Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good Dogs

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good Dogs? A Comprehensive Guide

Originating from southern Africa, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are strong and muscular dogs. They stand out because of the unique hair ridge on their back, which grows contrary to their main coat. Historically, they were used for hunting and protection.

But are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good dogs? The answer is yes, but like any breed, they have pros and cons. Rhodesian Ridgebacks stand out for their loyalty and protective nature towards their family. Gentle and affectionate with their loved ones, they can be wary of strangers, making them outstanding watchdogs and guard dogs. 

Their intelligence and trainability make them versatile and suitable for obedience training, agility, and even therapy work.

However, they come with challenges. Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be stubborn and determined, which might pose training difficulties for novice owners. 

They need ample exercise and mental engagement to avoid boredom and potentially destructive behavior. Socializing them properly is also essential, as their guarding instincts can sometimes result in aggression toward other dogs or animals. 

Origin and History

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a unique dog breed originating from Southern Africa, specifically, the region formerly known as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It’s often called the African Lion Hound due to its history. 

Experts believe it evolved from the indigenous ridged Khoikhoi dog after interbreeding with European dogs that settlers brought to Africa.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s ancient history is believed to be traced back to Ethiopia or Southern Sudan. A depiction of a hound-like dog with drooping ears and a ridge on its back can be found in an Egyptian tomb from around 3500 – 4,000 BC. Yet, the precise origin of the breed remains a topic of discussion among specialists.

In the late 19th century, Boer farmers created the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed to hunt large animals, especially lions. These dogs were trained to hold lions at a distance until the hunters could approach. 

Additionally, they were used to target baboons that posed a risk to the farmers’ crops. The American Kennel Club acknowledged the Rhodesian Ridgeback in 1955.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a robust and muscular dog characterized by a unique ridge of hair on its back that flows contrary to its main coat’s direction. 

This breed is celebrated for its loyalty, intelligence, and protective instincts, making it a top choice for a guard dog. While it’s a favored family companion, it’s essential to provide early training and socialization to curb any aggressive tendencies.

Physical Characteristics

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are large, muscular dogs with a distinctive ridge of hair along their backs. Here are some of their notable physical characteristics:

Size and Weight

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a sizable breed. Females usually measure between 24 and 26 inches in height and weigh around 70 pounds. In contrast, males are between 25 to 27 inches tall and weigh approximately 85 pounds. Their strong, athletic physique was originally designed for hunting big game.

Coat and Colors

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a short, smooth coat that is easy to care for. Their coat colors range from light wheaten to red wheaten, and they may have white markings and/or a black mask on their face. They have a distinctive ridge of hair along their backs that runs opposite to the rest of their coat.

Distinctive Ridge

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a distinct ridge of hair on its back. This strip of hair grows in a direction opposite to the rest of its coat. 

Typically, the ridge is about 2 inches wide and extends from the shoulders to the hips. This feature is due to a genetic mutation specific to this breed.

Temperament and Personality

General Temperament

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a strong-willed and independent nature. They show deep loyalty and affection to their families, yet they can be cautious around strangers. 

These dogs are always alert, making them outstanding watchdogs. Their bravery shines through, especially when they feel their family is in danger.

Interaction with Families and Pets

Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be great family dogs. They are gentle and affectionate towards their families and enjoy spending time with them. 

They are also good with children, but it is important to supervise their interactions as they can be quite large and may accidentally knock over small children. 

They can also get along well with other pets in the household, primarily if they are raised together.

Behavior with Strangers

Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be reserved with strangers and may take time to warm up to them. Socializing them from a young age is essential to help them feel comfortable around unfamiliar people. 

They can also be protective of their families and may bark or become defensive if they sense any danger.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are confident and intelligent dogs. They need an owner who understands them and can offer the right training and socialization. 

Training and Socialization

Training and socialization are crucial for Rhodesian Ridgebacks. These dogs are intelligent and strong-willed, making training challenging for inexperienced owners. Consistent obedience training is essential to ensure your Rhodesian Ridgeback is well-behaved and obedient.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks thrive under the guidance of a confident owner who can set clear boundaries. Training them with positive reinforcement methods, like treats and praise, works best. It’s essential to avoid harsh punishments, as these can cause fear and aggression.

Introducing Rhodesian Ridgebacks to various people and animals is vital early on. Their natural hunting instincts can make them cautious around strangers, so early socialization helps them become more accepting and less aggressive.

Keeping a Rhodesian Ridgeback active is key to their well-being. They love physical activities, so daily walks and play sessions in a secure yard are ideal. They might resort to unwanted behaviors like chewing or digging without enough exercise.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are an active and athletic breed requiring much exercise. Originally bred as lion hunters in Africa, they have high endurance and need significant daily exercise to remain healthy and content.

