by Sally & Marvin Wallis

The purpose of the Zande Put-Off is to deter all but the most suitable Basenji owners from deciding upon a Breed which could be the wrong one for them. Questions asked in advance can be answered far more easily than a dog can be rehomed.

What follows is shorter than the version handed out to would-be Puppy Purchasers but included are the salient points and topics we feel most important. The Early Days of a Zande Puppy can be found on another page.


The Basenji is a lightly built, short-backed dog which gives the appearance of being high on the leg compared to its length. It has been described as a "small, deer-like animal". It does not bark, but is not mute. It has a variety of sounds, among them growls, chortles, yodels and crows - given in varying volume and stages depending upon its mood. It is extremely alert and able to let its owner know at once if anyone approaches the house.

If you are looking for fawning affection then read no further, a Basenji is not for you. They will love you, but on their terms not yours, with an aloofness which has its own peculiar charm. They are lap-dogs, provided that very early socialising has taken place, who can out-run a surprising number of other breeds including all but racing-trained Whippets, and can climb chain link fencing quite easily if they so wish. For sheer variety, Basenjis are wonderful !


The Basenji is basically a very clean dog and (normally) rather easy to house-train. Running back and forth along one wall, pawing at the door, etc., are signs that it wants to go out. It cleans itself in a cat-like way and several dogs coming home wet and muddy will 'group groom' each other until all are dry and clean. There is little, if any, of the wet dog-smell of other breeds. A puppy will often have been at least partially house-trained before it leaves the nest.


Grooming normally requires only brushing and nail trimming. Nail trimming should be done weekly at least in order to keep the feet neat and small with arched toes. This should be done even if the dog is not being shown. Long nails can ultimately affect the pasterns which is bad for the animal. Front nails need trimming more often than those on the back feet.

A brush or 'hound glove' and nail cutters are really all that are needed. If you show your Basenji you will develop techniques and find items you prefer. What you are looking for is a sleek, short coat that shines and toe-nails that are short, allowing the neat, tight feet to have the toes arched. Brushing daily helps and nail trimming as needed is about all save for a VERY rare bath, after a bitch has finished her season for example, although not even always then. Since Basenjis do not usually like water (try taking one out in the rain and see what we mean !) this can be quite an experience. A couple of inches of warm water in a bathtub is enough, shampoo and THOROUGHLY rinse out all soap. Dry and leave alone. Because Basenjis lick themselves, do not use any preparations that can cause harm if swallowed. We prefer to use only items that are marked "safe for Cats and/or Puppies."


Basenjis love furniture - thinking chairs, beds, sofas and the hearth are for their own especial use rather than for mere people. Unfortunately, they do (as any puppy) like to chew and this can be rather harmful unless controlled from the start. If boredom sets in, what is nicer than a new cushion or an arm-chair ? Our Basenjis are fed from an early age in a crate which gives it pleasant associations. They always travel in them and if left alone (for human shopping expeditions, for example) it is sensible to put the Basenji into a crate with a chew-stick or bone. It will sleep quite happily until the owner returns. Otherwise destruction of the home can result and thereby unhappiness for owner AND dog.

A cheap, easy toy for puppies is the inside of a kitchen-paper or toilet roll - it saves boredom, is chewable and certainly disposable ! Our puppies leave here with a 'rabbit' made of old tights. (As well as their favourite shank bone.)


Because they are very intelligent as a breed, they will 'try it on' to see how far they can push you and get away with it. If you let them, the next time they will try to proceed even further along whatever line of mischief they have chosen. They can, and must, be trained like children - punished immediately when they do something wrong. We smack them on the hip, or a light tap on the muzzle can be effective. It does absolutely NO GOOD to punish them some time after the misdeed as they cannot associate the punishment with its earlier cause. Punish immediately or not at all.

An idea some people find effective is to make a mountain from a molehill, and create a great fuss over a minor misdemeanour. "WHO threw the cushions on the floor ?? BAD dogs" - so whenever these particular Basenjis wish to be VERY wicked - they throw cushions on the floor. We get into a great state over torn up newspapers. So our home-pack, when punishing us for some imagined misdemeanor, shred the Daily Telegraph.


NEVER punish a dog for responding to your call and returning to you, even from some mischief. It will think the act of returning to Master merits the punishment and this is not something you ever want to encourage. We try to give our adult dogs at least half an hour in the woods or fields daily, completely free of leads or restraint. They are not the best dogs to train to return to a whistle, though ours will, in their own good time. Basenjis are bred in Africa as pack hunters. More than one constitutes a pack so we are careful not to let two males off the lead at one time. They would go over the hills and far away with incredible speed. However, one male and the girls can be free together. It is very important to run the household so that you, not one of the Basenjis, is the Alpha or pack leader.

Basenjis have NO TRAFFIC SENSE. They should never be allowed off the lead near roads and are not ideal 'town-dogs' for this reason.


