Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a truly unique dog. It doesn’t look much like a typical dog, but it is one of the best family pets you could ever have. They are very intelligent as well as being very affectionate. In fact, their intelligence makes them great for tricks as well as dog shows.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is very loyal to its family, and will always be ready to protect it. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is very affectionate and playful, and has a very gentle and affectionate nature. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an energetic dog, and it can be very difficult to say no to this dog. They can be especially convincing when they want to play or go for a walk.

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 this has to do with very few 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 popular breeds.

a large Rhodesian Ridgeback waiting for its owner to catch up on a hiking trail

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: No
  • Good tolerance to Heat and Cold: Moderate
  • Good Pet: With early socialization and 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
  • Suitable for First-Time Dog Owners: No
  • Training: They are quick learners but can be stubborn
  • Exercise Needs: High
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Dermoid Sinus, Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia.
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 10 to 13 years
a Rhodesian Ridgeback laying in the grass near a lake

Physical Appearance of Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are large dogs with a muscular and strong 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. The ridge has two crowns or coil-shaped strands of hair growing opposite to each other. The crowns are generally close to where the ridge begins near their shoulders. 

It’s uncommon that you’ll find a puppy available with two “perfect crowns”. People that like to enter dog competitions will normally pay higher amounts 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. The ears are medium-sized, wide at the base and tapering towards the end. The ears generally lie flat on the head.

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. Ridgebacks generally have a black color snout and eyes.

Temperament of Rhodesian Ridgebacks

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 also brave and alert which makes them a great watchdog.

Ridgebacks are loyal towards their family members and very protective of them. It makes them an excellent family dog but their high energy can be a concern. For families with young children or members who do not like to stay active, it can be difficult to take care of the 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 generally open up with strangers. At the same time they are not a breed that will bark at every guest. Ridgebacks will only bark to warn you of danger.

Training a Rhodesian Ridgeback

While Ridgebacks are intelligent and tend to learn quickly, some can be stubborn. To train Ridgebacks a consistent and firm approach is needed, without becoming harsh. Positive reinforcement techniques like lots of praise and food rewards 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.”

Early socialization training is also important for Ridgebacks. Expose them to different sounds, people and experiences and it will help them to grow and become a social dog. 

a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy playing in a field of wild flowers

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

Their Compatibility with Children

Ridgebacks can get along with children of all ages. They are also playful and protective of children.  Ridgebacks also do not 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 push or hurt the children while playing with them. Avoid getting them as a pet if you have younger children at home. 

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

Always teach your children how to approach and interact with dogs when you get the dog home. To minimize accidents, always have an adult supervise the interaction between your Ridgeback and children. 

a large Rhodesian Ridgeback running into a lake

Best Climate for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were mostly used as outside dogs so they can adapt well to moderate climate. They do have a short coat but the dog will be fine spending a few minutes out in the snow. The only thing to look out for is rain or humid weather as 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. Ridgebacks should be taken out for long walks, jogs or exercise every day. Families who cannot do this, should not get Ridgebacks as pets. Without a significant amount of playtime, Ridgebacks may have behavioral issues and become destructive.

These dogs 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 prevent your dogs from escaping.

Health Issues

Common health issues in Ridgebacks are:

Elbow Dysplasia is a hereditary condition that is somewhat common in large dogs like Ridgebacks. The elbow joint is a complex structure that is made of 3 bones. The dysplasia happens when these 3 bones do not fit together. There can be many reasons and the most common being different growth rates of these bones or uneven weight distribution. Elbow Dysplasia can cause pain, lameness and sometimes even lead to arthritis. Weight loss, medication and surgery can help correct the problem.

Hip Dysplasia is similar to Elbow Dysplasia but it occurs in the hip-joint of the dog. The dysplasia happens when the thighbone is unable to attach properly with the hip-joint, resulting in pain or lameness in one or both legs. A dog can get Hip Dysplasia from a young age because it is a hereditary condition, but you may not find any signs until the dog is older. The disease can sometimes also cause arthritis. If your dog is having difficulty in walking or experiencing pain, take your dog to the vet to get them diagnosed for hip dysplasia. An X-ray will help identify if your dog has this disease and your vet will recommend the appropriate treatment.

Dermoid Sinus is a skin defect that is common in Ridgebacks. It happens when the skin and nervous system do not separate completely at the stage of embryonic development. The sinus can happen at any part of the back or neck, forming a cyst or tube-like structure. The structure can penetrate the skin at varying depths, sometimes even reaching the spinal cord. While many dermoid sinuses may not show any clinical signs, some can produce a mild discharge. Significant discharge can cause infection which will require surgery. If the sinus attaches to the spinal cord a more careful surgery may be needed.

two Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies playing together in a field
two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in a yard playing with their toys

Bathing, Coat, and Cleaning

The short and shiny coat of the Ridgebacks is easy to care for. Ridgebacks shed a little bit constantly throughout the year and regular brushings will 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 bathing them using a shampoo for dogs.

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 as 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 

Adult Ridgebacks should be given 4 to 6 cups of high-quality dog food, split between two feedings. Giving them a lot at once can cause bloating. Ridgebacks are not so 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 giving them people food because it can lead to them begging. 

They should have clean water available at all times. 

Related Questions:

Do Ridgebacks like to dig?

Ridgebacks are not active diggers but several reasons can lead to your Ridgeback digging. 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.

a pile of multi colored dog food

Are Ridgebacks suitable for apartment living?

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 active as 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.

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