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Last year, I wrote a post about living with a vizsla. I thought I would write a similar one about living with a Rhodesian ridgeback. There are definite differences between ridgebacks and vizslas, as I discussed in my Vizsla vs. Ridgeback post.

They Require Consistent Training

Now, obviously every dog breed really should have consistent training. A well-trained dog is a pleasure to live with and can be taken to a variety of places without any issues. However, training is extra important with a ridgeback due to their size, stubborn nature, and hunting instincts. The official Rhodesian ridgeback standard lists the desirable weight for males at 85 pounds and females at 70 pounds. However, most of the males I’ve seen, in the show ring and otherwise, are pushing 100 pounds, if not more. Colombo is 97 pounds and he is not overweight. Trust me, no one wants to live with an untrained 100 pound dog. Because they were bred to be independent hunters, ridgebacks don’t necessarily have a desire to please. They think on their own and that means they can be stubborn. Training them requires consistency, patience, and creativity so they don’t get bored.

They Are Hounds

Rhodesian ridgebacks are considered hounds, which is a good thing to keep in mind if you live with one. That means that they are very driven by their nose. Sometimes when I’m walking Colombo around the neighborhood, he will latch onto a scent and try to drag me toward it. Then he’ll stand there sniffing it for five minutes if I let him. They can also be very scent-driven in the house, which means that they may be constantly hunting down food. Thankfully, Colombo is not one of those dogs, but a lot of ridgebacks are known for counter-surfing and stealing food.

They Have a True Off-Switch

As the owner of a high-energy dog who is involved in lot of bird dog activities, I hear a lot of people talking about whether or not their bird dog has an “off-switch” or not. In some of the Facebook groups I’m part of, this seems like a prized trait: a bird dog that can turn it on in the field, but is chill and content to lay around in the house. I’m not sure any of the high-energy bird dogs are really super calm in the house. Yes, they can certainly be taught to settle and I’m sure some breeds are calmer than others.

However, Rhodesian ridgebacks really are super chill most of the time. As long as they get sufficient exercise, they will lay around the house all day. In the evenings, after his walk and dinner, Colombo is on the couch for the remainder of the night unless Zara does something to really rile him up. At the same time, she’s dropping toys in our lap so we’ll play with her. It’s nice to have a dog that can do endurance activities if needed, but will also easily settle.

They Like Comfort and Warmth

Ridgebacks have a short coat and they were originally bred in the warm climate of Zimbabwe. Because of this, they get cold easily. In the winter, Colombo definitely needs a coat if it’s in the 40s or below. Inside, he expects us to cover him with a blanket when he’s lying on the couch or he will whine. At night in the winter, he wears fleece pajamas to bed. It sounds silly, but they keep him warm at night in his crate and he won’t wake me up crying to cover him with a blanket. ;)

Colombo also LOVES to sunbathe. He spends many hours outside on the deck, soaking in the sun. When one of my friends came to visit with her two ridgebacks, all three of them were out there!

Colombo has a few pairs of fleece pajamas he wears in the winter.

sunbathing Rhodesian ridgebacks

Colombo, Rylyn, and Wynry all enjoy the sun on a September day. Note how Zara is no where to be found! She was probably running around the yard, hunting something.

They Attract A Lot of Attention

While we have always gotten a lot of people coming up to us when we’re out and about with Zara, now that we also have a ridgeback, Colombo definitely attracts more attention. I think this is partially due to his size. He’s about 100 pounds, so he’s not easily overlooked. It also seems like a lot of people have heard about the ridgeback breed and are eager to chat about them. More people know ridgebacks than vizslas. The ridge down his back also attracts a lot of attention and comments. I don’t mind people talking to us or petting Colombo, but if you are a very private or shy person, you may find this annoying when you go out in public.

Ridgebacks Can Cause Damage

Even with training, a big dog can hurt you. Ridgebacks are strong and muscular and their rambunctious play style can result in accidental injuries to you or your family. Last year, I was doing some training with Colombo one morning. He performed well and I praised him. He got excited and jumped up and hit me in the mouth with his snout. He wasn’t trying to hurt me – he was just amped up. His snout hit my teeth and I realized later that one of my teeth was loose. A year later, it’s still slightly loose. I’ve been to several dentists about it. When they asked me how it happened, I explained that my dog hit me in the mouth. With wide eyes, they asked, “What kind of dog do you have?”

In February, Chris was horsing around with Colombo and Colombo batted him in the eye with his paw. His nail scratched Chris’ cornea and Chris had to go to urgent care the next day. Thankfully, there was no permanent damage. In both of these situations, Colombo did not mean to hurt us. But things happen with a big dog.