The common practice among canines when they meet is to sniff... When you are out for a walk and meet another dog remember that if both animals are free or both on a lead, the situation is usually fine. If one animal is free and the other(s) on a lead, the hitched dog can feel threatened. If you anticipate trouble, lift the Basenji free of the ground AT ONCE, get it over your head and be prepared to use your knee to get the other dog away. It is unlikely that you will need to do this often, if ever. To hold a dog less than above your head renders its tail too vulnerable and a Basenji is proud of that tail ! We hate to say it but you WILL meet some VERY stupid and ignorant dog-owners. We had cause to call the police after a man rolled up his lead and belaboured our very new Mum with the clip end when she sniffed his Spaniel. She could have been badly hurt but the man took the attitude that no dog was going to sniff his dog. The police sorted him out on canine behaviour, were very supportive and that couple hasn't been seen in our woods since.


Ox-liver boiled with a clove of garlic, sliced, dried and frozen loose, can live in the freezer compartment and a slice or two be taken out for walks. By the time you need it, it has thawed and makes a tasty morsel as a reward to your dog for coming back to you. We give small pieces fed on the flat of the hand as if we were feeding a horse so that the fingers don't go too in the excitement ! You can keep the animal from straying too far by calling it back to you, sometimes for praise and love, and sometimes for liver - (no guarantees, but this system usually works well.)


Basenjis are tropical animals, living in warm climes and hunting as packs. They do suffer from the cold, but our puppies leave here with one sweater for immediate use and one to grow into ! There are innumerable other suitable garments obtainable from stores, Club Shows or from us. Our own younger dogs seldom wear coats or sweaters. Outdoors in winter they are either hunting and running or indoors by the fire, leaving it only for the briefest trip outside.


New owners are often the despair of Basenji Breeders ! It is difficult to train them NOT to feed tidbits between meals and not to over-feed their beloved new pet. They do NOT need a great deal but they will look appealing and all too often that side-ways look and that perplexed wrinkle get just what the doggie wants but does not need. An overweight Basenji is not a healthy animal. Too much weight puts a strain on the heart of an animal just as it does on a human. If you love your Basenji (as we hope you will) be cruel to be kind and exert firm discipline over its diet.

When you fetch your new owner (!) you will be given a few days supply of dog food. This is to enable you to purchase more of the same or, if you prefer to use a different type of food, to introduce that gradually over a period of a week or so. If you prefer to use some other type of food, this is fine. Just be certain it provides a well-balanced diet for dogs. And, if you do prefer some other brands, start with the food to which the puppy is accustomed and gradually increase the amounts of your preferred food whilst decreasing the amounts of the food provided. This should cause the least upset to the animal.

A detailed history of the food given, amounts, times and additives together with a suggested feeding programme will normally accompany each puppy. We make sure to provide one. As your dog becomes older you should decrease the number of feedings to two (at around 3-4 months of age or so) and when they are about six months of age you could feed once a day. We feed even our grown dogs twice a day, smaller meals, it gives them something to look forward to and makes it easier to control their weight. The choice is up to you. A teaspoon of bacon dripping (or LARD, not sunflower oil or similar) once daily helps the coat shine.

Your goal is a fit, healthy dog with a loose, pliable skin. The ribs should not show through the skin nor should there be a heavy layer of fat under the skin. Try to have about 1/8th inch of fat between the skin and the rib-bones.


Feed dishes and water pans should be strong and either stainless steel or heavy ceramic. Aluminium pans are susceptible to a thorough mangling by a Basenji's strong teeth - and the same thing applies to plastic pans. Always make sure the dog has access to fresh water although you may be surprised at how little a Basenji drinks. It is especially important to make sure a dog who is being fed on dried food takes in adequate liquid.


Your puppy will have been dewormed at intervals before you fetch him and will have received the first immunization. The Vet will have signed a Certificate which you will be given, together with recommendations for the rest of the course.

Please remember that Basenjis groom themselves like cats and that ANY preparation used on them should be suitable for Puppies and Cats. Some Vets are not aware of this and need to be reminded whenever ANY sort of treatment may be necessary so as to be sure not to harm the dog by accident.


Basenji bitches normally come into season only once a year. They can have a second season especially if they live with other bitches who have two but this is comparatively rare although instances are becoming more frequent. The season can last longer than with other dogs - because it is the only one - and a very high percentage of Basenjis come into season in autumn for a winter litter. They have been known to adapt when imported from Australia and to change from the 'down under' March/May Autumn to our own September/November. Of late there have been more and more Summer or Spring litters but these are still very much in the minority.

Ovarid, or any injection to prevent normal seasons, is definitely contra-indicated and should never be used on Basenjis. Being once-a-year girls, the correct dose has never been assessed and this, coupled with a Basenji's naturally unpredictable reaction to any medication, can cause them to miss subsequent seasons and become very irregular. Vets unaccustomed to the Breed may recommend an injection for the convenience of the owner, without realising the possible detriment to the dog. Basenjis seldom, if ever, appeal to other breeds and are so clean that their seasons cause very little inconvenience.


