If you have a Rhodesian Ridgeback as a family pet, you may be surprised about their history in tracking and baying lions! These days, they are firmly domesticated and known for their affectionate and even-tempered natures. However, they still tend to have strong prey drives, so you will need to keep control of your pooch to stop their independent nature from getting the best of them. Both fast and powerful, they come in a single color with their trademark stripe that their name derives from.
In this article, we are going to offer a detailed overview of this dog with a whole host of information that you should find useful.
History of the Rhodesian Ridgeback
Once upon a time, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was known as the African Lion Hound, as this was its main purpose when African Boer farmers first developed it. They needed the kind of dog who could withstand the punishing conditions of the bush, where temperatures were high and water rations low. These lion hunting dogs had to be able to protect their owners and property. Their lineage includes a range of dogs including Greyhounds, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Bloodhounds, and native dogs. The distinctive ridge on their backs was noticed, as was the fact that they made excellent hunting animals.
When big-game hunting began in Africa, Rhodesian Ridgebacks could hold lions at bay until hunters arrived on horseback. A breeding program was begun in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) and a breed standard was established in 1922. It remains very similar to this day. While some may have appeared in the US in 1911, it wasn’t until after the Second World War when large numbers were brought to North America and Great Britain. In 1955, the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Quick Facts About the Rhodesian Ridgeback
The hallmark of this breed is the forward-growing hair that runs along its back.
Generally, the Rhodesian Ridgeback size ranges between 25 and 27 inches tall, weighing between 70 and 85 lbs.
The first breeder of Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the US was film star Errol Flynn, who raised them on his Hollywood ranch during the 1930s.
The breed remains very popular in South Africa where their webbed feet have helped with traversing sandy surfaces.
Things You Should Know
Generally, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are healthy dogs without many genetic issues to speak of. However, it is worth giving them hip and elbow evaluations as dysplasia in these areas is common. Other areas that you may need to have screened include their thyroid function and eyes.
Another possible issue is Dermoid Sinus, which is a congenital skin defect that involves the formation of a cyst or tube structure around their spinal area. To some extent, it can end up penetrating the skin, reaching into the muscle tissue, and attaching to the spinal column. If it becomes infected, it can lead to further complications. Some dogs can be treated with surgery if they develop this issue.
Due to their history and what they were bred for, Rhodesian Ridgebacks have strong prey drives. You should always keep your dog in an enclosed area when they are off leash. They do have some qualities that can make them challenging to train. This includes their strong-will and independence. Training needs to be firm and patient. Ideally, it will start from a young age as this will establish good habits right from the start. It helps if you enroll your new Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies in training classes that use positive reinforcement. This way, your dog will grow into an obedient and well-behaved member of the household.
When you are training your dog, you should always do so in a positive manner using positive techniques such as praise and a clear food reward system. However, you don’t want to overdo it with the latter as this can result in your dog gaining weight.
Some Rhodesian Ridgebacks are inclined to dig holes in back yards, and this can be behavior that it is tough to train them out of. You could give your dog part of the yard to do as they wish or accept that you are never going to have a perfectly manicured lawn!
Known for their strong and athletic body type, Rhodesian Ridgebacks require a moderate amount of exercise to stay fit and healthy. As long as you provide them with daily walks and playing sessions, these dogs can adapt to a range of different living situations. You will probably be able to tell that your dog loves bounding around as soon as you give them half a chance. Young dogs are especially energetic and active, but they will gradually start to calm down as they get older. Over time, they often become calm and quiet, but they still require that minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day. You can split this up into a couple of daily walks/playtime sessions.
Don’t forget that you need to give your pooch a mental workout as well. You can do this by teaching them new tricks and varying up your regular playtime sessions. You could also invest in some interactive dog toys. Often, these are treat-based, giving your dog a challenge to obtain their food. Alternatively, you could try some activities that offer a workout to both body and mind. These include canine sports such as agility training and tracking. If you are looking for more options, check out our guide on dog agility tunnels.
