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Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Smarter Than Other Dogs? Facts & FAQ

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By Nicole Cosgrove

rhodesian ridgeback on field

When looking to adopt any breed of dog, there are a few characteristics that you will want to look at. If a lapdog is what you are looking for, you will typically want to know how loving and affectionate the breed is. However, if you are looking for a dog to guard and protect, you must know how smart the breed is.

A dog’s intelligence will depend on many factors, and the breed is just one of them. In this article, we’ll examine the Rhodesian Ridgeback, which is known for its intelligence. While Rhodesian Ridgebacks are highly intelligent, they don’t make it to the top of the list of smartest dogs, but not being smarter than other dogs doesn’t take the intelligence trait away from them.

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Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Intelligent?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not only a beautiful and affectionate breed, but they are well known for their intelligence and fast learning. They excel in many canine sports and respond well to positive reinforcement. A smart canine requires an experienced owner that can provide firm leadership.

Experts with experience with Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs rate the intelligence of these dogs at a 4 out of 5.

Rhodesian ridgeback dog in a field
Image Credit: Nina Quka, Pexels

What Makes a Dog Intelligent?

Studies have shown that dogs display many behaviors associated with intelligence.1 It is helpful to understand what makes a dog intelligent or how it is measured before we compare and rank breeds. There are various methods for measuring a dog’s intelligence which will often give varied results.

Dr. Stanely Coren first introduced the idea of dogs having different types of intelligence.2 In 1976, the first canine intelligence test was created, which included tests of short-term memory, agility, and problem-solving skills and evaluated a dog’s capacity to adjust to new circumstances and deal with emotionally trying circumstances.

One hundred dogs were involved in the test, and Dr. Stanely Coren presented the ranked intelligence results in his book “The Intelligence of Dogs “in 1994. He tested various breeds, ranking them according to the repetitions required to learn a new command and the success rate of obeying a known command the first time.

The dog breeds that performed the best learned new commands with fewer repetitions and were more likely to obey them. He also discovered that a dog’s mental capacities are comparable to those of a human toddler who is 2 to 2.5 years old.

According to Coren, there are three types of intelligence: instinctive, adaptive, and working obedience. Instinctive intelligence focuses on the traits that humans have bred dogs to have. Adaptive intelligence is the ability of a dog to learn from its environment and solve issues or a dog’s ability to learn things independently without your direct involvement. Working and obedience intelligence is determined by how devotedly a dog will work to please its owners and fulfill its duties. All three form the basis for successful communication with humans by understanding body language, signs, and commands.

Dogs are all unique, and while Coren’s intelligence score is useful, a dog’s intelligence can vary based on its personality. That implies that individual dogs of a certain breed may be smarter than others.

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit: du_weist_schon_wer, Pixabay

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Smarter than Other Dogs?

While some dogs were bred for working jobs and trained to work with the police force to detect drugs and track scents, other dogs were bred purely as companions. They carry different levels of intelligence. For example, a working dog will excel at learning commands and learning new tasks, whereas a companion dog may be intelligent in the way that it can pick up human emotions and body language. 

The kind of intelligence you’re evaluating will determine how intelligent a Rhodesian Ridgeback is. Using Coren’s measure for intelligence, a Ridgeback’s instinctive intelligence would rank at the top due to its bred ability to hunt lions and protect farms. They are brilliant at learning new commands and being trained to do a specific job. However, their independent streak may make them a little more stubborn, especially in training.

According to Coren’s dog intelligence ranking, the top 10 breeds include:
  • Border Collie
  • Poodle
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Shetland sheepdog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Papillon
  • Rottweiler
  • Australian Cattle Dog

While the Rhodesian Ridgeback doesn’t make these top 10 lists, that is not to say that they are not intelligent. They may be smarter than some but are not considered the smartest breed of them all.

How Does Their Intelligence Affect Their Training?

We question a dog’s intelligence when it comes to training, as that’s the area where the intelligence traits pay off. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are extremely smart dogs. They are so smart that they tend to have minds of their own and an independence that requires an experienced owner. Rhodesian Ridgebacks need consistent, long-term training. Because they have an independent streak, they can be pretty stubborn. They also have a strong prey drive which will need attentive and ongoing training.

They will easily mistake a small animal for prey and instinctually go after it. Intense guardian and protection training is not advised due to the Ridgeback’s instinct to guard. It may heighten their inherent tendencies to a dangerous level and cause them to become dominant and potentially aggressive.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback excels at tasks like tracking and hunting. They are endurance athletes and may compete in various settings, including agility trials and the show ring. Early socialization and training with positive reinforcement and firmness are essential to ensure a Rhodesian Ridgeback grows into a well-mannered and well-adjusted companion.

female rhodesian ridgeback dog running outdoors
Image Credit: Tatiana Katsai, Shutterstock

Caring for a Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are exceptional athletes who need at least an hour of exercise daily. If properly trained, they are great with children but can be protective of their family and withdrawn around strangers. They also require daily enrichment to prevent them from getting bored.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is typically a healthy breed with few health problems and little maintenance needs. They can live for 10 to 13 years if given the proper care. One of the most crucial things you can do to keep your Rhodesian Ridgeback happy and healthy is to provide proper nourishment. It is recommended to provide high-quality and well-balanced large-breed dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO).

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Rhodesian Ridgebacks are an intelligent breed, but they are not smarter than other dogs. The intelligence of a dog breed depends on a few factors, and each dog will be unique, even within the same species. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are intelligent and easy to train; however, they require an experienced owner as they can possess an independent streak and have a high prey drive. Early training, socialization, and firm leadership with positive reinforcement will help you raise an intelligent and well-rounded dog.

Featured Image Credit: Tatiana Katsai, Shutterstock

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