Questions & Answers


What is the nature of the Rhodesian Ridgeback?

The.Ridgeback is strong willed, sensitive & independent. This stems from his ability to hunt independently of human direction; a trait that was very valuable in his native land. He is a “People Dog”…an affectionate dog, who needs the human companionship of his owner, yet is quite aloof with strangers. He tends to bond with one person, however, his love will extend to every family member that treats him well. He responds to positive training methods. Harsh treatment does not work with this breed. This is a Hound and possesses many of the typical Hound characteristics. The adult Ridgeback has a quiet, laid back temperament and rarely barks. He enjoys spending the day, with his owner, lounging in front of the fire or curled up in the corner. However, when alerted & in action, he can quickly become a graceful & powerful hunter or guard dog. It is important to understand that as puppies these dogs are not different from other puppies in that A TIRED PUPPY IS A GOOD PUPPY! So realize that a young Ridgeback will not act like an adult and be content to be a “couch potato “ all day. The Ridgeback is a one-man dog, but will extend its love to other loving and caring people in his owner’s family. He will be devoted to his own family and friends, but aloof and dignified with strangers, although temperamentscan range from quiet to clownish. When choosing a Ridgeback be sure to assess thebackground and temperament of the prospective pet very carefully, and choose a personality that is best suited to your home and lifestyle. Early, positive socialization is an important part of developing a healthy and stable temperament.

Is the Rhodesian Ridgeback Intelligent?

Some people mistake the Ridgeback’s headstrong independence for a lack of intelligence, but he is, indeed, a very clever dog who is sensitive to his owner’s moods & emotions.

Is the Rhodesian Ridgeback capable of doing obedience work?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback can be taught to obey obedience commands, provided the trainer respects the dog’s individual personality and adapts the training accordingly. The Ridgeback can become bored with constant repetition, and tends to “tune out” when he has had enough. Exercises must be kept short, fresh, and interesting, and should always be ended on a high note. Many patient owners have been rewarded with advanced obedience titles, dispelling the myth that a hound will not do obedience.

Must this breed have a fenced in yard & be kept on lead, when out of this yard?

A fenced yard is good, a leash & collar is a must! A Ridgeback LOVES to run! His great speed & pure joy of running are exciting to see, but can sometimes lead to trouble for the unwary owner. The sight of something interesting, such as a cat, a squirrel or another dog, could have him off and away, with no thought of traffic or other danger. The owner of a Ridgeback must understand and be prepared for this trait to avoid possible tragedy. Basic obedience training will help establish a bond of love & respect between the Ridgeback and his owner, but it is not a substitute for common sense. The best way to protect a Ridgeback from harm is to exercise it on a leash or within a well-fenced or protected area.

How high must my fence be?

Of sufficient height to keep him from jumping over the fence. A Ridgeback can easily clear a 4-foot fence & has even been seen jumping a 5-foot fence, without a running start! however, if not left in your yard for long periods of time, and becoming bored, he should not attempt to jump over the fence. Boredom does create “escape artists!”

I jog. Can I run with my Rhodesian Ridgeback?

Only if he is at a minimum of a year and a half old, and only if I build up his endurance gradually, starting with a short run and increasing it, slowly, each day. Remember that in hot weather your dog should not be made to run, so no jogging with him for long distances in the heat of the day. Your dog will enjoy running along side of you, on lead, for short periods. When he is younger than 18 months, a good brisk walk, on lead at your side, is good for him. (& for you!)

Can the Rhodesian Ridgeback live in a city apartment?

This breed adapts well to city life & apartment living, because of their relaxed disposition. the adult dog enjoys lounging in front of the fireplace, or curled up at your side. He is an affectionate dog that wants to be in the company of his owner. He does require daily exercise & a puppy requires more exercise than a grown dog. Again, A TIRED PUPPY IS A GOOD PUPPY!

How much exercise does an adult Rhodesian Ridgeback need?

A good long walk on lead is always good. If you are lucky enough to live near a park with a protected area where you can turn him loose for a while –great! . Ideally, a city dog needs several walks a day and occasional hard exercise, where he can stretch his legs, running off-lead, in a protected area and after he has completed basic obedience training and will come to you, when he is called (remember, this breed has been clocked at 30 miles an hour!). If he will be alone all day while you are at work, he must be exercised before you leave and immediately when you come home at night. He will need some good quality time with you. If you are gone all day, you can hire a “Dog Walker” to walk him while you are gone. With a puppy, this is essential. He needs lunch and a nice walk after lunch.

What about Lure Coursing?

Lure Coursing is an organized sporting competition many Ridgebacks & their owners enjoy. It allows the Hound to run and chase an artificial lure in a simulation of actual rabbit hunting. Dogs are judged on their enthusiasm, speed, agility and endurance; points are awarded towards field championships. Lure Coursing is great exercise and it helps to burn off energy in a positive way. All Hounds that do not have breed disqualifications, show quality or not, may compete.

