Print this page

Do Ridgebacks howl a lot?

Part of your decision in getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy might hinge on whether or not they are a noisy breed – Do they howl or bark a lot?

The fact that the Rhodesian Ridgeback is officially classified as a "hound",  may bring to memory other howling breeds and may lead you to believe that they howl a lot. However with a few exceptions, Rhodesian Ridgebacks do not normally howl, especially if they are the only dog in the family.

That said, we cannot say that they never howl. Some Rhodesians are a little more vocal than others, but not obnoxiously so. For example, some Ridgebacks may playfully “sing along” to music on the radio, and on rare occasions they might even join in with you, contributing their own version of “harmonization”, particularly as long as you vocalize your favorite tune with unmistakeable enthusiasm. Be aware, this dignified animal does not confuse loud and obnoxious sounds with music. Harsh noise such as rap or heavy metal may disrupt his otherwise calm and dignified nature, causing him to seek asylum away from the source of noise, even if it is you.

Although it is not a typical activity for a Ridgeback to howl, there are exceptions. For example, the chances of occasional howling increases when there is a group of Ridgies together, and there is no apparent explanation that can be pointed to that initiates the activity. The best way to describe it is that there seems to be some form of group solidarity going on within a pack that is firmly bonded. It is like a sort of group expression. One of the members will begin with a slight whimper, and then one by one the others will join in until the fervor builds to a crescendo then climaxes into a howl, each singing in his, or her, own unique voice. This will continue for a minute or two, and then it will end as abruptly as it started. On the rare occasions that it does happen, they will often go several weeks or months before it happens again.

Although it is not a normal activity for a Rhodesian Ridgeback to howl, there can be other issues at play. Some call it "Separation Anxiety", though this often is a mis-diagnosis. The scenario usually plays out where the owner leaves for awhile, or just leaves the room and then the howling commences. The owner then returns a bit later and the howling stops.

This is probably not separation anxiety, but rather a very smart Ridgeback that has discovered a weakness in it's owner! Owner leaves room, Ridgeback commences howling. Owner returns to room. Ridgeback stops howling. Clearly the subject dog is training it's owner! We won't address how to handle this issue here, but it can be dealt with in a similar way as crate training - assuming that this was done correctly.

It is also important to recognize that older dogs or rescues already have a history, where a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy has a "clean slate", so to speak. An adult Ridgeback may have instilled traits that can take a long time to correct, where as a brand new puppy is much easier to bring up to speed.

Finally, a reputable breeder will utilize selective breeding practices to weed out heritable tendencies, such as incessant whining or howling. This is an abnormal trait for the breed and good breeders will not combine bloodlines that demonstrate a propensity for such behaviors.

Do Ridgebacks bark a lot?

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies are happy and exhuberant and may engage in playful, intermittent barking, but mature Ridgebacks almost never bark without a reason. It is very unlikely that you will ever come in contact with one that barks incessantly.

During the early formulation of the breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was intentionally bred to bark very little. It was very important for dogs to track their quarry silently during their maneuvers on the African Veldt, as any barking would reveal the location of the pack. Today, their somewhat territorial instincts are mostly manifested by warning the pack of any interlopers that might be snooping about the property.

Verbal expression of Ridgebacks

Although Ridgebacks are not noisy dogs and don't howl a lot or bark all that much, they do have their “moments” when, in their opinion, verbal communication is necessary. This can sometimes be manifested in amusing display when their sensibilities have been offended. If you are a multiple dog family, the stealing of a favorite pad on the floor or couch by a pack member might elicit a protest of consternation. They will express their displeasure to the offender directly, demanding that the situation be rectified. They might even try to enlist you to particpate in rectifying the issue. Not to worry, this display is more comical than a serious threat to the peace of the household. This is evidenced by the apparent lack of concern by the perpetrator who is usually oblivious to the problem.

Overall, a well bred Rhodesain Ridgeback will be a quiet part of the family, and often will make themselves a favorite breed in your neighborhood. Those dwelling in close proximity to a home with this breed have been known to comment on the fact that they depend on your Ridgie to tell them when something is amiss. They too will learn that if your Ridgeback is concerned about something, s/he is probably worth paying attention to.