The Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States

Frequently Asked Questions
About the Rhodesian Ridgeback

 

 

How is the Ridgeback around children? Other pets? As a watchdog?

The Ridgeback is extremely tolerant and an excellent companion for children. However, no child should be left unsupervised around any dog, as either may hurt the other, even unintentionally. Children and puppies should be supervised as well as young puppies have the jaw power of a German Shepherd and teeth as sharp as surgical scalpels! Due to its large size, younger and more excitable Ridgebacks may knock over smaller children by accident.
The Ridgeback is a gregarious animal, enjoying the company of other dogs. Beware of having several male dogs -- this can lead to dominance struggles (as is true with several males of many breeds). They can be good with cats if brought up with them, but fiercely effective in defending their territory from stray dogs and cats. The Ridgeback is an excellent natural watchdog and family protector, requiring only that the owner has control over it.

Are they noisy? Do they have any bad habits?

Ridgebacks tend to bark only when there is something worthwhile to bark at (unless one has fallen into this bad habit out of boredom). They are very athletic, easily able to clear high fences. The owner must take proper  precautions to see that this does not occur. Proficient swimmers, they can be an annoyance if the owner does not want them in the pool! They are not usually nuisance diggers, but can create large pits to escape summer heat if left out of doors. A Ridgeback can become a roamer out of boredom. Dogs who roam often fall victim to automobiles --  another reason to have a properly fenced yard.
When going through teething periods, at young ages to about 4-½ months and again at around eight to10 months. Ridgebacks can be quite destructive if not provided with things that you want them to chew on, such as safe and fun toys, bones, hard plastic kongs etc. Crate training may be essential in order to keep an unsupervised, adolescent Ridgebacks in check.

Is the Ridgeback a good house-dog?

The Ridgeback is an extremely clean dog with little odor and minimal shedding. Its short, dense coat sheds little. In general, a Ridgeback kept indoors sheds a little all year round, whereas an outside one will experience seasonal shedding. They do not drool, except in anticipation of food. They are generally easy to housetrain and are not overactive in the house. They will take over the furniture unless their owners discourage this habit from puppy hood. A happily wagging tail will easily clear a low coffee table of its contents.
All Ridgebacks benefit from training at an early age not to jump on tables or counters with their front paws. Ridgebacks can be notorious "counter surfers" once they discover people food left unattended. Ridgebacks who who live with their owners as valued members of the family and are taught manners as youngsters are among the finest companions in the dog world.

Are there any special feeding problems?

Most Ridgebacks have very hardy appetites! They can drool  a bit when their food is being prepared. Ridgebacks inhale their food enthusiastically. Consequently, Ridgeback owners must monitor their dog’s weight and cut back, as appropriate, to prevent obesity. Sometimes a good cupboard lock is needed to keep a clever dog from helping itself. You will definitely need to steel your heart to keep those pleading faces from convincing you they are STILL hungry…remember, Ridgebacks are always hungry!

How much exercise does a Ridgeback need?

Like any medium-large dog, Ridgebacks need exercise -- a daily romp in the back yard or park and a couple of longer trips to the park per week should be sufficient. More would be better, but Ridgebacks do adapt to their people.
For real excitement and fun, check out "Starting Your Dog in Performance Events." Ridgebacks excel at lure coursing and agility -- two fun activities a which dog and owner can work as a team.

Are they energetic or hyper?

A young Ridgeback is a very energetic fellow. But as Ridgebacks mature, most of them become much more laid back. One author calls them the "kings of dozing." Some say that a mature Ridgeback is happiest when either running flat out across a field or flat out asleep at your feet. In general, they mature into lovely calm dogs that do well when raised with children and other pets.

Where does that ridge on their back come from?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback's ancestry includes a dog native to Southern Africa -- a tribal dog, a companion and a hunter, with a ridge of hair growing backwards down its back. European settlers brought with them their hunting dogs, they, in turn, intermingled with the native ridged dogs. The ridge factor is fairly dominant and many a big game hunter discovered these "ridged dogs" had exceptional hunting ability and temperament. The hunters began to select specifically for the ridge and thus, the breed was born.

Where did the ridge originate?

No one knows for sure, but a plausible theory is that tribes living along the west coast had a lively trade with Asian sea-faring people. Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, these East African tribes had cattle, goats and sheep of Asian stock and it's conceivable that their dogs and the trader's dogs interbred. Some believe that the RR and the Thai Ridgeback are both related through an ancestor from the island of Phu Quoc, as both breeds share two genetic traits -- ridges and the dermoid sinus.

