Activities for You and Your Basenji

basenji_plays_ballBasenjis are smart, active dogs who need socialization, activities to exercise their bodies and stimulate their minds, and opportunities to connect with their owners. Following is a variety of activities for you and your Basenji to undertake together.


Getting Started

There are tons of canine performance activities that may appeal to you and your besty. Before getting involved in an activity with your Basenji, make sure you have considered what suits his personality—and yours. Start gradually with physical activities, increasing his active time to build strength and stamina. Most important, keep it fun!

There are many types and sponsors of events from which to choose. Three active event sponsors are the American Kennel Club (AKC); the United Kennel Club (UKC); and the Basenji Club of America (BCOA). Registration with these organizations of your dog as a Basenji enables him to participate in the many performance events they offer, such as agility, obedience, rally obedience, tracking, and lure coursing.

  • If you did not receive AKC papers with your dog, AKC offers Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL). (UKC has a similar registration.) PAL registration merely requires that you complete and send in paperwork and photos.
  • Although AKC PAL registration is necessary for your dog to participate in sighthound-only coursing as well as BCOA’s national specialty in performance activities, an AKC Canine Partners number and a UKC performance number—or simple registration for specific events—suffices for many activities.

Your local dog obedience or agility club, or AKC or UKC kennel clubs may be a good place to start. Attending a large dog show that has many types of events allows you to watch activities and talk with participants before deciding which events to undertake first.

  • Most groups—including AKC and UKC—have event search or calendars as well as entry forms on their web sites. Schedule ahead! Most events require registration a few weeks prior.



Agility trials train and improve your dog’s confidence and…agility! Most communities have agility instructors who offer classes on the basics. You learn how to handle your dog. And your dog learns how to navigate tunnels, elevated walks, teeter-totters, and jumps, among other obstacles. What’s more, you can practice in your own back yard by buying (or making) your own obstacles.

  • Visit AffordableAgility.Com to learn about agility organizations and equipment. There are many books and web sources for making your own equipment and training your dog on each obstacle or type of jump.


basenji_barn_huntBarn Hunt

Barn Hunts are really rat hunts. The rats, which typically live with their human ‘barn hunt enthusiast’ in luxurious rat condos, are placed in large PVC tubes (with straw). The tubes are then hidden in hay bales. Your besty’s job is to find the tube! As part of the search, your dog may have navigate a tunnel of bales, or jump on a bale (or both!).


Obedience and Rallybasenji_obedience

Many Basenjis are successful in developing advanced obedience skills, particularly if trained using positive methods such as clicker training. Obedience and Rally O (rally obedience) are offered by AKC, UKC and other organizations. We recommend starting with a class designed to achieve AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Award.


AKC standard obedience begins with Beginner Novice obedience, and continues through Novice, Open, and Utility. Tasks your dog learns include heel on a loose lead—and ultimately off-lead—as well as following instructions of a judge to turn right and left; walk slow and fast; halt; sit and wait; recall (in which the dog returns to you from a distance); heel in a Figure 8 around two people; and sit and down stay. Higher skill activities include retrieving a dumbbell over a jump; responding to signals from a distance for sit, down and come commands; and scent discrimination.

  • Rally O is more casual—and well-suited to dogs and handlers new to obedience. Signs direct you to have your dog perform certain commands. In executing, you are permitted to talk and gesture to your dog as much as and however you wish—with the exception of giving treats.

Lure Coursing and Racing

basenji_lure_coursingLure coursing is a sport that involves dogs chasing a mechanically operated lure, usually white plastic strips. The lure is pulled around pulleys on a line, in a manner simulating open field coursing of game.

Racing generally involves a shorter straight or oval flat track. The dogs run in groups of up to 6, chasing a squawker that is pulled in a drag lure fashion. They wear colored/numbered jackets and are scored based on speed. Smaller breeds are released from boxes.

Terrier racing has now been expanded to other breeds in some venues. It is closer to racing than coursing.

Sighthound-only Racing

In AKC and the American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) sighthound-only races, the dogs typically run in a group of 2 or 3 over distances of 700-1000 yards on a course that includes turns. Dogs are grouped by breed and ‘stake’ (Open, Field Champions, Veterans). Singles stake are for dogs that run alone. Best-of-Breed winners for regular stakes then compete against each other in 2 to 3 runs for Best-in-Field.

