How to Care for a Rhodesian Ridgeback

by Judith Willson
Also known as the African lion hound, the Rhodesian ridgeback is an active breed.

Also known as the African lion hound, the Rhodesian ridgeback is an active breed.

Rhodesian Ridgeback image by tina7si from

As you might expect, a dog that was bred to hunt lions shows exceptional physical strength. The Rhodesian ridgeback has the large and muscular body required for this role, but since the breed also took on the role of watchdog and protector, ridgebacks tend to be gentle with children, although their sheer size means they can knock over a small child and they shouldn’t play together unsupervised. The dog's size and need for exercise does mean that you should have a securely enclosed yard before adopting a Rhodesian ridgeback – this is not a breed likely to be comfortable in an apartment. The breed also can be quite independent if not stubborn; if you are not experienced training dogs, you may wish to book a series of training classes, starting with the basics.

Step 1

Acquire the necessary equipment and accessories before the dog. You will need a very large dog bed, a quality dry food for large breeds, food and water bowls, a dog harness with leash, toys, chews and grooming equipment. Also book the initial veterinary check-up and training classes.

Step 2

Enclose your yard or a large area of your yard with a strong fence at least 6 feet high. Concrete over the bottom; this breed digs. As well as daily walks, your Rhodesian ridgeback should have the chance to exercise when he feels the need. An enclosed yard is also a good place to play with him and practice training exercises.

Step 3

Provide the same diet as that given by the animal sanctuary or breeder for the first few days, gradually introducing your preferred brand of food over the next couple of weeks. This breed doesn’t have special diet needs and any high-quality, balanced food for large breeds should be fine. Your vet can provide dietary advice for an elderly or ill dog.

Step 4

Take your dog for daily hour-long or longer walks, preferably somewhere he can spend some time off the leash, such as an enclosed field or a dog park, if he is well socialized with other dogs. Rhodesian ridgebacks need a lot of exercise and a lot of attention. Spend as much time with him each day as your schedule allows and encourage other members of your family to do the same. Vary the games you play. Being hunting dogs, Rhodesian ridgebacks are likely to especially enjoy chasing games, such as soccer or Frisbee. Tie a toy to the end of a rope, tie the other end to a pole and swing the toy for a fast, energetic chasing game. Ridgebacks may also enjoy lure chase training. Bear in mind that such activities encourage the hunting instinct, which might not be advisable if you have smaller pets. Always set clear rules for play, for example always be the one to initiate and end each game and stop immediately if the dog becomes too rough or overexcited.

Step 5

Groom him once or twice a week. As a shorthaired breed, he mainly needs brushing. Also, clean his ears, which are fairly large and floppy in this breed, with a dampened cotton ball. Baths are only necessary if he gets dirty outside. Use a dog shampoo and try to avoid bathing too frequently, which removes oil from the coat and can lead to dry, flaking skin.

Items You Will Need

  • Large dog bed or cushion
  • Dry food for large breeds
  • Food and water bowls
  • Dog harness and leash
  • Toys
  • Chews
  • Brush for shorthaired breeds
  • Cotton balls
  • Fencing
  • Concrete
  • Dog shampoo


  • Rhodesian ridgebacks are best suited to warm or hot climates. If you live in a very cold place, you might want to consider a breed better adapted to the weather.
  • Be careful of introducing your dog to small pets, including cats, rabbits and ferrets. This is a hunting breed and his instinct could be to see these animals as prey. Additionally, be careful where you let him run free, making sure that he won’t have access to farm animals, especially sheep and poultry, or threatened wild mammals.
  • If you are unsure about any aspect of grooming your pet, perhaps trimming the nails or cleaning the ears, ask your vet or a professional dog groomer to show you the procedure. Although regular professional grooming can work out to be rather expensive, one or two visits could be a worthwhile investment.


  • Please note that the above is intended as an introduction, not a detailed care guide. Aside from books, good places to find more information on looking after the Rhodesian ridgeback, or any other breed, include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Kennel Club, your vet and the animal sanctuary or breeder the dog came from.
  • This breed has extremely powerful jaws and great physical strength. According to the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, you should never allow this breed to play roughly with people, even as a puppy. This manner of play is a hard habit for a dog to break, and as an adult dog he might not realize his own strength.
  • Never buy a puppy from a pet store or online. You might be inadvertently supporting puppy mills, which involve the cruel overbreeding of dogs. Always adopt dogs or puppies from animal sanctuaries or reputable breeders in your area. Note that there are rescue organizations that specialize in rehoming particular breeds.

Photo Credits

  • Rhodesian Ridgeback image by tina7si from

About the Author

Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.