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Basenji

Barkless but not silent, the mischievous Basenji is a con artist of the highest order and will challenge your intelligence and sense of humor.

Basenji Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Hounds
Height
Weight
Life Span
10 to 12 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

Out of Africa, the Basenji dog breed was originally found in the Congo. He uses both scent and sight to hunt and was originally used to flush small game into a hunter's nets and to control village rodent populations. Clever and endearing, he's a good companion for the person or family who can stay a step ahead of him.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games for smart cookies
Teaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

  • Overview

    Well known as the "barkless" dog from Africa, the Basenji attracts admirers with his short coat, small, muscular body, alert demeanor, erect ears, and tail curled tightly over one hip. A wrinkled brow gives him a quizzical and sometimes mischievous expression.

    All that sounds attractive, but people who don't research the Basenji before acquiring one may be disappointed or frustrated when they aren't prepared for the Basenji's unique temperament and personality. Obtaining a Basenji from a reputable breeder who will discuss the pros and cons of living with this breed will give you a reality check, and such a breeder is also more likely to check breeding stock for heritable health problems breeding them.

    The Basenji is highly intelligent, but he has a stubborn streak a mile wide. The phrase "willing to please," used to describe so many breeds, is unknown to him. A Basenji may know perfectly well all the commands you teach him, but whether he actually performs them will always be in question. He may think first and then obey, or he may decide there's really no good reason to do as you ask. Instead, Basenjis use their intelligence to demand your attention and get you to provide whatever it is they need or want.

    Basenji people say their breed is good at teaching you to pick up your house. Anything left out where the dog can find it is fair game to be chewed or eaten. You'll soon learn to protect your belongings by putting them out of reach of these inquisitive dogs.

    Basenjis are also escape artists. Even a fenced yard will not contain a Basenji who is determined to be elsewhere. Unsupervised time alone in a yard could mean the loss of your treasured companion as he takes off to explore the world. Underground electronic fences also will not contain a Basenji who sees or smells something interesting. He considers the jolt from the collar a minor inconvenience.

    The Basenji is known for not barking, but that doesn't mean he's silent. His vocalizations range from a delightful yodel to a hair-raising scream, as well as the usual growls, whimpers, and whines made by all dogs.

    On the plus side, Basenjis love to play, although if you want a dog who'll fetch a Frisbee or tennis ball, look elsewhere — the Basenji is not for you. They are clean dogs with almost feline grooming habits. If you keep an immaculate home, you will appreciate that Basenjis shed very little. They also make excellent watchdogs. They will defend their people and property when challenged. They are noted for their courage and will stand against an intruder with everything they have. That said, their size precludes them from being an actual guard dog.

    If you'd like to take up an activity with your dog, Basenjis are aces at the sport of lure coursing, the perfect game for these dogs who hunt by sight and love to chase. In it, they follow a lure — usually a white plastic bag — over a course in a field. The lure is tied to a line that is run by a series of pulleys as the dogs give chase. Agility is another sport that might suit the Basenji's love of a good time. While Basenjis don't excel in obedience competition, they can be successful if you can come up with a creative way to make them think that training and competition is their idea.

    Basenjis are also super show dogs thanks to their proud manner and striking copper coat. They're easy to prepare for the show ring and have no need for trimming or complicated grooming. If you want a dog to show in the breed ring, discuss this with your breeder before purchase so she can help you choose the right puppy.

    With his unique appearance and personality, the Basenji is not the breed for everyone, but for those who appreciate this little dog's attitude and intelligence, he can be the ideal companion. Who knows? You may even join the ranks of Basenji people who brag about the destruction their dogs can wreak.

  • Highlights

    • Basenjis normally do not bark, but they can be very noisy, making sounds that include yodels, whines, and screams.
    • They are hard to train. Basenjis survived for thousand of years by being independent thinkers. They see no need to obey humans. Positive training can work to an extent, but they will pick and choose when to obey.
    • Basenjis have a strong prey drive and cannot be trusted off leash unless in a well-fenced area.
    • Basenjis are escape artists. They will use a chain link fence as a ladder, jump up and climb over a wood fence, or bolt out open doors.
    • Basenjis have a great deal of energy. If not provided with outlets for this they will become destructive or find other ways to burn off energy. Crating is recommended when not supervised.
    • Basenjis consider themselves family. They cannot be left in a yard with food and water. They require a great deal of time and attention.
    • They do not do well in homes with other small pets, as their instinct to chase may take over. If raised with cats they can do well but they're not recommended for homes with hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, birds, or ferrets.
    • Basenjis are stubborn, and you could end up with a confused and aggressive Basenji if you try to overcome his stubbornness with force.
    • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
  • History

    The Basenji is probably one of the oldest breeds of domesticated dog, and perhaps that's why he's not a barker. Early people may have preferred a quiet dog on hunts. Like his wild cousin the wolf, the Basenji can bark but usually barks only once and then is silent. It's also theorized that he is only partially domesticated. His metabolism is unlike that of any other domesticated dog, and like wild canids the female Basenji only cycles once a year compared to twice a year for other domesticated dogs.

