The Care and Keeping of Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies

I love Rhodesian Ridgebacks - they are such large and powerful dogs! However, they aren’t easy to own. But there are a lot of people like me, who don’t necessarily want a dog that is easy to own.

We like dogs who are independent, intelligent, and always ready to exercise and work! Rhodesian Ridgebacks were developed in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, when early colonies crossed their dogs with ridged hunting dogs of the Khoikhoi.

These dogs are well known for keeping lions at bay for their masters, gaining them the name “African Lion Dog”. So, as you can imagine, training one of these majestic dogs will be challenging and should begin right away.

The absolute best way for me to help you start training your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy to be obedient is by showing you how in my free puppy training video series. In this free series you’ll learn how to train your Rhodesian Ridgeback in a way that actually gets him to listen to you… that’s why I actually call this free training series, ‘Learning to Listen’.

Getting your puppy to pay attention to you, and actually listen and comprehend the commands and rules in your home, is integral to getting your Ridgeback to be obedient quickly. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are smart, and if you train them to ‘listen’ first, using this clever method I’ll teach you for free, you’ll save yourself a LOT of headaches in the future.

Here’s the link where you can watch the “Learning to Listen” Series: Learning To Listen [Video Series]

Training Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies is best started around 2 months of age; the same time they've been weaned from their mother.

This lifelong commitment is the beginning of a wonderful relationship between owner and dog. Our goal here is to make sure you have adequate and accurate information for you to use during your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy training.


The History of the Rhodesian Ridgeback


Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a very detailed and interesting history.

According to the AKC, “The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a unique creation of southern Africa, resulting from crosses between the native ridged Khoikhoi dog and European breeds brought by Dutch colonists, including Greyhounds and various Terriers.

The infusion of native Khoi blood gave resulting generations a resiliency against local pests such as the tsetse fly, as well as an inborn knowledge of how to navigate their new African environs – and outwit its deadly predators.

In the late 19th Century, Rhodesian big-game hunter Cornelius van Rooyen incorporated two ridged Greyhound-like females into his pack of lion dogs. He found that their ridged offspring excelled at confronting and confounding the king of beasts, giving the hunter time to sight in his rifle and dispatch his prey.

These ridged dogs were also successful at fending off other dangerous animals such as leopards and baboons, trotting effortlessly alongside horse-mounted riders all day, breaking off to course quick-footed game such as antelope to provide meat for the pot, and protecting the homestead from all intruders.

They were known then, as they are today, for their devotion to family, and tolerance and affection for its children. In 1922, a meeting was convened to write the first Rhodesian Ridgeback standard. By then, big-game hunting had already begun to fade in South Africa, and the breed itself was on the brink of extinction.

The dogs convened at this meeting ranged in size and appearance from Bull Terriers to Great Dane, and the Dalmatian standard was used as a template to arrive at the standardized vision of the breed that we know today.”

The Rhodesian Ridgeback of Today

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are powerful, noble, and fearless companions. They are bred for their field work and are quite aggressive when it comes to their job. Even with all of that they make wonderful family pets as long as their owners understand the dynamics of what makes the temperament of this breed what it is.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback temperament is very adaptable and learns quickly. Because they are bred to go ahead of the hunter in the field they also have a well-developed sense of determination and desire to do things their way. This can be quite disconcerting to those new to the breed.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks love to play and can be quite energetic, both as puppies and adult dogs. They aim to please their owner and surrounding members of the family. They need lots of exercise to continue to be happy and healthy animals.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is the 42nd most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club. When fully-grown, it can reach heights of up to 27 inches at the shoulder and weights of up to 85 pounds. These dogs require weekly brushing and occasional baths. They have a water-repellent coat that is relatively thick. It will also shed. The coat needs to be maintained, but isn’t overly needy in maintenance. A weekly brush should do the trick.

In general, Rhodesian Ridgebacks don’t have any extreme dietary needs. Generally, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are good eaters. (In fact, they will eat their dinner and then try to eat the bowl.) Owners should feed a highly rated food that has moderately high protein content.

If feeding kibble, some people add water to the dry food. If the dry food is enhanced with canned food or table scraps, be careful not to add too much. Rich food can upset their digestion. It should thrive on medium to high-quality dog food, and should also be monitored for obesity. Remember; your Rhodesian Ridgeback is supposed to be fed dog food, not table scraps. Some of the food can have chemicals or other ingredients that are harmful to dogs.

Rhodesian Ridgeback have high exercise requirements. They need consistent exercise for their physical and mental well-being. They love a good run. While walking is OK, stretching their legs and "getting up a full head of steam” is far better. A tired Rhodesian Ridgeback is a good Rhodesian Ridgeback. Ridgebacks are extremely energetic dogs and require plenty of physical attention.