Does the Ridgeback have breed disqualifications?

Sometimes a puppy is born that does not have a ridge. This is the only disqualification of this breed. A Ridgeless Ridgeback is prohibited from competing in AKC lure coursing and Conformation events.

Can I leave a Rhodesian Ridgeback in my fenced in yard, all day?

If you leave your Ridgeback in your fenced in yard all day, by himself, we promise that one or all of the following things will occur:

  1. He’ll “howl his head off” for you to come out to be with him or for you to let him in the house to be with you (this will make you quite unpopular with your neighbor’s.
  2. He’ll tear down the siding on your house, or ruin your back door by scratching to come in the house to be with you!
  3. He’ll dig holes all over your yard, because he is bored.
  4. He’ll jump over or dig under the fence and escape & get killed by the first car that drives down the street. and if you live on a country road that has little traffic, it only takes ONE car! (this breed is really stupid about streets & automobiles & because of this, auto’s are among the primary reasons of death to a Ridgeback!)

And even if none of the above ever happens (unlikely), your dog will not train itself or housebreak itself or socialize itself, kept in your yard all day!

Can I tether him , outside, if I do not have a fenced in back yard?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!! Not even for five minutes! This is one of the easiest ways to ruin a dog’s temperament!

Can he live in the yard, in a Dog House?

Not unless you live there, with him! He wants to be with his owner. This dog only does well, as a house pet. See all of the above.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good with other dogs?

Yes, ….one of the original function’s of the Rhodesian Ridgebacks was to hunt lions, and they did this by hunting in packs; they were bred to get along with other dogs.

Can Ridgebacks live in the same house with a cat?

Yes. When the cat stops running, the dog will stop chasing. If the cat still has its claws, the dog will quickly learn to respect it. If the cat has been declawed, it will take a bit longer. But since Ridgebacks are territorial, he will still chase cats that are not part of his household.

Are Ridgebacks good with children?

Some are and some are not. A lot depends upon the kind of relationship developed by the parents and the example set by them. Youngsters can be taught to be gentle with dogs, and told that a dog’s only defense is biting. In any case, very small children should NEVER be left alone with a dog, no matter how good they are with each other.

Do they shed?

Yes, but if you brush them, weekly, you will reduce this shedding of dead hairs to a minimum.

How often must I bathe my Rhodesian Ridgeback?

These dogs have dirt resistant coat & frequent bathing is unnecessary. Wiping their feet & using a hound brush on them, regularly, should keep them clean & odor free. If you show your dog, a bath the night before, using a mild baby shampoo (diluted with water) followed by a conditioner (to keep his coat from drying out,) will have him looking his best.

How can I have a happy, well-adjusted Ridgeback?

First of all, be consistent in all things, so that your dog learns what he may or may not do. Be sure that your Ridgeback has a crate or pen somewhere inside your house where he may sleep, or to which he may retire when he wants to be alone. It is important that your dog be trained to stay in this crate or when you aren’t around. Never put him in it for punishment, however. If he goes into his “refuge” when you are away, he will be safe from harm (like chewing on electrical cords) and your home & furnishings will be safe from destruction.

Does A Rhodesian Ridgeback make a good pet?

If you want a dog that will be your slave, don’t get a Ridgeback. If you admire the beauty of the breed and appreciate an independent spirit, the Ridgeback may be for you.

How can I find a good Rhodesian Ridgeback?

There are many ways. Go to a Dog Show in your area and talk to the people showing Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Contact the RRCUS (Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the U.S.) or the Secretary of The RRCUS, Bonnie Louden at 410/779-1273

If you are interested in finding an adult dog, or RR mix puppy contact one or all of the following rescue groups:

  • ( Rhodesian ridgeback rescue) (630) 424-8289
  • ( Ridgeback Rescue of the United States. Inc.) 905.812.0568
  • (830-401-0150) Etosha Rescue & Adoption
  • (940-433-5106) Texas Independent Rescue
  • ( 925.825.9258 ) Northern CA Rescue

What should I expect of a breeder who sells me a puppy?

The breeder should be willing to help you in all phases of the care of your puppy, throughout it’s entire life. He should furnish AKC ‘papers’ consisting of either a blue slip or registration certificate. He should be able to show you the original copies of the OFA certifications declaring that neither sire nor dam showed any signs of Hip Dysplasia, & Elbow Dysplasia. (Some Breeders also test eyes and thyroid of their Breeding Stock.) He should have health records of the inoculations & results of stool checks to ensure that the puppy is free from worms. He should be eager to show you the *Sire & Dam & other puppies in the litter and where the litter was raised. In short, the breeder’s knowledge comes with the dog. And you should be prepared to answer a multitude of questions about the home & care you will be giving the puppy. You, in turn, should receive a health guarantee on the puppy. And be prepared to sign a contract as most reputable breeders expect you to sign a contract assuring them that you will take proper care of this puppy. Most reputable breeders have membership in a breed club and they have breed interests, other than producing litters. Reputable breeders sell puppies on how good their puppies are & not on how bad that other breeder’s puppies are.

