Character description

IN COMPARISON TO OTHER BREEDS the Ridgeback can be seen as eccentric. As a grown up a Ridgeback is independent, exudes tranquillity of mind but can be aloof of strangers. He also shows a certain way of arrogance and self confidence.


THE YOUNG RIDGEBACK overshadows the adult hound in his characteristic behavior with all his mischief, stubbornness and exaggeration. In the first months of this youthful innocence it is important to assert yourself to be a calm and assertive leader.


A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK is special regarding imprinting. He shows a special way of associative ability and picks up any impression in his environment, as well as positive as negative ones. It's a very sensitive breed in this way, other than what his tough appearance might look like. An honest, consistent approach, in which the hound is considered being a dog and not a human is essential for expressing his normal behavior during his life.


IT'S A DOG THAT MATURES VERY LATE. Male dogs need to mature mentally until two and a half years of age. Female dogs tend to achieve this mature mental state a bit sooner. Males are usually better guard dogs, whereas females show more talent for hunting. These are average conclusions, also depending on spirit and bloodlines.


HIS DETERMINATION, OWN WILL AND SENSE OF SELF-ESTEEM make that a Rhodesian Ridgeback cannot be forced to surrender. So forceful training methods are not to be used when raising a Ridgeback. This hound considers himself being a partner not a slave, and he should be treated as such. Depriving a Ridgeback of social contact, conducting harshness and mental overload can send him in a state of constant confusion. The only way for a Ridgeback to function normally is based on mutual respect and a proper, consistent way of training. You only get respected if you be respectful yourself.


NOT EVERYBODY IS SUITABLE TO HAVE A RIDGEBACK. Not everyone can give a Ridgeback a proper education and lifestyle. It takes a lot of energy being consistent every time again and again.. This means raising a Ridgeback takes a lot of time and effort. This has to be considered very carefully before getting a Ridgeback (puppy)!


AS A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY a Ridgeback demonstrates extraordinary loyalty and dedication to his family, often selecting one individual to be his superior. It is of utmost importance that one of the household is fit to take this role. A consistent figure, who takes on most of the care is in most cases the chosen one. Often this means indeed the misses of the family.


THE RIDGEBACK IS A FORMIDABLE BODYGUARD AND GUARD DOG. He considers your belongings to be his too and will protect it by any means necessary. He doesn't bark excessively, only to warn you for danger or any possible intruder. A characteristic behavior, linked to a relative lazy lifestyle is typical for a Ridgeback. Signals of alertness can sometimes be demonstrated by lifting an eyelid or erecting his head. This can be seen simultaneously with yawning or stretching.  


CHILDREN ARE TOLERATED IN DIFFERENT WAYS. This can vary from indifference to affectionate. But a Ridgeback (or any dog for that matter) has to be respected and cannot be treated like a toy. Though a Ridgeback has a high irritation threshold, in the end even he will not tolerate this. Children should never be left alone with a dog. Also young children cannot walk a Ridgeback by themselves. A child will not be seen as a superior and they don't have the physical strength to hold on to the Ridgeback in a dog - dog, dog - man encounter, with all possible outcomes. There are also lots of tales of Ridgebacks guarding the children in a family, not letting any outsider near them. Although this can be admirable the consequence of this has to be taken in account too when asking a friend to pick up the kids or when other children enter the garden to play.


BEING LAZY BY NATURE a Ridgeback will not waste any unnecessary energy to achieve his goal. He will be happy to spend his time napping, preferably in the hot sun or in front of the fireplace, lying in most unusual poses.  This can be seen as opposite of the breed description being an  energetic and dynamic hound a Ridgeback is considered. For his exercise long walks or bicycle tours (trotting, not galloping) are in order. The owner has to be active himself to get a Ridgeback in motion. He is not a type of dog to fetch a ball for the 10th time in a row while his owner is standing still doing nothing. You will not make a Ridgeback happy with things like that. Exercising your Ridgeback will keep him fit, heathy and his mind stable. A bored Ridgeback can turn your household in a pile of junk in just a few minutes.


NORMALLY A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK WILL NOT FIGHT WITHOUT A REASON. It's a type of dog that tries to avoid conflicts when this is possible. If not, often just showing off a little dominance is often enough to make the other dog retreat. But if harassed a Ridgeback will eventually stand his ground making himself very clear. Often pinning down the harasser until that one surrenders. On the other hand a young adolescent Ridgeback must be made clear that he cannot harass other dogs himself. Being big and strong some of these Ridgebacks want to explore their boundaries like some adolescents do. It is of utmost importance that the owner shows where these boundaries lie and act appropriately when necessary. Addressing this behavior by controlled interaction with older stable dogs will help tremendously because of their clear and decisive interaction with the adolescent.  


BEING A HUNTING- AND GUARD DOG BY ORIGIN a Ridgeback has a sharp eye and sense of smell. He is open to impressions and has a sixth sense for danger, like which can be seen in wild animals. This might be the merit of the big game hunters who implemented a strict selection. These are lots of characteristics which are embedded in the Rhodesian Ridgebacks DNA. Like some (young) Ridgebacks tend to be aloof in altered situations they normally know. Let him explore the new situation at his own pace. He will grow more confident every time. This is an important part of the socialization period.


A RHODESIAN RIDGEBACK IS INTELLIGENT AND DEDICATED WITHOUT HIDING HIS AFFECTION. A loyal and affectionate fellow companion for anyone who treats him in a honest way. A companion who in extreme situations is willing and capable of exceptional performances...

Main text by breed specialist and judge Mr. J. Coppens, 2000; translation and additions by C. Russchen, 2020