Basenji Companions

Devoted to Basenjis as Pets


By Jean Skaggs, updated 2013

Whether teaching a Basenji puppy to go potty outdoors, or training or retraining a mature dog, it’s all done pretty much the same way. In both cases you need to get on the dog’s program. Don’t determine how long you think it should take for the dog to be housebroken. Every dog is different…every Basenji is different. Don’t assume you’ve succeeded if you go a day or two or even three, and the dog hasn’t had an accident in the house. The older the dog, the longer you’ll have to follow your housebreaking training to ensure they’ve really got it.


Comfortable in the house.

Don’t confront your Basenji for having an accident in the house. No matter what the circumstance, no matter how you may feel about why he/she eliminated inside instead of outside, don’t make a fuss. Don’t yell at the dog, or hit the dog, or rub its nose in it. You won’t teach the dog not to eliminate in the house by any of these actions. What you will do is teach it not to eliminate when you’re around. That’s when you’ll find puddles in corners and poop behind the couch. Even if your Basenji squats or lifts its leg right in front of you, quietly pick the dog up, take it outside, and come back and clean up. Don’t yell at the dog, or act out in anyway. You will only upset the dog. An upset dog can’t learn.

Being aware of all the instances that may cause a dog to need to go potty is one of your first steps toward success. Most dogs will need to eliminate upon waking, whether from a nap or a full night of sleep. They will need to eliminate after eating. Also after playing, and, if the play is very rough, they will need to relieve themselves during play because they may get overly excited. Anytime a dog is stressed, anxious, or excited, and it may be something minor, it may need to eliminate. Male dogs may need to eliminate more frequently than female dogs. The first four or five months you have a new dog take it outside every time anything happens. Basenjis especially like the familiar, change upsets them, so any time you’re doing something different, let your dog go outside often. You’ll save yourself some unnecessary indoor cleanups.

Consistency is the next important step. Dogs learn by association. Consistency from their humans is the way they learn to make that association. To avoid accidents in the morning, take your dog outside before you do anything else each and every day. Don’t take him out first thing one morning, and then decide, the next morning, you want your coffee first. It gives your dog the idea that going outside to potty isn’t all that important. Take your dog outside as soon as it’s finished eating. Set your dog’s feeding times so that you’re free to take the dog out as soon as it eats. Don’t let any time go by between the dog’s finishing its meal and your getting it out. Taking two more bites of your meal, or deciding to finish your coffee first, again says to your dog pottying outside isn’t all that big a deal. Dogs learn more from our actions than they do from our words. You can tell your dog it needs to potty outside a zillion times a day, but if you’re not on your toes to get it out every time it needs to go, your words mean nothing. Your dog will learn that eliminating outside is important only if you make it important.

If you have more than one dog, the excitement of you just fixing their meals may be too much. I have to let my dogs out just after I start fixing their meal or I may have an accident to clean up because one of them got too excited. Then they must go out again immediately after they eat.

Whenever you’re playing in the house, give the dog a potty break. Dogs, like small children, will often keep playing until it’s too late and they can’t make it to the potty place.

When you have company, move furniture, change the home schedule, or are upset over something going on in your life, take the dog out more often. These are the times a dog is going to stress and will need more outside trips. Here you have to be on your toes, because these are also the times you’re most apt to forget about the dog.

If you get a mature dog who already has housebreaking problems, use an “umbilical cord” so you know where the dog is and what it’s doing at all times. An umbilical cord is a dogland term for keeping the dog physically attached to you. This can be done by attaching the hand grip part of the dog’s leash around your waist. I made an umbilical cord out of light weight clothesline rope. A dog is not likely to have an accident when it’s tied to you. If you get the sense that it needs to relieve itself you can get it outside right away. This is especially helpful if it’s a dog that has learned to hide and potty. When you can’t keep an eye on the dog all the time, confine it in an area that’s easy to clean up. In the house it could be the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room…somewhere there isn’t carpeting. Or perhaps the basement or garage if you have one.

When your dog does potty outside make it worthwhile. Praise the dog to the skies, give it treats, tell it how wonderful it is, and do this every time so the dog can make the association that it’s the pottying that’s getting it all this wonderful attention. Here, too, you must practice consistency. Praise and treat every time.

Timing is critical in any training you do with your dog. Bad timing on the human’s part forces the dog to make mistakes. The harder you work to make your dog successful, the more successful you will both become.

Copyright © 2013 by Jean Skaggs

All rights reserved.

One comment on “Housebreaking

  1. Jambi
    October 18, 2020

    I’m pretty sure my rescue has a significant amount of Basenji in her mixed with lab. Red/fawn uniform in color, much larger, (not quite 5 months and ~25 lbs), too smart for her own good, stubborn, independent, the list goes on..

    Anyways I noticed this article does not mention the use of potty bells which I very much recommend due to the silent nature of these dogs. My pup was having the occasional accident even with often and consistent breaks to go outside considering she never ever barks and will seldom whine outside her crate. As you can would assume with their intelligence, it literally took her three 5 minute sessions to go from being initially skittish to the sound of the bell, to permanently installing the bell next to the door and hasn’t had an accident in the house since. Not only is it been wonders in house breaking, installing a little shop bell next to the door theater they paw whenever needing to eliminate is one of the cutest things ever.

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