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Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Like Water? Tips, Facts & FAQ

Written by: Codee Chessher

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

rhodesian ridgeback dog at a pond

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Like Water? Tips, Facts & FAQ

While every dog is different, the exotic Rhodesian Ridgeback isn’t a naturally water-loving pooch. Some of them love it if exposed to water in a positive way from a young age, while many Ridgebacks will balk when it’s time for their regular bath. These athletic dogs were bred to track and corner lions in rugged African landscapes but still gingerly step over the slightest puddle outside!

Of course, this is a very broad answer, and plenty of Ridgebacks can be taught to tolerate and even enjoy the water with enough patience and the right approach. For more info on the Rhodesian Ridgeback and their relationship with water, including how to introduce them to water, read on.

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Can Rhodesian Ridgebacks Swim?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are remarkable athletes with genes from some of the world’s most athletic breeds, from Mastiffs to Greyhounds, but swimming is not in their athletic repertoire. The reason is simple: they were never bred for the water, unlike breeds like the Labrador Retriever and Portuguese Water Dog. Some speculate that water weighs down their coat and makes them more sluggish, or that they’re afraid of getting water in their ears or nose, which would impair their tracking abilities.

Ridgebacks excelled at working on land in hunting teams with other dogs like Mastiffs, and their very dangerous job was to track lions down and corner them for hunters to arrive and make the kill. To do so, Ridgebacks used their deep, booming bay to make the predators retreat. Simply put, they had no need to adapt to amphibious conditions and never developed a liking for water as a result.

Rhodesian ridgeback dog outdoors
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

Why Do Some Dogs Like Water and Others Don’t?

It’s largely thought to be caused by genetics, but individual temperament and upbringing are critical factors in whether any given dog will like getting wet. Some dogs specialize in swimming, like the Portuguese Water Dog, who even evolved to have webbed paws to better paddle in shallow waters.

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How to Introduce Your Rhodesian Ridgeback to Water

1. Make Baths Fun

A big reason many dogs, and not just Ridgebacks, find bath time unpleasant is just that they’ve never been introduced to it in the right way. You can’t just spray your pooch with the hose—you need to gradually expose them to being wet. A good way to start desensitizing them is by taking more frequent potty breaks or walks during a light drizzle, which can help make bath time less intimidating.

2. Use Positive Reinforcement

Water can be scary, but you can lessen that fear by mixing some of your Ridgeback’s favorite toys into your bath or playtime. Squeaky rubber toys are always a favorite, but any toy your dog has a close attachment to in conjunction with bath time can help soothe their innate anxiety when getting wet. Simply put the toy in the bathtub or a kiddie pool and see if your dog shows any curiosity in getting in the water to get started.

rhodesian ridgeback dog getting a bath
Image Credit: Alex Zotov, Shutterstock

3. Don’t Force It

Even the most trainable Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a stubborn streak, and no dog becomes an Olympic swimmer overnight. If possible, it’s best to get your dog used to water as a puppy, and older dogs may take longer or flat-out refuse to get wet for a long time.

If all your best efforts don’t change your Ridgeback’s aversion to water, it might just be time to accept that they’re just not a water lover. Some dogs aren’t, and that’s perfectly fine. They might not see the fun in frolicking in your sprinklers or the pool, but there are plenty of other ways to bond with your Ridgeback that won’t potentially upset them.



Rhodesian Ridgebacks aren’t natural swimmers and it’s normal for them to be reluctant to join in with the family where water is involved. With patience and a gentle approach, you can sometimes get your Ridgeback to tolerate water, but some dogs simply never take a liking to the water.

Featured Image Credit: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

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