As we already know, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was created as an aid for European farmers and hunters that travelled to Africa to create a life for themselves there. They bred their own dogs with native dogs, and in the end, a specific breed crystallized from some people’s hard work.
What they needed from this breed was the ability to aid in hunting large game like lions and wild boar. That takes courage and stamina and the ability to make decisions based on what was in front of them, regardless if their people were close or not. The Ridgeback was also used as a guarding dog, which made him reserved and alert. He also assesses each situation to decide the degree of potential danger, and how to react to it.
These qualities remain up to this day. Today, the Ridgeback is more often used as a family pet than a hunting dog, but these traits make him a quite serious, independent and strong-willed dog.
So what does all this mean, then? How does it translate into reality?
Having a courageous dog based on the history of the Rhodesian Ridgeback can mean that your dog will have a very strong integrity. In reality, it means that people in general will feel a bit uneasy around your dog who by just looking at them can let them know they’re not welcome into his personal space, or anywhere near it. A courageous dog will also put himself between you and anything he considers danger to you.
Some guarding breeds are very aloof to strangers and expresses that through barking and sometimes even approaching a stranger in a provocative manner. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is not one of these. He may be wary of strangers and have very little interest in them, but unless they pose an actual threat to you he won’t approach them unless introduced – and even then, he most likely couldn’t care less.
A Rhodesian Ridgeback is confident, intelligent and knows his place in the world. This can be a problem with other dogs, since he can be quite reserved and sometimes want to measure his own strength to that of another dog. However, the Ridgeback is in general quite good with other dogs and family pets. But please do remember that he is a hunting dog with the prey drive that comes with it.
The whole deal with independence, strong will and seriousness, then? What’s that all about?
A serious dog is one that very quickly connects with his instincts and reacts on them. When he feels threatened, he’ll react on it. He’ll go into guarding and protective mood very quickly – but unlike some other breeds, the Ridgeback does assess the situation and draws conclusions on the level of the potential threat, and makes a decision based on that.
Independence and strong will can be quite tricky traits to deal with. Your Ridgeback won’t need you to make any decisions for him. He’ll make them himself, regardless of your opinion on the matter. Sure, you can teach him pretty much anything, but he doesn’t need you, like for example, any people-pleasing dog like the German shepherd or the Labrador Retriever.
The trainability of these dogs has to do with intelligence and willingness to work for you. There’s intelligence in abundance but a Ridgeback can suddenly decide he just doesn’t feel like doing what you ask of him just then. They can be difficult to motivate so you’ll need to be creative with your teaching methods.
Other than all these serious, independent and stubborn sides of a Ridgeback, he’s also very loving and loyal to his family. He loves spending his time with his people, and will protect his family with his life if necessary. He’s territorial and protective of the land and the property he lives in, and needs a firm hand to hold him back from acting too strongly on his instincts.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a really cool breed, but they are not for everyone. All the traits I have described makes a dog that needs a firm but kind and fair hand to become the amazing dog he can be. It requires a lot of in-depth knowledge in how dogs function, in how to control a dog through that calm, consistent leadership we speak so much about, and a lot of creativity and knowledge about dog training.
Now that we’ve done a deep dive into the temperament of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, it’s now your turn to do a deep dive into yourself and figure out if you’re the right kind of person for this glorious breed.