The Rhodesian Ridgeback

by Elizabeth Akers

I would not do well owning a Collie. I like Collies and have nothing against them, in fact I think they are quite beautiful, but they are not the right dog for me. 
How do I know what is right for me? 

Well, I do not like dogs that bark a lot; I do not like dogs that shed a lot; I am not thrilled with the type of dog that needs constant (and often expensive) grooming; so where does that leave me? 

My choice is the Rhodesian Ridgeback. There are many choices such as a Beagle (nope, too small, too noisy); a Weimeraner (too hyper and often too snippish); a Labrador Retriever (too much shedding and too much "what-can-I-do-to-please-you-now-now-now-Huh? huh? huh?); there are more than 160 different breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club today. 

Each breed has distinct characteristics, traits and needs. In order to satisfy my needs and wants I would go to visit breeders, dog owners, dog shows, as well as look for books specific to the breed I might be thinking of buying in order to glean enough information that will help me make an educated decision. Buying general dog breed books gives one a quick overview of the breed, but it does not give any in-depth information necessary to an educated purchase of an animal that will hopefully live with me for the next 12 to 14 years. So, what is it you are looking for in your next canine companion? Do you want a dog that is hedonistic? Would you like to love with a dog that has a fair sense of humor and can be appropriately sheepish when caught out in embarrassing moments? Do you want a dog that sheds little, barks less, and hates water so much that muddy footprints will seldom be a problem in your home? How about a dog that when you blink an eye in the kitchen, steals your roast, or your cube of butter or even that sandwich you were just about to take a bite out of, right under your very eyes? Would you like a dog that is loyal till the day s/he dies? How would you like a dog that will be a faithful companion, a great hiking partner and a foot warmer, bed hog, couch potato and protector of hubcaps for your car? What would you do with a dog that you could take lure coursing, do obedience training with, show in the conformation ring, go to agility classes, do tracking and even carting, but probably you will not win many ribbons for the dog that swims the most. Would you make sure the potential for any or all of these activities is high on the list of events planned around your life with your new dog? Can you imagine that even though your sandwich was just removed from the kitchen counter, the satisfaction of seeing your dog thoroughly enjoying the agility course, or finishing the lure course, makes that sandwich theft seem so minute? What soul mates these Rhodesian Ridgebacks are. They are definitely not the right dog for anyone nor everyone. They have a reputation for being "difficult," hard to train, aloof, independent, stubborn and will often have a dislike for water or places that not a five-star bed or couch. These dogs are still hunting dogs. Their innate nature is to hunt, chase, corner or tree something. They love the thrill of the chase. Yes they are independent, they need to be independent thinkers too so that they can outsmart the game they were originally bred to track. (they will often also show you that you need to go to the front door as there is obviously something going on out there. As soon as you leave your warm seat, Fido jumps into the chair/couch and curls up, looking for all the world like an innocent lamb. Of course, Fido knew there was nothing outside, he just wanted your chair. How many cocker spaniels have you seen pull this trick?) 

Breed characteristics

Height | (24 - 27 inches) 24-26" females, 25-27" males
Weight | (65 - 85 lbs.) suggested weight 70 lbs. females, 85 lbs. males
Colors | Light wheaten to red wheaten
Coat | Short, dense, sleek and glossy
Grooming | Minimal grooming of his short coat is required. Brush with a bristle brush and shampoo only when necessary. 
Exercise | Ridgebacks need exercise, as they can be very active. They love to run! A fenced yard is necessary in urban environments as Ridgebacks have been known to scale 6' walls. The Ridgeback does not set his own boundaries; if he sees a squirrel or cat his instinct will take over. Owners must be aware of this and work to prevent potential tragedies. Ridgebacks do not typically like water. They are not natural retrievers (and will not fetch). 
Life Span | 12 Years (average) 

Temperament

by Kelley Versteegh

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very intelligent dog and makes a wonderful family pet. He is independent and strong-willed, traits that were very valuable in his native Africa where he was developed to be a hunting dog. The owner of a Ridgeback should be able to control a large, independent, and athletic dog. 

As a family pet, he is affectionate, loyal and loving. He usually chooses one person to bond to, but he does share his love with the entire family. He will happily spend his day snoozing on the couch or front of the fire. Wherever his owner is, you will likely find a Ridgeback. He loves to be part of a family and is an enthusiastic traveling companion. 

With strangers, he is naturally cautious and aloof. He is a well-balanced, generally laid back dog who rarely barks, but when he is called to action he proves his worth as a guard dog. 

He must be socialized early in life in order to develop a stable temperament. He will readily accept cats, dogs and other pets when exposed early. He is usually very good with children, but of course children must always be taught to treat all animals with kindness and compassion. 

The Ridgeback is a considered a Sighthound in the U.S., and one must understand the Hound mentality in order to happily live with one! Harsh treatments do not work. The Hound responds very well to positive reinforcement, and will rarely do what you ask of him unless there is something in it for him. His "stubbornness" can be easily handled once this concept is understood. Owners of Ridgebacks must quickly establish their standing as the "leader" — this will gain his respect. Then one must be consistent, and garnish your Hound with love, and you will have a loyal companion for life. 

As a member of your family, the Ridgeback does not like to be left alone. He is not a "yard" dog that will tolerate being left alone in a yard day and night. He will get very bored, very quickly. He wants to be with his family! Bored Ridgebacks become destructive Ridgebacks. Above all, NEVER tie a Ridgeback up outside. A Ridgeback (or any dog) is no substitute for an alarm system.