Basenji pups can very often have a umbilical hernia which may not become obvious until the pup is 3 or 4 weeks old. Gentle and frequent easing back of the fatty lump until the muscles tighten and it eventually no longer appears is very often entirely successful.

It doesn't hurt the animal and is not to its detriment. If working the lump back SHOULD fail, and if the owner wishes, a Vet can surgically correct the hernia at about 5 months of age, although the Vet may be obliged to inform the Kennel Club.


One particular book has been published in the UK on Basenjis. "Basenjis - The Barkless Dogs" by Veronica Tudor Williams, published by Watmoughs Limited in 1954 (second edition.) This is out of print and if you can locate a copy of this 'Veronica's Blue Book' - or even a later edition 'The Red Book' - HANG ON TO IT because they are getting irreplaceable !

Several American books are available through Breed Clubs, libraries, general book sellers and suppliers of specialist 'doggie' books. The same applies to Elspet Ford's "The Complete Basenji" (with many photographs supplied by us).

There are other books with an introduction which relates in general terms to Basenjis but in which, after page 7, you realise you are reading the identical material prepared for a book on Boxers, Retrievers or Irish Wolf-Hounds !


If things go wrong, we do beg owners to contact the Breeders first. It may be that extra advice is needed which we are only to happy to discuss with you. It could be - and it HAS happened but not to us - that a pup was left to get bored and ate a brand-new three piece suite. The new owner thought the Breeder cruel when a crate was recommended....That poor puppy had to be re-homed in spite of all the efforts and traveling undertaken by the breeder who also provided a crate.

We have discovered pups of ours swapped for a hang-glider - long, long after they left here and we thought them safe and well. Responsible breeders do maintain an interest in their 'kids' and hate to learn third or fourth hand of their problems.

We keep a scrap book of photos sent from time to time by our 'owners' - and we love to be reassured that our pups are enjoying life.


We make no apology for coming back to this subject. IT IS NOT CRUEL TO KEEP A BASENJI IS HIS OR HER CRATE FOR SHORT PERIODS OF TIME. You have to travel wearing a seat belt and if your Basenji is in a crate at least you have no worry that the animal get loose (should you have a slight tiff with another vehicle) and cause you (and others) more problems whilst you chase after your dog. Fed in a crate from an early age, the pups come to relate pleasant associations with one. A comfy blanket, a chew stick or a favourite bone and your dog is happy whilst you go shopping. Given a choice of a bored doggie eating your furniture for something to do whilst you are out, or complete peace of mind that the animal is happy, asleep and your home will remain intact, which is the sensible decision ?

We do not, and never would, advocate keeping dogs in crates permanently or even regularly over long periods of time. We mean the odd hour or so when you have to leave them alone. This is especially important in the first few weeks of your ownership. A completely new field of discovery, new smells, no Mum, no brothers or sisters and what is small-fry going to do ? He is going to explore and this means he'll chew things, probably things you value ! So do carefully consider before casting aside the idea of a crate and see if you and your Basenji can live with all possible consequences.


Being surrounded by fields, sheep and horses, we have had to dog-proof the entire garden. We cut the hawthorn hedges in half and had 4 foot high 2 inch mesh chicken wire strung on independent posts. The hedges were allowed to grow back and the wire is invisible. Less dense hedges have a combination of split chestnut fencing reinforced with chicken wire. Part of the orchard around the isolation ward (used when the bitches are in season) is surrounded by chain link fencing, loosely strung so that the dogs will not feel secure enough to climb it. We have also had to fence off the entire vegetable garden because we became tired of growing vegetables for the dogs. The puppies have been known to strip Brussel sprouts from the stalks, eat lettuces, chew young asparagus spears and pick the choicest raspberries. We discovered a local fencing firm who had mis-measured several gates and we were able to buy five of them for a fiver each - including main support post and hinges....

So long as the dogs have a large enough area with plenty to interest them, bushes, trees and a sunny spot to lie in, they do not usually try to escape but we have to be vigilant and watch out for gates left open or ajar - given an invitation, any Basenji will go hunting..


Basenjis need and like plenty of TLC. Love them as we do.... They really thrive on it ! and even though they may be the ones to choose the time of the cuddles and the attention you are permitted to lavish upon them their affection is very rewarding. Ours have a tendency to jump on our laps entirely at their own convenience, disrupting reading or knitting and rearranging us for their comfort. They will stretch the neck, indicate which ear should be scratched, when to stop and paw our hand saying "no ! don't stop !" should we cease attending to them. Eventually they will sleep, and as suddenly as they came, disappear to the kitchen and solitude. Like children they need to know they are loved.

Enjoy Each Other !

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Sally Wallis
Zande Basenjis
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We intend adding illustrations (photographs) to our Put-Off in due course