Basenji passes away, he will insist on adopting a young rescue to avoid the pain of another loss. However, one Basenji can never replace another and time can dull memories of what it is like to live with a young Basenji. One can forget how truly energetic and demanding a young Basenji is. And, a senior Basenji is perfect for the senior applicant who might not be able to manage a wild and crazy juvenile Basenji.

An older Basenji also makes an excellent pet for the first time Basenji owner to learn about Basenji ways and become familiar with the breed.

One of the oldest Basenjis adopted through BRAT was a sweet girl named Grace. She was raised by a man who allowed her to sleep in bed and have free run of his home. Grace was happy. When Grace was about 8 years old, the man married, and Grace’s happiness slowly faded. The woman did not understand or like dogs. She thought that since Grace was already eight years old, she wouldn’t be around much longer. She was wrong. At first, Grace was banished from the bedroom. As the years went by, Grace’s comforts and pleasures were reduced further and further. By the age of 16, Grace was chained to the kitchen table and walked twice a day. Since the owners were downsizing and moving toward retirement, they contacted BRAT to find a new home for her. Grace lived to be eighteen, and last two years were probably the best years of her life. She was flown from Florida to Seattle, Washington and lived a very pampered and well-loved life to her last breath. The adoptive home was thrilled with Grace from the day she arrived and they were honored to have enjoyed her gentle, good spirit for however long they had her.

People often apply to adopt a rescue because they want to do a good deed. They can multiply the power of their good intentions by giving an older Basenji a good home. As a reward, they can enjoy life with a wonderful creature that is guaranteed to give more love and joy than they can ever imagine.

I want to become a Basenji breeder. Will BRAT place an intact dog with me?

No, BRAT does not place intact dogs. BRAT’s mission is rescue and we cannot place intact dogs and remain true to that mission.

If you want to become a breeder, please learn all you can about Basenjis first. Live with Basenjis for a while, show them, or get involved in performance events like lure coursing or agility. Become part of the greater Basenji family. Join a group like Basenji Companions or search Google for a local Basenji club. Talk to other Basenji people, including both experienced breeders and those who have chosen not to breed. Consider the Basenji's health, temperament, and conformation issues. Make sure you are financially and emotionally able to deal with the risks of breeding. Read over the Basenji Club of America's Code of Recommended Practices and make sure you are in compliance. If not, BRAT may very well wind up placing the puppies you breed.

Does BRAT recommend electronic fencing for Basenjis?

BRAT does not approve of and will not place a Basenji in a home that uses electronic fencing, either inside the home or in the yard. This type of fencing—also known as hidden fencing, electronic shock fencing, wireless fencing, pet containment fencing, in-ground fencing, and underground fencing—or any like it that uses shock, noise, vibration, or irritant to contain a dog, is considered by BRAT to be an unsafe and unreliable means of keeping a Basenji contained and gives owners a false sense of security.

With their high prey drive, Basenjis will instantly give chase after anything that moves—a squirrel, another dog, a cat, children, a leaf, a piece of tissue paper flying by—and will ignore the warning beep sound, vibration, or shock they receive from this fencing. Once out, they will not be motivated to go back into their yard. In addition, electronic fencing does not keep other dogs, delivery people, rabid wildlife, or children who may tease the dog, off your property.

Electronic fencing is a punishment-based system of training and pain is involved. During the training period, you risk irreparable harm to the much-needed positive bond with your dog (i.e. the dog will associate the pain with your presence) and become afraid of you. In addition, if a dog is traumatize by this painful shock system of training he may become aggressive and/or refuse to go into the yard altogether.

The best containment solution for outside containment is a 6-foot privacy fence. The best way to restrict areas inside the home is by use of positive training, closed doors, crates, exercise pens, and baby gates.

If you do not have a securely fenced backyard, you will need to be dedicated to walking your Basenji on a regular basis.

Does BRAT transport dogs to their new homes?

BRAT operates Basenji Underground Railroad (BUR) to provide transportation for newly adopted Basenjis. However, it is sometimes quite difficult to organize a relay of drivers over a very long distance, and it is left to the discretion of the coordinators whether they want to try to do this.

Sometimes air transport can be arranged at the adopter’s expense, although this is usually not an option during warm weather due to airline restrictions—though some airlines offer climate-controlled environments for critter transport. Also, keep in mind that some dogs do not travel well and/or become distraught when crated. These dogs will need to be placed with applicants who live nearby.

How much does it cost to adopt a Basenji from BRAT?