In general, they enjoy playing fetch, going on walks and runs, and swimming. Ridgebacks are extremely playful and could also be considered hyper, so they need proper attention to divert their energy away from things like destructive chewing.

With the Rhodesian Ridgeback’s temperament, physical strength, dexterity, and moderate-to-high energy level, early socialization and puppy training classes are vital. Gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations between the ages of 7 weeks and 6 months and beginning obedience training early on will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult.

Puppy training classes serve as part of the socialization process and help the owner learn to recognize and correct any bad habits that may be developing.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are sporty, noble, intelligent, and enthusiastic companions who need to be included in family activities and exercise.  

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health Concerns

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a very active breed of dog, so they are likely to receive plenty of nicks, bruises, scrapes, and the like during their lifetime. While these individually aren’t huge concerns, it’s important to take care of any injuries – however minor – that may occur in order to limit the risk for infection.

Before adopting your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, it is ideal to have the breeder test it for hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. If it is not done before purchasing, it is highly recommended that you, as the owner, take it to the vet and have it screened for hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia.

Another health concern is a neural tube defect called Dermoid Sinus. Dermoid sinus (DS) is typically found along your dog’s back, neck and tail. Dermoid sinus appears to be a condition that can be found at birth and is found primarily in Ridgeback breeds.

A reputable breeder is aware of this condition and should be proactive in detecting it in their young puppies. These tubes are meant to drain out dead cells, tissue, and hair and when they do not form correctly they can become infected and possibly develop an abscess.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are also at risk of developing a life-threatening health condition in the stomach known as bloat. Bloat is a very dangerous health condition for dogs, and they can die within hours if not treated. Bloat is also known as gastric dilation and volvulus, or GDV.

It’s a condition where the stomach twists and fills up with gas, causing – you guessed it – bloating in the belly area of dogs. The pressure keeps building, which can kill tissue and cause the stomach to rupture. Additionally, the bloating on the stomach can lead to pressure against the diaphragm and lead to respiratory problems.

An additional risk is the cut-off of blood flow to the heart. It is very important for owners to be cautious of the symptoms of bloat and to educate themselves in order to take the necessary action to preserve the life of their Rhodesian Ridgeback. The American Kennel Club also has a guide to dealing with bloat or gastric torsion in dogs. 

In general, however, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are healthy dogs, and are comparable to the majority of dog breeds when it comes to hereditary diseases. Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies are very outgoing and energetic. They are both hearty, meaning robust and cheerful, and hardy, meaning that they are capable of enduring stressful conditions.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback dog owner doesn’t have much to fear as far as health conditions go, as long as they do their homework, treat them well, and get them properly screened.

Training a Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy


Socialization is CRITICAL!

When it comes to puppy training, it is important when you first bring your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy home to set up a socialization schedule. I like to make sure I am literally scheduling outings to make sure that my puppy is acclimated to all the things that might be in his environment.

It is important to start young so that you can ensure a positive experience with things that will be in your dog’s life later. Puppies are pliable and form generalizations easier than do adult dogs. But, this can be good and bad! If your puppy has a bad experience it can also affect how he feels about certain things for life (or at least it will make changing his mind extremely difficult).

So this makes you responsible for making sure that experiences are positive. Socialize him with people and children that you know and trust.

Start early by making him sit to be petted or treated!  Now is the time, not when he is 80 pounds.

Expose him to kind and gentle dogs. Do not allow him to bully other dogs or be bullied. If negative interactions start you must bring it to an end. Some puppies learn to bully early and puppies that are bullied can become defensive and later aggressive with other dogs.


Manners should start the moment your puppy enters your home. Don’t allow him to get away with things you wouldn’t allow an 80 pound dog to get away with in your home. Jumping up, biting, digging and barking are not cute behaviors at any age.

Be sure and reward good behavior; lying down, sitting, chewing appropriate things should all be praised and welcomed. Let your puppy KNOW when he chooses a good behavior and acknowledge him so that he can choose good behaviors instead of resorting to bad behavior to get interaction from you!

Want To Teach Your Rhodesian Ridgeback Manners? Access my step-by-step collection of tutorial videos specifically guiding you through how to teach your dog how to have better Guest Manners here.Click here to access my Training Dog’s Guest Manners program

Redirect Bad Behavior


Redirect bad behavior immediately. Don’t allow bad behavior and bad habits to take hold. If he grabs the wrong item to chew, exchange it. If he puts his teeth on you give him a time out, and/or give him something appropriate to do and an appropriate way to interact with you!

