Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed

Dig out the activewear - you’re going to need it with a Rhodesian Ridgeback around. These beautiful large dogs are natural athletes with tonnes of energy to burn. They’ll happily run alongside you, or go for long walks or tramps - as long as it’s outside and an adventure, they’re there. Once their energy is expended, they love nothing more than cuddling up with you on the couch - Rhodesians are super friendly, gentle, affectionate, loyal dogs who can be very protective of their family. Graceful, dignified dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are strong-willed and independent so do best with confident and experienced pup parents.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Facts

Underneath their distinctive ridge, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are powerhouses of strength and speed who can grow up to 69cm and weigh up to 39kg. Not surprising when you consider a lot of dogs went into the creation of the Ridgeback, including Greyhounds, Bulldogs, Terriers and Great Danes!

  • Breed Group: Hound
  • Height: Female: 60-66cm, Male: 64-69cm
  • Weight: Female: 32kg, Male: 39kg
  • Life Span: 10-12 years
  • Coat: Short, smooth
  • Colour: Various shades of wheaten

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Breed Characteristics

Friendliness
Medium
Exercise needs
High
Health issues
Medium Medium
Barking tendencies
Low
Grooming needs
Low
Shedding level
Low

What Does a Rhodesian Ridgeback Look Like?

There’s no mistaking a Rhodesian Ridgeback, they’re even named for their most distinguishing feature - a strip (or ridge) of backward-growing hair on their back. If that doesn’t give them away, their colour might. Rhodesian coats only come in one colour: wheaten. Their coats can vary from light brown to a deep, reddish brown. You won’t see much variety in their nose colour either - they’re usually black, or occasionally brown.

Rhodesians have medium sized floppy ears and lovely round eyes that sparkle with intelligence. Although their coat is short and smooth, it isn’t particularly silky to touch (they still wear it well though).

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Rhodesian Ridgeback

Breed Facts

Breed group:
Hound
Height:
Female: 60-66cm, Male: 64-69cm
Weight:
Female: 32kg, Male: 39kg
Life span:
10-12 years
Coat:
Short, smooth
Colour:
Various shades of wheaten

Rhodesian Ridgeback Temperament: Affectionate Athlete

Rhodesian Ridgebacks make wonderful family pets. They’re protective of their humans, always loyal and gentle, and so affectionate and cuddly with their loved ones. You can never accuse a Rhodesian of being aggressive towards humans. Although they generally get on well with other dog breeds, they’re not afraid to stand their ground.

However, Rhodesians are best suited to active and experienced dog owners. They’re strong-willed, independent and intelligent dogs that need a firm but fair hand from puppyhood and beyond. Expect daily training to help them learn their manners (and their place in the family).
Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred to hunt lions and this strong prey drive is still very much alive and well. They love nothing more than chasing smaller animals, including cats. Daily exercise, including regular opportunities to stretch their legs (in a fully fenced secure area!), is key to managing these tendencies.

Although Ridgebacks are lovey-dovey with their families, it can take a while for them to warm up to strangers. Thanks to their intelligence, they’re attuned to people’s personalities and temperaments - their protective side comes out more with children and older people. As a strong, powerful breed, always supervise Ridgebacks around young children.


Keeping Rhodesian Ridgebacks Healthy: 4 Issues to Watch Out For

With a standard big dog lifespan of around 10-12 years, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are normally strong, healthy dogs with only a few health issues to be aware of.

Food-Induced Atopic Dermatitis

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are at risk of developing food-induced atopic dermatitis. This causes skin issues and sensitivities due to food allergies. Signs include rashes, legions and excessive scratching or itching. Take them to the vet who can prescribe medication or recommend dog food to help manage their allergies.

Joint Problems

Like most large, active dogs, Ridgebacks can experience joint problems, especially joint dysplasia in their hips and elbows. This is when the joints don't develop properly, causing pain, stiffness and arthritis. Joint dysplasia can be treated with medication and surgery. It’s an inherited condition, so responsible breeders should screen for this to ensure your puppy is free from it.

