Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good for First Time Owners?

So you’re finally ready to get a dog. Good for you! If it’s your first time, you probably have a million questions about how to raise and train one.

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And then there’s the age-old question about what breed is the best fit for you. Thinking about a Rhodesian Ridgeback for your first dog? You might want to think again.

Are Rhodesian Ridgeback Good for First Time Owners?

It’s no surprise why a dog lover would be attracted to the Rhodesian Ridgeback. What with its large stature and muscular appearance, it is certainly a regal, commanding breed. But unless you are highly confident in your dog handling skills and willing to put in a Herculean effort to train your ridgeback, this breed is simply not the best choice for a first-time dog owner.

Does the Rhodesian Ridgeback Have Challenging Traits?

They do. It’s important to remember that Rhodesian Ridgebacks weren’t bred to be cuddly lapdogs–a good thing considering they average out at 70 to 85 pounds or more! Rather, a quick review of their history demonstrates that these dogs were bred to be loyal guard dogs and powerful, intelligent hunters.

It’s hard to know the exact bloodline of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, but the origins of the breed can be traced back to South Africa where early European settlers crossed a variety of their own breeds such as Greyhounds, Mastiffs, and assorted Terriers with a native, jackal-sized dog belonging to the Khoikhoi people who lived in the southernmost tip of South Africa on the Cape of Good Hope.

This native dog was easily recognized by a strip of backward growing hair that ran along its back from just below the shoulder blades tapering down toward its haunches. It’s that same hallmark ridge prized in Rhodesian Ridgebacks today.

When these colonists crossbred their European breeds with the native Khoikhoi dogs, the resultant offspring were found to be more resilient to local parasites as well as the harsh African climate. Another trait the new crossbreeds carried forward was a certain prowess at big game hunting.

So They’re Bred to Be Good Guard Dogs and Hunters? That’s Not So Bad!

No, it isn’t. But channeling the natural traits that make Rhodesian Ridgebacks such loyal guardians and good hunters into positive behaviors can be hard work and take consistent effort. One needs to have a firm hand. What are these traits?

They Are Bred to Hunt

Originally called African Lion Hounds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to accompany big game hunters on their outings. Quick and hardy, they could take down antelopes, fend off vicious leopards and baboons, and keep lions at bay until the hunters could get in a shot. Of course, these days, a ridgeback isn’t likely to encounter a lion in your neighborhood, but if he gets a cat or dog or something else in his sights, it may be very difficult to stop him from following on his instincts. He’ll be in for the chase.

If you take on a Rhodesian Ridgeback for a pet, it’s imperative you begin training and socializing him immediately. He’ll need to be introduced early on to other people and animals and to learn how to behave well around them.

They’re Territorial

The early Dutch colonists in South Africa, known as the Boers, made their living as farmers and they relied on their fierce, ridged-back dogs to protect their crops and their cattle in that wild environment. And that protective trait has been carried forward in the breed.

If you want a good watchdog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback will more than fill that need. It is a breed that is always on the alert, keenly aware often long before you are that someone unfamiliar is on your property or at your door. This can be a desirable quality so long as you as a trainer can ensure he learns to be friendly and not see people outside your immediate family as a threat.

They are Highly Confident

This is a dog that has been bred to work and to play hard. It is a dog bred to be alert to danger, to corner lions and hold them at bay. It is a dog that learned instinctively that one wrong move could result in an untimely death.

These traits result in a highly confident breed which can often lead them to behave in a dominant manner. For this reason, as a pet owner, it is of the utmost importance that you establish yourself as the one in charge, the leader of the pack if you will. When it comes to training, it’s not uncommon for a first-time dog owner to be unsure of herself, and a Ridgeback is just the type of dog to try to get the upper hand.

Final Thoughts

Are Rhodesian Ridgeback good for first time owners? If you ask a breeder of such dogs, he will likely want to know more about you and your lifestyle.

Do you have a take-charge personality? Or are you more the timid type? Are you one who has a lot of get-up-and-go, or are you more of a couch potato? Are there other members of your family (particularly young children) who might be intimidated by a large dog with a mind of his own?

A Rhodesian Ridgeback can be calm, obedient, and gentle, but that behavior doesn’t happen on its own or in a vacuum. This is a breed that generally takes a good deal of experience and commitment on the owner’s end to get him where he needs to be.

So if you’re new at the game but still want a big dog, you may want to consider a Labrador Retriever for your first. It just may be the safer bet.