Are Rhodesian ridgebacks easy to train?

Rhodesian ridgebacks can be challenging to train as they are independent, strong willed and like to follow their instincts. Training them from when they are a puppy to learn basic obedience and commands is essential. They thrive on positive reinforcement so lots of treats and toys will help you to train them.

I have found that ridgebacks are fun loving, energetic and independent. All these factors can make them more difficult to train than most other dogs. Ridgebacks also take longer than smaller dogs to mature. They can still behave like puppies until they are 2 years old – or older. This means that it can take you longer to bed down basic commands.

When we got our ridgeback we too him to puppy school when he was 12-18 weeks. He then went to basic obedience or behaviour training. This helped him to socialize with other dogs and learn to pay attention in busy and distracting environments.

This article will explore the challenges and positive aspects of training your ridgeback.

Basic training for Rhodesian ridgebacks

Ridgebacks are strong and independent dogs so it is essential to establish who is boss from the start. Check out these training options that are great to train your ridgeback.

Puppy training

Puppy training is great to socialize your dog, to teach them how to behave around people and other dogs and to establish the basic training commands. Puppy school will teach you both how to use positive reinforcement to start a basic training routine.

You will also meet other puppy mums and dads who might become your go to group to continue to socialize your dog. Organize a meet up at a dog park and let your pups continue to learn out of session.

Puppy training can run anywhere from 2-6 weeks. You can usually start your puppy once they are around 8-16 weeks old. Contact your local vet for their training options.

Obedience training

Obedience training will be your next step after puppy school. You can usually start your dog after puppy preschool, or after they are 4 months old. Obedience training will help you to practice basic commands like come, stay, sit and lay down.

After you get good at these you can move on to more advanced stay positions where you will walk a long distance and call your dog. This can be a challenge for a social ridgeback like mine who preferred to play with dogs that to listen to me all the time.

Ridgebacks tend to take the time to make their own decisions so will think through the fact that they would rather greet another dog than listen to you. This can make them challenging to train.

Ridgebacks that are highly food motivated however will thrive at obedience training. Knowing that they will get a treat if they do the right thing can be highly motivating.

Advanced training for ridgebacks

Once you master the basics you can move on to more advanced training methods for your ridgeback. They will thrive at fast paced sports like fly and agility.

Agility training

Agility training is great for helping your ridgeback to exercise their body and brain as they navigate interesting courses and listen to your commands. They will jump, weave and go through tunnels all to race to the finish line.

Ridgebacks are fast, strong and nimble and can excel at agility. The challenge is usually getting them to listen and to follow you through the right course. Once they get the hang of it however they are a great athlete.

Lure coursing

Lure coursing is a great advanced sport for your ridgeback. They were built for this sport as they are fast, agile and strong. They will chase a small lure on a wire through different angles until they reach the end. Ridgebacks can run over 30 miles per hour so can absolutely nail this course.

They don’t need to listen to win at lure coursing, they just follow their instincts and chase. As long as you can catch them at the end this might be sport for you.

Find out more about lure coursing here at the American Kennel Club.

Tracking training

Ridgebacks have a fantastic sense of smell so can be fantastic trackers. They will head off confidently and independently and follow a smell. They will need to be trained to follow a specific smell (rather than just to head off on their own).

Tracking training can be a fun way to exercise your dog (and yourself).

Tips for successfully training your ridgeback

Here are my tips for successfully training your ridgeback.

Positive reinforcement (rewards)

Positive reinforcement is the best way to train your ridgeback. They will react and listen well when they think that something is in it for them. Find out what motivates them, it could be toys or food. This will help you to get their attention and keep it so they can learn basic commands.

Ridgebacks are sensitive dogs so hate to be told off. It is best to reinforce good behaviour than to punish bad. They will learn faster with positivity and will be eager to please you – even if it is just to get their reward.


Consistency is essential for ridgebacks. If you let them on the lounge once, they will assume that they will always be allowed there. Make sure you decide on, establish the rules and stick to them. Ridgebacks will get confused if you keep changing the rules.


Patients is key when you are training a ridgeback. They can take a while to learn commands as they tend to be less mature than smaller dogs. They can act like pups for 2-3 years which means they can will take a while to learn commands. They can get distracted and they may be more interested in what they want than what you want.

Take your time, stay committed and you will soon have your ridgeback behaving as a respectful member of your family.

Challenges in training Rhodesian ridgebacks

Ridgebacks can be challenging to train at times, here are a few things to remember.

  • Ridgebacks are independent – make sure you have treats if you want them to learn new commands or to come when they are called in distracting situations.
  • Ridgebacks are strong willed and it takes a strong leader to remain in charge.
  • Ridgebacks are large and strong – it is essential they know basic commands.

Are Rhodesian ridgebacks easy to train? | Summary

Ridgebacks are not easy to train but will become fantastic companions and faithful members of the family with commitment to training, patience and consistency. Stay strong and committed to training from the time that your ridgeback is young. It will be worth it as you and your ridgeback grow together.