The adoption fees are on a sliding scale, based on the age of the Basenji. Check the individual dog's listing at View Basenji Rescues. Fees are flexible for pairs and special-needs dogs. BRAT also requires adopters to sign an adoption contract. Please be aware that adoption fees often do not completely cover the care the Basenji has received, and donations are always appreciated. In some cases, when there have been extraordinary medical or other costs, a higher placement fee may be required.

I want to adopt a dog quickly. How long will it take for me to get my Basenji?

Faster is not always better, especially when re-homing dogs. People who work in rescue are certainly aware that those who want dogs can easily visit a pet store, hand over a credit card, and go home with a puppy in a matter of minutes. Many of the same puppies, are given up to rescue.

BRAT has an excellent track record for placing Basenjis in “forever homes.” One of the most important reasons for the high success rate is the thoroughness of the screening and matching process. Because it is thorough, it takes time. The length of time a potential adopter can expect to wait while being screened and approved for a particular Basenji varies. The whole process might only take a week or two, but more typically an applicant waits a month or more for the right dog to come along.

While you are waiting, make sure you have done your research by reading the Reality Stories on this site. They are an eye-opener!

I just received an email from a BRAT representative assigned to my state. What should I do?

Usually, the first person to contact you after you have submitted a BRAT adoption application will be the representative assigned to your state. This person will welcome you and verify that your email address is correct. The representative may also provide general information about Basenjis and about BRAT procedures. If there is anything on your application that needs clarification, you may also be asked a few questions. If you rent a home, you may be asked to provide a letter from your landlord approving a canine resident for the property. Be sure to respond promptly to your state representative, and feel free to ask any questions you might have. Failure to respond will be interpreted as a lack of interest and will result in your application being removed from our “active” database.

I am interested in adopting a dog I just saw on the email list or the Web page. What should I do next?

First of all, if you haven't already done so, fill out our adoption application. Then, using the link included in each dog's individual posting, email the Basenji's coordinator. Be thorough in your response to the information requested there. After that, wait for the coordinator to reply. If a response from the coordinator is not received immediately, do not be concerned. Although most coordinators attempt to respond within 24 hours, it is sometimes impossible. All coordinators are volunteers. Also, the number of applicants received might cause the coordinator some delay in responding immediately. Expect the coordinator to have further questions for you. Think about these questions carefully. You may even wish to discuss them with your family. BRAT coordinators are not trying to be nosey or give you a hard time. They just want a positive outcome for you and the Basenjis whose adoptions they coordinate. You can help out by answering the questions as honestly as you can.

This is another good opportunity for you to ask questions too. For example, if the coordinator mentions that the Basenji has a particular health problem or behavioral challenge, you may want to request a more detailed explanation. If you need a few days before responding, please let the coordinator know right away whether you’re still interested.

We are thinking about adopting two Basenjis. Should we adopt both of them at the same time or wait awhile in between?

Most Basenji people believe that two Basenjis are twice as much fun as one, so if you are seriously considering having more than one of these wonderful dogs in your life, why not adopt a pair from BRAT? When you read about the pairs listed on the website, you will see that these dogs have spent a good portion of their lives together and are well-bonded. You can be sure they will play nicely with each other, and the fact that they are being rehomed together should make their transition easier.

There are other benefits to adopting a pair. For instance, if you have to be away from home for several hours each day, your dogs are not as likely to get lonely, bored, and destructive if they have each other for company.

On the other hand, if you are not quite certain whether you want two Basenjis, it would be better to adopt one now and then wait six months or even a year before adopting a second one.

By then, you will be in a much better position to judge whether you and your dog would benefit by adding to your family. Just remember that bringing another Basenji into your home may temporarily cause some behavior issues in even a well-adjusted dog as routines and hierarchies change. For a Basenji that has had a difficult life, the stress of adding another dog too soon may lead to serious behavior problems. Occasionally a dog that has had the family to itself for sometime may start to exhibit behavior problems.

Does BRAT provide any post-adoption care to new owners?

Yes. BRAT not only asks that an adopter stay in touch with the dog's coordinator, it also provides each adopter with follow-up information in the form of a printable Post Adoptive Care (PAC) to assure that immediate help is at hand when common adjustment problems occur. The PAC addresses issues that are often seen in Basenjis, not only those that are adopted. When an adopter feels that help is needed in solving an adjustment problem, the coordinator should be contacted immediately. Not only is a BRAT volunteer available to help through any adjustment period, BRAT is there to help the adopter at any time during the life of the dog.

Rev. 03/01/12 LWH