One Saturday morning the Munchkins were taking us for a walk when we came upon a man bustling about with pruning tools who asked if Ivan and Dasa were basenjis. When we said yes, he began telling us he was thinking about getting a basenji to take squirrel hunting. He said he’d been reading up on them but never met one. He thought this would be the ideal dog as they’re quiet and don’t shed, which would be great because his wife runs a day care. As we listened to this innocent narrative of certain disaster, I marshaled my thoughts like brave little soldiers, preparing to send them forth to prevent catastrophe.
And I told him something like this:
Basenjis have a strong prey drive, honed over thousands of years. Basenjis are sight hounds, which means they should not be off-leash because they will not see a car coming toward them when they are so focused on a squirrel, rabbit, or even a plastic bag blowing across the road. They can run up to 35 miles per hour, so they can cover a lot of ground very quickly. They also might well decide that they aren't ready to come when you call, and could be very difficult to retrieve or secure if off-leash. They really are not safe off-leash. Unfortunately, many basenji owners realize this only after their dog has been hit by a car.
Basenjis do not bark, but they are by no means silent. I described how Ivan and Dasa can be very vocal indeed when they are thwarted or convinced they are starving.
Basenjis are not particularly obedient as they are very intelligent and have their own ideas about things. Basenjis are generally very active dogs who need regular exercise and attention on a daily basis. If basenjis become bored, they will quite possibly become destructive. I followed this with examples of Ivan and Dasa’s destruction of books, magazines, towels, shoes, wallets, etc. I talked about the baby gates in front of our book cases and the trash cans secured in cabinets.
As for children, well, some of the older breed information books are generic publications that throw in a few pages about that particular breed, add a few photos of that breed and then attach that to a boiler plate book. I've seen some of these books that say basenjis are great with children and easy to train.... This is not necessarily accurate. In fact, they are not generally known to be patient or good with children. I told him that BRAT requires pre-approval for applicants who currently have child(ren) under 8 years of age, have children frequently visit their homes, or who may be considering children in the near future.
By this time, Ivan was complaining about standing in one place for so long. After all, this was his walk. When Ivan is impatient, he sounds as though he’s being tortured. However, Eric and I were relieved we had persuaded this well-meaning gentleman that a basenji would not be the ideal dog for him. Ivan harrumphed all the way home, but it seems we had prevailed and hopefully saved a few dogs and people from potential heartache.