Prospective owners should have an active lifestyle and be able to provide daily walks, runs, and play sessions.

To keep a Rhodesian Ridgeback happy and healthy, they require at least one hour of energy-burning daily activity, but more is preferred. Two hours of daily exercise would be better. Without sufficient exercise, they can become quite destructive or develop behavior issues.

Jogging and hiking are well-suited activities to the breed’s stamina level and athletic tendencies. Rhodesian Ridgebacks also enjoy agility training, providing physical and mental stimulation.

It’s important to note that Ridgebacks can be stubborn and independent, so it’s essential to establish a consistent exercise routine early on. Consistency and patience are crucial when training and exercising a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Health and Potential Issues

Rhodesian Ridgebacks typically enjoy good health and have a lifespan of 10-12 years. However, they do have certain health concerns that potential owners should consider.

Hip dysplasia is a prevalent issue in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. It’s a genetic disorder where the hip bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint, leading to pain and difficulty walking. Before breeding or adopting one of these dogs, it’s wise to get them checked for this condition by a veterinarian.

Another health concern for large breeds like the Rhodesian Ridgeback is elbow dysplasia. This is when the elbow joint doesn’t develop correctly, causing pain and difficulty in the front legs. Maintaining regular exercise and providing a nutritious diet can help prevent this issue.

Dermoid sinus is a rare genetic defect that can occur in Rhodesian Ridgebacks. This condition creates a small hole or channel in the skin that can become infected or inflamed. Any suspicious lumps or bumps on a Ridgeback checked by a veterinarian is vital.

Bloat is a critical condition often seen in deep-chested dogs, such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks, though it can affect any breed. It happens when the dog’s stomach fills with gas and then twists, restricting blood flow to vital organs. Signs of bloat include a swollen belly, drooling, and noticeable restlessness.

Care and Grooming

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a sleek coat that’s easy to care for, but a routine brush can enhance its shine and health. While they shed moderately, a weekly brush can reduce loose hairs. 

Ensuring their ears are clean and debris-free is also vital to avoid infections. Wiping gently with a damp cloth or using a vet-approved cleaner should work effectively.

Their nails should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks to avoid overgrowth and discomfort. If you need help trimming them yourself, seek assistance from a vet or a professional groomer.

Lastly, pay attention to their dental health. Regularly brushing their teeth with vet-approved toothpaste and offering dental toys or chews can prevent dental problems.

Dietary Needs

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are muscular and sizable dogs that thrive on a nutritious and balanced diet. Maintaining their health and vitality depends on a diet that supports their growth, energy, and overall well-being. 

Selecting premium dog food tailored to their dietary requirements is essential. Opt for foods designed for large breeds enriched with top-tier protein sources like chicken, beef, or fish.

Beyond protein, a Rhodesian Ridgeback’s diet should encompass healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are pivotal in promoting radiant skin and coat and bolstering general health. 

Incorporate sources of these vital fatty acids into their meals. Fish varieties like salmon, sardines, and mackerel are rich in omega-3s.

Refrain from giving your Rhodesian Ridgeback human food or table scraps. Such foods can trigger obesity, digestive complications, and other health concerns. Adhere to a regular feeding routine and portion their meals appropriately, considering their size and energy expenditure.

Adoption and Purchasing Considerations

Several essential factors must be remembered when considering adopting or purchasing a Rhodesian Ridgeback. 


Adopting a Rhodesian Ridgeback from a rescue organization can be an excellent option for those who want to provide a loving home to a needy dog. 

Adoption fees can range from $150 to $600 and usually cover initial vet expenses, including spaying/neutering and vaccinations. 

However, it is vital to remember that rescue dogs may have additional needs and require more time and attention than a puppy from a breeder.

Purchasing from a Breeder

When considering buying a Rhodesian Ridgeback from a breeder, it’s crucial to research and choose a trustworthy one. Puppies from pet shops often come from “puppy farms” focused on mass production rather than the well-being of the dogs. Even if these puppies have AKC registration papers, it doesn’t guarantee their quality or health. 

Instead, when seeking a breeder, request references and personally visit their facility. This ensures the dogs are in good health and well-treated. 

The price for Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies can vary between $1,700 to $2,500, influenced by factors like location, the breeder’s reputation, and the puppy’s gender.

Considerations for Both Adoption and Purchasing

Regardless of whether you adopt or purchase a Rhodesian Ridgeback, it is crucial to consider the following:

  • Make sure the breed is right for you and your lifestyle. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are active dogs that require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Decide on the sex and age of the dog that would best suit your household.
  • Owning a dog involves financial responsibilities like food, vet bills, and other related expenses. Ensure you’re ready for these costs.
  • Ensure you have the time and commitment to train and socialize your dog correctly.

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