Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Easy To Train? 8 Tips for success.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not the easiest of the dog breeds to train. This should not, however, put you off them as they are very trainable and well worth the effort you willneed to put in!

There is absolutely no doubting that the Rhodesian Ridgeback makes a great family pet and also a very loyal companion. They are affectionate, have a delightful nature, are highly intelligent, quick to learn, and love to lie at your feet, or even lay on your knee if you’ll let them. But how easy are they to get to the stage where you can take pleasure in all the above traits? Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks easy to train?

The very quick and simple answer to that question is no, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not the easiest of the dog breeds to train. This should not, however, put you off them as they are very trainable and well worth the effort you will need to put in!

As mentioned earlier Rhodesian Ridgebacks are highly intelligent and learn quickly making them ideal candidates for training. However, they are also stubborn, independent, and very much have a mind of their own. This means they can be difficult to train and need very strong guidance and ownership. Training is vital for a Rhodesian Ridgeback but it has to be done in the right way.

Why Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Need Training?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks need training for much the same reasons as any dog or dog breed needs training; to get the desired behaviour from them and eliminate the undesirable.

Not training your dog can end in tears, especially when the breed is this one. A while back I spoke to a Rhodesian Ridgeback owner who had, at first, not done any training with their beloved pooch and this was the end result. Her beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback had:

  • Urinated and defecated in every part of her house
  • Ripped up her linoleum flooring
  • Chewed her shoes, rugs, carpets, and even dog beds despite having toys of their own
  • Annoyed neighbours with incessant barking and whining
  • Dug up the garden
  • Run away when allowed off the leash
  • Nipped at the feet and ankles of all the family
  • Stolen food when no one was looking

Known as social behaviours, the above problems are ones that you will face every single day with your Rhodesian Ridgeback. They are undesirable, can potentially ruin your relationship with your dog, and definitely need correcting. They are not, however, the biggest reason for training your dog.

There is no doubting that training your Rhodesian Ridgeback will eliminate unwanted behaviours and set them up for success. However, training your Rhodesian Ridgeback might just also save its life! For example, teaching them to sit and wait at the door may stop them running into the street and potentially from being run over. Whilst teaching them to leave it may stop them from swallowing dangerous foods that have been dropped or left.

The above, however, are not the only reasons to train your Rhodesian Ridgeback, there are actually many that will benefit both you and your pet. Here are the top ten:

  1. Training strengthens the bond between owner and dog.
  2. Training helps communication skills grow between owner and dog.
  3. Training is fun for both the dog and the family.
  4. Training decreases/eliminates behavioural issues.
  5. Training provides enrichment and stimulates your dog’s brain.
  6. Training gives your dog a job.
  7. Training lessens the likelihood of your dog being surrendered to a shelter by you.
  8. Training builds confidence in shy and fearful dogs.
  9. Training creates less work for you in the long run.
  10. Training enhances safety and could even save your dog’s life.

What Kind Of Training Should I Be Looking At For My Rhodesian Ridgeback?

Initially, a Rhodesian Ridgeback will need basic training which can be done in three ways:

1. Assisted Beginner Classes

Beginner training classes are the most popular option when it comes to dog training. They can be found all over the place and comprise of groups of people and their puppies all learning together. A professional trainer will usually teach the classes which are ideal for also socialising your Rhodesian Ridgeback.

2. Assisted Private Training

Assisted private training is usually one on one which provides a more concentrated learning experience. This is a good option if your Rhodesian Ridgeback is struggling with any areas of training as they can be concentrated on. These sessions, however, do lack in the area of socialisation which is an incredibly important part of training

3. Non-Assisted Training

Non-assisted training is basically going it alone and training your Rhodesian Ridgeback yourself. Due to their stubbornness and independent nature, however, this can be difficult. You will need to research basic training through guides and other resources. Going it alone can also mean your puppy lacks in socialisation, but on the plus side, you can concentrate on areas your puppy needs the most training.

