Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Smart?

Rhodesian ridgebacks are highly intelligent dogs that are adaptable, can problem solve and have high levels of emotional intelligence. They are highly attuned to the emotions of their family members and can be sensitive if they are in trouble.

I have had 14 years of experience caring for my ridgeback and can tell you that they are very smart. They will find their way out of gates and fences and will decide when they will listen to you or not.

In this article I will cover all you need to know about the intelligent Rhodesian ridgeback and some examples of when they use their intelligence to get what they want.

Rhodesian ridgebacks are highly intelligent

Ridgebacks are a beautiful breed that are so smart that they can be both fun to be with and frustrating. Unlike intelligent breeds like border collies, who are highly obedient, smart ridgebacks will often choose when they obey your command.

I have spent years training my ridgeback and will say that it is definitely a challenge. 

Training and learning ability

Ridgebacks are so smart so will learn commands very quickly, particularly if they are rewarded. Some ridgebacks love food, others love toys but once you figure out what they like they will do anything for you.

I had found that training with food was best for my ridgeback, but when he was smart enough to know that the food wasn’t there he was less likely to do what he was asked.

Ridgebacks will learn fast and will quickly master, sit, stay and lay down. I took my ridgeback to puppy classes and adult obedience classes. Both were a challenge at times as ridgebacks can be highly interested in other dogs. They can get distracted and may choose to ignore you if other dogs seem more interesting.

Ridgebacks will take time and dedication to train but you will be rewarded over time. They are smart so learn fast, but often need to know is in it for them before they will listen to you.

It is best to enroll puppies into puppy preschool and obedience classes once they grow up. Because they are so smart, they will quickly get into mischief if you don’t take the time to train them.

Problem-solving skills

Ridgebacks are super smart and can solve problems easily. They will work out how to get into food bags, how to get out of gates, through fences and will work out how to reach other dogs.

Our ridgeback found a small hole in our fence and would push through each morning to visit his dog friend down the road. It took us a while to work out which hole in the fence he was getting through.

Make sure you hide the dog food bag so they can’t reach it. They will quickly find a way to put their head in the bag or to open it up. They will also find a way to make their way indoors if they want to. My ridgeback can get his nose hooked on the back door to open it and let himself in.

Ridgebacks get get themselves into mischief with their problems solving skills but they are not doing it to be naughty. They are smart dogs that will find a way to get what they want.

Adaptability and Versatility

Ridgebacks have the ability to hold many roles. They can excel at obedience classes, will protect their family, can track down game and will find their way back to you.

We would take our ridgeback for long walks into the forest nearby. He would track forward for 1-2 miles and will find use again by the end of the walk.

Because they are so confident it is important they are trained to come when they are called. They will be confident and smart enough to follow the scent of rabbits, foxes or hares but it is essential for their safety they will come back if needed.

They are so adaptable they can go from a morning hunting session to being a kind therapy dog in the afternoon. they can be aware of how people are feeling around them and jump into being an athlete. They can excel at lure coursing and laze around all day on their bed.

Ridgebacks are possibly the most adaptable dog i have ever had. They are a couch potato, athlete, hunter, caring companion and therapy dog all in one.

Emotional Intelligence

Ridgebacks are so emotionally intelligent that they can be overly sensitive. They will be so attuned to what their family is feeling that they can be sensitive when they are in trouble. Most other dogs would brush off being in trouble, while a ridgeback will take it personally.

They will know when you are happy or sad and will even try to console you when you are upset. Ridgebacks are highly in tune with your emotions and will do their best to make you feel better.

They are also highly aware of the pack structure. They will know where they stand in your family and with other dogs. My dog has always been the alpha when with other dogs but will always listen to me. He will listen to my husband (sometimes) and only listens to the kids when they have food to offer.

They will decide where they stand in the family structure and will listen to you based on their view of that. Make sure that they know you are in charge by standing firm with your commands. Ridgebacks are smart and will work out when they can get away with ignoring you.

The importance of exercise for smart ridgebacks

Ridgebacks are highly intelligent so without enough exercise they will get themselves into trouble. Whether it is breaking out of your yard to have a run or trying to amuse themselves by digging in the garden, they need both physical and mental stimulation.

Check out these easy exercise ideas to keep your ridgeback entertained, engaged and out of trouble.

  • Walks – Walks are essential for ridgebacks. When they are young they will need walks morning and night if you have a small yard.
  • Kongs – Toys that you can hide food in are a great idea to keep ridgebacks entertained. Take part of their daily food and pop it in a kong. They will spend time and energy figuring out how to get the food out.
  • Toys – Toys that make noise or spring back are great for ridgebacks. You can even use an old cardboard box filled with treats or toys to keep them amused and give them an extra challenge to get them out themselves.
  • Other dogs – Taking your ridgeback out to meet other dogs is essential. They are highly social and benefit from the mental stimulation of being with other dogs. Head to a dog park or just head out with a friend. Ridgebacks can be rough at times so try to match them with a similar sized dog as a playmate.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Smart? | Summary

Ridgebacks are highly intelligent dogs that love attention, toys, exercise and something to amuse their minds. They are emotionally intelligent and will be in tune with what their family is thinking and feeling. Make sure they have enough to do, have plenty of attention from you and have the opportunity to play with other dogs. This will keep this smart breed out of trouble, active and healthy.