Rhodesian Ridgeback

a large Rhodesian Ridgeback standing on a hiking trail

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are large, powerful, and beautiful dogs. They were originally bred to hunt big game such as lions and elephants. Today, these dogs are used for hunting smaller prey such as rabbits and rodents. They are also known for being good guard dogs, and are very protective of their families. 

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are very intelligent and can easily learn commands. They are also very friendly and gentle, making them a great companion animal. They are also very athletic, and will enjoy running around and playing fetch. They are also very strong, and will protect their family members. 

Rhodesian Ridgebacks make great pets for families who want a larger dog. They are very intelligent and can adapt well to living in a house. They are also very obedient, and will follow directions given by their owner. They are also very affectionate and loving, and will form close bonds with their families. 

Because of their size and strength, Rhodesian Ridgebacks require a lot of exercise. If you don’t give them enough physical activity, they will become bored and destructive. Take them for long walks or hikes, or let them play fetch. 

Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are very cute puppies, and will grow into attractive adults. They are also very smart, and will pick up new skills quickly. They are also extremely loyal and devoted to their owners, and will always be there for them.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are one of the most popular breeds of dog in the United States, but they may be almost impossible to find because of their rarity. A lot of their rarity has to do with not enough reputable breeders, and the high price of the puppies. The AKC registers about 2000 new Ridgeback puppies a year compared to more than 50,000 for each of the more common breeds.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Information

  • Average Height: 24 to 27 inches
  • Average Weight: 65 to 85 pounds
  • Average Length: 23 to 28 inches
  • Coat Type: Short
  • Coat Appearance: Shiny but not silky.
  • Coat Colors: Brownish-yellow to Gold or Reddish Gold. 
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Moderate
  • Brushing Requirements: Once a month
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Excessive Barking: Low
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: Moderate
  • Good Pet: With early socialization and obedience training, yes!
  • Safe with Children: Not with younger children
  • Good with Other Dogs: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: Yes
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: No
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No
  • Training: They are quick learners but can be stubborn
  • Exercise Needs: Moderate
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Dermoid Sinus, Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia.
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 10 to 12 years

Physical Appearance of Rhodesian Ridgebacks

a younger Rhodesian Ridgeback laying in the grass by a lake

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are large dogs with a strong and muscular body. They have a long neck with a medium-sized chest. The tail is slightly long with a slightly upward curve. Ridgebacks have powerful and long legs that let them run up to 30 miles per hour.

A special characteristic of their appearance is the ridge on the back. The ridge is formed by the hair on the coat growing in the opposite direction. The ridge starts from the shoulders and continues towards the hip, having a tapering and symmetrical look. Where the ridge starts there are two crowns or coil-shaped strands of hair growing opposite to each other. The crowns close to where the ridge begins just behind their shoulders.

It’s uncommon that you’ll find a puppy available with two “perfect crowns”. People that like competition dogs are willing to pay more for puppies with “perfect crowns”. If you never plan to show your dog in a competition then you are not ever going to care about this.

They have a broad head with a long snout. Their ears are fairly large, wide at the base and tapering towards the end. The ears lay flat against their head and will fall to about mouth level.

They have a short and dense coat that has a somewhat shiny but not silky appearance. The coat color ranges from wheat to gold or reddish gold. While it may seem that they come in different coat colors, it is only the shade that varies with most having a wheat-colored coat. Rhodesian Ridgebacks generally have a black snout and eyes.

Temperament of Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are active and highly energetic dogs. Most Rhodesians tend to be smart but some can also be stubborn, independent and difficult.

These dogs are intelligent and were bred to hunt, making them an active breed that needs a lot of exercise. They are brave and alert which makes them a great watchdog.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are loyal towards their family members and very protective of them. Because they are protective of their family they are an excellent family dog but their high energy can be a concern. For families with young children or members who are not very active, it can be difficult to take care of your Ridgeback’s physical needs.

Ridgebacks are good companion dogs and like to be the pack leader. They will get along with other pets in your home but they are not so good with strangers. These dogs do not open up with strangers as well as other breeds will. At the same time they are not a breed that will bark constantly. Ridgebacks usually will only bark to warn you of danger.

Training a Rhodesian Ridgeback

2 Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies playing in the grass

While Rhodesian Ridgebacks are intelligent and tend to learn quickly, some can be stubborn. To train Ridgebacks a consistent and firm approach is needed, without being loud or angry. Positive reinforcement techniques like lots of praise and treats should be given to them during training.

Training should start early on, right after you get them home. Begin with housebreaking them, which may sometimes be difficult but patience and consistency will help. Teach them the right social skills by training them to follow your commands like “Sit”, “Stand” and “Come.”

