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Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aggressive? [Or Good Family Dogs?]

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a breed of dog known for the line of fur that trails down their spine, giving them their name. Perhaps lesser known about them is that they originated in Africa to be hunting dogs used for hunting lions and other large prey. Has this lineage affected their temperament and has it made them an inherently aggressive breed? This is what you will want to know.

So, are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aggressive? Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not generally aggressive dogs. While they are known to have a mind of their own, they are an even-tempered gentle breed, especially around their families. However, they are territorial and can show aggression around other dogs or people if they feel the need to protect.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are loyal, dignified, and sensitive; traits that you may not initially think of when considering this breed.

They are quiet and gentle in temperament and not known to bark.

Let us now take a closer look at the breed and to see whether they can in fact be dangerous.

We’ll also take a look at some potential causes of aggression and how to prevent them so be sure to keep on reading if you are thinking of adopting one for you and your family.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Dangerous?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are full of energy, which can sometimes lead to problems, including being a danger to some.

While the breed is even-tempered and gets along exceptionally well with its people, their energy levels can be problematic, especially for young children and new owners.

Children love to play with dogs, and this breed loves to play right back with the children.

However, due to the small size of some kids, and the larger size of the adult Rhodesian Ridgeback, it is possible that children can inadvertently get hurt if there is no supervision.

Another thing to watch out for is Rhodesian Ridgebacks can have issues with food guarding.

Food guarding is a common problem amongst most hound breeds and starts from an early age.

If children are around them when they are eating, and the child gets too close to the dog’s food, the Rhodesian Ridgeback could attempt to protect their food.

Rhodesian Ridgeback could also pose a danger to other pets and animals.

The prey drive in the Rhodesian Ridgeback is powerful, and they can end up mistaking smaller animals, including pets such as cats and rabbits, for prey and end up going after them.

Along the same lines, Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be very destructive.

The breed has an excessive amount of energy, and like all dogs with enthusiasm, it is crucial to address it correctly, or the dog will start to act out.

In the case of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, acting out takes the shape of destroying furniture and other household items and digging large holes in the yard.

Ensuring your dog has a lot of mental and physical stimulation will help minimize any such destruction.

What Can Make Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aggressive?

Two main factors can make a Rhodesian Ridgeback act out aggressively, and those are other dogs and the desire to protect their family and territory.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks can get along with other dogs in the same home if introduced to them at an early age and taught to live cohesively with them.

However, they can be aggressive with other dogs that they come across and who are unfamiliar to them.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks have been bred to be guard dogs instinctively, as many of their ancestors were, and can be very territorial.

They won’t hesitate to put themselves between their owners and a perceived threat, protecting them at all costs.

This instinct can carry over to their food, favorite toys, and treats.

Hound dog breeds are often born and raised in packs, having to fend for themselves, so it becomes instinctive to want to protect what is theirs and not lose it to another pack member.

So, if Rhodesian Ridgebacks feel that what they perceive to be theirs is in jeopardy, they can become aggressive against what they believe is a threat.

How to Prevent Aggression in Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Preventing aggression in Rhodesian Ridgebacks is definitely possible, and there are a couple of things you can do to ensure they grow up to calm around everyone and other animals.

That being said, this breed is probably not the best choice if you are a first-time dog owner.

Like most hunting dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a mind of their own and need to be taught discipline effectively. They cannot be let to get away with everything they want.

It’s important that as an owner, you are not timid and allow your dog to become the “Alpha” of the pack.

So, it is generally advised that this breed is only taken on by experienced dog owners; who have an understanding of what dogs are like and how to control them.

Even the most experienced dog owners need to have their Rhodesian Ridgebacks put through structured training and socialization from an early age.

The younger they are when they start to receive obedience training and socialization around other dogs and people outside of the family, the less likely they are to become aggressive.

To prevent boredom destruction, ensure that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are getting plenty of exercise and an area to run around.

Draining their energy will help keep them calm and prevent them from being destructive.

In addition to physical exercise, let these intelligent dogs use their minds as well.

