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Ridgebacks & Children

“How are Rhodesian Ridgebacks with children”? That question probably ranks number Ridgebacks and Kidsone in frequency out of all others we get with regards to those who are thinking about getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. 

This question doesn't necessarily come from families with children either. Many people, such as unmarried couples thinking of gettting a Ridgeback will have friends with children that stop by to visit them from time to time. Grand Parents ask, and couples that don't have children yet – but plan to. And of course, concerned parents that already have toddlers naturally want to know.

There are a number of publications that describe how the Rhodesian Ridgeback does with children, and for the most part they all say the same thing: Ridgebacks are "very tolerant, and sometimes protective of children". You'll find this theme describing the breed pretty much across the board in all dog fancy literature for this breed. However, the best place to find out how the Rhodesian Ridgeback does with children is to refer to the breeder that you plan on getting your Ridgeback puppy from.


This is because general statements we read online about the various breeds are not necessarily accurate. Much of what you read is just repurposed articles that website owners create in order to produce income from advertising and other forms of revenue. You can tell because you read the same statements over and over again. Such statements do not come from experience.


The question of whether or not the Rhodesian Ridgeback is good with children hinges on a few factors. For example, what do we mean by "good with children"? Do we mean to ask if they are patient or tolerant with children, or are we concerned with whether or not Ridgebacks will enjoy playing with them? These are two entirely different questions.

Blood lines can have a very big impact on how this breed gets on with kids. This is why you may hear some breeders suggesting that Ridgebacks are better with older children. Such breeders know their own bloodlines and the statements they make follow their own experience with their bloodlines. However, a Ridgeback should never be aggressive toward children.


A good place to look to get a general feel for the temperament of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is through the official standard for the breed. All Ridgebacks must adhere to this standard as a baseline starting point. Every modernized country in the world has a standard for the Rhodesian Ridgeback all their own. Lets take a look at a couple of examples.

The American Kennel Club  says, in verbose fashion that the Ridgeback is: “Dignified and even tempered. Reserved with strangers.” Note that the standard does not elaborate further and it definitely does not describe its temperament with children.

The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom reveals no more, stating that they are: “Dignified, intelligent, aloof with strangers but showing no aggression or shyness.”

And the KUSA, The Kennel Club of South Africa is identical to the UK description of temperament. Quoting their breed standard the Rhodesian Ridgeback is: “Dignified, intelligent, aloof with strangers, but showing no aggression or shyness.”

So, now we have a place to start from. So far, it all seems pretty good, but no mention of children? If you're anything like me, this wouldn't satisfy your curious nature. There is a reason why the official standard does not mention a lot about children. It is as stated before. All bloodlines are different, making it impossible to clarify temperament completely. You need to clarify this question with the breeder that you ultimately select.


So, How is a Ridgeback with Kids?

A little boy and full grown RidgebackEach dog has it's own personality. This is why it is essential to have a trusted breeder to pick the puppy to fit your lifestyle. Reputable breeders have 8-10 weeks to observe how puppies in a litter interact with each other. This gives a clear picture of what sort of family each puppy is best suited for. However, to insure the greatest success it is best to begin socializing your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy with children as soon as possible.


At this point it would be well to discuss another important dynamic: The behavior of the children themselves. It should be common sense to realize that a child that treats the dog poorly may harvest an undesirable response from any dog. It wouldn't be fair to blame the dog for an unacceptable behavior if a child goes to the trouble of digging it out. Harassment, teasing, or physical torment could bring about an undesirable response from any breed of dog. The bottom line is this. If the children aren't disciplined, that family probably shouldn't have a Rhodesian Ridgeback, or any other breed for that matter. Even if the children are well behaved, toddlers should not be left alone with this, or any other breed. If there is an adult to supervise both the dogs behavior - and that of the children - suitable correction can be applied where needed. In the end, how your Ridgeback does with kids is dependent in large part on how well you encourage your children to treat them. It is very rare - in fact almost unheard of - for a Rhodesian to snap a family member. Hoewever, they may start avoiding any trusting interaction with children altogether if abuse continues.


It's been my experience that the Ridgeback goes through a challenging time during adolescence, where it is struggling to ascertain its position in the family (The pack). It is during these times that puppy owners should monitor toddler and puppy when they are together, and apply corrections at the intensity required. Ridgebacks are sensitive creatures, so it shouldn't take much. But, make certain that the child is also corrected for his or her behavior as well.


One point I'd like to mention here about correction. I have been in the presence of some dog owners that are constantly correcting their dogs. Sometimes it is so frequent that the dog barely has a chance to experience just being a dog. This is saddening to observe. Let me say this. If you cannot stand to have an occasional life event that doesn't turn out the way you'd like, don't get a Ridgeback puppy. Problems are going to occur. Nipping, chewing, cluttering the house and such are the things all puppies do. Be patient, and it will work out. But if you are so rigid about the neatness of your house that you cannot let the dog be itself, leave the idea of getting a dog behind. Consider a stuffed animal instead.

To summarize, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has a very stable temperament, isn't aggressive, and is generally good with children - but clarify just what you are expecting with your breeder. There will be few issues with children as long as they ( the children ) are taught respect for all animals. Also, it is the breeder that has intimate knowledge about their own dogs, and bloodlines. Additionally, they have the opportunity to observe puppies as they interact over an 8 week period and are in the best position to know which puppies in a litter are best suited for young children.