Obedience Training Classes

Obedience training classes are a great way to help your dog learn some basic instructions. Obedience training isn’t just for your dog, it also helps owners learn to teach and control their new dog. These classes can teach you as an owner the best ways to teach your puppy. The amount of time you spend trying to keep your Ridgeback from jumping on you can be a lot less if you know the best way to teach them. Because Ridgebacks love jumping, with or without obedience training you will likely spend a good deal of time teaching them to stay down.

Kennel Training

Kennel training is an absolute must for Rhodesian Ridgebacks. If done right they will see the kennel as their safe space, and a place that they can relax and sleep. Most dogs enjoy small spaces and will find a sense of security while inside it. Getting them comfortable in a kennel early on will save you a lot of headaches. You know that they can’t get into trouble while you’re sleeping or at work if they’re in their kennel.

Because of your Ridgebacks size and energy levels you will be thankful you have a kennel for them while you sleep or are at work. It’s also a great place for them to dry off after they come into the house when it’s wet outside.

Clicker Training

2 Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies sniffing things in the grass near the sidewalk

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known to be quite the handful as puppies. They need to be trained to understand what is good behavior and what is not OK. Clicker training will help them understand what is good behavior. Clicker training has you make a noise with the clicker when the desired action is done. In addition to the click you’ll give them a treat, at least while you train them. Every time your dog hears the click they’ll know they did a good job and you are happy.

If your dog misbehaves, try not to punish them because it can discourage them. Instead, remember the clicker training and divert their attention to something else. You might have to do this several times to make your Ridgeback understand that they are not supposed to do the undesired activities.

The training sessions at your home should be between 5 to 10 minutes and should be conducted several times a day. Young Rhodesian Ridgeback’s do not have a long attention span and anything longer may irritate them.

Early Socialization Training

Early socialization training is also important for Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Expose them to different sounds, people and experiences and it will help them to grow and become a social dog. By being exposed to so many things it will help interact more confidently with others and not be so aggressive with strangers or other dogs.

Their Compatibility with Children

Rhodesian Ridgebacks can get along with children of all ages, but younger children may have difficulty with the size and energy of your dog. When the Ridgeback is older they are playful with children and protective of them. Ridgebacks don’t usually bark or get aggressive which can make them a great companion dog for your children.

Like Dalmatians the high energy needs and large size of the Ridgebacks can be a cause of concern for families with younger children. These dogs may accidentally run into or push and hurt your children while playing with them. Ridgebacks are great family dogs for families with older children that are less likely to be hurt by them.

In our experience with the Rhodesian Ridgebacks is that they tend to match the energy of the children around them. If your kids are running around and yelling, your Ridgeback will be running around as well. Crazy time is when accidents can happen.

Teach your kids the best ways to interact with your Ridgeback. Children should not disturb them when they are eating because they might get bit because your dog thinks their food is being taken away. Until you know how your children and new puppy will react its best to have an adult supervise their interactions. Supervision is the best way to keep accidents from happening.

Best Climate for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

a super cute Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy standing in a field of flowers

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred as outside dogs in Southern Africa. They are bred to handle warmer temperatures, but because of their short coat they don’t do so well in the cold. They do have a short coat but they will be fine spending a few minutes out in the snow. The only thing to look out for is rain or humid weather because some Ridgebacks may not adapt well to these weather conditions.

The Attention a Rhodesian Ridgeback Needs

The active personality and high energy needs mean they need plenty of exercise and play time. Ridgebacks should be taken out for long walks, jogs or exercise every day. Families who don’t have time to exercise these large dogs, should not have Ridgebacks as pets. Without a significant amount of playtime, Ridgebacks may have behavioral issues and become destructive.

You can keep these dogs indoors at night but are not indoor dogs and do best in homes with a large backyard. A big yard to play in will give them enough space to burn off some of their energy. It’s important to have a fence in your backyard that is high enough to keep them from jumping over the fence.

Health Issues

Common health issues in Rhodesian Ridgebacks are:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem that can make walking, getting up or laying down difficult and painful. When a dog has hip dysplasia, their hip socket fails to fully cover the ball portion of their thigh bone. The looseness between the hip and leg bone leads to partial or complete dislocation of their hip joint and can cause pain and stiffness. In most cases, medication and exercise restrictions are advised by the vet. Over time the condition could become severe enough that your vet might recommend surgery to correct it.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dysplasia is a condition that affects a dog’s elbow joint. It’s caused by abnormal growth and development of their elbow joint, resulting in pain, lameness, and arthritis. Elbow dysplasia can be caused by genetic factors or environmental factors such as nutrition or trauma.

Symptoms of Canine Elbow Dysplasia

Dogs can also have a decreased range of motion in the affected joint. In severe cases, dogs will have difficulty walking or running. The symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia can vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, dogs can have signs of:

  • Lameness 
  • Stiffness in their elbow joint

 As the condition progresses, dogs will get:

  •  Increased pain 
  •  Swelling in the joint

In severe cases, dogs can experience arthritis in their elbow joint.