Whether you choose to give your dog commercially available food or home-prepared meals, you should make sure that everyone offered is high-quality. No matter what kind of diet you offer, it needs to be appropriate to your dog’s age. Differently aged pooches have varying nutritional requirements which you need to take into account. You need to be careful not to leave any food on the side unattended as Ridgebacks are notorious thieves! By the same token, you will need to keep all your cabinets closed and may even want to consider dog-proofing them. Obesity is never a healthy state for a dog to get into, so you need to watch their calorie consumption. And while it may be tempting to offer your dog regular treats for being such a good boy or girl, you shouldn’t overdo it – though these can be useful as a training aid. Check with your vet if you are ever unsure about your dog’s individual dietary requirements.
Many owners decide on a structured approach to feeding that involves a couple of meals every day. The amount that your dog eats depends on a number of different factors such as age, build, activity levels, and metabolism. It may take some time before you establish what your dog enjoys eating and what they don’t. Remember, feeding your hound better quality dog food means that you don’t have to offer as much as they will already be getting the nutrition that they require.
Free feeding is a path that some owners go down, but it is one that comes with a number of disadvantages. In multi-pet households, you won’t be able to tell who is eating what without watching very closely. You are also less likely to be able to determine if your dog experiences a sudden change in their appetite that may signal a health issue. Also, there is the common issue of overeating, which can lead to your dog putting on weight. Check out our article on dog food for weight loss for more info.
If you are not sure whether or not your dog is overweight, there are a couple of simple tests that you can carry out. You should be able to see that your dog has a clear waist outline. Place your hands on their back with your thumbs down their spine and your fingers around their waist. You should be able to feel their ribs without pressing too hard.
The grooming requirements of Rhodesian Ridgebacks are relatively low. While they do tend to shed sometimes, you can keep on top of this with a weekly brushing session. This will also help to keep their coat shiny and healthy. Also, you should get into the habit of giving them regular baths. If you start doing this from a young age, this will help to get your pooch used to the procedure. Also, you can work to make grooming a positive experience by filling it with rewards, praise, and love. This way, it is something that you can both enjoy rather than being an ordeal to get through. By doing the job yourself in the comfort of your own home, you will save yourself a fair bit of cash on professional groomers.
If your dog’s nails don’t wear down naturally, you will need to trim them. Otherwise, they can experience issues when running or walking. If you start to notice them clacking on the floor, this is a good indication that they are too long. However, you need to bear in mind that this breed is known for resisting nail clippers. Try using a dog nail grinder as they may respond better to this. Alternatively, you could take them into the groomers to have this done professionally. Another commonly overlooked job is brushing your dog’s teeth, but it is one that you need to keep on top of. If you can do this on a daily basis, this is the best way to prevent periodontal disease.
Devoted family companions, the Rhodesian Ridgeback temperament is that they need to be an integral part of their household. They will not do well if they are left alone for long periods of time. While they can be affectionate and loving, they can also demonstrate a stubborn and strong-willed nature. As such, you are going to have to treat your dog with a combination of firmness and patience.
While this is a breed that is usually good around kids, they may be a little too rough for toddlers. If your dog is raised around other pets, they can be accepting of them. However, they can act aggressively towards animals that they don’t know well – even if they have been adequately socialized and trained. Males can show particular aggressiveness towards other males if they are not neutered. If you are going to let your dog roam around your back yard, you will need a high fence to prevent escape.
If you get a Rhodesian Ridgeback, you will be getting a dog who is renowned for intelligence. However, this means that they require constant mental stimulation. If this is not provided, it is likely that your dog will become bored – and this can quickly turn into destructive behavior. While they aren’t usually creatures who dig a lot, they could be driven to do this by boredom. Another possible reason may be high outdoor temperatures. However, as long as they are properly exercised, this is the kind of dog that can adapt to numerous living situations – and this includes apartments. However, a house with a large fenced yard is best.
Generally, Ridgebacks are relatively quiet dogs. If you do hear your pooch barking, it may be an alert that something unusual is going on. Alternatively, this could be another indication of extreme boredom, showing that your pooch simply doesn’t have enough to fill their hours with.
Due to their hunting past, these dogs retain a high prey drive, which means that smaller furry animals are not safe in your yard area.
There are many ways in which the Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed make great pets. They are quiet and gentle around their families, while their grooming and health requirements are not overly complicated. However, if you have never owned a dog before, this may not be the ideal choice due to their size, intelligence, and power.
You should always avoid buying from puppy mills, disreputable pet stores, or breeders who are unable to offer health clearances. Responsible breeders should always test their dogs to ensure that they are free of genetic diseases that may be handed down to their puppies.