Is Basenji the smartest dog?

Picture this: a dog that doesn’t bark. Is it even possible? That’s what people often ask the moment they come across the Basenji, the distinctive dog breed from Central Africa. Known for their inability to bark, these dogs, instead, produce a unique yodel-like sound, known as a ‘barroo.’

But there’s much more to the Basenji than just their peculiar sound. You might’ve heard rumblings within the world of dog lovers about their intelligence. Many claim they truly are the Einsteins of the canine world. Today, we’ll unravel the story behind the Basenji’s bright brain and see if they genuinely earn the title of the smartest dogs.

Basenjis belong to the group of ancient dog breeds, often compared to dingoes, jackals, and wolves, because of their primitiveness. Archaeological excavations discovered depictions of dogs similar to Basenjis in tombs of pharaohs, dating as far back as 3600 BC. Over the centuries, they haven’t changed much in their appearance or behavior, carrying a solid degree of their ancestral wildness.

But what makes a dog smart? You see, canine intelligence is measured differently than human intelligence. While we focus on problem-solving abilities, knowledge, and understanding, in dogs, it’s measured on two dimensions – instinctional or working intelligence and adaptive intelligence.

Instinctual or working intelligence refers to what a dog is bred to do. For Basenjis, historically, were bred to hunt. They are hardwired to track, chase, and lure prey. Their hunting skills are accentuated by their cat-like agility and sharp observation powers — a key reason why they were prized by African tribes.

On the other hand, adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to learn and solve problems on their own. This is where the Basenji truly shines. Basenjis are highly independent and figure things out for themselves. If they encounter a closed door, they will try opening it, or learn to jump over fences if they really want to explore what lies on the other side. This makes their problem-solving skills admirable and often a source of the owner’s amusement or frustration.

However, this high degree of intelligence does not necessarily make their training a smooth process. Basenjis have a reputation for being stubborn. They do not blindly obey commands and often need persuasion before they support you. Training a Basenji is more like a negotiation. You’ll need patience and a good motivational strategy probably packed with treats.

This unique blend of independence, cunningness, and occasional stubbornness is what makes the Basenji’s intelligence stand out. But does it make them the smartest dog?

You might be surprised to know that according to Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs,” a well-regarded tool to estimate canine intelligence, Basenjis rank 88th out of the 138 breeds listed. This mainly attributes to their streak of independent thinking and stubbornness. In comparison, breeds like Border Collies, Poodles, and Golden Retrievers typically top the charts because of their high obedience and working intelligence.

So, while the Basenji may not be the “smartest” in traditional canine intelligence metrics, they certainly are in a league of their own when it comes to independence, problem-solving, and decision-making. Their cunningness combined with a high prey-drive and propensity for independence is perhaps a closer fit to the human understanding of “street-smart.”

But this doesn’t make the Basenji any less of a suitable companion. As an owner, you need to understand their nature, provide them with plenty of mental stimulation, and match your training techniques with their intelligence. Reward-based training, puzzle toys, agility training are few of the ways to keep these little thinkers engaged.

So perhaps, rather than asking if the Basenji is the smartest dog, we should consider recognising the different ways intelligence shines in the canine world, particularly in our enigmatic friends – the Basenjis.

In conclusion, each dog breed is special in its way, having unique characteristics that make them perfect for different people or different roles. The Basenji might not be the ‘smartest’ dog in traditional terms. Still, their cunningness, high adaptability, and creative problem-solving skills make them extraordinary. Their peculiarities are something to be admired and respected, just like their distinct ‘barroo.’

Do you have a Basenji, or considering one? Remembering their active mind and occasionally stubborn independence will set a foundation for a rewarding relationship. And who knows? Their clever antics might just make them the smartest member of your family!