Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Good Guard Dogs? - The Pets and Love

By Sviat Oleksiv | Updated on November 17, 2018

What if you’re looking for a little bit more from your family pet? What if you are looking for them to also protect you? Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good guard dogs?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback has many wonderful and individual traits. They are intelligent, stubborn, loyal, affectionate, fiercely independent, and fantastic with children making them a great family dog that is fun to have around. But what if you’re looking for a little bit more from your family pet? What if you are looking for them to also protect you? Can they do this, are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good guard dogs?

The answer to the above question is a very emphatic yes! Rhodesian Ridgebacks make excellent guard dogs and protectors of their family. Just check out any list of dog breeds used for this very purpose and you will always find the Rhodesian Ridgeback listed in the top ten.

What makes a good guard dog in general?

The ideal guard dog is large, fearless, and loyal but never aggressive. They need to have a strong sense of loyalty, be highly alert and observant and have a natural protective instinct. Obedience is also an imperative trait along with the capacity to respond well to training.

So why do Rhodesian Ridgebacks make good guard dogs?

Rhodesian Ridgeback guarding the yard

With the Rhodesian Ridgeback historically being used as a hunting dog and guardian of homesteads in Africa the trait of protection is in their genes. This makes them naturally inclined to protect, not only those around them but the homes in which they live.

Physical attributes also make the Rhodesian Ridgeback an ideal dog to be used for protection. Standing at around 25 to 27 inches tall and weighing in at approximately 70 to 85 pounds of pure muscle when growling or barking they certainly appear intimidating. It should be noted here that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally very selective about when they bark, and it should certainly be investigated what the cause is when they do.

Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks need special training to be a guard dog?

No, not at all. In fact, it is recommended that you do not give the Rhodesian Ridgeback specialised guard dog training. The reason for this is that it may intensify the natural instinct to protect to unacceptable levels behaviourally leading to someone getting hurt!

The last thing you want with any guard dog, no matter the breed, is for it to attack someone and injure them. Not only could this result in you being sued, but it may also mean your beloved family pet is deemed dangerous and put to sleep. Your Rhodesian Ridgeback as a guard dog simply needs to warn people off which is and cannot be repeated enough its natural trait.

The ‘warning off’ trait that the Rhodesian Ridgeback displays can be explained by the training they were given back in South Africa many years ago. Here they were taught to alert their owners to the presence of danger, mainly in the form of lions. These warnings the Rhodesian Ridgeback gave were to start barking and leaping around the lions to keep them where they were whilst remaining out of reach. They did this until their owners could get to them and shoot the offending lions. This is the behaviour you want your Rhodesian Ridgeback to display.

But surely my Rhodesian Ridgeback will need some training?

Yes, absolutely, in this they are no different to other dog breeds who all require basic training to give them structure and teach them what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Basic training includes things such as safety commands, walking on the leash, and any rules you may wish to implement. As an example, whilst some people allow their dogs onto furniture, others do not, and this needs to be taught to your dog as behaviour that is not good. Dogs are not born knowing these things and have to be guided.

You will also need to take into account that some dog breeds need extra attention paying in certain areas of training as they have a tendency to struggle with them. For the Rhodesian Ridgeback, this is socialisation and predatory instinct since they have a tendency to be standoffish with strangers and love, love, love to chase prey!


Since the Rhodesian Ridgeback tends to be loyal to the point of being mistrustful and standoffish with strangers they need to be socialised incredibly well and from an early age. Dogs who are not well socialised can end up being fearful or showing fear aggression.

To ensure this does not happen to your Rhodesian Ridgeback you should ensure that you introduce them to lots of different people and lots of different experiences. Take them everywhere with you, that you can, even before their immunisations are complete, just simply carry them.

You should also expose your Rhodesian Ridgeback to as many of the natural noises in and around your home at an early age. Play music, turn the TV and radio on, hoover, use the dishwasher, let them hear traffic, knocks on the door and doorbells. Anything and everything that you can think of sound wise that is not a threat to your puppy should be heard by them. This will ensure that they do not react in a protective manner when they are exposed to them on a day-to-day basis.

Predatory Instinct

As well as being used to protect people and homesteads from lions, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were also used to hunt nuisance prey. Baboons and wild pigs were the majority target of the Rhodesian Ridgeback and whilst we may not have these species located near us we will have others. This breed is renowned for chasing cats, small wildlife and even other dogs.

To ensure this does not happen, introduce your Rhodesian Ridgeback, as a puppy, to other animals so they will become used to them as friends rather than prey to chase. Perhaps surprisingly, Rhodesian Ridgebacks brought up with other pets in the house do make ideal companions for them.

Please note

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are stubborn and need strong owners who are willing and able to put the time into consistent training. Without good training, this breed will definitely rule the roost. If you are unsure of your ability to train your Rhodesian Ridgeback by yourself, there are training schools and one-on-one dog behaviorists in most areas that will be more than happy to help. Training classes are preferable as they will also provide the much-needed socialisation aspect of training.

What can I expect from my Rhodesian Ridgeback as a guard dog?

You can expect your Rhodesian Ridgeback to be loyal and protective of yourself, your family and your property. They will intimidate anyone who threatens to harm you or loved ones and trespasses. Rhodesian Ridgebacks will do this by barking, leaping around them, as with lions, and even chasing the perpetrators off.

Please note

It would be irresponsible not to reiterate again that a Rhodesian Ridgeback, or any dog breed for that matter, should not be biting anyone in their role as a protector. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule such as an actual physical attack on a person leading to the dog biting which would be understandable and warranted.

Other than being an exceptional guard dog, what can I expect from a Rhodesian Ridgeback?

You can expect so much more from a Rhodesian Ridgeback than its ability to protect you and your family. They are exceptional family pets that love wholeheartedly and are completed devoted. They of course, also can be stubborn and destructive when bored, but with the right owner and the right stimulation will be incredibly obedient.

Placid and easy going in the home you should not be surprised to find them wanting to laze on your feet or even across your knee. That is if you will allow it and have the room. On the other end of the scale, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are also incredibly active and love nothing more than a good run. They are speedy and athletic on their paws so don’t expect a steady jog when running with them.

So is a Rhodesian Ridgeback the right guard dog for me?

Only you can decide if the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the right protector for you and your family. After all, no two families are the same. However, what I can say is that I have never come across an owner of this wonderful breed that has regretted their decision to add one to their family. It cannot put simply, be stated enough, ever, how fantastic the Rhodesian Ridgeback are. They are a protector, friend, playmate, lazy day snuggler, adventurer and companion to all!