Dogs run wearing coursing blankets that are designated bright colors. They are released using slip leads that allow for a quick release at the start line. (Collars are not permitted while running.) They may wear a special muzzle—especially if they tend to bite at the start line or are prone to over excitement at the finish.

Before running in competition, dogs must pass a pre-certification or qualifying test, running against another dog of the same or similar breed cleanly (meaning they show they are coursing the lure, not the other dog, and that they don’t interfere with other dogs).

  • For ASFA sighthound breeds only events, your dog must be registered with an ASFA approved registry (usually AKC). Find event information at ASFA’s website.
  • For AKC sighthound breeds only events, your dog must be AKC registered. Use the AKC events search at AKC’s website to find lure course events.

The Large Gazehound Racing Association (LGRA) hosts drag races. The dogs chase a squawker pulled in drag lure fashion along a 200 foot flat track. All dogs run with muzzles and numbered race blankets. The dogs are often started from racing boxes. This race is all about speed and a good break from the starting box: first dog across the finish line wins. Find out more at LGRA’s website.

The National Oval Track Racing Association (NOTRA) hosts events similar to LGRA except the track is oval. The lure in a NOTRA race may be either drag lure or continuous loop. All dogs run muzzled. Basenjis run in ‘Other Breed Races’. Learn more at NOTRA’s ‘Other Breed’ website.

All Breed Racing

For all breeds, AKC offers the Coursing Ability Test (CAT). Any AKC breed or dogs registered through the AKC Canine Partners program can run. Dogs run one at a time for 600 yards. If the dog follows the lure and completes the course within a specified time, they receive a qualifying run toward a CAT title. No special equipment required! Dogs should be in reasonable physical condition. It is helpful if the dogs respond to a recall command at the end of the run.

  • UKC has equivalents to the CAT that are open to all breeds and all mixed breed dogs with a UKC Performance Listing.

UKC Drag Racing, formerly known as Terrier Racing is open to all breeds 18 inches and under—which includes most Basenjis. UKC describes it this way:  “these speedsters charge out of the gate, down a track in pursuit of a lure, through a chute into the arms of their owners. Dogs are separated by body type rather than breed. First dog across the finish wins.”

  • There are two race types, Flat and Steeplechase. Distances are 175 to 225 feet. Dogs, running in groups of 6, must wear muzzles. Colored race collars that enable identification are provided by the club.

Scent Detection/Nosework

basenji_noseworkK9 Nosework and the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW) sponsor forms of scent detection training and competition based on professional canine activities like drug detection. Dogs search for “hides”– small containers with cotton swabs scented with one or more essential oils, usually Birch, Anise, or Clove.

Dogs usually begin with box searches, looking for the scent in cardboard boxes in rows. To progress in competition, dogs must find the scent in one of 12 identical boxes and indicate or alert in some way to signal their handler they have found it. This Odor Recognition Test qualifies your dog to enter trials including:

  • Container searches—the hide may be in a box or any container like a bin, luggage, or purse
  • Interior searches—the hide may be anywhere in a room or rooms
  • Exterior searches—the hide is outdoors
  • Vehicle searches—the hide is in a magnetic box attached to a car or other vehicle

We find this a great sport for dogs. It builds confidence. It enhances handler-dog communication. It requires no obedience training. And it is even good for dogs that are dog reactive because each dog works alone, away from other dogs, in a controlled environment.

Many organizations are involved with scent events including:

There also are Facebook groups for nosework, some focused by geographic area, some by a sponsor organization, and some open to all.

basenji_therapy_dogTherapy Dog Certification

Many Basenjis are excellent therapy dogs. Certification requires only beginning obedience skills like those on the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.

Therapy Dogs International offers training materials and testing opportunities.


Dog Scouts of America

Dog Scouts of America is a relatively new organization that enables dogs and owners to explore many kinds of activities, emphasizing positive training methods and being a good pet parent.

Dog Scout troops are located across the country—and there are dog camps you and your besty can attend! You also may participate remotely by working on your own with your dog and sending in written logs to obtain some titles, including Trail Dog, Pack Dog, and Geocaching.

To qualify for a Dog Scout title, you and your besty must pass comprehensive tests (beyond the level of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen) that demonstrate your dog behaves well in normal community settings. For example, successful dogs can: walk properly on a loose lead; ‘leave it’ when told to ignore things like food on the ground; behave well with people and other dogs, both on and off leash; and the basic commands sit, stay, and come. Owners must pass a handler test and demonstrate the positive methods they employed to teach their dog to heel and ‘leave it’.