Potty Training Your Ridgeback

Crates are essential! Start crate training early by playing crate games and feeding your puppy in his crate, both of these things will help your puppy understand that his crate is a safe and happy place to be! Also be sure that you are also crate training while you are home.  If you only crate him when you leave for long periods, crate fears can set in! Remember puppies need to be taken outside every two hours in the beginning. Also after naps, eating or drinking, and after exercise! It is up to you to get your puppy outside for the first several weeks.

Once you have established a schedule, you may begin to teach your puppy to ring a bell to go outside. However, just like babies cannot be potty trained, puppies often have to learn to gain control of their bladder and bowels as well. Be patient! Also, be proactive - if you are not you will create bad habits that will make potty training a nightmare!

Other Rhodesian Ridgeback Tips

These dogs need exercise! If you are a couch potato, DO NOT get one! If you are a marathon runner and you want a running partner, this is your breed! Once he is grown and full size, look into weight pulling, these guys love using their athletic ability to pull weight and put on muscle! If you aren’t going to take your dog hunting, these dogs love to lure course! Find an activity that you both love doing! And, remember these dogs are big and often known for being aloof.

Don’t force sociability on a dog that doesn’t want it, but continue socialization through obedience. Meaning, my dogs go everywhere with me and are expected to sit or down stay when asked, they can socialize with people and other dogs without touching or play! Obedience will make an unruly dog into a cherished companion.

When to Start Training Your Rhodesian Ridgeback


You may have been told multiple ages of when to begin training your puppy. There are conflicting points of view. A lot of dog trainers recommend not beginning to train your dog until it is around 6 months old. Many other trainers, on the other hand, state that you should start training your puppy as soon as you acquire it, around 8 weeks of age.These two conflicting views can lead to lots of confusion as to which one is correct.

You’re probably wondering, then: when is the right time to start training my Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy? Which answer is the correct one? Is my Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy too young to be able to train safely and properly?

It seems that the advice for withholding training until the puppy is older generally comes from trainers that use negative reinforcement as a means of training. Young puppies may be unable to withstand the physical rigors and stress of methods like the “choke-chain”. You would probably agree that these methods would be too hard on such a young puppy.

There was an argument that dogs trained at six months were capable of reaching the same training level as dogs that were started earlier. This would lead to the assumption that there was no need to start working the dog sooner and adding more stress to its lifestyle.There was also the traditional belief that younger puppies weren’t mentally mature enough to be able to handle the cognitive aspects of training.

With positive reinforcement as the primary training method, however, there is no reason that a young puppy wouldn’t be able to handle training.

The eight week rule is really based more around the idea of beginning training as soon as you obtain your puppy. Generally speaking, 8 weeks is the youngest that you will be able to obtain a puppy, and so, with this school of thinking, that’s when you’ll start training.

A puppy younger than 8 weeks old should still be spending the vast majority of its time with its parents – especially the mother – and siblings because this socialization will teach it a lot about proper behavior.

It will learn bite inhibition, communicating with other dogs, pack order, proper play, and how to accept discipline, to name a few things. Adopting a puppy any earlier is detrimental to the development of the dog.

Puppies younger than eight weeks may not be able to grasp the associations getting shown to it through training, due to a brain that isn’t fully-formed yet. After that age, though, puppies are fair game for training.

Keep in mind, however, that just because you may not begin formal training of your puppy once you receive it, you will still be informally training it. Your dog will form associations between actions and outcomes, so if you praise your 8-week-old puppy while it jumps on furniture, it will think it’s okay.

This is an example why it is important to begin training your puppy once you receive it, with an eye towards the future. Stephen Covey, after all, said that one of the 7 habits of highly effective people is to “begin with the end in mind.”

Even though we are talking about the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the Labrador Training HQ has some more great tips that back up my views on both when to begin training and the methods to use:

You Are Your Puppy’s Parent, Mentor, Pack Leader and Teacher. When you get your puppy home at 8 weeks, they know nothing about the world… Nothing! Know that once you have your puppy, everything you do, everything they see, every good experience, bad experience, taste, smell, sight, reward and punishment trains them in some way.

All of these experiences are granted to them by you and they will be looking to you for guidance through these experiences. Puppies are exactly like children. They cannot take care of themselves and are naïve to the world around them. But they’re highly observant and will be studying your every move as they learn about our world.

They take their cues from you to learn where they can go, where they should not, what they should be scared of, what they should not, what they can play with, what they can not…and on and on.