Whilst assisted training is clearly the best method of training your Rhodesian Ridgeback, not everyone can afford to or wants to go down that route. For those who choose to train their Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies themselves, here are eight tips to success.

8 tips for success

  1. Social skills are the first area of training you should concentrate on as the things your Rhodesian Ridgeback learns in this area will be used every day. Skills to teach include:
    • Sit
    • Stay
    • Heel
    • Not to jump up
    • Going to a location on demand
    • Keeping a good distance from the dinner table
  2. To teach these skills, you should combine both a verbal and physical action. For example, to teach sit, push your Rhodesian Ridgebacks bottom to the floor whilst smiling and asking them to sit. Praise them when the sit is complete and offer a treat.
  3. Remember that your Rhodesian Ridgeback is an absorbent sponge when it comes to learning new things. They are ready and eager to learn as long as they are taught in the right way. If your Rhodesian Ridgeback does not respond to training you are giving, it may well be that you are confusing them. Keep your instruction simple, firm, and succinct. Be patient when it comes to training, new skills will not be learned in an instant. Your Rhodesian Ridgeback will pick up on any impatience or frustration on your part and this will negatively affect training.
  4. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are far more amenable to encouragement that is positive when it comes to achieving a training goal. Harshness shown to them during training sessions will just prevent the Rhodesian Ridgeback from learning. Be positive by showing excitement and petting them when they demonstrate good behaviour. After all the Rhodesian Ridgeback just wants to be close to you and make you happy, most of the time! Never shout at or physically punish your Rhodesian Ridgeback during training sessions or at any other time for that matter! This is not acceptable in any situation.
  5. Rhodesian Ridgebacks love their food making it a great and powerful motivator for them. You will be hard pressed to find one that will pass up a tasty morsel as a reward. Keep the treats smalls, basically, a nibble that will tell your Rhodesian Ridgeback that they have done well but not keep them chewing for ages. Most dogs treat brands, in fact, make small morsel treats that are intended for this very purpose. A treat does not negate the need to also praise your Rhodesian Ridgeback when they display desirable behaviours.
  6. Teaching the basics to your Rhodesian Ridgeback before more complex commands is essential. Learning should be an incremental procedure, each new command building upon another. Also remember that it is highly unlikely, however intelligent Rhodesian Ridgebacks are, that they will learn new commands instantly. Repetition of new skills learned will be essential.
  7. Keep training sessions to around five to ten minutes several times a day. Rhodesian Ridgeback attention span is not much longer than that and keeping going with sessions past this time span will more than likely result in failure. Try to vary the times of day you undertake training and take note what times they respond most favourably. This way you can achieve the most out of your training by partaking in it when your Rhodesian Ridgeback is most responsive.
  8. Begin basic training in an environment where there are no distractions. This will enable your Rhodesian Ridgeback to concentrate fully on their training session. Once they have picked up basic skills in a quiet place, you can move the training to busier areas. Do not expect them to just repeat the desired behaviour in busier environments, however, as at first they will be distracted.

A little warning on the reward! Too many treats can result in your Rhodesian Ridgeback becoming overweight. Wean them off treats as you develop their training, replacing them with more praise. If you know your Rhodesian Ridgeback has had more treats than they really should in a session, you can also balance this calorie intake out by feeding them a little less at meal times. Be careful, however, as puppies need a certain amount of nutrition per day to ensure they grow healthy and fit.

Basic Training Of My Rhodesian Ridgeback Has Been Successful, What Next?

Many people opt to just stop training their Rhodesian Ridgeback once basic training is complete. Others choose to move on to advanced training such as teaching them tricks. Either is fine though advanced training is the better idea as it stimulates your Rhodesian Ridgeback further and will keep them from becoming bored. Bored is not a state of mind you want your Rhodesian Ridgeback to be in as this is when they become mischievous, eating rugs, digging up gardens, and generally misbehaving.

Advanced training is the time to have a little more fun with your Rhodesian Ridgebacks training. It is when you would teach them tricks such as roll over, play dead, commando crawling, and many other things. Guides on how to train your Rhodesian Ridgeback to do these things are widely available online and through other resources such as training books and at advanced classes.