    Basenjis were discovered by Westerners in the Congo region of West Africa in the 19th century. There, the dogs were used to flush game into nets, to carry goods, and to warn of the approach of dangerous animals when on the trail. A good hunting Basenji was valued more than a wife by some tribes in Africa, not only for his hunting skill but also his resourcefulness and ingenuity.

    Attempts to bring the Basenji to Europe failed at first because the imported dogs all died of disease shortly after arrival. The first successful importation occurred in the 1930s both in England and the United States.

    The Basenji Club of America was formed in 1942, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1943. Phemister's Bois was the first Basenji registered with the AKC, in 1944. Basenjis are rare, ranking 84th among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC, so expect to spend time on a breeder's waiting list if you decide this is the dog for you.

  • Size

    Males stand 17 inches at the shoulder and weigh about 24 pounds, females 16 inches and 22 pounds.

  • Personality

    The Basenji is a hound. That means he's intelligent and independent, but also affectionate and alert. He's a sighthound, which means that motion catches his eye, and he'll chase whatever he sees that moves — cats, squirrels, rabbits. He's not the kind of dog who will obey commands instantly. He has to think about them and decide if he really wants to do what you've asked.

    Patience and a sense of humor are essential to living with a Basenji. He will chew up or eat whatever's left in his reach, and he's quite capable of putting together a plan to achieve whatever it is he wants, whether that's to get up on the kitchen counter or break into the pantry where the dog biscuits are stored. He can be aloof with strangers, and he shouldn't be trusted around cats or other small animals unless he's been raised with them and you're sure he recognizes them as family members. That recognition won't apply to cats or small animals he sees outdoors, however. They're fair game.

    Basenjis need early socialization and training. Like any dog, they can become timid if they are not properly socialized — exposed to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Early socialization helps ensure that your Basenji puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling your young Basenji in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking your Basenji to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.

    Train him with kindness and consistency, using positive reinforcements that include food rewards and praise. The Basenji who's treated harshly will simply become more stubborn and less willing to do your bidding. Your best bet is to keep training interesting. Basenjis will develop selective hearing if there's something more exciting to pay attention to.

  • Health

    Basenjis are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Basenjis will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Basenjis, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).

    • Fanconi Syndrome: Fanconi syndrome is a kidney disease that affects the normal processing of sugars and proteins. The dog urinates away the protein he needs to survive. Signs include excessive thirst, excessive urination, and elevated levels of glucose in the urine. It's usually diagnosed in dogs that are 4 to 7 years old. Fanconi syndrome used to be considered fatal, but a new way to manage the disease has increased the life expectancy of dogs with this condition. There is no cure. There is also no test to determine if a dog is a carrier. Treatment is not necessarily expensive, but it is time-consuming as it involves giving your dog up to 30 pills daily. A reputable breeder should be able to show you which dogs in his bloodline have produced dogs with Fanconi Syndrome and which have not.
    • Immunoproliferative Systemic Intestinal Disease: Commonly known as malabsorption, this condition is similar to irritable bowel disease in humans. Dogs ISID seem to have a permanent allergic reaction to the food they eat. Affected dogs will have chronic loose stools and difficulty with weight gain. Treatment includes minimizing stress, changing the diet often, and use of drugs to decrease histamine reaction. This condition has become far less common in Basenjis than in the past.
    • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (Hemolytic Anemia): This is a genetic condition in which affected Basenjis have two defective genes for the production of pyruvate kinase, an enzyme required to maintain healthy red blood cells. Basenjis with this disease usually don't live much beyond their second birthday.
    • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone and may produce signs that include infertility, obesity, mental dullness, and lack of energy. The dog's fur may become coarse and brittle and begin to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. It can be managed very well with a thyroid replacement pill daily. Medication must continue throughout the dog's life.
    • Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM): Persistent Pupillary Membranes are strands of tissue in the eye, remnants of the fetal membrane that nourished the lenses of the eyes before birth. They normally disappear by the time a puppy is 4 or 5 weeks old, but sometimes they persist. The strands can stretch from iris to iris, iris to lens, or cornea to iris, and sometimes they are found in the anterior (front) chamber of the eye. For many dogs, the strands do not cause any problems and generally they break down by 8 weeks of age. If the strands do not break down, they can lead to cataracts or cause corneal opacities. Eye drops prescribed by your veterinarian can help break them down.
    • Coloboma: Coloboma is the common name to describe a gap or hole in the eye structure. The gap can occur anywhere in the eye, usually at the bottom of the eye. The condition is thought to be inherited, but no pattern has been established. Effects of the condition can be mild or severe depending on the size and location of the hole. Affected puppies must be spayed or neutered so they don't pass on the condition.
    • Progressive Retinal Atrophy(PRA): Once a minor concern in Basenjis it has recently become more of a problem. PRA is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, dogs become night-blind. As the disease progresses, they lose their daytime vision as well. Many dogs adapt to limited or complete vision loss very well, as long as their surroundings remain the same. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
    • Umbilical Hernia: Umbilical hernia is present at birth where abdominal fat or internal organs protrude against the abdominal wall near the umbilicus. If the hernia is small, it can be left without treatment. Some small hernias spontaneously close by the time the puppy is 6 months old and some dogs have lived with small hernias their entire lives without difficulty. Large hernias require surgery, which is often done when the dog is being spayed or neutered. Surgery is used to prevent a more serious condition where an intestine loop drops into the hernia causing life threatening "strangulation" of the intestine.
    • Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as letting a puppy gain too much weight too quickly or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors. That's why it's sometimes diagnosed in puppies whose parents were free of the disease.
  • Care