Colombo accidentally whacks Chris in the face while they are playing. He was not injured (that time at least).

They Are Rowdy Until About Two Years Old

There’s a meme floating around the internet that shows a photo of a puppy ridgeback, an adult ridgeback, and a velociraptor in place of a ridgeback to represent ages four months to two years. For the most part, this is true. Adolescent ridgebacks can be downright rambunctious and difficult to deal with. However, with consistent training and patience, they do settle down by the time they are two. Colombo is five now and he’s pretty lazy, although he does have velociraptor moments at least once a day – usually in the morning when he’s pouncing on Chris to wake up!

Photo credit: Reddit.

People Are Sometimes Scared of Them

I don’t think Rhodesian ridgebacks look that intimidating. Their floppy ears and regal look doesn’t imply scary to me. I personally think other breeds such as German shepherds, Dobermans, and huskies can look more intimidating. However, people are sometimes scared of Colombo. Again, I think his size plays a role. One time, I was walking around downtown Fayetteville (a small city in North Carolina) with Colombo. A big festival was going on, and the streets were crowded. Colombo was walking calmly on his leash, just lumbering along slowly. People were literally jumping out of our way when they noticed him. When we’re out in public, I do notice a small percentage of the population side-eyeing him, as if they think he’s going to leap at them at any moment. However, this means that having one around is a good deterrent. Although I generally don’t need protecting, the presence of a ridgeback is probably going to make someone think twice before they mess with you.

Do you own a Rhodesian ridgeback? What other characteristics have you noticed while living with one? Leave me a comment below!

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Angie says:

    Great article. We have two Ridgebacks. We got a puppy and then her sister at eight months needed to be rehomed. We thought why not!! They are smart, but also double trouble sometimes. They are the best breed around and the only breed for us from now on!

    • Terry Ann says:

      Hi Angie! Glad you enjoyed it. They are definitely smart haha! I also like the breed, although I’m more partial to the vizsla. But we’ll probably get another ridgeback someday since my husband really prefers them.

    • Lana says:

      we have a Rhoadesian ridgeback mix (the dad is an RR and the mom is a blue heeler mix with ? I haven’t seen either parent but I suspect there might be a bit of pit bull too, based on her face shape and her ability to appear to lock her jaw). we have had her for about 3 months, and she is about 5-6 months old. She is very smart, but also very stubborn. if we are on a walk and do not walk home a certain way, she will face in that direction and either sit and state at me, or stand and stare. I’ve tried treats and positive reinforcement, but she will come to me, accept a treat, then stop and sit expectantly to go the way she wants. there is no making her do anything she doesn’t want to do. and she will clearly let you know while practicing commands when she is finished. again, stop and stare. she is very loving and wants to be included in everything and be the center of attention. because of her looks (no one is quite sure what she is, but most commonly we get asked if she is a pit pull or a black lab mix), and lack of ridge on her back (half the litter had itz half didn’t), she gets a lot of attention from people walking by… and she loves it. all people and dogs are meant to play with her, and she gets pretty miffed when someone doesn’t acknowledge her. she rarely barks, usually if there are dogs or children around, or if she wants attention. I completely see the velociraptor stage, and hope that the next 1.5 years are not full velociraptor lol. she is always up to play or have a long walk (unless it’s inclement weather), but is content with a long snuggle with her mama too. she is pretty awesome and we wouldn’t trade her. she is my first dog as an adult, and I hope we are doing her justice.

      • Terry Ann says:

        Hi Lana!
        Your description of your dog stopping and refusing to move on a walk sounds very familiar! Colombo does that a lot, especially when my husband walks him. We’ve found that sometimes he sits down and refuses to move forward if he’s smelling something behind or to the side of him. He wants to go that direction instead. If we let him go back and find the smell, he’ll then usually keep moving. It might be worth a shot with your pup!
        Terry Ann

      • Joanne says:

        I have a ridgeback also. He’s called Masson . He is 8 now and I’m still trying to train him . Very stubborn. It is just me and my dog most of the time. So loving. But sometimes I need a little space. Full of energy. I hide treats around my home and he finds them. Loves his ball . Ball mad . He’s such a character

        • Terry Ann says:

          Hi Joanne!
          Masson does sound like a character! I also hide treats and do a “find it” exercise with Colombo. I also recently started scentwork with him. He’s been enjoying that. Sounds like Masson has a lot more energy than Colombo!

