The Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback gets its name from the remarkable stripe of hair on their back which grows against the direction of the rest of their coat. These dogs are also sometimes referred to as the African Lion Hound. While Ridgebacks are not very common in the UK they are becoming increasingly popular. Read on to find out more about this unusual breed.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s Origins
The Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred in South Africa by farmers who needed a strong and resilient hunting dog to flush out game, pull down wounded game and even keep lions at bay. They also worked as guard dogs on the farms, so from the start this breed was used to being around people.
The original Ridgebacks were bred from dogs that were a cross between ancient domesticated African dogs, that had the characteristic ridge, and large dogs brought to Africa by colonists over the centuries - like Great Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds and Bloodhounds.
The name Rhodesian Ridgeback came about because breeders in neighbouring Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, were the first to develop a standard for the breed.
The Rhodesian Ridgebacks’ Appearance
As already mentioned, the most distinctive feature of this breed is the line of hair - or ridge - on their backs. It starts just behind their shoulders and narrows towards the hips. The ridge has two crowns which are directly opposite each other on the widest part.
This breed has an athletic and symmetrical build. Male measure between 60 and 70 centimetres at the shoulder and weigh an average of around 40 kilograms. Females generally measure between 60 and 65 centimetres and weigh around 30 kilograms.
This breed has a short, thick and shiny coat, light wheaten to reddish brown in colour. There might be white markings on the chest and paws, and their face might sometimes have a few dark spots.
Character traits of Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Besides their being athletic, the Ridgeback’s personality is another trait that attracts many owners. Contrary to what most people would expect from big dogs bred for hunting, these dogs are intelligent and very loyal. The breed is very family oriented and affectionate, but not overbearing.
With strangers, the dog will always be protective of their household, which also makes them particularly good watchdogs. Trust is a very important factor for the Rhodesian Ridgeback, so your communication with them should always be clear and consistent. When your dog does not know what to expect from you, it could lead to mistrust.
With this breed you will always get back what you give. If you show respect, the dog will respect you in return. Also keep in mind that these dogs have a very sensitive side and are easily hurt if you correct them too harshly. A young ridgeback that is not fully socialized yet can easily be traumatised objects, places and other dogs.
Raising Ridgeback puppies
If you are considering a Rhodesian Ridgeback as a pet, keep in mind that you need to spend a great deal of time on their training and care. This breed is not recommended if you do not have any previous experience with dogs. The reason is not because the dog is difficult, but because the breed needs more than the average amount of attention and exercise.
Raising Ridgeback puppies could be challenging, even for a seasoned dog owner. Because they are so intelligent they get bored very easily you will have to switch to different activities and games all the time to keep them interested. As with all dogs, it is best to reward good behaviour rather than punishing your dog when they do something wrong.
You should start training Ridgeback puppies at a young age. This is necessary, not only to teach obedience, but also for them to get used to other dogs and their owners. Dogs need to be socialised around strangers. When this breed is correctly socialised the dogs will be reserved towards strangers, but never aggressive.
Training becomes ineffective once a dog is put under pressure. Avoid being too strict and, above all, be very patient. Keep practising the same things consistently and eventually you will get the desired result.
Because hunting is part of the breed’s nature, Ridgeback puppies need to be taught from an early age not to hunt while you are out walking. Correct your pup if they try to chase birds or grazing cows. You will not have any problems with an adult dog if you teach this consistently from an early age.
This breed only matures mentally and physically at around two to two-and-a-half years of age which means that their puberty lasts a bit longer than for most other dog breeds.
The ideal environment for a Rhodesian Ridgeback
It should come as no surprise that a Ridgeback will not be happy living in a city apartment. Firstly, because it is not good for these big dogs to climb stairs. Secondly, they need a lot of space.
It is a good idea to close off a part of your garden for your dog. While these dogs will get along well with cats that they have been in contact with since they were puppies, they might see your neighbour's cat as prey. Furthermore, to your dog the garden is their personal playground and so the chances are good that a newly planted flower bed will be dug up in no time.
Properly socialised Rhodesian Ridgebacks get on well with children as they enjoy being a part of your family. However, it is preferable to only bring these dogs into your home once the children are a bit older. Dogs this size can be very intimidating for small children and they could also accidentally knock a small child over.
Older children have the energy to keep the dog entertained. Once children realise that the dog is very willing to play and run, they can have a great time together and become close companions.
Routine is also very important for this breed. They prefer to be with their family members all the time, so keep this in mind when planning your days. Preferably someone should always be at home to keep your dog company but, if absolutely necessary, can be left alone for up to three hours. Ridgeback puppies should not be left alone at all for the first two years.
Finally, before buying a dog, consider what you will do when you go away on holiday or in other situations where someone else will have to care for your pet. Ridgebacks should not be looked after by someone who has little experience with dogs, even if it is only for a few days.
Feeding your Rhodesian Ridgeback
These dogs will eat anything, so you should always keep your own food out of reach. This way you can prevent your dog from accidentally eating something that is not on their menu”. Furthermore, it does not matter whether you feed them wet food or dry dog food - in fact, most dogs prefer a combination of both.
The composition of your dog’s food is important. Active dogs burn a lot of calories and so need more carbohydrates to maintain their energy levels. Yarrah has kibble with organic chicken and MSC fish, organic peas and baobab, with a carbohydrate percentage of 42.9%. And that without any artificial fragrances, colours, flavours, pesticides or GMO! .
On each product page on the Yarrah website you will find the precise nutritional values for each type of food. Furthermore, when you enter your dog’s activity level and weight you will get information on how much to feed your dog daily. For example, you will need to feed an active dog weighing 30 kilograms about 555 grams of dog food per day.
It is very important that your dog stays fit and slim as Ridgebacks are prone to joint problems. When you reward the dog with a snack, you should always subtract this calorie intake from the total amount of food for the day. Should you give your dog Yarrah 95% meat chew sticks a reward, keep in mind that they contain 440 Kcal per 100 grams. That's not very much, but with athletic dogs like the Rhodesian Ridgeback, you should always help them to keep in shape.
Your dog's age is also an important factor in what and how much you feed your dog. Older dogs are less active than their younger counterparts, so they also need less energy from their food. Your dog will always eat everything you put in front of them, so it’s important for you to determine when they need a bit less food. Yarrah’s senior dog food with organic chicken, MSC fish, organic devil's claw, horsetail and rosehip is lower in calories and therefore perfect for less active dogs.
Always follow the routine where your dog expels energy before being fed and then allowing them to relax after eating. Dogs should not be active on a full stomach and they will also feel that the meal is a reward if they exercised or trained before you feed them.
Although this breed has short hair, you still need to brush their coat twice a week. Use a rubber brush which is ideal for removing loose hairs from their coat. There's no need to bath Ridgeback as you won’t be doing them much good. By nature, these dog are used to a dry climate and their coats naturally repels water.
If you walk on paved surfaces regularly you probably won’t have to trim your dog’s nails, as they will wear down while walking. However, check every once in a while for small stones or other debris lodged between their pads. These dogs are not whiners and will easily walk around with minor aches and pains.
As busy Ridgebacks are outside, that’s how calm they are once inside. It might surprise you, but this breed really loves to sleep. Always make sure that you have enough spots inside where your pet can stretch out and sleep and you will be rewarded with a very happy dog that goes to sleep in the most amusing positions.
Ridgebacks were bred in a hot climate, so when it’s hot outside make sure that your dog has a spot in which they can bask in the sun - they love the heat. In winter, put their basket close to the heater and don’t worry if they lie right up against the heat.