The Rhodesian Ridgeback originates from the Southern region of Africa, They are a mix of European hunting dogs and African dogs who had a distinctive ridge down their backs.
They were developed to hold big game such as Lions, Bears and Wild Boers. They are athletic, strong and intelligent. However, their exercise needs are a reasonably large amount and should be regular and vigorous.
How much exercise does a Rhodesian Ridgeback need daily
Ridgebacks are an extremely active high energy dog and require at least one hour a day of energy-burning activity, but more is preferred. Two hours daily would be better. If they don’t receive the exercise they need to release their pent-up energy they can become quite destructive or develop behavior issues.
There are three main types of exercise and activity you must provide your Boxer dog every day.
- 1. Daily walk
- 2. Purposeful High-Intensity Activity (see Ridgeback activities below)
- 3. Mental stimulation
This recommended exercise quantity and ideas are for a healthy adult Ridgeback. The exercise needs of a puppy are different as they are still growing. The wrong quantity and type of exercise can cause injury to a puppy with growing bones and joints. See the bottom of this post for more about how to exercise a Ridgeback puppy.
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. See the bottom of this post for more on the exercise needs of an older dog.
Rhodesian Ridgeback walking
The daily walk is essential for a Ridgeback not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Ridgeback to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across.
The length of the walk is only limited by your time and energy as a Ridgeback can go all day long. Ideally, the minimum should be 30 to 45 minutes daily. This can be just once a day, or two walks a day would be better if your schedule allows. Dogs also like routine, so try to schedule the walk for around the same time each day. Daily walks are much better than nothing all week and a big walk at the weekend.
If your Ridgeback has good recall and comes on command, walks at the park off the leash are ideal. Alternatively, you can use a retractable leash or long line to allow them more freedom while maintaining control. Ridgebacks do have a strong chase instinct and if they spot a small furry animal they may give chase. They are trainable, but they can be stubborn.
You can add extra resistance to the walk by using a weighted vest or dog backpack. It is recommended that no more than 10% of their body weight be added. This is more than sufficient to tire them and strengthen their muscles without overworking them. Other ways of increasing the resistance on the walk are to walk on sand or include uphill sections in the walk.
Rhodesian Ridgeback feeding and exercise
Ridgebacks are a breed that is prone to bloat or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV). This can often occur when a dog has eaten too soon before or after exercise. To minimize the risk of this you should not feed your Ridgeback at least one hour before or after exercise.
To learn more about the symptoms of bloat or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) and ways to minimize this happening see
Rhodesian Ridgeback exercise ideas
In addition to the daily walk, it is important to include other activities in their daily routine. This will aid in helping to tire them out further, condition and strengthen their muscles, improve the cardiovascular system of the heart and lungs, and provide enrichment. Here are some suggested purposeful activities to do with your Ridgeback.
A Flirt pole is like a giant cat tickler for dogs. It has a long handle with a bungy type rope with a lure or toy attached to the end. You simply move the lure along the ground around in circles or in different directions as your dog chases it. This activity is ideal for a Ridgeback as it works the whole body and strengthens their muscles. Be sure they have a good “leave it” command and don’t allow them to destroy the toy. It is important that this be a controlled exercise. For a full guide to flirt pole exercise for dogs see here.
A Flirt pole is also a good training tool and helps to teach impulse control. Watch the video to learn more about training with a Flirt pole.
A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.
Alternatively, have your Ridgeback walk slowly up the stairs one step at a time. This way they are putting their full body weight on each leg. This makes stair exercise more of a strength and muscle conditioning exercise.
Walking upstairs or a hill strengthens the legs as the full bodyweight of your dog is on each leg as the step. As they descend the stairs they are using the opposing muscles for stability. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.
Running with your Ridgeback
The faster your dog is moving the more energy they will release. Try running, biking or skating with your dog to really get them moving. As the Ridgeback has good levels of stamina and can go for long distances, they can make great running partners. Just be sure to build up the distance and intensity of the activity over time to prevent causing injury to your dog. Read “Running with your dog” for more on this.
