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Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aggressive? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Beth Crane

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

Rhodesian Ridgeback dog outdoors

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Aggressive? Facts & FAQ

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are majestic, independent hunting dogs originating from South Africa. Originally bred to hunt lions, these dogs were fearless trackers who would trace the scent of their quarry using their keen noses and high prey drives. However, the Ridgeback would never attack the lions; they were only utilized for tracking in the hunt.

So, what does this mean for their aggression levels now? Well, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a high prey drive and are fiercely intelligent, but they’re not naturally aggressive dogs. Good socialization from an early age is vital for all dog breeds, but the Ridgeback needs socializing with all kinds of people and situations to prevent fear, aggression, or anxiety. Luckily, the Ridgeback is easily trained and affectionate, and they’re not known to be aggressive despite their protectiveness of their family and their wariness of strangers.


What Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Like?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are intelligent dogs with a very protective streak. They were bred to protect and serve hunters in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), so they are alert and can be very standoffish with strangers. They must be trained well and socialized early to combat the problems these traits can bring, including reactive or fearful aggression.

If properly socialized, Rhodesian Ridgebacks can be tolerant of strangers and controlled in their protectiveness, but the loving side of them will always be present. Silly and affectionate ridgebacks make great companions for adventurous families and those used to more independent dog breeds.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is kind and gentle with their families. Despite their hunting ancestors, the Ridgeback has been honed and shaped into a companion dog today. Ridgebacks need structure and an outlet for their physical energy, or behavioral problems such as anxiety or boredom can occur. However, their intelligence means training the Ridgeback to react appropriately to different situations is usually easy, despite their stubbornness!

Rhodesian Ridgeback
Image Credit: du_weist_schon_wer, Pixabay

How Can You Prevent Aggression in Rhodesian Ridgebacks?

Socialization is the most effective way to combat aggression in any breed, including the Rhodesian Ridgeback. In dogs, ten categories of aggression can be seen, and most of these are reactive or emotional. For example, pain aggression in dogs is motivated by discomfort or pain and is not necessarily due to the actions of those around them. Territorial aggression, on the other hand, is usually due to the dog wanting to protect their home or property from an intruder.

Fear and anxiety aggression is the most common kind of aggression seen in dogs and is often the result of a lack of socialization in puppies. Socialization is the process of introducing a puppy under 16 weeks of age to different places, sounds, experiences, and people.

Socialization guides your dog on how to behave and teaches them that going to different places (like the vet or the park) and meeting new people is safe. Noticing the early signs of aggression and the “calm signaling” behavior that often comes before it in your Ridgeback can help you determine the cause and control the situation to prevent aggression.

The signs of a dog showing aggression or calming, appeasing signals pre-aggression can include:

  • Avoiding eye contact, looking away, turning the head or body away
  • Yawning
  • Lip licking
  • Ears pinned back against the head
  • Lowering the body to the floor or crouching, tucking the tail under the legs
  • Freezing or stiffening
  • Vocalizing or growling
  • Snapping
  • Biting or lunging

These signals are in progressive order. Not all signs may be displayed, but some can be very subtle (particularly the early appeasement signs).

Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

Were Rhodesian Ridgebacks Bred to Be Aggressive?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were originally bred from the Khoikoi hunting dogs in the area for decades and were honed into the perfect companions for hunting and baying lions. However, these incredible sporting dogs were not bred to kill, only to find and bait the lions.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks were also used as protectors in these hunts, but aggression was not a desirable trait and was never bred into them. The Ridgeback is a loving and devoted companion dog that retains the courage, stature, and backward stripe of hair that their forbears did. They need training and lots of exercise to keep them from becoming bored and destructive, but they make great pets for active households who want a clever and affectionate protector.


Final Thoughts

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is not an aggressive dog by nature, but they must be properly socialized like any breed to ensure they’re comfortable with strangers and different situations. Because of the breed’s size and power, the Ridgeback is suitable for owners who’re used to dealing with more independent and protective breeds. The Ridgeback makes a loving pet in the right household, but they aren’t couch potatoes and require training and activity to keep them happy and prevent unwanted behaviors from forming.

Featured Image Credit: Marry Kolesnik, Shutterstock

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