It is worth bearing in mind at this point that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are incredibly active and need a lot of exercise. This makes them ideal candidates for a different kind of training that will keep not only your Rhodesian Ridgeback fit and healthy but you too!

Agility training is fun, engaging, highly addictive, and will keep both you and your Rhodesian Ridgeback in tip top condition. It will also appeal to your Rhodesian Ridgebacks natural instincts to run, chase, and hunt. Despite many people’s preconceptions it is not that expensive to participate in and building a home course is altogether feasible for just a few quid.

There are many pieces of equipment that can be used in agility training to build up a great course but before you invest money or time into making every piece, consider putting together just the essentials first. The essentials would be:

  • Tunnel – A length of circular flexible tubing that can be positioned in a straight line or curved line for your Rhodesian Ridgeback to run through.
  • Jump – Just like the jumps you see at equestrian events but smaller and lower for your Rhodesian Ridgeback to jump over.
  • Weave poles – A row of upright poles in the ground that Your Rhodesian Ridgeback weaves his way through.
  • Teeter Totter – Basically a seesaw but wide enough for your Rhodesian Ridgeback to walk across.

Whether you choose to make these pieces of equipment yourself, instructions are easily found online, or you buy them, they can be arranged in many different sequences and used more than once to create lots of different courses. It is recommended, however, that when you first begin agility training that you stick to a simple course until your Rhodesian Ridgeback has mastered the basics.

There are many resources available that will get you and your Rhodesian Ridgeback on the right track when it comes to agility training. How to guides are plentiful on the internet as well as there being many books on the subject.

Tasty treats will help encourage your dog to use the equipment but don’t get frustrated if the going is slow. The equipment can look daunting to your Rhodesian Ridgeback and they may take time to get used to them. Let your pooch explore and sniff at the various pieces and take your time. Agility training is supposed to be fun and can be undertaken in a fairly relaxed way.

You will also find a good range of agility classes throughout the country if you want to get assistance in this kind of training. They will range from beginner to expert so be careful to choose a class at your Rhodesian Ridgebacks level. Competitions are also rife in agility training should your beloved pooch become good enough to step up his game into competing.

Is There Any Kind Of Training That Is Not Suitable For A Rhodesian Ridgeback?

Yes, there is a certain type of training that a Rhodesian Ridgeback 100% does not need and should not be put through. This is guard dog training and to understand why they should not be put through it you need to understand their history.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was introduced to Rhodesia in 1887 where it was used as a hunting dog and guard dog due to its natural tenacity and immense bravery. In fact, they were so brave that they were used to keep lions at bay until their owners could get there and shoot them. They also hunted wild pigs, baboons, and other small animals keeping their masters livestock, crops, and homesteads safe.

In the 1950s the Rhodesian Ridgeback was brought to America where those who met them were immediately enamoured of these incredible dogs. In fact, so enamoured that by 1955 the Rhodesian Ridgeback had made its way into the heart of the American Kennel Club and became one of their recognised breeds.

Since then the Rhodesian Ridgeback has been welcomed into the homes of many families across the world and become more domesticated. However, they have never lost their strong wills, guarding, and hunting abilities that make them natural protectors.

It is for this very reason that the Rhodesian Ridgeback should not be given guard dog training. They are already naturally protective and will be wary of and aloof with any strangers that visit their homes. They will if they feel their home and family are under threat stand between their owners and the danger and growl.

This level of protection is all you need from your Rhodesian Ridgeback as most people who are a threat would certainly feel intimidated and back off from this large and powerful looking dog who is showing an intense dislike of them.

To get to the crux of the matter putting your Rhodesian Ridgeback through guard dog training will 100%, intensify their guarding behaviour. They may even cross the line from being protective to aggressive which you definitely do not want. Rhodesian Ridgebacks that are trained to be guard dogs could attack and bite someone they see as a threat which you definitely do not want.

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