Dermoid Sinus

a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy getting checked out for dermoid sinus

Dermoid Sinus is a rare congenital disorder that affects certain dog breeds. It’s caused by the presence of an abnormal sinus tract in their skin, which can be filled with hair, sebum, and other debris. The condition is most commonly seen in Boxers, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, and Shar Peis.

Dermoid sinus is usually present at birth, but might not be noticed until they’re older. Symptoms include a raised area on their skin that can contain a small opening or hole, which can become infected. In severe cases, their sinus tract can extend into the spinal cord and cause neurological problems.

Symptoms of Canine Dermoid Sinus

The most common symptom of dermoid sinus is a raised area on their skin that could contain a small opening or hole. This opening can become infected and could be filled with hair, sebum, and other debris. In some cases, the sinus tract can extend into their spinal cord and cause neurological problems like paralysis or sensation loss in the affected area. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness around the affected area

Periodontal Disease

Domesticated cats and dogs can get periodontal disease if their oral health is not taken care of. Periodontal disease is a tooth and gum condition that can become serious in a few ways. One of the biggest problems is that this disease can destroy the gums and teeth of your pet if left untreated.

Another major problem if the bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream. Plaque build-up in the mouth can damage the gums and let bacteria enter the bloodstream. If this happens it can cause kidney and liver diseases and narrow their blood vessels which can lead to heart problems.

One of the easiest ways to prevent periodontal disease is to regularly brush your pet’s teeth. More than likely they won’t like it, but regular brushing is the best way you can prevent plaque buildup in your pets mouth.

Bathing, Coat, and Cleaning

a Rhodesian Ridgeback running through very shallow water

The short and shiny coat of the Rhodesian Ridgebacks is easy to care for. Ridgebacks shed a little bit constantly throughout the year and regular brushings will help keep them looking nice. Rubber curry brushes are great at removing loose fur from their coat.

Ridgebacks are not known for being stinky dogs, so they shouldn’t need a bath more than once a month to keep them smelling good. Because some Ridgebacks have sensitive skin we recommend not bathing them unless they smell. When bathing them it would be best to use a shampoo for dogs with sensitive skin.

Their nails will need to be trimmed about once a month. Clean their ears every other week with a damp cloth. Only wipe the outside visible part of the ears with a cloth. Avoid putting the cloth inside the ear canal because it can damage their ears.

To make sure your Ridgeback stays healthy, check their teeth, ears and eyes each week for any signs of infection. Check their coat while brushing their fur and look for redness or any other indications of injury or infection. Take them to a vet if you find anything that looks like a problem.

Feeding A Rhodesian Ridgeback

a close up of very colorful dog food

Adult Rhodesian Ridgebacks should be fed 4 to 6 cups of high-quality dog food each day, split between two feedings. Giving them too much food at once can cause bloating. Ridgebacks are not very good at self-regulating their food intake, and don’t know when to stop eating. The exact amount you feed them will depend upon the size, age and weight of your dog. If your dog is gaining weight, reduce the amount of food that you feed them or increase their activity.

The food should be kept in a place that is not easily accessible outside of mealtimes. These dogs are known to be “counter surfers” and any unattended dog or people food will be eaten by your Ridgeback. Keep your kitchen cabinets secured to keep them from being raided.

Avoid feeding table scraps to your Rhodesian Ridgebacks. If you want to feed them people food, consult your vet before giving them any. They are a large breed and with big appetites, but eating more than what they are supposed to can cause them to put on weight or lead to negative health conditions.

They need to have clean drinking water available at all times.

Related Questions:

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Like to Dig?

Ridgebacks are not a breed that likes to dig but several reasons can cause your Ridgeback to dig. The most common can be to escape the heat. If you have a backyard and the weather is getting too hot outside, your dog may dig to escape the heat. Digging can also be caused by your dog not getting the exercise or mental stimulation that they need. Walks and playtime will help keep them mentally and physically stimulated, and hopefully keep them from digging.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Able to Live in an Apartment?

As mentioned before these are active dogs who need a lot of exercise. While they may adapt to live in an apartment, an indoor Ridgeback will not be nearly as active because they will not have enough space to exercise or play. To keep such a large dog in a small apartment is a really bad idea. Unless you have a yard that they can play in you should not get a Ridgeback.

Author Profile
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Contributing Author & Social Media Expert

Maryna is an animal expert that has had dozens of animals in her life over the years. She has never found an animal that she didn't love immediately. It seems like every year she finds kittens that have been abandoned by their mom and she nurses them to health and finds homes for them. She contributes her vast knowledge about animals and family pets to our website and we're forever grateful to have her working with us. She's also an amazing graphics designer and has designed all of the social media images that we use across all platforms.