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Do Rhodesian Ridgebacks Like To Cuddle? Affection FAQs

A frequent question I get is about the cuddliness and affection of Ridgebacks. These dogs are often recognized for their hunting and guard dog traits, leaving their softer side somewhat in the shadows.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks Affectionate?


Yes, ridgebacks are very affectionate and usually develop strong bonds with their owners and human family. As ridgebacks are so loyal, they quickly become devoted to their owners and have no problems showing genuine affection.

For some, this comes as a surprise. As ridgebacks are known for their days back in Africa taunting lions and guarding their tribe, they have a generic reputation of being kind of “fierce, strong and maybe even dangerous.”

And while they certainly do have the capability to be an effective guard dog, they have a soft side that’s just as developed. Ridgebacks have no problem dishing out cuddles and slobbery kisses (if permitted).

Do Ridgebacks Like To Cuddle?

Most Rhodesian ridgebacks like to cuddle with their owners and human family from time to time. Despite their size and reputation, they have a big soft side and definitely enjoy plenty of physical contact.

When it comes strictly to cuddling, it depends on the situation and whether your ridgeback is feeling like it or not. The physical act of cuddling (holding) can be overwhelming for some dogs even if they are affectionate by nature.

In terms of general physical contact, which is one of the most important signs of affection, ridgebacks are known for leaning on their owners when sitting or laying down. Making this kind of casual physical contact is a way of showing care and affection.

Factors That Can Change a Ridgeback’s Affection

There are a few factors that could potentially change how affectionate a ridgeback will be when they are older. Let’s run through them below.

1. Being raised without affection or physical contact

If a ridgeback is raised in an unaffectionate environment that places no importance or emphasis over physical contact, belly rubs, rewarding, and anything of a positive nature, this could make the ridgeback less affectionate when he’s older.

Not being used to physical contact from a young age will likely result in a ridgeback that doesn’t feel comfortable when you stroke him or want to get physically close. So that’s your cuddles out the window!

2. Abandonment or trauma

If you’ve done a wonderful thing (or are about to) and rescue a ridgeback, then it’s important to know that their past and however they’ve ended up in the shelter can impact their mental state quite a bit.

If the ridgeback was abandoned or mistreated in their past (which is unfortunately common with rescues), it could result in a lack of affection in the future. For some, however, it could be the complete opposite…

It’s important to be aware that this is a big factor that can change a ridgeback’s temperament in unexpected ways.

3. Punitive training

As ridgebacks have excellent guard dog capabilities, they must be trained extensively. This is for them to be both a safe dog for your home but also for other people when walking your Rhody outside.

Unfortunately, still to this day, many uneducated people try to train their ridgeback with punitive training methods. Punitive training is based on punishing a ridgeback when they get something wrong compared to the better alternative based on rewarding them when they get something right.

Punitive training instills fear into dogs, and fear is the number one driver of uncontrolled aggression. And a fearful dog can not relax enough to begin even to consider being affectionate.

What To Do If Your Ridgeback Isn’t Affectionate?

If you already have a ridgeback, and they aren’t very affectionate, you’re probably wondering if you can do anything about it.

Results can’t be guaranteed, but there are a few things you might want to consider when trying to make your Rhody more cuddly.

1. Don’t try to cuddle when he doesn’t want to

If your ridgeback doesn’t want to cuddle, stop trying to cuddle him. Forcing affection on to your ridgeback will only reinforce to him, that he doesn’t like it! Which is the exact opposite of what you want.

Although it’s important to offer your affection, it’s not good to put it on your Rhody when he’s just not into it.

If your ridgeback comes to you looking for some cuddles, then be sure to give them back. Of course, you could also reward the behavior, but this might end up leading to treat-fueled hugs only.

2. Gradually increase physical contact

Physical contact and the general “handling” of your ridgeback go a long way in terms of your relationship. Whether it’s giving him a belly rub, or just holding his head still while you inspect his ears, it all counts.

Being able to physical touch your ridgeback without him backing off is a big thing. The more you get physical with your ridgeback the more chance you have of developing a strong cuddly relationship.

So, this tip isn’t suggesting you start trying to give one hundred belly rubs a day, but wherever possible make a point of touching your ridgeback more than you usually do. Think about brushing his coat, his teeth, and letting him lean on you in the evenings

3. Create a calm environment

The calmer, more peaceful you can make your home, the better it will make your ridgeback feel. And if he’s more relaxed, he’ll better be ready to give and take affection.

Noisy, hectic and unstable environments will keep your ridgeback on high alert without any opportunity to just relax. Affection will be the last thing on a dogs mind if he’s anxious in his environment.

4. Ensure his basic needs are met (and exceeded)

Lastly, the quality of his overall life will again have an impact on his temperament and general character.

Consider your ridgebacks daily routine, and ensure his exercise needs are met, along with his mental stimulation, training, socialization and quality time with you.

The overall quality of your ridgebacks life will ultimately dictate the kind of dog your Rhody will be.

Other than those four things, there isn’t much else you can do! But for most, it will be more than enough to make your ridgeback happy, healthy, and stress-free.

Thank you for reading! More Rhodesian Ridgeback articles >

Additional reading: An interesting article from Science Direct about dog-human companionship.


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.