Welcome to Saorsa Basenjis
"Saorsa", pronounced "seer-sha", is Irish Gaelic meaning "freedom";
Though not a complete definition, I feel the above describes this unique breed of dog quite well.
The Basenji, for those unfamiliar with him, is an African breed of hunting dog. They are small in size, lightly built, and whole lotta dog! Very clean and agile, one of their most notable characteristics is that they do not bark. They are not, however, mute, and have a full range of vocalization from a melodious yodel, to a deep rumbling growl.
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The Basenji is not a dog for the faint of heart. They are bold little dogs, who must respect you if they are to go along with your wishes. But remember, respect is earned not demanded. It's difficult to do them true justice in summing up their characteristics with a few sentences. They are humorous, often out-going and friendly if you're deemed interesting, tough, clever, inquisitive and stubborn. They are never so much your pet as your companion and friend. Don't expect to be your Basenji's master. Once you have earned your dog’s respect, he will want to do as you ask. Usually. A sit or down on a cold or wet floor is NOT a reasonable request in the mind of a Basenji unless you work very hard to teach him it is worth his while. Would you do it just because? Didn't think so. This is not to say that Basenjis cannot be trained. They can, and quite well. But if you are looking for an "eager to please" sort of dog, look elsewhere.
Now, how does one gain the Basenji's respect? By being a fair and consistent teacher. Never yell at, jerk, push, pull or browbeat a Basenji. They must be treated as you yourself would be treated or as you would treat a young child. Fair and consistent is the key. These dogs learn quickly, so take care not to become frustrated or impatient. I have found that positive reinforcement based training (not to be confused with permissive) works the best with this breed. Trying to “dominate” a Basenji will yield poor results and set up a confrontational relationship with your dog. Plus they know we’re not dogs so it’s probably best we not try to act like we are. We’ll only flub it up.
The Basenji is considered by many to be a primitive breed, probably dating back thousands of years. Exactly how long is subject to debate, but most of us agree that Basenjis were around long before many of today's modern dogs. In the tombs of Egypt, one can see depictions of what might have been Basenjis, or at least Basenji-like dogs. They were used for hunting river rats, and probably much as they are used today in Africa: as game driving dogs, to track and flush prey and to dispatch small animals. There are many small villages today in deep jungles of the Congo where Basenjis are still the local dog of choice, and can be seen running about. Basenjis are not kept and bred in the same manner as the kennels of yore (or today) of Europe, and the idea of a specific "breeding program" is & was much looser. So Basenjis, being shaped mainly by nature and their ability to hunt, still retain many wild characteristics, one of which is the barklessness. Basenji females only go into estrus once a year, in the winter or rainy season. Usually between September and November in the northern hemisphere, and March to June in the southern. They know their family and do not generally respond well to traditional type training methods. Clicker training, operant conditioning and positive reinforcement work best.
Anyway, enough rambling on my most favorite breed of dog, and on to talk of my dogs...
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