You’re teaching them every minute of every day, whether you mean to or not. You may as well take advantage of this innocence, when they have no idea of what life is with no preconceived ideas, no habits formed or needing to be broken, to start training them to fit into the life that they will lead with the skills that they will need.

It’s far easier to prevent problems occurring and bad habits forming than it is to solve them later in life.

Would You Like To Know How To Program Your Puppy's Personality?

Our 'Puppy Programming Course' lets you look over our shoulder as we raise LIVE puppies, where you get to discover what exercises and games you should be playing with your dog during each new week of his life, so that they learn to handle fear, other dogs, new people, and control impulsive behaviors.

Click here to learn more about our Puppy Programming course

So, When to Start Training a Puppy?

I believe you should start to train your puppy as soon as you get them home, from 8 weeks of age. With modern techniques such as clicker training, shaping and lure and reward training, there are fun and easy ways to get started when they’re young in a stress free and fun way. They’re learning all the time anyway, so you may as well take advantage and throw in some useful training…but have fun with it along the way.

But I stress this important point, to make it fun! Never ‘Correct’ Your Puppy Or Ask Too Much of Them. If you start training your puppy at 8 weeks old, you shouldn’t expect too much of them. And you certainly shouldn’t be correcting them.You have to think of a puppy as a very young child.

A puppy is just as impulsive, has just as little self-control and just as short an attention span. You don’t expect a child to act all grown up, eating only what they’re supposed to, playing with only their toys, staying exactly where you ask them to and listening intently to your every word doing exactly as they’re told. You need to think the same with a puppy.

They are just like a child. A puppy will eat what they like, when they like. Go where they can, when they can. Play with and chew on everything in sight whether it’s theirs or not. And they will not be able to listen to and act on your every word.

They will have a very short attention span and no self-control. But when you do have their attention, you’ll be surprised at what they can learn. What Rules Should We Follow When Training a Young Puppy? It’s very easy to expect too much too soon and end up causing your puppy stress, taking the fun out of it and doing more harm than good. So…

It’s very important that you never correct your puppy while they’re too young to understand or do not have the mental ability to control themselves. It would be totally unfair. It’s very important to keep any training ‘game based’ and very short, just 1 to 3 minutes max. They have short attention spans and you don’t want to teach them to dislike training by making it hard and stressful.

It’s very important to keep training tasks simple, setting your puppy up to succeed while avoiding failure. This means going very slowly and not expecting too much. Having many small wins is very encouraging. Many failures are frustrating and stressful and can kill a puppy’s enthusiasm for training and learning.

Just do very gentle training exercises for short periods of time. Hope you can have their attention but if they aren’t interested or make a mistake, let them be, don’t force it, play with them instead and try later. You can train your puppy to do a variety of things; it’s all dependent upon your relationship with your puppy; remember to have patience and be consistent!

1st Steps When Training Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies

Training Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be a very fulfilling task. To keep having an obedient Rhodesian Ridgeback, it’s time to start puppy training. The initial part of Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy training involves getting into the daily swing of things.

Knowing where his food and water dishes are is a great place to start. Following that will be learning when he eats, when and where he sleeps, puppy potty training and what toys belong to him, and not you. Also needed is clarity in what is expected of your Rhodesian Ridgeback, and what is not acceptable. All of these can prevent issues like aggression, separation anxiety, and accidents. It is very important to use clear and concise commands.

Before dog training starts, you have to consider the training method you intend to use. This method needs to be consistent, so making the decision is one that requires some research. Many professional animal trainers use what’s called positive reinforcement.

This philosophy believes that animals are much better behaved and easier to train when they’re earning rewards and praise than if they’re being punished. Punishment and negative reinforcement training has actually been proven to cause aggression and unwanted behaviors. One common tool used in positive reinforcement training is the clicker.  

It’s a small hand held device which makes a clicking sound when pressed.  It can be found at most pet supply stores for a couple bucks. The purpose of the clicker is to mark the correct behavior with a sound.  More info on clicker training.

It’s more consistent than a word or phrase from the owner - and faster - which means it’s easier for your dog to understand when they’ve performed the correct behavior.  Follow the click with a reward, like a tasty treat, and you’re off to a great start.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppy Training Tips

Now that you have a plan for positive reinforcement it’s time for housebreaking or potty training.  When it comes to potty training there are some specific Rhodesian Ridgeback training tips. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are larger dogs and that means they’ll be able to begin holding their bladder earlier than many smaller dogs.  

This is good news because it means you can begin potty training almost from the day you bring your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy home. When it comes to Rhodesian Ridgeback training tips, one of the fastest ways to potty train your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy is to use a kennel.  Crate training not only makes house training easier, it provides your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy with a structure and a safe place to go during the day.