Were they really used to hunt lions?

Yes. When the breed was imported to Rhodesia, the big game hunters of the time found them to be excellent hunters and used them to hunt lions. They were found to be the only breed of dog that could, in a pack, keep a lion at bay for the hunter...and live.
Although gaining notoriety as the hunter of the King of Beasts, basically, the Ridgeback in Africa was an all-purpose dog, kept by farmers to guard the home and herds and to do a bit of hunting.

Are they good for general hunting?

Not in the United States. The Ridgeback has been used successfully in hunting bobcat, mountain lion, bear, fox, squirrel, coyote, deer, wild boar and raccoon in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. There have been reports of Ridgebacks having been train to point upland game and retrieve game and fowl, but their true talents lie in cornering the prey for the hunter to finish off. As a rule, they are silent trailers and only bay once the prey is sighted. For this reason, Ridgebacks are not used alone to hunt deer, fox or raccoon unless they have a bell around their necks for location purposes. They can be hunted with breeds which are more vocal on a trail.
Nowadays, fewer states allow hunting with dogs in general, so most of today’s Ridgebacks are content to keep the backyard squirrel-free or to chase rabbits in a field. Most Ridgeback enthusiasts do their "hunting" these days on the lure coursing field chasing a white plastic bag!  Lure coursing is a thrilling sport and fun for all the family to watch. Read all about it in "Starting Your Dog in Performance Events."

Do Ridgebacks have any genetic problems?

Yes. The dermoid sinus, hip and elbow dysplasia, thyroid problems and cataracts are the most common. It’s very important check to see if a puppy’s parents have been checked for these abnormalities. If they have, the breeder will be able to show you Othopedic Foundation for Animals certifications ("OFA"). (OFA numbers are also listed on the AKC registration papers, if the puppy's parents were screened.) The breeder should also be able to show you the paperwork for Canine Eye Registration Foundation ("CERF") and reports showing the results of thyroid and/or heart screenings. Read more on the dermoid sinus elsewhere on this site.

How long do Ridgebacks live?

From 10 to 12 years is a good average. Some Ridgebacks have lived up to 16 years. As with all dogs, good health may be compromised by poor dental health and lack of veterinary care. A vigilant owner watches out for unusual lumps or behavior in their pet, which can be precursors to illness.


What should I expect when I contact a breeder?

When you initially contact a breeder, you should expect quite a few questions about why you think you might want a Ridgeback, what kinds of dogs you’ve had before, what your facilities are like, what kind of lifestyle you live, etc. Your responses to all of these questions help the breeder determine which of their puppies might be best for you or to see if you have an unrealistic expectation of a Ridgeback’s temperament. They are NOT Golden Retrievers in a short coat!
The breeder will also want to know if you are looking for just a great companion or if you are interested in conformation shows, obedience trials or other performance events. Breeders generally separate, or "grade," puppies as pet or show potential. There may be things about the puppy that might hinder it’s show career, such as an uneven crown in the ridge, extra crowns or very miniscule things particular to show dogs, e.g., the angle of the upper arm, the length of the front legs. These are things that would never be known to anyone except a dog show judge or a Ridgeback breeder. Since breeders strive hard to produce that "perfect" Ridgeback, even the puppies labeled as "pets" should be superior examples. Just because a puppy has a "show fault" does not make it an inferior pet. It will still love to go for walks and to play, it will have kisses to give and a wagging tail to greet you and it will still be able to give that unconditional love that only dogs can!


What should I expect to get from the breeder when I pick up my puppy?

When you get your puppy, you should get a "puppy packet." Items included should be a contract and/or guarantee, that puppy’s health certificate or veterinary record, a pedigree the AKC registration application, or "blue slip." In addition, most breeders will provide you with a couple of days of food, some water if you have to travel a distance and a sample of any medication or heartworm preventative, if necessary. Some people microchip their puppies before leaving and they will provide you with the information you will need to complete the forms. If you are buying a puppy just as a companion, most breeders will include a spay/neuter clause as Ridgeback Rescue strongly urges that pets be spayed or neutered to prevent unplanned and unwanted litters.
A word of caution: Be sure to read and discuss the contract or guarantee BEFORE you take the dog home. If for any reason, you are uncomfortable with the terms, please tell the breeder. You may be able to arrange more agreeable terms, if not do not buy the dog.