Tug of War
A firm favorite of all strong dogs. Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to. Also, a great way to build muscle and strength.
A spring pole is simply a spring connected to a rope that hangs from a tree branch or beam with a lure or toy attached to the end. This allows your dog to play tug of war with him or herself even if you are not there. Popular with a lot of dogs that love a good game of tug of war.
View Spring poles on Amazon.
Play with other dogs
Provide the opportunity for your Ridgeback to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills. Ridgebacks are generally good with other dogs that they know. Some Ridgebacks may not be friendly with unknown dogs. Make sure this is a supervised activity to prevent fighting.
Many dogs love to dig including Ridgebacks. Digging is a natural instinctive behavior for a dog. This can become a problem if they are digging up your yard or even your carpet and furniture. You can’t train an instinctive behavior completely out of a dog, but you can redirect the behavior.
Provide an area or digging box for them so they can dig to their heart’s content. Just be aware that if the weather is warm and you use sand, it may get hot. You can wet it down with the hose if it is. See “Dog Toys for Diggers” for more ideas on catering to a dog’s natural digging instinct.
Playing Fetch with your Ridgeback is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Ridgebacks are notoriously bad at catching balls for some reason. However, it can be quite funny to watch them try and will still burn energy. Watch this video for why this athletic dog just isn’t cut out for playing with balls.
Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon. You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.
Dog toys that move on their own
There are many dog toys available that shake, rattle, roll and move about on their own. As Ridgebacks have high chase and prey drive these toys provide enrichment and get them moving. This activity would be best as a supervised and control game as a dog like the Ridgeback could destroy these types of toys. See “Dog toys that move on their own” to learn more.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are proficient swimmers and enjoy the activity very much. Swimming is also one of the best exercises for any dog. The benefits of swimming for your Ridgeback include
- a strenuous activity that burns energy fast.
- helps strengthen and tone muscles from the resistance provided by the water.
- is a low impact activity that doesn’t put a strain on joints and tendons.
- is an ideal therapy for a dog recovering from injury or surgery – see what is Canine Hydrotherapy to learn more.
- Most Ridgebacks love to swim and will want to do it
If you don’t have access to a pool, river, lake or the ocean for your dog to use most cities have canine hydrotherapy centers especially for dogs to swim.
For more on swimming exercise for dogs see here.
There are countless more activities you can do with your Ridgeback to burn pent-up energy quickly and condition their muscles. For more ideas, check out “How to tire a hyper high energy dog” and “Tire a dog quickly”. You may also like “47 Boredom Busters and games for dogs”
Mental stimulation for Rhodesian Ridgebacks
All dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.
Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;
Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Ridgeback to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Ridgeback to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.
Scenting and nose games
Ridgebacks, like all dogs, have a keen nose. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.
Provide your Ridgeback with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.
For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys click here.
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Ridgeback to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy exercise
The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult Ridgeback. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.
Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. Any activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.
The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys.
Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.
As your Ridgeback puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.
The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Ridgeback puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.
Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.
For more on exercise for your Ridgeback puppy read “How to exercise your puppy”
Exercise for a senior Rhodesian Ridgeback
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.
Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.
Ridgebacks are also a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia. Read “Exercise for a dog with hip dysplasia” to learn more.
Summary – Rhodesian Ridgeback exercise requirements
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is high energy, strong and has good levels of stamina. They are also smart and need to have their minds occupied as well.
It is crucial to provide adequate physical and mental exercise and activity to release pent-up energy and prevent boredom. A minimum of 60 minutes a day of walking and purposeful activity including muscle strengthening plus activities that provide mental stimulation is recommended. The cost of not doing so can be an unhappy and frustrated dog. This can lead to behavior issues such as barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.
Let us know in the comments how much and ways you exercise your Ridgeback.