The size of the kennel or crate need only be large enough for him to turn around and lie down. Instead of having to make multiple crate purchases as your Rhodesian Ridgeback retriever puppy grows, you could buy a large or extra-large kennel now, and simply block off the space he doesn’t need with the use of sturdy cardboard or a well-sanded piece of plywood.

Dogs, including your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, have a natural instinct not to mess where they sleep, therefore if you leave too much free space, he will be able to do his business in the cage but still sleep far enough away from it. As your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy grows, keep moving the barrier until it is no longer needed.

Never use the crate or kennel as a means of punishment for your dog. Your goal is to provide a safe and secure area that your Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy can turn to for rest and reprieve when needed. Using it as a punishment will simply defeat its purpose. You need to introduce the crate from day one as being related to safety.

It is very important when training a Rhodesian Ridgeback that you start out very early asserting your dominance. It is common to want to baby young puppies and laugh at some of the assertive things they do. However, letting things like that go by without correction may end up causing you more trouble when your puppy is an adult.

Any growling at or biting of humans is something that needs to be discouraged from the very start. Puppies may just be playing but as adults Rhodesian Ridgeback are powerful dogs bred to hunt big, strong animals.

Letting them get used to being aggressive with people is a dangerous concept. When your puppy grabs a leg or hand gently but firmly remove them and give an appropriate command to stop.

Rhodesian Ridgeback training tips for housebreaking are easy to follow. Potty training is essential to the happiness of all involved with a house dog. Begin from the moment you bring your wonderful Rhodesian Ridgeback home by giving them their own personal crate where they can be safe, and sleep when you are away.

A young puppy should never be left loose unattended in your home. With so much space, and no training they are likely to relieve themselves wherever they happen to be, even on your lovely rug – that happened to cost an arm and a leg and will cost even more to replace or clean.

A puppy will not relieve themselves where they sleep if they can help it.

You should never leave your puppy in their crate longer than 4 to 8 hours depending on the age of your puppy, due to risk of elimination or separation anxiety. Take them out of their crate immediately when you wake, or arrive home from school or work, and take them outside to potty. Praise your puppy lavishly when they relieve themselves outside.

Even when you are diligent about keeping an eye on your puppy when you are home there may be times they have an accident. Punishment is not effective. Puppies have an incredibly short attention span and will not associate your yelling or punishment with their accident on the floor.

Instead, clean the area thoroughly and think about what could have alerted you to the need to go out before the accident occurred. Puppies need to go out immediately when they wake up from a nap, after playing, after eating/drinking. They should also be allowed to go out before bedtime so they are not put in their crate with a full bladder.

The Bottom Line:

Training Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies begins with the right training method and a plan. Know the rules and what you expect from your puppy before you begin training so you can be consistent.  Rhodesian Ridgeback pups are intelligent and eager to please, a little love and patience, and a few Rhodesian Ridgeback training tips, will go a long way with this breed.

Take great care of your pup, and he may just grow into the wonderful dog you know he can be, largely free of health concerns, separation anxiety and other emotional issues. Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy training requires consistency. Remember to always give plenty of praise when your puppy does what you ask of him. With a little persistence and consistency your Rhodesian Ridgeback will grow into a cherished member of your family.

For free dog training information sign up for our email newsletter. We will send you weekly dog training updates as well as free videos and how to’s.

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. Charissa says:

    We have a 9 month old RR. I wish I had read this several months ago.


  2. Amily says:

    Us too ? is it too late? How would one start training from 9months?


  3. Maryea Curtis says:

    We adopted at 2 year old mixed with a pit. We were told she was a shepard boxer mix but we had her dna tested and she’s not. Is it too late to socialize her. She is very pray driven and doesn’t like other dogs or the mail man. She is the sweetest thing to her people, a great walking companion,(as long as we don’t run into another dog, or small prey). She does very well with voice commands in the yard, and okay on her lead.

    Any suggestions on training her this late in the game to play well with others, and by this I mean not attacking. She doesn’t have to like other dogs, but I need her to not lunge on her lead when she sees one. We currently us a pinch collar and a heel command, but its only partially effective


  4. Kwabena says:

    How do I make my female rr obedient am in Ghana


  5. Kam says:

    I have 3 year old. He usually is really good with other dogs because I socialized him early. But now he’s gotten weird with other dogs, so we are beginning to see a dog behaviorist. I suggest the same. I have the same mix but he’s 125 lbs super strong. Fix the problem early as it has caused me so much anxiety and stress. When I’m not sure how he will react now. I have a gentle leader and it helps him to not pull


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *