The Character of Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is healthy, low maintenance dog, which is easy to feed, keep clean and exercise. However, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is not a dog for a novice, they are individuals and often make up their own minds and, as a result, they are not the easiest dogs to train. Their ideas do not necessarily coincide with their owners and even when you think you have got it right, they’ll amaze you by doing everything as wrong as possible and look very surprised at your discomfort. They are big, intelligent, strong-willed and independent. Only in the right hands, properly trained and cared for, will the Ridgeback become a faithful family dog whose life will be devoted to your care and protection.
The very young Rhodesian Ridgeback can be very boisterous, exuberant, inquisitive and fun loving. He is also very intelligent and learns fast. He will grow into a large dog so training should be given a top priority. It is a good idea to begin to teach your Rhodesian Ridgeback basic obedience as early as 8 weeks. Lessons learned at that age are seldom forgotten. He does not stay puppy-sized for long; at 6 months he is already big enough to knock over a primary school child. One should exercise great care with children and young RR, and never leave them unattended for even short periods of time. Some say that Rhodesian Ridgebacks and children are not a good combination based purely on the dog’s size but, given the right amount of care, attention and education to both (children and dogs), they will form a happy and trouble-free relationship based on mutual respect.
At home the Rhodesian Ridgeback is relatively low energy and not particularly destructive unless left unattended for long periods of time. If provided with a variety of toys the young Ridgeback will usually leave your furniture alone. Without the right amount stimulation in the way of play and exercise the young Ridgebacks will get bored easily; when left alone in the garden they can dig some impressive looking holes. Fencing your garden is a must; Rhodesian Ridgebacks are hunters by nature and will take off after anything that catches their interest. Make sure that your garden fence is not too low as even a young dog can easily clear a fence of 1.5 m. Take a new puppy out in the car as much as possible but never leave a dog in the car in hot weather, if you must leave him for a short period, always leave the window slightly open.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks have short coat and are odour free but shed every spring and autumn. Daily use of a rubber currycomb or a hound glove will remove the dead hair. They are not prone to ear problems and their nails will be kept trim if being regularly road-walked. They are not fussy eaters but care must be taken not to over-feed your Rhodesian Ridgeback which is easily done as their appetites are large and no amount of food is ever enough. Follow your breeder’s advice as to the brand and the amount of food you feed to your Ridgeback and, if in doubt, consult you vet. Ridgebacks have another unique ability – they are master ‘counter surfers’ – no food within their reach is safe!
They are very much ‘people-dogs’. This means that your sofa or bed is likely to become your Ridgeback’s favourite place. Decide if this is acceptable behaviour and train him accordingly at a very early age. They are easy to house train if restricted to an area which you can supervise. As adults they can have a free run of the house without any problems. Although Rhodesian Ridgeback is a robust dog he does not thrive in a kennel environment. The Ridgeback first and foremost, should live as a companion and be a part of the family.
Do not over exercise a young puppy. Two short walks a day or, if you have a garden, an opportunity to play outside should be enough in the early months. Staircases should be avoided until at least 9 months. Once your puppy is fully-grown he will take as much exercise as you care to give him; it is very difficult to over exercise an adult Ridgeback. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is very adaptable he will enjoy jogging with you as much as running alongside your bike. Take care in the open countryside, a Rhodesian Ridgeback has a keen sense of smell and excellent eyesight; he has a strong chase instinct and is likely to bolt after anything that moves, totally ignoring your pleas to come back. Again the obedience training, especially well practiced recall command, will allow you to keep your Ridgeback under control at all times. It is also essential to do some hard surface walking; this strengthens the dog’s muscles and keeps the nails short.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is very sociable and when out walking will look for a doggie pal to play with. Some young dogs go through a period of the ‘terrible teens’. This usually starts at about 6 months of age and eases off by the time the Ridgeback is 2.5 years old. Be kind to you dog during this period, he does not mean to cause trouble. He is already quite large, his hormones are running wild but inside his head he is still only a puppy. Correct him gently but firmly; the problem will disappear, as he grows older. Rhodesian Ridgeback finally mature at around 3 years old. The Ridgebacks should be introduced to cats, rabbits etc., at an early age and taught not to chase them.
Socialising your Ridgeback puppy is of paramount importance. It should begin as early as possible; usually after the first course of vaccinations is completed. Obedience training class once a week and daily practice is a must for your Ridgeback to become well-adjusted community member. Chose a general obedience puppy class and keep well away from places specialising in guard/Schutzhund dog training. The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a strong protective instinct which will manifest itself in the defence of his family pack – his bark will deter most intruders. They are unashamedly guard dogs, and it would be a very stupid burglar who breaks into the Ridgeback’s house. Rhodesian Ridgebacks bark only when necessary and are not looking to attack anyone but so ingrained is the security instinct that you do not need to encourage him to protect his property. This dog’s bark is definitely worse than his bite – just don’t tell the criminals.
There is no doubt the ownership of the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a challenge but it will bring an extra dimension into your life.