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7 Rhodesian Ridgeback Pros & Cons: What to Know Before You Get One

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog running on grass

Before becoming a committed dog owner, knowing the breed’s temperament, care requirements, and the pros and cons of owning one is vital. If you encounter unwanted surprises, it may affect your ability to care for and look after your dog.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred to hunt lions in Rhodesia, and today they are prized for being loyal, gentle, and high-spirited watchdogs and wonderful companions. However, like all dogs, there are pros and cons to being a parent to one of these lion hunters, and knowing what to expect will take some pressure off of dog parenting.

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The 4 Pros of a Rhodesian Ridgeback

1. They Are Highly Intelligent

rhodesian ridgeback dogs on the grass
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that dogs with lion hunters in their DNA have a high level of intelligence. Trainers with experience with Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs rate their intelligence at a 4 out of 5! Many traits can be referred to as intelligence in dog breeds, so while some are excellent working dogs with the ability to herd cattle, some are much easier to train and listen well to commands.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has both these qualities and more. They also evolved from breeds known for their intelligence, including Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, Great Danes, and Greyhounds. Their smarts also make them an easy breed to train, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come without effort. Their intelligence will require an experienced dog owner who won’t be outwitted by a breed with an independent streak.

2. Rhodesian Ridgeback Are Loyal Watchdogs

Although they hunted in the wild African terrain, they were also used to protect the farms and families around them. That protective and guarding quality is still very evident today, and many dog owners choose Ridgebacks for this quality alone.

They are loyal canines that make excellent family protectors. They are also silent protectors since they generally do not bark but are fully alert. While loyal and protective of the ones they love, they usually keep their affection for their owners and may be standoffish towards strangers.

3. They Are Excellent Companions and Family Pets

Smiling girl and three happy cheerful Rhodesian Ridgeback dog
Image Credit: olgagorovenko, Shutterstock

Rhodesian Ridgebacks make excellent family pets. They connect deeply with their family members and love children. They love spending time with their family and will always be loyal and devoted to them to show affection. While they can be reserved with strangers and may appear somewhat intimidating, they are gentle, loving, and loyal.

4. Easy to Groom

The grooming requirements for a Rhodesian Ridgeback are minimal. They have a short coat that sheds only a little, so a quick brush once a week is all that’s needed to help with loose hairs. That is great news for allergy sufferers thinking about adopting a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

A monthly bath will keep their coat clean, and a quick daily tooth brushing along with some chew toys will maintain their dental hygiene. If their nails get too long, they’ll need trimming, but outdoor, active dogs generally wear their nails when running on pavement and other hard surfaces.

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The 3 Cons of a Rhodesian Ridgeback

5. They Have a High Prey Drive

Rhodesian Ridgebacks walking outdoor
Image Credit: boumapetrovice, Pixabay

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a high prey drive, which is no surprise for an animal once bred to hunt lions. It’s prone to act on its predatory tendencies and can sometimes mistake small animals for prey. Training them as puppies, socializing them with other animals and people, and keeping them on a leash when walking is crucial.

It is usually preferable not to choose a Rhodesian Ridgeback as your first dog if you have never owned a hunting breed before. The dogs have a strong prey drive that can override all other instincts and training, including the need to protect themselves.

6. They Have a Mind of Their Own

Although Rhodesian Ridgebacks are devoted and highly intelligent, they have an independent streak and can have minds of their own. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are independent thinkers who may be more inclined to decide for themselves than to seek your guidance. They can also tend to be stubborn, which may make training difficult, especially for an inexperienced owner.

7. They Can Be Destructive When Bored

Two rhodesian ridgebacks walking in a park, playing and diging a hole in the ground
Image Credit: studio37th, Shutterstock

A breed that is intelligent, independent, active, and has a high prey drive will easily get bored if it is not physically and mentally stimulated. Early socialization and training are also crucial to prevent a bored Ridgback from chasing prey and becoming destructive.

Their history of hunting lions means that they were active, alert, and on guard for most of the day, and if they do not receive the correct amount of exercise, training, and mental activity, they may become bored or frustrated leading to destructive behavior such as digging up the garden, chewing items, or tearing up furniture.

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Who Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Suitable For?

It’s clear that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are devoted watchdogs and wonderful companions, but they are most suitable for owners experienced with training working dogs. The ideal home for the breed is a large, fenced-in yard. If raised with other dogs, they can get along fine, but small dogs and cats may be treated like prey animals. They love children and get along as long as the kids are taught how to handle and treat their pets.

They are active dogs that suit active owners and make great companions for hikers or joggers. A long walk and an intense play session with their owner will keep them content; physical and mental stimulation is essential daily to prevent unwanted behavior.

Even the most experienced owners will be tested by this independent breed, but an owner that can put in the time, dedication, and patience will have an excellent loving, loyal companion.

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Every breed has issues, but most of the time, the pros outweigh the cons, which is evidently true for a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Knowing the pros and cons of a breed will set you up to be the best handler and companion. When caring for a Rhodesian Ridgeback, you’ll learn that they are intelligent, loving, loyal, protective, and easy to groom.

However, their intelligence influences their independence, which may encourage their prey drive. Along with needing to be mentally and physically stimulated correctly, the cons of owning a Ridgeback can be easily managed.

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Featured Image Credit: Aneta Jungerova, Shutterstock

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