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Introduction to the Rhodesian Ridgeback

Any breed of dog requires a good deal of knowledge in order to ascertain whether it is an animal that you can adapt to. There are whole books written about this breed and it would be ludicrous to think that a few pages of light reading will get one familiar with all of its idiosyncrasies. This introduction to the Rhodesian Ridgeback is merely a "Primer" to get you familiarized with the breed, and is best considered an overview.  Understanding the reasoning behind why a dog was created will go a long way in assisting you at predicting its behavior. Therefore, take the time to read other articles as well - such as History and Origins of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, which will help you to understand its purpose, and thus will give insight as to its behaviors. 

Many of us grew up with dogs and therefore our perceptions as to what may be expected of a dog have been ingrained into our thinking. The Ridgeback has a unique personality and temperament, and it would be a mistake to have the usual expections as to how it responds to a given situation. A bit of insight into what to expect in this regard can be found in The Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog as a Companion.

A member of the gentle "Hound Group"

There are 7 groups of dogs, according to the American Kennel Club, to which all dogs are categorized. They are the Sporting Group, the Working Group, The terriers, herding and toy, the Hound group and the Non-Sporting Group.

By and large, my personal favorite is the hound group. In general, you will find that the overall disposition of all hounds will be "Laid back" in the house, good with children and not aggressive. They are generally accepting of all other dogs, and if aloof, they are at least tolerant of strangers. For many people, the gentle "hound group" is a good place to start when selecting a family companion. This is the group to which the Rhodesian Ridgeback belongs.

A little background history

Most dogs have some particular attribute that makes them notable. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are no different, having made their mark on canine history by being the only dog able to bay, or corner large animals, mainly lion. There are numerous tales of this dog being trained to hunt upland game, take on wild boar and hold elephants at bay. Also known as the African Lion hound (Now officially called "Rhodesian Ridgeback") he was also a trusted companion on the African Veldt. They had a variety of duties, including family protector, hunter and gaurdian of property. No other breed in the world can boast such a diversity of talent.

Family dog

If Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies are "socialized" properly with children - that is, introduced to them frequently at an early age - they will allow mature into an excellent family dog, allowing almost any behavior within reason to be inflicted upon them without retaliation. Introducing adult Ridgebacks from rescue groups might not meet with the same success. One cannot know the detailed neuropathy of an adult dog of any breed that is of "unknown" history. Therefore, It is universally recommended that a family with younger children do not get a mature Rhodesian, but rather find a great breeder from which to obtain a puppy. The bonding and socialization under this circumstance will infuse acceptable etiquette into your Ridgeback for the rest of his life.

A puppy is almost always the best scenario. Bonding with a Ridgeback is for life, and the fact that a puppy owner can expose the dog to many more different situations gives more control of the long term social temperament of the dog.

Training a Rhodesian Ridgeback

Training a Rhodesian Ridgeback is not difficult provided that a few simple principles are kept in mind. This breed is very intelligent, and they can learn very quickly. I have trained my Rhodesians to do various things, and often they grasp the principle in a few minutes!. Lots of praise and excitement does the trick, and keep the sessions reasonably short. Using treats will really move the sessions along. However, there is one thing to keep in mind. They are not appreciative of repetitious activities that have little purpose for pack survival. For example, you can expect your Ridgeback to learn how to retrieve a ball in very short order, but he will not continue this pursuit if it is overdone. He is quite simply, too smart and too dignified for circus feats. The Ridgeback's opinion is that "you ought to get a Lab for that".

What issues should you be aware of?


So what "issues" are there that a prospective owner of one of these fine specimens be aware of? Probably the biggest concern I have is that they are sight hounds, and love to chase things - just for the shear sport of it. Therefore, unless you are in a place of absolute assurance that an off leash experience will be safe - do not turn these dogs loose. They could easily bolt out after a frantic squirrel or fearful rabbit into oncoming traffic.

In the home, they can be notorious counter surfers. I would say at least 2 out of 3 Ridgebacks will steal food right off the counter - and some seem oblivious to your protesting, and punitive efforts to stop them. Puppies must be taught early to abstain from any desire to jump on kitchen cabinetry, which they will do while you're in the middle of food preparations, if you let them. I have found that the dogs least likely to counter surf are the ones that are discouraged from entering into the kitchen. Certainly do not allow them in the kitchen when eating.


There are many positive aspects of the breed: They are short haired, and therefore do not shed a great deal (Except when they lose their puppy coat, at which time you will need to assist its removal by brushing with vigor). They do not have the unpleasant odor that is associated with most canines. They housebreak nicely, they are clean as cats and they hardly bark at all - except as an alarm dog, when there are strangers - or strange "things" present. It is often stated: "If a Ridgeback is barking, you had better see what is the matter".

There are many testimonies from people that have discovered and articulated the disposition of these magnificent animals. In spite of their formidable appearance, they are sensitive creatures, a feature that makes them reluctant to be displeasing to their owners. Their feelings can be hurt by by the mere hint of disappointment from their owners. They are not "fickle"; they are not lap dogs to any other than the family to which they belong. The formal breed standard states that they are "reserved with strangers".

This is a wonderful dog, and it's for this reason I must implore anyone considering one of these fine creatures to become thoroughly knowledgeable about the breed before obtaining one. They are not for people that don't have a sence of humor when they eat a favorite shoe, steal a package of cookies from off your counter-top, or refuse to be infatuated over you. However, If you want a devoted friend, courageous defender, a dog that has a bit of a mind of its own, and an eccentric personality, then this is the dog for you.

There are many factors to consider, and this article only touches a few. But, If after the appropriate research, you do decide to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback, I am sure you will agree with the Late Rhodesian Ridgeback Judge, Major T.C. Hawley, who is credited with this remark: "Once you own a Ridgeback, you'll never be satisfied with anything less"