Dermoid Sinus

Dermoid sinus is a birth defect that causes tube-like holes to appear along the backs, necks or tails of Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Although not harmful in themselves, these open holes can become infected or inflamed. Dermoid sinus can be treated with surgery although again, it’s an inherited condition which should be screened for.

Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

When Rhodesian Ridgebacks are about 6 months old, they might develop juvenile myoclonic epilepsy. These seizures usually happen daily in the front half of your dog’s body when they’re relaxed or falling asleep. If your dog is having seizures, take them to the vet who can prescribe medication to treat it.


Caring for Your Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog

With their short, smooth coats, caring for your Rhodesian Ridgeback is less about grooming and more about ensuring you’re meeting their high energy needs through daily exercise and training sessions.

Grooming:

Ridgebacks are light shedders but they do shed year-round. Give them a brush every week to help get rid of loose fur and to keep their coat glossy. They’ll only need a bath every 1 to 3 months. In between baths, a quick wipe down with a towel will keep them clean.

During their weekly brushing sessions, check their ears for any dirt or wax and give them a gentle clean if needed. A few times a week brush their teeth to stop tartar building up.

As active dogs, it’s important to keep their nails trimmed. Rhodesians are known to not be fans of nail clippers, so starting this early in life with lots of postive reinforcement will help to make this not such a bit deal.

Nutrition:

Your canine athlete will do well on high quality premium dog food that’s got all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need. Match their food to their life stage - puppy, adult or senior.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are ‘counter surfers’ and will happily help themselves to your food if you leave it unattended. With Ridgebacks prone to having sensitive stomachs, they can easily get upset tummies from eating food not meant for them. Make sure you’re up on what human food is poisonous to dogs and ensure that’s always kept out of reach.

Even though they’re active, athletic dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks can become overweight, especially with daily training sessions that treats might play a big part of. Keep an eye on how many treats you’re giving them and if you’re concerned about their weight, see your vet.

    Exercise:

    Key to a healthy and happy Rhodesian Ridgeback is exercise, and lots of it, especially running. They make great running buddies but they will need to be on a lead at all times because of their high prey drive. If you want them to run off-lead, only do this in a secure, fully fenced area.

    Aim for 2 to 3 of 30-minute walks a day, with playtime or training on top of that. Ridgebacks will happily go on long hikes and tramps with you and they enjoy dog sports too. So, if you’re looking for a bonding activity, check out local dog sports clubs in your area.


    Training Your Rhodesian Ridgeback

    Rhodesian Ridgebacks are independent and proud protectors, hunters and guards from Africa so they’ve got a lot of built-in traits that will never disappear completely. But daily, firm, fair, patient and consistent training will help them learn their manners.

    Training should start from when they’re a puppy. Early socialisation with other dog breeds and family members is especially important for Rhodesians. Familiarisation with home life is important too, by getting them used to everyday noises like music, TV, doorbells and traffic. Otherwise they’re prone to barking and reacting every time they hear these noises.

    When it comes to training, focus on the basics to begin with (sit, stay, come) and teach them to walk nicely on a lead (they can be powerful pullers!). Then move onto commands to help temper their prey drive, things like ‘leave it’. Recall training is essential for Ridgebacks so you can call them to you after they’ve run off. Always make sure you’re in a safely enclosed area when they’re off-lead. You might want to use a long line or retractable lead even in a fenced area to ensure they don’t get too far.

    Sure they might be strong and powerful, but Rhodesian Ridgebacks are surprisingly sensitive. They respond well to positive reinforcement (treats, praise and playtime) when they behave well and to a neutral attitude, with heaps of patience.

    Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be strong-willed and occasionally domineering, which is why they’re best suited to confident and experienced pet parents. Even experienced owners might need to rope in professional trainers to help them with training.


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