    The Basenji is a hunting dog and needs daily exercise. Some Basenjis do fine with a daily walk, while others require more enthusiastic forms of exercise. Basenjis raised with children often will spend their time wearing each other out.

    The Basenji is not a dog who can be left unattended in the backyard. He's an accomplished escape artist, and an unwatched Basenji will soon become a missing Basenji. If you can provide him with a couple of 30-minute walks or play sessions every day, he's well suited to apartment or condo life. Always keep your Basenji on leash unless you're in a securely fenced area, and don't count on any type of fence to keep him confined. He'll use chain link as a ladder, and a wood fence is a deterrent only if you think to put the smooth side facing the yard where the dog is and then top it with an electric wire.

    Another feline characteristic of the Basenji is his dislike of rain. Expect him to be grumpy if you walk him when it's wet out. The only time he might enjoy getting wet is on a really hot day.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 3/4 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

    NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    With his lightly built body, often likened to that of a deer, the Basenji is ill suited to carry excess weight. In other words, don't let him get fat. Keep your Basenji's physique sleek by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. Giving him plenty of daily exercise should do the rest. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the hands-on test. Place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine and the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs. If you can't feel the ribs, he needs a little less food and a lot more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Basenji, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    The Basenji wears a short, fine coat of rich chestnut red, black, tricolor (black and chestnut), or brindle (black stripes on a chestnut background), all with white feet, chest, and tail tip. He may also have white on his legs, a white blaze running up the center of his face between his eyes, or a white collar — a white marking around his neck. You'll always see more of his primary color than white. His markings stand out clearly and never look muddy.

    The Basenji is cat-like in his grooming habits and keeps himself very clean. He shouldn't need a bath more than every few months. Basenjis shed — all dogs do — but the hair is so short and fine that it is not as noticeable as some other dogs' shedding fur is.

    Brush your Basenji's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

    Trim nails regularly if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep your legs from getting scratched when your Basenji enthusiastically jumps up to greet you.

    Begin accustoming your Basenji to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

    As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the ears, nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Ears should smell good, without too much wax or gunk inside, and eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.

  • Children and other pets

    Basenjis aren't known for being especially fond of children, but with their high energy level, they can be good companions for older children. If they're going to be around kids, it's best if they're raised with them from puppyhood. An adult Basenji who's unfamiliar with children is most suited to a home with children who are mature enough to interact with him properly.

    Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

    A Basenji shouldn't be trusted around cats or other small animals unless he's been raised with them and you're sure he recognizes them as family members. That recognition won't apply to cats or small animals he sees outdoors, however. They're fair game.

  • Rescue Groups

    Basenjis are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Basenjis in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Basenji rescue.

  • Breed Organizations

    Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Basenji.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Almost always

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Not particularly

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • Less than average

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Not usually

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Very low

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Very

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Not usually

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • Moderate

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • Moderate

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Not usually

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Fairly good

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Sometimes

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • Medium

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • Very low

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Not usually

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • High

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Low

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • Low

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • High

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • Moderate

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Small

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Low

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Somewhat well

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Very poorly

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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