    • David Andres Martinez says:

      I Have 4 Dogs, 1 Is A Mutt Named Rusty He Is A Hound Mix With Rhodesian Ridgeback

    • Adrian says:

      I currently have a Vizsala. She is such a perfect dog. She too even at the age of 3 turns into the velociraptor at times especially when I wind her up. Taking people off their feet. Hahahahah. In the process of buying a male. The largest of the litter. I can only hope he hits the 100 pound mark. I am buying a house in the northern Ontario area with 156 acres off grid. Gonna need a warm blooded security system around for the little lady left at home 10 hours a day.

  • Katie says:

    I currently have 2 ridgeback mix dogs, a 45 lb 5 year old who is a 1/2 rhodesian ridgeback and 1/2 Australian shepherd, miniature schnauzer mix. his energy amazes me, and faster than he has any business being, and once he gets going needs to be made to stop and settle or he will go for hours and hours without a break, but when he’s done he needs to be curled up in a lap, or wedged between you and the arm of the couch. I had a viszla years ago and this little ridgeback me reminds a lot of a viszla, he’s very clingy loves to run and fetch and chase. We also have a 2 year old Rhodesian ridgeback/Presa Canario mix who is just over 100lbs and is like a bull in a China closet! just a tank, he would not chase a ball for anything, and is generally lazy, but if he gets scent of/ sees a rabbit or any other prey, he can take off like a bat out of he’ll and hits max speed in 3 strides. I’m sure both of them could beat a greyhound in a race, they are both wicked fast, but our little one has unmatched endurance. we live on a farm and they get to run and roam as they please. and they play HARD with each other. ridgebacks really are very rough and vocal when playing, my 3 part sectional couch no longer stays together and gets push to all corners of the living room on a daily basis just from them smashing into it when playing, which seems to happen like clock work at 8:45am about 15 min into my work meetings, I work from home most days, which can be a challenge with these 2 pups!

  • Being prepared for the active lifestyle of a Rhodesian ridgeback is something I feel like I need to do in advance. That’s definitely something that would determine how much attention we’ll need to give it in the future, especially since we want it to be a good companion. I’ll ask for help from any pet stores when I adopt a ridgeback so I have a good idea of what to do.

    • Terry Ann says:

      Hi Afton!
      Ridgebacks are definitely active dogs, especially when they are young. But they’re definitely not on the level of some working dogs, such as border collies or the sporting breeds (vizsla, German shorthaired pointer, etc.). I would search for reputable trainers in your area. Sometimes pet stores can be good resources, but often they don’t have quality trainers and may not know much about specific breeds. Good luck if you end up getting a ridgeback!
      Terry Ann

  • Stuart Allyn says:

    Thank you for sharing your interesting experiences! I have owned Rhodesian Ridgebacks since 1980 and have found that they can vary significantly in personality. Some have more of a hunting instinct, while others tend to display less drive, and use their scent to investigate their environment. I really like the head and size of Columbo. What kennel did you get him from? Is he availabe for breeding?

    • Terry Ann says:

      Hey Stuart! I agree with you. I know some people who bike with their ridgebacks attached to the bike and I have to imagine those don’t have a huge prey drive. Obviously a lot of training goes into it, but I can’t imagine doing that with Colombo. Even with a lot of training, if he sees a rabbit or a deer, he’s trying to go for it and I don’t trust myself on a bike!

      Thanks for compliment. He’s from Adriatic Ridgebacks in Virginia. He’s not available for breeding until he finishes his conformation championship, which may not be happening. :)

  • Kathleen says:

    We got ours from city pound. Your article describes our Honey to the T.

    • Terry Ann says:

      Hi Kathleen!
      Haha, it’s funny how all ridgebacks have a lot of the same characteristics! Sounds like Honey is living a good life with you.

      Terry Ann

  • Peter says:

    I loved your article. We have a female rhodesian mixed with terrier of some kind. she’s a bit smaller at 58lbs, but we absolutely love her. We rescued her from a shelter where they told us she’d only be 38lbs. after some kennel cought and an ultrasound the Vet told us “oh she’s going to be a big girl”. lol and she is. she is mostly ridgeback and has all the traits you have described. Nice to know there are others who are in love with this breed. Her names Honey Bear. thanks again for makimg us feel not alone in the struggles with an adolescent Rhodesian Ridgeback.

    • Terry Ann says:

      Hi Peter!
      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Haha you are right, an adolescent RR is definitely a force to be reckoned with!
      Terry Ann

  • Gail Rode says:

    Our son has a Rhodesian Ridgeback, when his dad had heart failure and came home from the hospital, Rusty would check on Ron every 10 minutes, it was as if he could sense that something was wrong, health wise with Ron.

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