* the sire may not be on the premises because he may live in another city, however there should be a photo & a copy of his hip certification (either OFA or other recognized Hip Registry) for you to view.

How do I pick a puppy?

Look at as many puppies as you can before making up your mind. Read all about the Ridgeback (ask the local club for a list of publication’s). A lot depends on what you are looking for – a show dog or a family pet. Don’t buy on impulse! Remember, all puppies are cute. You are selecting a companion for a lot of years, so be judicious. Be sure to visit reputable breeders who will show you some of their other dogs as well as the puppies. Let the breeder guide you on which puppy will be right, for you. Temperaments do vary, within a litter. There are the “rambunctious” puppies & the “quieter” ones. You are seeing them for short periods. The “quiet puppy may have been very active all morning! The breeder is LIVING with the puppies & can better judge their activity level.

What about price?

Prices vary and it is a case of “Let the Buyer Beware.” An older show quality puppy (6 months to a year) will cost you more than an eight-week-old show potential baby. Responsible breeders do not make extravagant claims about the quality of an eight-week-old puppy. Use the same judgment you would, in making any long-term purchase. Remember, you are buying a breeder, along with the puppy! A breeder who has many years of breed experience will charge more than a breeder who has one or two years of experience with the breed. A breeder who has bred many champions will charge more than a person who does not show his dogs. A breeder who is involved in AKC competition & has club affiliations will charge more, this is not the time to “bargain hunt!”

What about the show records of the parents?

There should be Conformation champion’s in the pedigree and ideally, at least one of the parents should be titled, however keep in mind, if the word “temperament” never comes up GET THEE TO ANOTHER BREEDER because, no matter how beautiful a dog is or how impressive his show record is, if you cannot live with him, what good is he? A breeder should breed a dog that is at least as good as the sire & dam he started with, or ideally, better or he has done nothing for the breed, by breeding his bitch. The only thing a breeder should never breed to improve is temperament. If a dog has bad temperament it should NEVER be bred!!!


  1. Hi Barbara,

    My family is looking for a Ridgeback puppy to add to our home. We had our last dog, Jake, for 14 years. We have 2 children, ages 15 and 12, many parks , trails and sidewalks in our community. I work 2 days a week and every other Saturday now so we’d have a lot of time to commit to a puppy. We also have a retired neighbor that dog sits for families on our block. We’ve researched this breed and love all the qualities about it. We are not looking for a show quality pet and even a ridge less puppy would be perfectly acceptable to us. We really just want a happy, healthy new dog. If you’d please let me know when you hope to breed in the future or how we can be put on a waiting list, we’d be very gratedful.

  2. I have so much respect for this woman. About 15 years ago when I was only 14 years old, I wrote Barbara Sawyer Brown a letter. I had fallen in love with the breed at about 8 years old because a fellow classmate at the manhattan prep school I attended owned one. Barbara Sawyer Brown most graciously responded to my letter, and I am most grateful for her advice; to this day I still have the letter. Now 15 years later, I am embarking on adding my first Ridgeback to my family. I learned that even if your dream is being an owner and breeder of these beautiful dogs, you must wait for the right timing. It’s been a long time coming, but I believe my patience and the knowledge I have gained from patient people like Barbara Sawyer Brown, will enable me to be a great owner and one day breeder. Thankyou for pouring into my life, and for all you do and have done for the Rhodesian Ridgeback community.

    • Thank you for posting this, JW. Jessica, I am BSB’s son, Scott….you probably know how to reach Barbara and Art; (here’s an email address if not):

      All the Best! ~ Scott Sawyer

    • I agree wholeheartedly! I lived in Chicago back in 2000-01 and wanted to add a Ridgeback to my family. I reached out to Barbara. She welcomed me into her home. I fell in love with her dog, Penny, who she was not willing to sell after a prior unsuccessful placement. I never found another liver-nosed sweet love like Penny and instead spent 15 years with an adorable little Yorkie. Now 2 years removed from losing my Yorkie, I’m right back considering a Ridgeback. As this poster said…it’s all about timing. One day…

  3. My ridgeback is nearly 2years old & has just lost her mate, she is very lonely, does anyone know if we she get a new puppy for her.

  4. Hello, I am interested in get a female puppy and wondering if and when you would have any litters available.

  5. Nikole Jantelezio

    Can you please if you’re breading puppies?
    If so, when do you expect your next litter?

  6. I have 2 x 4 year old brothers nurtured and are very happy in the house have a good run un tethered in the morning have very healthy appetites but yesterday one of them suddenly with no apparent reason shyed away from my wife and tonight he wouldn’t settle on the sofa at her side as he has done for the last 3.75 years .Has anybody got any ideas about this behaviour or seen it before .
    Its very upsetting for us as these are our 2 and 3rd rhodesians so we have experienced there behaviour for nearly 19yrs .
    Thank you

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