Some great ideas are to get them toys in which they have to figure out how to get the treats out of them, hide some treats or kibble around the house on rainy days, and search it out.

Another excellent idea is to take them to an unfamiliar area or have lots of different smells when you walk them.

Instead of focusing on walking fast, or letting them run about, allowing them to use their nose to scent will burn a lot of energy and tire them out pretty quickly.

This breed does not do well in apartment living or being kept alone all day and will act out in different ways, none of which are useful if held in these confined ways.

Protecting People and Other Animals

In addition to training and socialization, there are other steps you can take to ensure the protection of people and other animals around your Rhodesian Ridgeback.

If you have children in your home, ensure that they are familiar with the dog’s needs and preferences, and not play with them when the dog is eating or concentrating on their favorite toy or treat.

Depending on your children’s size, you may also want to warn them about the potential of being knocked down by the dog, even though the dog is not trying to hurt them.

When walking your Rhodesian Ridgeback, it’s always best to have them on a leash to prevent them from taking off after smaller animals that they may see running and mistaking them for prey to go after.

When in an area that you Rhodesian Ridgeback can run around in, off-leash, attach a bell to their collar so that other animals know that they are in the area and have a chance of escaping if the dog gets them in the site.

Being aware of your Rhodesian Ridgeback and their body language can go a long way in helping them get to the point they can act out inappropriate behaviors.

If you learn to know when they are about to act out, redirect their attention with a toy or treat. If they turn their attention to you, be sure to reward them with a treat.

Treats also help with getting them to become less guarded over their food.

When Rhodesian Ridgebacks are young, feeding them by hand at times will help them to associate you with something good.

When they are eating out of their bowl, still while they are young, move in and pop a few treats in their bowl.

Again, they will associate you and others around their food bowl with positive things.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good Family Dogs?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks generally make great family dogs, as they are tolerant and even-tempered. However, it is important that they are raised appropriately, disciplined appropriately and boundaries are set for both dog and family alike.

They can get along with other pets in the house, so long as they’ve been around them from an early age.

Since they love to protect their family, they will warn you of anything strange going on, and protect you in times of need.

One recommendation is not to have too many male dogs in one household. This is especially true with a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

This is because it could result in issues with leadership and territory.

As the dog owner, you should become the pack leader, but problems can arise with multiple male dogs fighting for that position.

Taking care of a Rhodesian Ridgeback can be much easier if you’ve had dogs in the past and have this breed in early training and socialization.

An essential requirement, besides training and socialization, is keeping up with their energy, and allowing them to have sufficient mental and physical stimulation.

There are not a lot of grooming requirements with Rhodesian Ridgebacks as they are naturally very clean dogs.

They are short-haired dogs who don’t shed much and generally do not get an odor unless filthy.

Their nails tend to grow quite fast; however, so they will need to be clipped regularly to prevent splitting and other issues.


With the proper training and socialization, along with a good owner or handler, Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be great family dogs, without any aggression issues.

There are many ways you can help your Rhodesian Ridgeback from becoming dangerous or having aggression issues.

It will take some time to get to that point, and owners need to know that it will take a lot of work, but in the end, it will be worth it for both you and your dog.

Ultimately, a properly trained dog, no matter their breed, makes for a happier dog and a more satisfied owner.

Related Questions

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Bite?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks generally have a low tendency to bite; although nipping and chewing are a trait of all dogs to some extent. Reasons, why a Rhodesian Ridgeback may bite a person, include: trying to protect someone or something, being in pain, or being provoked. Minor biting is more common in puppies as it is an attention-seeking behavior. This is true across all breeds.

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Like To Cuddle

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally affectionate dogs and like to cuddle up to their owners when relaxed. Usually, cuddling is more likely in dogs that have had more exercise and are tired. They may also cuddle to keep warm or to get closer to their owner if they perceive there to be a threat. However, not all Rhodesian Ridgebacks will like to cuddle – it does vary dog by dog and by their own individual personality.