Before you decide to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback
Before you decide to choose a Rhodesian Ridgeback, it is a good idea to learn as much as possible about this breed, its psychological traits, health issues and all associated requirements. Start with a breeder: ask many questions, make an appointment to see the dogs. Ask about availability of dogs' X-rays and information about possible diseases. Ask if the breeder signs contracts and check what is in the contract clauses.
Below you will find some essential information you need to know before making
your final decision.
RR is not a guard dog
Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a strong territorial instinct and do not need to be trained specifically in this direction. However, this does not mean the dog has to be confined to your garden and guard your property against intruders. What a Ridgeback needs most is a family around. A Ridgeback will not bark unnecessarily, it would only use its voice only in real danger or as a warning sign. After spending ten minutes or so in a place, a Ridgeback will consider it its own territory so when another dog or a stranger appears, a Ridgeback may try to defend its area. For instance, when I take our dog, Saba, to work she sometimes would not let my boss into the office!
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are not like Labrador Retrievers: they are independent spirits, requiring consistent but gentle handling. They have their own opinions which might not necessarily be the same as yours. They would not always follow owner's instructions, especially if they see something that captures their interest. You need a lot of time and patience to teach a Ridgeback to be obedient. Your dog would often pretend not to hear your call or command. If you allow a Ridgeback to do an otherwise forbidden thing once, it will remember it and will continuously try to do it again. From the very start a Ridgeback must know that someone else sets the rules in the house. This breed has excellent memory: if they see someone once, they will recognise that person even after a long time. If you hurt a Ridgeback once, you may never be able to regain its trust.
Ridgebacks are not the type of dogs you can leave in the garden or at home alone for all day. They need company, attention and love. They follow the owner, sometimes even into the bathroom. They need to feel that they are rightful family members.
RR needs a lot of exercise
Ridgebacks need a lot of exercise to feel good and grow healthily. They do
not settle for a walk on a leash around your house, no matter how big. Even
running around a large garden is not enough. You will need to find minimum
one hour a day and find a place where your dog can run freely. If you are fond
of sports, this will make your Ridgeback happy: they love biking trips and
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are said to dislike water but this is not always the case. Some would swim in a lake as happily as a Labrador.
RR needs care
Ridgebacks have a natural hunting instinct so it makes no sense to scold
them if they run after a hare or a cat . They are curious about anything
that is moving, especially moving fast, so you might see your Ridgeback chasing
a cyclist. Ridgebacks can easily jump over a fence if they find anything
interesting on the other side so make sure you have tall fencing. When walking
around the city, your dog should always be on a leash to prevent it from
running into the street. It should also have a tattoo for easier identification
in case it gets lost.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a short coat without undercoat, which means they cannot live outdoors.
RR means new responsibilities
Young dogs, especially puppies , can be quite mischievous. You will need to play with them but also teach them obedience and ensure house-training. Ridgeback puppies need frequent feeding and must be let out even at night (it will not keep 8 hours without peeing until it is 6 months old). If you work away from home, you will need to go back home every few hours and take your RR for a short walk. Otherwise make sure someone takes care of your dog while you are out.
RR needs company
Young dogs will need to be socialised: take your dog to a place where it can meet other dogs. The earlier your dog gets used to such encounters, the easier your life will be in future.
Ridgeback's time must be organised: if left alone at home, your dog will soon get bored. If you leave a bored Ridgeback alone at home, you are asking for disaster.
Ridgebacks do not tolerate loneliness easily. If left alone at home, they might damage things around them or hurt themselves . If you live in a flat, your neighbours might not be willing to accept a dog which howls all day long. If you work long hours and find it hard to find time for your dog during the week, explore other breeds to find a dog which will not be so upset when left alone.
RR is big
An adult dog may reach nearly 70 cm or 25 inches (shoulder height). Females are normally somewhat smaller but they are still quite sizeable creatures. Have you got the right housing conditions to make sure your dog feels good in your house? Ridgebacks are quite energetic which, combined with their hefty size, is not always fun for humans. Ridgebacks need a lot of room to play. They can unintentionally knock down a child and even a grownup. If you happen to be within the range of its happily wagging tail, get ready for a bruise. There have been cases of Ridgebacks jerking its leash so strongly that they damaged owners' shoulder joints so stay alert!
Before deciding to own a RR you need to consider the costs of its subsistence. A grown-up dog eats approx. 1 kg (2-2.2 pounds) of meat a day. If you decide to feed your dog dry food, remember about the costs of quality products (€ 0.25-0.5 per kilogram in Poland, prices in your country may vary). Moreover, you will need to buy a leash, a dog collar, toys and bedding. Do not forget about the costs of vet care: vaccinations, parasite control procedures, vitamin supplements, flea control products, X-rays and emergencies. If you plan to take your dogs to exhibitions, the average cost in Poland is approx. € 25 (prices in other countries may vary).
RR will need it for all its life
Most Ridgebacks live 10-12 years but some reach 16. Remember that when you buy a dog, you take up a commitment and a duty for many years to come.
Advantages of Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a short coat, which is easy to keep clean but you can expect to find dog hair everywhere (say goodbye to your black clothes).
- They are not barkers, your neighbours are certainly going to appreciate that.
- They are not fussy eaters but be careful: they might even eat a plastic bag or a ballpoint pen.
- They love to be around humans, even in the bathroom.
- They are very intelligent quick learners, which means you will need to come up with new ideas all the time.
- They love to crawl into owners' bed, which means you will economise on heating.
They love their 'herd' and let it show all the time.