The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a medium-large scenthound/sighthound bred to hunt lions and other large game in southern Africa. They are top-tier athletes, easily recognized by their muscular build, short brown coat, floppy ears, and a distinct ridge that runs down the center of their back.
While all of these characteristics make the Ridgeback a very “cool” breed, many of them also contribute to their need for regular exercise and stimulation. If you’re asking yourself, “when will my Rhodesian Ridgeback calm down?” you’re asking the wrong question. Ridgebacks can be calm most of the time, at any age, but it’s up to you to make them that way.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are highly intelligent, active dogs that get bored easily. If your Ridgeback isn’t relaxed most of the time, it’s a sign that they’re frustrated and full of pent up energy, which is not something they will simply outgrow.
Continue reading to find out more about why Rhodesian Ridgebacks are so wound up all the time, and what you can do about it…
Rhodesian Ridgeback: A Hunting Breed That Loves to Run
Even though Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not the most energetic breed in the world – many others top them on the hyperactivity scale – they are nonetheless hounds that have bodies built for endurance. Any dog, such as the Ridgeback, that was bred specifically for hunting, be it lions or quail, will possess a seemingly limitless amount of energy.
I have a Foxhound – she actually looks a lot like a diminutive Ridgeback, and even has a slight ridge on her back when her hair stands up. Despite being almost eight years old, she’s always up for a “hunt” – we don’t actually hunt, I just walk her in circles around our 13-acre property as she vigorously runs around looking for rabbits and other little critters to terrify.
If I don’t make a point of exercising her like this at least a few times per day, she’s quick to remind me. She’ll casually walk over to wherever I am and begin pacing around me in circles, wagging her tail, and pawing at me. No matter how many times I tell her to sit or lie down, even if she complies for a short time, she won’t fully settle down until I take her out for awhile. And if I happen to be too tired to take her on a 30-minute walk/run, I’ll just pull out the laser pointer and let her chase that in circles for about 10 to 20 minutes.
A few years ago I assumed that by the time she reached her “senior” years, she’d finally calm down and wouldn’t need so much activity throughout the day. Alas, that has proven to be anything but the case. I have now come to accept that she is likely to be a highly active dog for most of, if not the entirety of her life.
She needs this regular, high-intensity exercise because all she wants to do is hunt with me. It’s literally what she was born to do. Unfortunately, for the both of us, she was born in the 21st century and adopted by a couple of vegans, so the thing she was bred to do will just have to be simulated at semi-regular intervals on a daily basis.
The same goes for your Rhodesian Ridgeback. When they wake up in the morning, they think their purpose for the day is to chase a lion or a gazelle. They don’t understand that your purpose for the day is to go to work, come home, eat dinner, and fall asleep watching Netflix – or whatever your normal routine is.
So even though your Ridgeback might have their calm moments, when they are perfectly content lying next to you on the couch, at some point they’re going to think, “C’mon, man! When are we gonna go chase something?!” Since this desire to go on the hunt is one of their strongest instincts, they probably won’t ever lose it, and thus will always want you to take them out for a walk no matter how old they get; perhaps barring the latest years of their life.
How to Calm Down Your Rhodesian Ridgeback
Your Ridgeback has a lot of pent up energy that needs to be released, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of chilling out for much of the day – many Ridgebacks can actually be couch potatoes most of the time as long as they’re getting enough exercise.
If you need to calm down your Ridgeback, you simply have to exercise them vigorously. They will eventually relax if they have been sufficiently exercised.
The key to achieving a suitable amount of exercise in an efficient manner is making sure they are running and playing, not walking, for about 30 minutes. If you just take them for a casual walk around the block, they’re not going to be satisfied. They have to run around and play – though they will need about one or two hours of daily moderate activity in addition to the 30 minutes of vigorous exercise.
I know this can be difficult for apartment dwellers and others who do not have a large, fenced-in yard, but there are a couple of solutions…
The easiest way to let your Ridgeback run outside if you don’t have the space is to take them to a dog park. You might actually find this more convenient for yourself, as well, since your dog will have others to play with, and won’t require as much active participation from you. Ridgebacks are very social and love to play with others. While they run around with the other dogs, you can sit on a bench and read a book for 30 minutes, or check your email, etc…
Another way you might be able to give your Rhodesian Ridgeback a good workout without a lot of space to run around is if you have a swimming pool. Not all Ridgebacks like getting in the water, but the ones who do are excellent swimmers.
Lastly, one other way you can calm your Ridgeback down is by not winding them up in the first place. Hunting breeds are easily excited, and once they get wound up, well… the hunt is on!!! There are probably certain things you do or say that indicate to your dog that something fun is about to happen – a walk, a car ride, etc… You might not even realize you are sending these signals to your dog, but they are an expert at picking up your cues.
Dogs are obsessed with their owners, so in very little time your Ridgeback will figure out that if you make a particular sound, move in a particular way, or pick up a particular item; you’re about to do something that excites them.
My dogs know that if I put on my shoes, or my sunglasses, or my hat, or my jacket; it probably means I’m about to go outside, which excites them very much. So if I’m about to put on any of those things without the intention of going outside, I’m careful to do so in a way that does not capture their attention. Otherwise, they get so wound up I have to take them for a walk.
If you haven’t already, spend some time observing the subtle things you do that wind up your Ridgeback, and avoid making those cues in front them whenever you want them to be relaxed.
AKC. Rhodesian Ridgeback. Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rhodesian-ridgeback/
Rhodesian Ridgeback Rescue. Frequently Asked Questions About the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Retrieved from: https://www.ridgebackrescue.org/breedinfo/RRCUS_rr_faq.html
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